- The following questions go to the heart of the deepest metaphysical disagreement about the nature of time:
- Are there objective differences between what is past, present, and future?
- Are present events and things somehow more "real" than those wholly in the past or future?
- I should like to respond, "Yes," to both questions. Affirmative answers sound obvious and commonsensical, at least to me. Indeed, I suspect that, for many of us, belief in a deep distinction between past, present, and future can be given up briefly, if at all; and then only by a mighty effort of will! Over the course of the twentieth century, however, more and more philosophers have argued for negative answers to these questions. In many quarters, the impulse to posit a deep difference between past, present, and future is now taken to be no better grounded than the impulse to suppose that there is an objective "downward" direction, the same everywhere in the universe; or that the earth is stationary, while the sun, moon, and stars are not.
- There are two parts to my defense of affirmative answers to (1) and (2). First, I describe a number of theories of time that answer "Yes" to (1), and raise a worry about the ones that do not also answer "Yes" to (2). Then I assess reasons to reject or accept a metaphysics of time that answers (1) and (2) affirmatively. I consider some metaphysical and scientific arguments against affirmative answers, and find them wanting. More positively, I argue that belief in a real difference between past, present, and future has a certain positive status: it is "innocent until proven guilty," and guilt remains unproven.
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