Why Does Time Pass?

Noûs 46 (2):223-242 (2011)
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According to the moving spotlight theory of time, the property of being present moves from earlier times to later times, like a spotlight shone on spacetime by God. In more detail, the theory has three components. First, it is a version of eternalism: all times, past present and future, exist. (Here I use “exist” in its tenseless sense.) Second, it is a version of the A-theory of time: there are nonrelative facts about which times are past, which time is present, and which times are future. That is, it is not just that the year 1066 is past relative to 2007. The year 1066 is also past full-stop, not relative to any other time. (The A-theory is opposed to the B-theory of time, which says that facts about which times are past are relative to other times.) And third, on this view the passage of time is a real phenomenon. Which moment is present keeps changing. As I will sometimes put it, the NOW moves from the past toward the future.1 And this does not mean that relative to different times, different times are present. Even the B-theory can say that 1999 is present relative to 1999 but is not present relative to 2007. No, according to the moving spotlight theory, the claim that which moment is present keeps changing is supposed to be true, even from a perspective outside time.



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Bradford Skow
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Citations of this work

Presentism and the Myth of Passage.Lisa Leininger - 2015 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (4):724-739.
The Priority of the Now.Sam Baron - 2014 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly:0-0.
The Invisible Thin Red Line.Giuliano Torrengo & Samuele Iaquinto - 2020 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 101:354-382.
Perceiving Direction in Directionless Time.Matt Farr - 2023 - In Kasia M. Jaszczolt (ed.), Understanding Human Time. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 199-219.

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Four Dimensionalism.Theodore Sider - 1997 - Philosophical Review 106 (2):197-231.
Scientific Thought.C. D. Broad - 1923 - Paterson, N.J.,: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Time without change.Sydney Shoemaker - 1969 - Journal of Philosophy 66 (12):363-381.

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