Monday, May 20, 2019

Presentism, gappy existence and self-causation

Yesterday, at the invitation of a student, I did a Marian pilgrimage to Walsingham. If you have a chance to go, go. It’s worth it for spiritual reasons. But here I want to reflect on a metaphysics of time question, related to the experience of participating in this venerable institution.

The Walsingham pilgrimage is an institution dating back to the middle ages. It was abolished by an unecumenical king in 1538, but then eventually re-established around the 19th century.

According to presentism, between the 16th and 19th centuries, it was true that the pilgrimage does not exist. Those who caused it to be re-established, thus, caused it to exist plain and simple. But it is very strange that one could cause to exist something that already once existed—and without any time travel or backwards causation. (Given time travel, one can make something and take it into the past. In making it, then, one caused something to exist that already existed. That’s just a part of the strangeness of time travel.)

One might try to get out of this puzzle by supposing that institutions like pilgrimages do not really exist, and that nothing that exists can have gappy existence. (As stated, corruptionist presentists who believe in a resurrection are out of luck. But they can say that when God is causing the re-existence of something, it’s not so strange.)

But the puzzle remains when we consider self-preservation.

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