2022 Visitors and Events
April to July, Emanuel Viebahn
Emanuel is a 2022 Andersen Visiting Fellow. He is a lecturer inI am a lecturer in philosophy at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. My main research interests lie in the philosophy of language and communication and in metaphysics. He is currently working on the theoretical, ethical and empirical aspects of insincere communication, on issues in metasemantics, semantics and pragmatics and on the philosophy of time and modality. He is also interested in topics in aesthetics, the history of analytic philosophy and the philosophy of science.
August, Matt Duncan
Matt is an assistant professor at Rhode Island College. working in metaphysics and philosophy of mind.
July to September, Helen Beebee
Helen is a visiting Andersen fellow. She is Professor at Leeds University. She works on the metaphysics of causation, free will, and laws of nature, in the philosophy of science, and on Hume.
September to December, Giovanni Merlo
Giovanni is a visitor to the Centre from the University of Geneva. He works in metaphysics.
November, Aida Terblanché-Greeff
Aida is visiting us from North West University in South Africa. She works, amongst the things, on different cultural conceptions of time.
The centre frequently runs small, specialised workshops on various aspects of the nature of time and our experience thereof.
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To see previous workshops we have run, visit our archive here.
Time, Temporal Experience, and Temporal Representation
Tuesday Nov 1, 2022
Against Two-faced Eternalism
Giovanni Merlo (Geneva)
Nowadays, many advocates of Metaphysical Eternalism – the view that there aren’t any temporary facts – embrace Psychological Temporalism – the view that there are temporal propositions. On the resulting combination – call it Two-faced Eternalism (TFE) – temporal propositions are something of a psychological ‘free lunch’: they play the role that propositions are traditionally supposed to play as objects of various psychological attitudes but there aren’t any facts ‘out there’ making them true or false simpliciter. Instead of trying to argue that TFE is incoherent, false, or objectionably revisionary, I shall argue that it is not a rationally tenable position. My argument starts from the observation that, for at least a large class of temporal propositions that, according to TFE, we can (and sometimes should) believe, believing the proposition rationally commits one to believing in the existence of the corresponding fact. Now, either the notion of ‘fact’ that is relevant to this observation is the same as the notion of ‘fact’ that figures in the formulation of Metaphysical Eternalism, or it isn’t. If it is, TFE implies that there is a large class of propositions we can (and sometimes should) believe such that believing any of them commits us to disbelieving Metaphysical Eternalism, hence TFE itself. If it isn’t, TFE can be shown to imply something equally problematic – namely, that there is a large class of propositions we can (and sometimes should) believe such that believing any of them commits us to a view that closely resembles, and shares all the alleged problems of, the denial of Metaphysical Eternalism, hence of TFE itself. Either way, TFE is an unlikely place for metaphysicians to plant their stakes.
AFRO-POLYCHRONISM: THE ENTANGLEMENT OF AFRICAN TIME AND UBUNTU
Dr Aïda C. Terblanché-Greeff North-West University, South Africa.
Cultural values are characteristically prescriptive, normative, and evaluative of individuals’ affect, behaviour, and cognition, indicating that cultural values relate to morality. One such cultural value is time orientation, which is often categorised on a spectrum as monochronism vs polychronism. I focus on polychronism, represented thoroughly in academic literature as a universal cultural value predominantly formulated from a Western paradigm. Unsurprisingly, limited attention is allocated to different variations of polychronism based on distinct cultures. I argue that time orientation as a cultural value is not universal and is context-specific and nuanced. Supportively, research indicates that a cultural group from three Setswana communities in South Africa is predominantly categorised as polychronic when considering their African time orientation. Nonetheless, polychronism describes African time orientation only partially and overlooks the unique collectivistic cultural traits of Ubuntu which focuses on the interconnectedness between individuals as per the African maxim “I am, because we are”. In this talk, I will introduce the neologism Afro-polychronism as an amalgamation of African time and Ubuntu by unpacking its components. I argue that aspects of African time and Ubuntu are reciprocal and entangled under the concept of Afro-polychronism.
Perceptual Illusionism about Temporal Passage
Brigitte Everett, The University of Sydney
Illusionism about temporal passage, once the default position for B-theorists, is the view that we have illusory perceptual experiences as of temporal passage. An increasingly popular alternative B-theoretical view, deflationism, involves the denial of the claim that we have any perceptual experiences as of temporal passage. The rising popularity of deflationism is perhaps partly due to recent objections levelled against the illusionist. One important objection to the view, the intelligibility problem, tasks the B-theorist with making intelligible how one could believe that we have experiences as of some phenomenon that does not exist. In other words, the thought is that the illusionist must explain exactly what the content of their belief that we have experiences as of temporal passage is. On behalf of the illusionist, I explore a couple of solutions to this problem. One involves denying that there is a problem, and another is a new way of cashing out the content of the illusionist belief. I discuss some disadvantages of each view, but claim that both options at least make illusionism about temporal passage intelligible.
Against Hard Presentism, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Past Tense Truths
Anthony Bigg, University of Sydney
Abstract: Presentism faces a well-known truthmaker objection. Roughly, the objection states that an ontology of exclusively present objects and events is insufficient to provide the required grounding for past tense truths – truths such as it was the case that Hannibal crossed the Alps or it was the case one hour ago that you were eating toast. Surprisingly, and undeterred by common sense, some presentists have responded to this argument by denying that there are any past tense truths at all (and hence, they deny that there are any ungrounded past tense truths). This view is known as ‘Hard Presentism’. In this talk, I interrogate the viability of the Hard Presentist response to the truthmaker argument and ultimately find it wanting. Depending on what Hard presentists say about the alethic status of futuretense propositions, I argue that Hard Presentism either (i) collapses into eternalism and is inconsistent with time passing, (ii) fails in its attempt to undermine the truthmaker argument or (iii) entails a contradiction. In light of these considerations, no one should be a Hard Presentist. Thus, presentists looking to respond to the truthmaker argument need to look elsewhere for a solution.
On the Impossibility of Past Genesis on the GB
Shira Yechimovitz Tel Aviv University and the University of Sydney
One does not simply become past. One must be present first. In this talk I will borrow the term past genesis from Forbes (2015) and use it in an inclusive way, as an umbrella term to any scenario in which things come into existence as past, without going through being present first. Forbes rightfully argues that the impossibility of past genesis is one of the features of our experience of passage that all dynamic views of time should be able to account for. A dynamic view of time is any metaphysics of time that characterizes passage as ontological change. I will take the Growing Block view as my study case, and discuss three different ways in which past genesis may manifest in a GB world: (i) The Eternal Past; (ii) “Squeezing in” Past Genesis; (iii) The Becoming of Temporally Extended Slices. I will consider each of them in turn, and examine the issues they bring about. My goal is to see whether or not the GB theorist can make the case that all instances of past genesis are metaphysically impossible in a GB world
Time and Causation Workshop
The University of Sydney, Western Tower Room
Cei Maslen (Victoria University of Wellington)
Causal Relativism: Dissolving the cement of the universe
Over the past few years, MacFarlane has argued for a view known as “New Relativism”. He has argued for a limited position, not a global position. E.g. he makes a strong case for the relative truth of taste claims and knowledge claims. The purpose of this paper is to investigate extending this type of relativism to another class of statements – causal claims. Can “c causes e” be true for me but not for you? One may be tempted to dismiss such a suggestion out of hand, as threatening the status of causation as the “cement of the universe”. But this would be over-hasty.
Helen Beebee (Leeds University)
Causation: how can experimental philosophy shed light on metaphysics?
There is a burgeoning literature on the phenomenon of ‘causal selection’. There is now considerable evidence that our ordinary causal judgements, as elicited in standard ex-phi surveys, select from among various candidate causes on broadly normative grounds. What light, if any, do — and can — such ex-phi surveys shed on the nature of causation itself? We explore this question indirectly, via asking what light ex-phi sheds, or could shed, on whether or not our ordinary concept of causation is ‘egalitarian’. On the face of it, causal selection might seem to settle that question. In fact, however, things are quite a lot more complicated than this. Neither standard ex-phi methodologies for exploring our ordinary judgements nor the main explanatory focus of much ex-phi work in this area — namely the best psychological explanation of causal selection — are conducive to delivering much evidence concerning the ordinary concept of causation. We consider whether — and if so, how — experimental philosophy might deliver better evidence concerning egalitarianism.
Ant Eagle (University of Adelaide)
Humeanism and Context
It is widely supposed that nested counterfactuals like ‘Had there been nothing but a lone electron, then had there been more electrons than one, the force between any two would have accorded with Coulomb’s law’ pose a problem for Humeanism about laws. The objection, at least when raised within a broadly Lewisian framework for the evaluation of counterfactuals, requires a premise to the effect that the standards of similarity applied to the nested counterfactual are those of the closest antecedent world, not the actual world. I argue that Humeans have no reason to accept this premise, and very good reasons from similar cases involving other context-sensitive expressions to reject it.
Richard Corry (University of Tasmania)
Power, Influence, and the Interaction Gap
Over the last few decades, an ontology of powers has become increasingly popular among metaphysicians. According to this view, at least some properties have a powerful, or dispositional, essence, which is manifested in appropriate circumstances and remains a potentiality otherwise. Power theorists regard powers as the foundation of causal interaction, and thus claim that an ontology of powers will help us understand the philosophically perplexing notion of causation. In particular, for example, power theorists claim that an ontology of powers can shed light on how a number of causes can combine to produce an effect. Recently, however, Baltimore has argued that when it comes to understanding how powers combine there is an explanatory gap that power theorists are yet to close. He calls this the “interaction gap”. He considers two theories of how powers combine (“contribution combination” and “mutual manifestation”) and argues that only one of these theories has the resources to bridge the interaction gap. In this paper I argue that the interaction gap is bigger than Baltimore recognises, and show that neither contribution combination nor mutual manifestation can bridge it. I then consider a third view: the ontology of power and influence and argue that this view has the resources to fully bridge the interaction gap.
Sam Baron (Dianoia Institute, Australian Catholic University)
Causation and spacetime
In the mid 20th century, a group of theorems showed that much of the metric structure of general relativity could be recovered from causal structure. This led a number of philosophers to defend a causal theory of spacetime, in which spatiotemporal relations were reduced to causal relations. The causal theory met with fierce opposition by the likes of Earman and Smart, and was largely abandoned within philosophy. In physics, however, the story is different: the theorems that motivated the causal theory of spacetime were developed into two approaches to quantum gravity: causal set theory and causal dynamic triangulation. In this talk, I will return to the causal theory of spacetime in light of recent physics and show that there is a version of it that endures philosophical scrutiny.
Self and Time Workshop
9.00-10.15 Natalja Deng: comments by Brigitte Everett
‘Time, Grounding, and Esoteric Metaphysics'
10-15-11.30 Wen Yu
"Personites and Prudential/Moral Units".
11.30-12.45 Emanuel Viebahn
"Temporal assertions, temporal indexicals and the direction of time"
9.00-10.15 Jordan Lee-Tory
"Time and alethic openness"
10.15-11.30 Akiko Frischhut
"Awareness Without Time: Meditation and the Value of Being in the Present."
11.30-12.45 Naoyuki Kajimoto: comments by Shira Yechomovitz
"Revisionalism of temporal passage."
The Centre runs various conferences each year. Every year there is an international conference run as part of our membership of the International Association for he Philosophy of Time. Further details can be found here.
We are hoping to run a conference towards the end of this year on temporal ontology and time bias.
For details, please subscribe to the SydPhil mailing list.