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Presentism, Ontology and Temporal Experience


In a recent article, ‘Tensed Time and Our Differential Experience of the Past and Future,’ William Lane Craig (1999a) attempts to resuscitate A. N. Prior's (1959) ‘Thank Goodness’ argument against the B-theory by combining it with Plantinga's (1983) views about basic beliefs. In essence Craig's view is that since there is a universal experience and belief in the objectivity of tense and the reality of becoming, (that he identifies with ‘the presentist metaphysic’) ‘this belief constitutes an intrinsic defeater-defeater which overwhelms the objections brought against it.’ (1999a, 519) An intrinsic defeater-defeater is a belief that enjoys such warrant for us that it simply overwhelms the defeaters brought against it without specifically rebutting or undercutting them. Thus, Craig claims that an effete philosophical argument like McTaggart's paradox is nothing more than ‘an engaging and recalcitrant brain teaser whose conclusion nobody really takes seriously.’ (1999a, 532) It is difficult to reconcile this statement with Craig's own writings elsewhere. For Craig has vigorously argued in at least two other articles that 'hybrid A-B theorists like McCall, Schlesinger, and Smith [who give ontological status to both A-properties and B-relations] are in deep trouble’ (1998, 127) since they are all effectively refuted by McTaggart's Paradox (cf. Craig 1997). It is not Craig's inconsistency regarding the significance of McTaggart conundrum that I want to draw attention to, however. Rather I wish to raise a different issue.

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Craig , 1999a. ‘Tensed Time and Our Differential Experience of the Past and Future’, Southern Journal of Philosophy 37, 4, 515–37.

Craig , 1999b. ‘Oaklander on McTaggart and Intrinsic Change’, Analysis 59, 4, 319–20.

Craig , 2002a. ‘The Extent of the Present’, International Studies in the Philosophy of Sciences 14, 2, 165–85.

Craig , 2001. Time and the Metaphysics of Relativity. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Press.

Herbert Hochberg 1969. ‘Negation and Generality,’ NOUS 3, 325–43.

Robin Le Poidevin 1991. Change, Cause and Contradiction: A Defense the Tenseless Theory of Time. London: Macmillan.

Robin Le Poidevin 1998b. ‘Review of Michael Tooley's Time, Tense and Causation’, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 49, 365–69.

Robin Le Poidevin 1999a. ‘Egocentric and Objective Time’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society. New Series 99, 1936.

Robin Le Poidevin 1999b. ‘Can Beliefs Be Caused By Their Truth-Makers? Analysis 59, 3, 148–56.

Robin Le Poidevin 2001. ‘Reply To Smith and Tooley’, in L. Nathan Oaklander (ed.), The Importance of Time. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 285–91.

D. H. Mellor 1998. Real Time II. Routledge: London.

Nathan Oaklander L. and Silvano Miracchi (1980), ‘Russell, Negative Facts, and Ontology’, Philosophy of Science, 47, 434–55.

Arthur Prior 1959. ‘Thank Goodness That's Over’, Philosophy 34, 1217.

Arthur Prior 1967. Past, Present and Future. Clarendon, Oxford, UK.

Quentin Smith 1986. ‘The Infinite Regress of Temporal Attributions’, The Southern Journal of Philosophy 24, 383–96. Reprinted in L. Nathan Oaklander and Quentin Smith (eds.), The New Theory of Time (1994).

Quentin Smith 1993. Language and Time. New York: Oxford University Press.

Quentin Smith 1999b. ‘The ‘Sentence-Type Version’ of the Tenseless Theory of Time’, Synthese 119, 233–51.

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Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements
  • ISSN: 1358-2461
  • EISSN: 1755-3555
  • URL: /core/journals/royal-institute-of-philosophy-supplements
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