METAPHYSICS – AN OVERVIEW : Static Versus Dynamic Views


Some Fundamental Questions concerning the Nature of Time:  (1) Does time have a direction?  (2) If so, is it a feature of time itself, or is it definable in terms of the patterns that are found in time - such as increasing entropy, or expansion of the universe?  (3) Are there fundamental differences between the past, the present, and the future?  (a) Do past, present, and future differ with regard to being real?  (b) Are there special, tensed properties of pastness, presentness, and futurity?  (c) Or do terms like 'past', 'present', and 'future' simply serve to locate events temporally relative to the speaker in question, just as terms such as 'here' and 'there' simply locate things spatially relative to the speaker?
Dynamic versus Static Views of the Nature of Time:  (1) The static conception of change:  change is simply the possession of different properties by a thing at different times;  (2) The dynamic conception of change:  what facts there are, and thus what propositions are true or false, changes from one time to another;  (3) The ontological concepts of being actual, and of being actual as of a particular time;  (4) The corresponding semantical concepts of being true simpliciter, and of being true at a time.
Tensed Temporal Concepts versus Tenseless Temporal Concepts:  (1) Tensed concepts are ones that locate events relative to the present.  Examples: past, present, future, five minutes in the past.  (2) Tenseless temporal concepts are ones that pick out a temporal relation between events that does not involve any reference to the present.  Examples: earlier than, simultaneous with, three hours later than, two minutes apart.
The Issue of Analyzability:  (1) Can tenseless temporal concepts be analyzed in terms of tensed ones?  (2) Can tensed concepts be analyzed in terms of tenseless temporal concepts?
Objections to Attempts to Analyze Tenseless Temporal Concepts in Tensed Terms:  (1) The concept of the future is needed, and yet it cannot be taken as analytically basic;  (2) One also needs relational tensed concepts, such as that of being past at a time, and these appear to involve the earlier than relation.
Can Tensed Concepts be Analyzed in terms of Tenseless Temporal Concepts? 
(1) Analyses that provide a translation versus analyses that provide truth conditions;  (2) Translational analyses are unsound;  (3) Analyses that involve indexicals: Analyses that involve only static world concepts - such as those of being earlier than and of being simultaneous with, versus those that involve dynamic world concepts - such as that of truth at a time.
Which are More Basic: Tenseless Quantifiers or Tensed Quantifiers?  (1) The future tensed existential quantifier, 'there will be', cannot be taken as basic;  (2) One needs quantifiers that range over possible non-temporal entities, such as numbers and propositions.
Arguments in support of a Dynamic View of Time:  (1) The appeal to the phenomenological of our experience of time: Can one be directly aware of the fact that the world is a dynamic one?  (2) The linguistic argument:  tensed sentences cannot be analyzed in terms of tenseless sentences;  (3) Steven Cahn's argument that if the world were static, logical fatalism would be true;  (4) The controllability argument: how the future is depends upon what one does now, whereas how the past is does not;  (5) The direction of time argument:  If the world is static, one cannot give an adequate account of the direction of time;  (6) The argument from causation: reductionist approaches to causation are unsound, and the correct realist account is such that causation can only exist in a dynamic world.  (Comment:  I think there are satisfactory answers to the first five arguments.)
Arguments in support of a Static View of Time:  (1) The argument from simplicity: a static world is simpler than a dynamic world;  (2) No satisfactory explanation can be given of the idea of a dynamic world;  (3) McTaggart's argument: the existence of tensed facts would give rise to a contradiction;
(4) Instantaneous events cannot possess different tensed properties at different times;  (5) Mellor's argument:  the truth-values of tensed sentences are completely fixed by tenseless facts;  (6) The "how fast does time flow?" objection;  (7) A dynamic view of time can be ruled out on scientific grounds, since a dynamic world involves absolute simultaneity, and the latter is rendered implausible by Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity.
Arguments Based upon the Special Theory of Relativity (STR):  (1) The modest argument: STR does not postulate any relations of absolute simultaneity;  (2) Putnam's claim: STR entails that all events - past, present, and future - are equally real;  (3) Stein's response to Putnam's argument;
(4) Causal relations between parts of spacetime, realistically conceived, and a defense of absolute simultaneity: the simplest hypothesis is that the causal relations between parts of space-time are non-branching ones.

McTaggart's Argument for the Unreality of Time:  (1) The A-series versus the B-series.  (2) McTaggart's support for the claim that the B-series cannot involve real change: spatial parts versus temporal parts;  (3) The A-series gives rise to a contradiction; (4) If tenseless sentences are not analyzable in tensed terms, there is a simple answer to McTaggart's argument, since one can specify, in tenseless terms, using dates, when events have the various tensed properties.  No contradiction then even threatens to arise.

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