The minimal A-theory
Sullivan (Meghan)
Source: Philosophical Studies, Vol. 158, No. 2, (March 2012), pp. 149-174
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. Timothy Williamson thinks that every object is a necessary, eternal existent. In defense of his view, Williamson appeals primarily to considerations from modal and tense logic.
  2. While I am uncertain about his modal claims, I think there are good metaphysical reasons to believe permanentism: the principle that everything always exists.
  3. B-theorists of time and change have long denied that objects change with respect to unqualified existence. But aside from Williamson, nearly all A-theorists defend temporaryism: the principle that there are temporary existents.
  4. I think A-theorists are better off without this added commitment, but I will not argue for that in any great detail here. Instead, I will contend that a very tempting argument for temporaryism is unsound.
  5. In the first half of the paper, I will develop the Moorean "common sense" argument for temporaryism and dispute its central premise, namely that temporaryism is the best generalization from our ordinary beliefs about creation, destruction, coming to be, and passing away.
  6. I will argue that given the pervasive vagueness in our ordinary beliefs and the background commitments of all A-theories, temporaryists cannot claim to have the common sense view because no party can accommodate most of our common sense beliefs.
  7. In the second half of the paper, I will propose a permanentist A-theory that explains all change over time as a species of property change. I call it the minimal A-theory, since it dispenses with the change in existence assumption. As we'll see, the permanentist alternative performs well enough in explaining our ordinary beliefs, and it has better prospects for answering three objections commonly levied against A-theories.

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