Travelling in A- and B- Time

The Monist 88 (3):329-335 (2005)
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Some say that presentism precludes time travel into the past since it implies that the past does not exist, but this is a bad argument. Presentism says that only currently existing entities exist, and that the only properties and relations those entities instantiate are those that they currently instantiate. This does in a sense imply that the past does not exist. But if that precluded time travel into the past, it would also preclude the one-second-per-second “time travel” into the future that is ordinary persistence, for presentism accords the future the same ontological status as the past. Instead of quantifying over past and future objects and events, presentists speak a tensed language, regimented with primitive sentential tense operators. For a presentist, a persisting person is one who did exist, and who will exist. Regimented, these claims become: it was the case that she exists, and it will be the case that she exists. The presentist may then apply the same strategy to time travel proper. Suppose Katy travels back to the time of the dinosaurs. The presentist can say that it was the case two hundred million years ago that Katy exists. This claim, which consists of a present-tense statement “Katy exists” embedded within the past tense operator it was the case two hundred million years ago that, is exactly the sort of statement about time that a presentist is free to accept. This has all been made clear by Simon Keller and Michael Nelson ( ). In addition to rebutting the bad argument against the consistency of presentism and time travel, Keller and Nelson argue positively in favor of consistency by showing how to translate David Lewis’s ( ) account of time travel into the presentist’s tensed language. The appearance of con ict between presentism and time travel, they argue, is due only to the fact that most defenders of time travel (for example Lewis) have tended to phrase their defenses in nonpresentist terms. As much as I applaud their rebuttal of the bad argument, I wish to sound a note of caution..



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Theodore Sider
Rutgers - New Brunswick

References found in this work

Scientific Thought.C. D. Broad - 1923 - Paterson, N.J.,: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
The Paradoxes of Time Travel.David K. Lewis - 1976 - American Philosophical Quarterly 13 (2):145-152.
The Paradoxes of Time Travel.David Lewis - 2004 - In Tim Crane & Katalin Farkas (eds.), Metaphysics: a guide and anthology. Oxford University Press UK.
Presentism and ontological commitment.Theodore Sider - 1999 - Journal of Philosophy 96 (7):325-347.

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