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Friday, July 14, 2006

An Old Argument against Temporalism

Richard (1981) offers the following sort of argument against temporalism (roughly the view that temporally neutral content can be the object of possible belief).

John believed that Mary was hungry.
John still believes everything he once believed.
Therefore, John believes that Mary is hungry.

The argument seems invalid, but temporalism predicts otherwise (for what Mary believed was the temporal proposition that Mary is hungry -- the past tense is vacuous on the relevant reading).

But notice that the following argument seems valid:

John will be thinking that Mary is hungry
Everything John will be thinking he is thinking now
John is thinking that Mary is hungry

Temporalism apparently makes the correct predictions in the latter case. For temporalism predicts just that.

Who is right? Is the first argument really valid (temporalism wins), or is the second argument really invalid (eternalism wins)?

I discuss these and other issues in Chap. 1 of Transient Truths (In progress).

Some articles that dicuss these and related issues:

Richard 1981. "Temporalism and Eternalism", Philosophical Studies 39, 1-13.
Salmon 1989. "Tense and Singular Propositions" in Themes From Kaplan, Oxford University Press, New York, Almog, Perry, Wettstein (eds.)
Stanley, 1997 "Rigidity and Content", in Logic, Language and Reality: Essays in Honor of Michael Dummett, R. Heck (ed.), Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Fitch 1998. "Temporalism Revisited" Philosophical Studies 92: 251-256.
King 2003. "Tense, Modality, and Semantic Values", Philosophical Perspectives 17: Language and Philosophical Linguistics, John Hawthorne and Dean Zimmerman (eds.), 195-246.

And, of course, Kaplan's "Demonstratives" (my favorite article of all time)

1 comment:

Enemy of the Republic said...

Wow, now this is interesting!