Truth, Time and History: A Philosophical Enquiry
Botros (Sophie)
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BOOK ABSTRACT:

Bloomsbury Book Description

  1. Truth, Time and History investigates the reality of the past by connecting arguments across areas which are conventionally discussed in isolation from each other.
  2. Breaking the impasse within the narrower analytic debate between Dummett's semantic anti-realists and the truth value link realists as to whether the past exists independently of our methods of verification, the book argues, through an examination of the puzzles concerning identity over time, that only the present exists. Drawing on Lewis's analogy between times and possible worlds, and work by Collingwood and Oakeshott, and the continental philosopher, Barthes, the author advances a wholly novel proposal, as to how aspects of ersatz presentism may be combined with historical coherentism to uphold the legitimacy of discourse about the past.
  3. In highlighting the role of historians in the creation and construction of temporality, Truth, Time and History offers a convincing philosophical argument for the inherence of an unreal past in the real present.

Contents1
  1. Truth
    1. The Realist/Anti-Realist Wars – 3
      1. Dummett’s reconfiguration of the debate – 4
      2. The realists play their trump card – 19
      3. The realist appeal to memory – 36
    2. Projection, Analogy and Meaning – 43
      1. Projection: an anti-realist haunted realist strategy – 44
      2. The truth-value link again – 60
  2. Time
    1. Tense Theory – 67
      1. A continuity that tolerates discontinuity – 68
      2. Presentist and non-presentist tensed solutions – 79
      3. Truth-value link realists within the tensed-tenseless spectrum – 88
    2. Caught in a Timeless Leibnizian Net2 – 95
      1. Property and essence – 96
      2. Essence as dynamic – 107
    3. Presentism and Modality3 – 121
      1. The truth-maker lacks structure – 124
      2. The truth-maker is “hypothetical” – 134
      3. Presentists, anti-realists: Russell’s “five minute hypothesis” – 142
  3. History
    1. Collingwood and Oakeshott: Is History Possible4? – 149
      1. Collingwood: “history is the re-enactment of past thought” – 154
      2. Historical idealism: a revolutionary conception of evidence? – 172
      3. Collingwood’s “question and answer” at Hadrian’s Wall – 181
    2. A Realist Present and a Coherentist Past – 191
      1. Can historical texts really replace ersatz times as truth-makers? – 193
      2. The history / fiction controversies – 211
        Conclusion – 229
    Notes – 231
    Bibliography – 256
    Index – 265



In-Page Footnotes ("Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: A Philosophical Enquiry")

Footnote 1: Footnote 2: Footnote 4:
BOOK COMMENT:
  • Bloomsbury Academic, London, September 2017
  • Gift from Sophie



"Talachian (Sina) - Review of 'Truth, Time and History - A Philosophical Inquiry' by Sophie Botros"

Source: Philosophy FirstView. Published online: 01 March 2019, pp. 1-3. doi:10.1017/S003181911900007X


Full Text
  • Does the past exist, or is it merely a figment of our (collective) imagination? And if it does exist, how? Or, as O'Brien put it to Wilson1 in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four (as quoted by Botros in the beginning of the first chapter): ‘Does the past exist concretely, in space? Is there somewhere or other a place, a world of solid objects, where the past is still happening?’ (4). These are the questions Sophie Botros attempts to provide an answer to in this book. She does so by drawing on and critically engaging with disparate intellectual traditions, from heavyweights in analytical philosophy like Michael Dummett to continental thinkers like Paul Ricœur and philosophers of history such as R. G. Collingwood, complemented by her own insights. The philosophical account that emerges out of this effort addresses the aforementioned perennial problem in the field regarding the reality or unreality of the past. As Botros notes in the title of the first chapter, ‘wars’ have been waged regarding this question among competing sides, the ‘realists’ and ‘anti-realists’. As the names imply, the former believe there is a past that can be said to exist as separate and distinct from the present, whereas the latter deny this (though there are variations in both positions which are discussed in great detail). As shall be seen, Botros’ sympathies lie with the anti-realists.
  • Her argument is advanced in three steps, comprising the three parts of the book's title, ‘Truth’, ‘Time’ and ‘History’. In the first part, Botros analyzes at length Dummett's semantic anti-realism and the objections raised against it by realists. Dummett's position that ‘the past does not exist independently of our methods of verification’ but is rather ‘a construction out of our present, and shifting evidence’ (4, Botros’ emphasis) is used as the basis of her own presentist rejection of the past as an independent entity. In the second part, ‘Time’, this presentist position is explicated in part by distinguishing time from space. With respect to space an observer can be in a stationary position in relation to a moving object (e.g., imagine yourself standing still watching a cat walking along a road), but time precludes this: both the object and that observer are always already in time, in the present. But what about memory as a repository of past time and reflection of reality as it really was, and hence as a possible location of the past's existence as a separate entity? Botros rejects this too, for memory is always already subject to time as well, being always presentist in nature (there is only present memory), and is moreover subject to error and change (as with Dummett's ‘shifting evidence’), and hence cannot reflect past reality as it truly was.
  • The final nail in realism's coffin is Botros’ rejection of the truth-value link. To understand what is meant by this consider that a present-tense statement of the kind ‘SB is sitting in her study today, 15 April 2009’ is also true in the future when uttered in the past-tense, ‘one year ago SB was sitting in her study’ (20). If this is the case, the truth-conditions for the statement being true are separate and distinct from evidence which can shift (memories, fingerprints, etc.). This jeopardizes Botros’ aforementioned presentist rejection of the past as an independently existing entity, for apparently there is a truth-value link that undergirds it. Botros responds by pointing out that the future past-tense statement referred to is in fact made in the present, a projection into the future of the present-tense statement. And it is this act of future-oriented projection that is invalid, for we can never know the future and how it will affect the present. In effect she is reiterating her claim that given that we are always already in time and in the present, there is no vantage point outside it (either in the past or in the future).
  • Having done away with the notion of the past as an independently existing entity, Botros nevertheless wants to maintain some conception of it in her account. This is the subject of the third part of the book, ‘History’. After all, we all have some notion of the past which goes back millennia, to the Ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians and, millions of years beyond that, roaming dinosaurs. We also have memories of our own past experiences, from childhood to whatever we happened to do yesterday. So surely the past must exist in some sense. Here Botros harkens back to Dummett's conception of the past as being constructed out of the present, and focuses on two aspects of it: the personal or individual construction of it from present memories and, much more importantly for her, what can be called the social construction of it by historians and archeologists. Wading into the contentious realism versus anti-realism wars in relation to historical narratives (though as noted below in a limited sense), Botros takes the position that most fits her presentist stance as elaborated in the previous parts of her book, namely that historical narratives are separate and distinct from fiction as they are constrained by the available evidence, the specific norms for which emanate and are enforced by the community of historians. Moreover, the historical past is not fixed, but subject to revision based on changing evidence (and it is the job of historians and archeologists to unearth this evidence and do the revising). Botros persuasively argues that it is historians’ narratives that provide us with what can be called a historical sensibility, a sense of the past to which we can relate in a deep sense from the perspective of the present, wherein we are, after all, contained.
  • There are some limitations with respect to the scope of her analysis in this third part of the book, which is surprising given Botros’ otherwise admirable ability to move beyond the confines of analytical philosophy (for example Barthes and Ricœur are superbly utilized and analyzed). The claim is made that even ‘postmodern’ philosophers of history avoid radical anti-realist claims about historical narratives (150), but this ignores the seminal work of anti-realist philosophers of history like Hayden White and Frank Ankersmit, who are conspicuous by their absence in the book, as are seminal realist historical theorists like Mark Bevir and Chris Lorenz. But these are minor quibbles. Botros’ book has the virtue of being both incredibly insightful philosophically on all the topics it covers – truth, time and history – and very accessible. Her case for presentism and a rejection of the past as an independent entity is a daring yet persuasive one, and philosophers (of history) and historians would do well to acquaint themselves with it.


COMMENT:




In-Page Footnotes ("Talachian (Sina) - Review of 'Truth, Time and History - A Philosophical Inquiry' by Sophie Botros")

Footnote 1: Sic: should be Winston Smith.



"Botros (Sophie) - The Realist/Anti-Realist Wars"

Source: Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: Part I (Truth), Chapter 1


Contents
    Introduction – 3
  1. Dummett’s reconfiguration of the debate – 4
    1. Selective anti-realism: the importance of reduction – 4
    2. Curbing heterogeneity – 7
    3. Three moves towards semantic anti-realism – 8
    4. Two attempts to get realists off Dummett’s metaphysical ‘hook’ – 15
      1. Wright, deflationism and superassertibility – 15
      2. Norris, projectivism and conceptually structured properties – 17
  2. The realists play their trump card – 19
    1. The circumvention of evidence: Present → Future – 20
      1. A past-tensed statement whose future utterance is made true by an event now – 20
      2. Anti-realists’ response: but ‘true’ means ‘verifiable now’ – 21
      3. A standpoint outside time versus immurement in the present – 22
    2. The circumvention of evidence: Past → Present – 23
      1. A past-tensed statement whose utterance now is made true by a past event – 23
      2. The reinterpreted truth value link applied to the revised verification principle – 24
      3. The collapse of ‘verifiable now’ into ‘verifiable at that time’ – 24
    3. The circumvention of evidence: Future → Present – 25
      1. Anti-realists ‘don’t assume that the verification principle must have retrospective reach!’ – 25
      2. A future-tensed statement whose utterance now is made true by a future event – 27
      3. Realists: ‘one cannot subscribe to a principle one says will not hold in a year’s time!’ – 27
      4. The threat to realism from fatalism defused – 28
      5. Anti-realism: ‘but “true” will not mean the same in a year’s time’ – 30
      6. Anti-realists: ‘we cannot express the meaning which we shall attach to “true” in a year’s time’ – 32
      7. Past facts let in ‘by the back door’ – 35
  3. The realist appeal to memory – 36
    1. Models of memory: mental image and physical trace – 36
    2. Memory not an atemporal yardstick – 37
    3. Robert Southey’s ‘The Battle of Blenheim’ – 38



"Botros (Sophie) - Projection, Analogy and Meaning"

Source: Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: Part I (Truth), Chapter 2


Contents
    Introduction – 43
  1. Projection: an anti-realist haunted realist strategy – 44
    1. A preliminary appeal to ‘implicit’, and ‘indirect’, knowledge – 44
    2. Difficulties in setting up the strategy – 45
      1. The shortfall between justification and truth: the slide to subjectivism – 46
      2. The flawed parallel between present-tensed observation, and first-person sensation, statements – 48
    3. Objections to the strategy once set up – 49
      1. ‘Reference to the past has not been completely expunged’ – 49
      2. McDowell’s refutation – ‘[It countenances] a leap beyond the bounds of awareness’
      3. The spurious appeal to ‘same sort’: Wittgenstein again – 51
      4. Why the truth value link fails to underwrite projection – 54
      5. McDowell’s revised realist proposal – 56
    4. The Wittgenstein background – 58
  2. The truth-value link again – 60
    1. Anti-realist emasculation of the truth value link – 60
    2. Dummett: the truth value link realists cannot account for our ‘living in time’ – 62



"Botros (Sophie) - Tense Theory"

Source: Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: Part II (Time), Chapter 3


Contents
    Introduction – 67
  1. A continuity that tolerates discontinuity – 68
    1. A spectrum of positions on time and change – 68
      1. Two intermediate positions: ‘simple temporal passage’ versus ‘alteration in properties’ – 68
    2. Difficulties raised by the notion of ‘alteration in properties’: eternalist solutions – 71
      1. The contradictory properties ascribed to distinct temporal parts – 72
      2. ‘But it must be the object itself which has the contradictory properties, otherwise it cannot lose or gain them’ – 72
      3. Sider’s stage theory1: an attempt to meet the ‘proper subject condition’ – 74
      4. Haslanger and the denial that persistence requires identity – 76
      5. A lacuna in the eternalist account of the difficulty with change: Leibniz’s Law introduced – 77
      6. The problem of combining continuity and discontinuity again – 78
  2. Presentist and non-presentist tensed solutions – 79
    1. Presentism introduced – 79
      1. Presently existing ‘bearers’ contrasted with other notions of grounds, realist and verificationist – 80
      2. Lucretius and the idea that a past-tensed property can shift from one bearer to another – 81
    2. Advantages of presentism – 82
      1. A present with remarkable temporal ‘depth’ – 82
      2. Lucretius’s ‘shifting bearer’ – 83
    3. Objections to presentism – 85
    4. Non-presentist tensed theories: two proposals – 85
      1. Lowe: past and present as irreducibly tensed modes of existence – 86
  3. Truth-value link realists within the tensed-tenseless spectrum – 88
    1. Truth value link presentism and presentism – 88
    2. Truth value link realists and eternalism – 89
    3. Truth value link realism and non-presentist-tensed theory – 91
    4. Dummett’s charge regarding ‘living in time’ rejected – 93



"Botros (Sophie) - Caught in a Timeless Leibnizian Net"

Source: Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: Part II (Time), Chapter 4


Contents
    Introduction – 95
  1. Property and essence – 96
    1. ‘All an entity’s properties are essential’: the argument from everyday discourse – 96
    2. All an entity’s properties ‘flow from’ its essence: the argument from science – 99
      1. Fine, Gorman, Copi and a preliminary example from chemistry – 99
      2. The scientific pessimism behind Locke’s distinction between real and nominal essences – 100
      3. Opposing the pessimism: for and against – 101
      4. Why atomic number cannot explain all an entity’s other properties: hydrogen, helium, iron – 102
      5. Philosophical unclarity about atomic number, and the relation of essence to properties – 104
      6. Leibniz’s principle of the indiscernibility of identity affirmed – 106
  2. Essence as dynamic – 107
    1. First strategy: Leibniz’s Law governs different notions of identity – 107
      1. Diachronic / synchronic identity – 107
      2. Relative/absolute identity – 108
    2. Second strategy: Leibniz’s Law is applied to persistence and survival conditions – 109
      1. ‘Continuants’ as basic to immediate experience – 110
      2. The ‘true’ claim that identity judgements must conform to Leibniz distinguished from the ‘false’ one that they must be reached via Leibniz – 111
      3. Argument from ‘unworkability’ for the falsity of the last claim – 112
      4. Why Leibniz’s Principle of the Identity of Indiscernibles1 cannot help – 113
      5. But can our identity judgements conform to Leibniz if they are not reached via Leibniz? – 113
      6. Objections to temporal parts theorists, Gabbay and Moravscik – 115
      7. The paradox of change again – 116
    3. Implications for truth value link realism as a non-presentist tensed theory – 119



"Botros (Sophie) - Presentism and Modality"

Source: Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: Part II (Time), Chapter 5


Contents
    Introduction – 121
  1. The truth-maker lacks structure – 124
    1. Haecceities and surrogates – 124
    2. Ersatz times – 126
      1. The abstract/concrete distinction – 128
      2. ‘Everything is instantaneous’ – 129
      3. The shifting truth maker – 130
      4. The truth value link again: why presentism cannot rehabilitate it – 131
      5. The ersatz series and the course of history – 133
  2. The truth-maker is “hypothetical” – 134
    1. Categoricity is not a panacea for all the ills of dubious ontologies – 134
    2. Prospects for micro physical reductions of dispositions – 137
      1. The trouble with dispositions is that they are Meinongian (Armstrong) – 137
      2. For and against Armstrong’s micro-physical reduction – 137
    3. Comparison of dispositional with past-tensed properties – 138
      1. Directedness, intentionality and indeterminacy – 139
      2. Crisp: the distinction between dispositions and past-tensed properties – 139
  3. Presentists, anti-realists: Russell’s “five minute hypothesis” – 142



"Botros (Sophie) - Collingwood and Oakeshott: Is History Possible?"

Source: Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: Part III (History), Chapter 6


Contents
    Introduction – 149
  1. Collingwood: “history is the re-enactment of past thought” – 154
    1. Transitoriness: a special problem for history among the social sciences – 154
    2. The re-enactment of past thought: preliminary clarifications – 157
    3. Contribution of the past act of thought to re-enactment – 159
      1. The machinery of ‘two orders’ – 159
      2. The thought/feeling and action/movement distinctions – 161
      3. Counting acts of thought by reference to their content – 164
      4. Collingwood’s appeal to common linguistic usage: the two orders again – 168
  2. Historical idealism: a revolutionary conception of evidence? – 172
    1. Three key features, and the notion of evidence that they give rise to – 173
    2. ‘Everything in the world is potential evidence for any subject whatever’ (Collingwood, 1953:280)
  3. Collingwood’s “question and answer” at Hadrian’s Wall – 181



"Botros (Sophie) - A Realist Present and a Coherentist Past"

Source: Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: Part III (History), Chapter 7


Contents
    Introduction – 191
  1. Can historical texts really replace ersatz times as truth-makers? – 193
    1. Are they sufficiently similar? – 193
      1. Absence of a ‘realist, reductive, truth-making structure’ – 193
      2. A literary precedent for transferring truth making to the historical text – 195
      3. The realist backlash, and Lewis’s competing view about fictional truth laid bare – 196
    2. Are historical texts sufficiently different from ersatz times? – 199
      1. Lewisian objections: ‘Completeness’, ‘Plenitude’, etc. – 199
      2. ‘Radical presentist’ objections – 202
      3. Texts, authored and unauthored; story prefixes, transparent and opaque – 203
    3. How historians arrange events in order of time – 204
      1. The myth of the ‘ideal chronicler’ – 204
      2. Choosing a time frame to suit one’s narrative: Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War – 206
      3. The less than radical truth behind Williams claim that Thucydides invented linear time – 207
      4. Methods of determining linear succession: ‘archaeological horizons’ – 210
  2. The history / fiction controversies – 211
    1. Is history sufficiently like fiction to count as a narrative form? – 211
      1. Aristotle’s Poetics and the tension between history’s linearity and dramatic unity – 212
      2. Periodisation and Mink’s claim that ‘history has a beginning, a middle, and an end’ – 214
      3. Barthes, Carlyle and the dramatic subversion of linear time – 216
    2. Is history sufficiently different from fiction not to be dismissed as a ‘sanctioned pretence’? – 217
      1. Modal1 fictionalism2: truth within the scope of a (silent) story prefix – 218
    3. ‘Realism about the present, coherentism about the past’: the remainder of our proposal explained and defended – 223
      1. Texts, theories: robust enough to be realist truth makers? Modal3 fictionalism4 again – 223
      2. Texts, as actually existing abstract cultural creations, transferred to historical domain – 224
      3. Rejection of a realist reduction that ‘goes all the way down’ and appeal to different levels of discourse – 227
  3. Conclusion – 229



"Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: Bibliography"

Source: Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History


Not all of this extensive bibliography is relevant to my needs. I’ve decided to list those books and papers I’ve either got, or ought to have, though omitting some classics. No doubt I’ll miss some important works, particularly related to the “History” aspect of the book, but life’s too short for everything. Where I’ve not got the book or paper, but have hopes of acquiring it, I’ve cited the author; sometimes other papers I have by the author may act as substitute(s).




In-Page Footnotes ("Botros (Sophie) - Truth, Time and History: Bibliography")

Footnote 1: The actual book referenced is Sven Bernecker, The Metaphysics of Memory, Springer, 2008.

Footnote 2:
  • This may not be the correct text, which is “The Challenge Of Anti-Realism: Dummett’s Challenge” in the Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics, Eds. Loux & Zimmerman, 2003.
  • But I expect it’ll be good enough.
Footnote 3: Footnote 4: Why not "Mellor (D.H.) - Real Time II"?

Footnote 5: I don’t have the book, but do have "Fine (Kit) - Critical Review of Parsons' Non-Existent Objects".



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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