Metaphysics of time and space

In this paper, I argue that the phenomenology of our experiences of change does not weigh for or against any metaphysical theory of change (presentist, four-dimensionalist, etc).

In general, I think that the phenomenological facts, such as those revealed to us by introspection, are compatible with every theory of time (or spacetime), including the theory that there is no such thing as time. I argue for this at length in the first half of my book.

I also defend the view, originally suggested by Henri Poincaré, that time (or spacetime) is “ideal,” in the sense that facts about time and temporality are reducible to, or supervene upon, facts about conscious experience. (See the second half of my book, and this paper.)

I don’t have strong feelings about the debate between four-dimensionalists and their opponents, although I do think that relativity theory poses a major problem for presentism. Basically, it forces the presentist to choose between (1) confining reality to a single point of time and space, and, (2) equating reality with the events lightlike separated from some given event. Option (1) requires the presentist to introduce a spatial analog of tense, in order to reconstruct ordinary talk about things existing at different places; but then he avoids spatializing time only at the cost of temporalizing space. Option (2) receives no support from the intuitions that motivate presentists in the first place, and anyway implies that we never perceive any external events. My former student Jane Loo developed these criticisms of presentism in detail in her undergraduate honors thesis.