- There is a widespread assumption that B-theorists (according to whom there is nothing metaphysically special about the present moment in virtue of which it is present) should interpret tense operators such as ‘it was the case that’ and ‘it will be the case that’ as implicit quantifier-restrictors – so that, for example, an utterance at the present instant n of the sentence ‘It was the case that there are dinosaurs’ is true just in case there are dinosaurs located at some instant t earlier than n. However, it is easy to show that this interpretation of the tense operators creates serious problems for B-theorists when combined with certain other natural B-theoretic commitments. In this paper, I argue that the best way for B-theorists to avoid these problems is to treat the tense operators as redundant when the sentences in their scope are qualitative – roughly, not about any particular individual.
- The paper is structured as follows:
- in §1, I describe the B-theory.
- In §2, I show how the standard interpretation of the tense operators as quantifier-restrictors creates problems for B-theorists. I also describe the well-known analogous problem for Modal Realists (according to whom there is nothing metaphysically special about the actual world in virtue of which it is actual).
- In §3, I show that B-theorists can avoid these problems by rejecting the standard interpretation of the tense operators as quantifier-restrictors in favour of the view that the tense operators are redundant when the sentences in their scope are qualitative. I then describe and respond to what I take to the most serious objection to this view, namely, that it has highly implausible consequences given the B-theory.
- Finally, in §4 I describe four alternative B-theoretic strategies for avoiding the problems generated by the standard interpretation of the tense operators. I argue that there are good reasons for B-theorists to reject each of these alternative strategies.
- I conclude that B-theorists should prefer the strategy described in §3.
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