Saturday, March 5, 2016

I can see that the sun exists and shines

  1. On a sunny day, I can see that the sun exists.
  2. If presentism is true, even on a sunny day I can't see that the sun exists.
  3. So presentism is false.
Premise (1) is obvious. Premise (2) is true for the following reasons. I see that the sun existing only if I see the event of the sun's existing. In order to see an event, that event needs to cause my perception. But if presentism is true, then the event of the sun's existing does not cause my perception, since the sun's existing coincides with the sun's presently existing according to presentism. Rather, the cause of my perception is the event of the sun's having existed eight minutes ago, since that's how long it took the light to travel. So on presentism, I see the sun's having existed, but misinterpret it as seeing the sun's existing. Worse yet, I don't ever see that anything exists, except perhaps myself and my mental states.

The eternalist isn't completely off the hook, either. For surely it is not just a part of the content of my experience that the sun exists simpliciter, but also that the sun exists now. But by the above argument, I don't see that the sun exists now. The eternalist is, however, in slightly better shape than the presentist, as the eternalist can say that some of the content of my perception is correct: I veridically see the sun's existing, but misperceive that existing as being present as well.

The formulation above in terms of existence is a bit awkward verbally. I think I can probably run the same argument with the sun's shining. On a sunny day, I can see the sun's shining. Not so if presentism is true. For the event of the sun's shining that I see, assuming I do see it, would be an event that occurred eight minutes ago, and hence a nonexistent event according to presentism. No one sees the nonexistent (they only apparently see it). So if presentism is true, I can't see the sun's shining.

Again, the eternalist isn't entirely off the hook. For intuitively I not only see the sun's shining, but I also see the sun's present shining. So I have to say that there is some illusion here: I do see the sun's shining, but my experience mistakenly attributes presentness to that event.

11 comments:

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

From the Christian band Barlow Girl:

How long will my prayers seem unanswered?
Is there still faith in me to reach the end?
I'm feeling doubt I'm losing faith
But giving up would cost me everything
So I'll stand in the pain and silence
And I'll speak to the dark night

I believe in the sun even when it's not shining
I believe in love even when I don't feel it
And I believe in God even when He is silent
And I, I believe.

I have also read that the second verse was found on the wall of a concentration camp according to Max Lucado.

Richard Davis said...

Will sense data help? Seems like a sun-shaped sense datum could be seen now and be causally and/or mereologically related now to the event of its being perceived.

Richard Davis said...

Will sense data help? Seems like a sun-shaped sense datum could be seen now and be causally and/or mereologically related now to the event of its being perceived.

Domenic Marbaniang said...

Why not so:
1. On a sunny day, I can see the sun, though I know the light is 8mts late, though freshly touching my sense of sight.
2. If presentism is true, even on a sunny day I can't see that the sun exists now cos the light is 8mts late, but I can see the sun.
3. So presentism is true.

At any cost, premise 1, that on a sunny day I can see that the sun exists refers to a seeing in the sense of sense-data reaching us in the same real sense that a telephonic conversation takes place smoothly between two persons situated miles apart; yet, one knows that the signals reach late. To jump to a realist conclusion of immediate and not mediate knowledge will effect a misdirection.

Domenic Marbaniang said...

I understand that the hypothetical form in the one I posted is invalid. However, it seems that this may be the form of the argument you posted if you actually mean by Premise 1, that On a sunny day, what you see is the existence of the sun (unambiguously). Right?

Mark Rogers said...

According to Habakkuk:

17 Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

Michael Gonzalez said...

Does the eternalist not have the further problem that perceiving the sun as existing is not instantaneous, and therefore none of the discrete instances of "me" across time ever actually experiences the sun existing (or anything else, for that matter)?

Alexander R Pruss said...

Nice point! It depends, though, on the view of persistence. Given endurance, this doesn't seem to be a problem. Nor is it a problem given the kind of worm theory that I favor (I am a 4D worm, and my perceptions are not grounded in the perceptions of temporal parts.)

So this cool: thinking about common sense realism may narrow one's options quite a lot.

Dagmara Lizlovs said...

Common sense realism is in such short supply these days.

Michael Gonzalez said...

I'm not sure I understand 4D worm theory very well.... When does a person perceive the sun as existing?

Alexander R Pruss said...

On the 4D worm theory, I think you experience the sun's existing not at a particular time, but over an interval of times. Cf. my post today on pain.