The Existence of Time and Its Relationship to the Reality of Temporal Passage

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Ewing, Kyley
Stairs, Allen
The starting point of my dissertation is the deeply rooted tension between our everyday pre-theoretic experience of time and our leading metaphysical and physical theories of time. Prime examples of this tension can be found in both discussions surrounding the ontology of the past, present, and future and debates over the fundamental nature of the passage and direction of time. While united by the search for the correct understanding of the relationship between our experience, the metaphysics, and the physics of time, my project is divided into four parts: "Temporal Passage in a Fragmented World" looks at the relation between fragmentalism and the passage of time. As it was introduced by Fine in “Tense and Reality” (2005), fragmentalism is an A-theoretic view that divides the world into incompatible fragments of tensed facts. I begin by explaining how the Fineian fragmentalist can respond to claims that their theory is only able to offer an irredeemably incoherent account of time. I then argue that, even if sense can be made of the general picture of time it presents, Fineian fragmentalism is unable to supply a passable account of the mind-independent passage of time in line with our experience. The conclusion from this will be that Fineian fragmentalism is a subpar tensed A-theoretic account. Lipman (2018) provides a recent modification of Fineian fragmentalism based in a tenseless fragmentalist framework. My suggestion, however, is that Lipman’s attempt to supply a tenseless account of genuine fragmentalist temporal passage is ultimately unmotivated. One underexplored option open to the fragmentalist is to argue that time does not really pass in a fragmented universe. "Norton’s Objective Temporal Passage" considers one unique solution to the puzzle of temporal passage in the block universe. Norton (2010) argues that, although a precise description of its workings is currently beyond our understanding, time really passes. After introducing Norton’s account, I argue that it both implies a counterintuitive relationship between the “now” and passage and that it leads to an unlikely relationship between our experience and reality. I then propose that, even if one is willing to accept these consequences, there is reason to question whether Norton builds a convincing case for the claim that, since we are not able to find any of the identifying characteristics of an illusion in the case of temporal passage, the passage of time is not an illusion. "A Defense of the B-Theoretic, Block Universe" offers a defense of the B-theoretic, block universe theory of time. I begin by motivating the connection between, on the one hand, the B-theory and the block universe and, on the other hand, the A-theory and dynamic views such as presentism. With this connection in place, I argue that the overall weight of experiential, metaphysical, and scientific considerations support the B-theoretic, block universe. My conclusion is that, although there is reason to favor the B-theoretic, block universe over A-theoretic, dynamic views, there are still important and unanswered questions surrounding the B-theoretic, block universe. "Non-Dynamic Temporal Passage" presents an account of the mind-independent and non-dynamic passage of time that is consistent with the block universe theory and central features of our experience of time. In explaining the passage of time, I appeal to the temporal boundaries of the block universe and argue that the passage of time explains both the earlier than relation and the direction of time. Although a minimalist account of temporal passage, it provides substantial answers to the following core questions about temporal passage: What is the basis of the passage of time? What does the passage of time itself amount to? What does the passage of time explain?