Temporal Supervenience
Sattig (Thomas)
Source: Sattig - The Language and Reality of Time, Chapter 1
Paper - Abstract

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Author's Introduction1

  1. Chapter 1 serves as an introduction to the themes of the book. I state the problem of temporal supervenience2, which links the project of exploring the temporal dimension of language with the project of exploring the temporal dimension of reality. Time can be viewed from different angles. On one conception, time is what I call ordinary time. Ordinary time is an entity that has one dimension, is distinct from three-dimensional space, and consists of past, present, and future. This conception of time is 'ordinary' in virtue of being the conception that we are committed to by our ordinary temporal discourse. According to another conception, there is no one-dimensional time distinct from a three-dimensional space, but rather only a four-dimensional spacetime of which time is merely an aspect. Spacetime consists of a manifold of spacetime points that stand in certain temporal and spatial relations to each other. These two conceptions of time are not rivals. They are compatible conceptions serving different purposes. How is what goes on in ordinary time related to what goes on in spacetime? I find it overwhelmingly plausible that all facts about ordinary time logically supervene3 on facts about spacetime; what goes on in spacetime fully determines what goes on in ordinary time. This is the general thesis of temporal supervenience4. The problem of temporal supervenience5 is to specify the facts about spacetime on which facts about ordinary time supervene6, and to explain how they supervene7.
  2. Temporal supervenience8 has many aspects, corresponding to various kinds of supervenient temporal phenomena. Among the most basic phenomena are the following: ordinary objects, such as persons and tables, persist through ordinary time — they exist at various times; and ordinary properties, such as shapes, are instantiated at various times — if incompatible properties are instantiated by the same object at different times, then the object changes through ordinary time. The problem of temporal supervenience9 with respect to these phenomena has two components.
  3. The first component is to specify the spatiotemporal supervenience10 base of temporal existence and persistence, and of temporal instantiation and change. How do objects occupy spacetime? And how are properties instantiated across occupied spacetime? The second component is to build an explanatory bridge from the supervenience11 base to the supervenient phenomena. Such a bridge requires an 'analysis' of temporal existence and temporal instantiation — that is, a semantic account of ordinary temporal predications such as 'a was F'. The problem of temporal supervenience12 thus connects the metaphysics of time with the semantics of temporal discourse.
  4. Before the supervenience13 of ordinary temporal facts on spacetime facts can be explained, the shape of ordinary time needs to be clarified. This is a further task of Chapter 1. Since ordinary time is the conception of time to which we are committed in virtue of the way we speak, the metaphysical question of the shape of ordinary time is closely linked with the semantic question of the status of grammatical tense. The construal of ordinary time as A-time corresponds to the tenserist account of tense, whereas the construal of ordinary time as B-time corresponds to the detenserist account of tense. Tensers hold that grammatical tense is semantically irreducible, while detensers hold that tense is semantically reducible. I criticize tenserism and A-time in the context of temporal supervenience14 with the aim of promoting detenserism as the correct account of tense and B-time as the true shape of ordinary time. With detenserism in the background the problem of temporal supervenience15 becomes the task of explaining how facts about B-time supervene16 on facts about spacetime.

  1. Temporal Language
  2. Temporal Reality
  3. Temporal Supervenience17
  4. The Problems of Change
  5. A-time, B-time, and Spacetime
  6. Supervenience18 and Relativity


Photocopy filed in "Various - Papers on Identity Boxes: Vol 16 (S1: Sa-Sl)".

In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1:

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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