Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A reversed adverbial account of temporary intrinsics

It seems that I am bent and straight. Minutes earlier, when I was standing up, I was straight. Right now, however, I am sitting and writing this post, bent at an ergonomic 135 degrees. But no one can be both bent and straight. The presentist has no problem here: I am bent, but I was straight. Eternalists, however, have to work harder to remove the appearance of contradiction. One of the stock solutions is adverbial:

  • I am straight at t1 and I am bent at t2.
I am not fond of the adverbial solution. After all, just as it is a contradiction to be standing still and running, it is a contradiction to be standing still patiently and running calmly. It is not clear why adding adverbs to contradictory predicates should remove a contradiction, unless the adverbs are truth-canceling or alienans ("I am bent and straight" is contradiction, but if I qualify "bent" with the truth-canceling adverb "apparently", the contradiction disappears). And positing truth-canceling adverbs all over the place is unattractive.

But there is a reversed adverbial account. Rather than taking the temporal qualification as the adverb, one can turn it into a predicate and turn the apparent predicate into an adverb. Thus:

  • I exist at t1 straightly and I exist at t2 bently.
All appearance of contradiction disappears. There is no more contradiction here than in thinking quickly and running slowly, or eating elegantly and writing sloppily.

An ontology that naturally corresponds to this resolution is a nested mode ontology. I have a mode of presence at t for every time t at which I exist. (This mode might be directly an accident of me, though I prefer the view that it is a mode of my human nature.) Each of my temporary intrinsics then corresponds to a mode of the mode of presence at t.


Husain Alshehhi said...

But how would a Christian B theorist resolves the problem that the universe has always been?

Alexander R Pruss said...

There is no significant evidence that the universe has always existed.

Husain Alshehhi said...

Haha. I think you see where I am coming from. The B theorist says that the past, present, and the future are all equally real. It seems that on such view God could not have created the universe as a 4d block, at least that's what a Christian A theorist would say.

Where would I find a rigorous articulation of B theory.

MiloŇ° said...

Probably the most detailed treatment of B theory is Ted Sider's book ''Four Dimensionalism: An Ontology of Persistence and Time'' with detailed bibliography, arguments pro and con. For presentism I recommend series of articles by Thomas Crisp from Biola University.

Blaise B said...

For this to solve your problem, it seems you would have to deny one of the following:

I am straight at t1 if I exist at t1 straightly.

I am bent at t2 if I exist at at t2 bently.

Do you in fact deny one of these, or do you have another solution?

(I'm assuming the last subscript in your post is meant to be 2 rather than 1.)

Alexander R Pruss said...

I don't deny either.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Typo in post fixed, thanks!