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Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Quitting the A-ism blues?

In June 2013 I wrote a post in this blog called A-ism blues. There, I tell all my despair in the classroom trying to defend any of the versions of A-ist realism that Kit Fine mentions in his "Tense and reality" (in: Modality and Tense, Oxford UP 2005). Fine presents a great analysis of reality and how it could be conceived as not neutral, not absolute and not coherent. I think it is a good way to view the problems, especially when related to possible worlds or first and third persons. But it is, as far as time is concerned, too much of a B-ist way. That is, a presentist view of time is a view where time doesn't passes, a perspectivist view is one where there is no process of changing between different perspectives (but only successive tense perspectives) and a fragmentalist view is a perspectivist view which conceives additionally an über-reality where there is neither time nor tense. These three alternatives make for an important cartography on the way reality is conceived and I like the fragmentalist alternative, as my Cubist Object made clear. But none of them seem to be a good A-ist analysis of time. In 2003 the blues was: could there be a genuinely realist A-ism?

This week I'm back in the same discussion in my metaphysics class. I'm now presenting things more explicitly in terms of events: A-ism is committed to full-blooded events. The issue then becomes: can one make justice to events and be realist about time? McTaggard's A-ism despaired of realism. But how did he do that? Assuming the A-series is something projected onto the B-series, something like an appearance on a real background, then it is brought in by some projecting device. Something that introduces the A-series (that is, events) in an otherwise a-temporal reality. But what could that be? The Kantian solution has that time (and presumably the A-series) is an a priori form of sensitivity for experience has to have a tense. McTaggart ascribes to Hegel the idea that while time is unreal, there are features in reality that enable time to appear (that is, for someone to project it on what is real). The idea, that he tentatively accepts, is that reality is ready for something that exploits its possibilities concerning tense. It looks as if agents can introduce the A-series in an otherwise timeless reality.

A hint for a possible A-ist realism can be found in Whitehead's notion of concrescence. While anti-realism would have that we are the ones to project time into reality, process philosophy would have that any agent would do have to do it. In other words, A-ism would be realist if it presents itself firmly and from the beginning as an ontology of events - and Whitehead's take seems suitable. Any actual entity is involved in events and therefore has a present (and a past and a future). Actual entities introduce indexicality (i.e. actuality) in the world and by doing that they produce the concrete (they concresce). The A-series is brought in by all actual entities and not just the ones capable of having conscious propositional feelings (intellectual feelings, in the terminology of Process and Reality). The main idea is that the ontology of events is an ontology of experience - and therefore there is an important truth in A-ist anti-realism: it is experience itself that makes justice to events. But if experience is widespread, then there are events preceding and succeeding each other and therefore there is contemporaneity. Time concresces as the contemporary is introduced by actual entities always in the middle of events.

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