Philosophical Arguments Against the A-theory
Deasy (Daniel)
Source: Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 2018, 99:270-92
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. According to the A-theory of time some instant of time is absolutely, non-relatively present. Although the A-theory is in some ways the ‘intuitive’ theory of time, there are a number of serious arguments against the view. In particular, many theorists reject the A-theory on the grounds that it is inconsistent with the picture of fundamental reality derived from contemporary spacetime physics, according to which there is no fundamental structure corresponding to absolute presentness.
  2. However, some theorists also reject the A-theory on purely philosophical grounds. In this paper I describe three important philosophical arguments against the A-theory:
    1. J. M. E. McTaggart’s (1908, 1927) famous argument that the A-theory is contradictory;
    2. Kit Fine’s (2005) interesting but little-discussed argument that the A-theory is consistent with time being ‘frozen’; and
    3. Natalja Deng’s (2012) recent argument that the A-theory fails to capture the ‘intuitive’ picture of the passage of time.
  3. I show that there are plausible A-theoretic responses to each of these arguments, and conclude that, whatever else is wrong with the A-theory, it is not obviously a philosophically suspect theory.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. In this paper I have described three important philosophical arguments against the A-theory, and showed that in each case, it is a relatively straightforward matter for A-theorists to avoid the relevant conclusion.
  2. Thus A-theorists can take some solace from the fact that they can resist some of the principal philosophical arguments against their view.
  3. The real problem for A-theorists – the problem they should focus on – is the fact that their view seems to be at odds with contemporary spacetime physics.


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