Symposium on “The Promise of a New Past” by Sam Lebens and Tyron Goldschmidt

The APJ is pleased to host an online symposium on the following paper:

The “Promise of a New Past” by Sam Lebens and Tyron Goldschmidt.

Philosophers’ Imprint 2017, 17 (18): 1-25


Kenneth Hochstetter (Southern Nevada)

Hud Hudson (Western Washington)

Ryan Mullins (St. Andrews)

Beth Seacord (Southern Nevada)

A copy of the paper can be found here

Comments by respondents: here

Replies by Goldschmidt and Lebens: here

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  1. Hud Hudson

    Hi Sam and Ty,

    Thank you for such a fun and challenging paper!

    A question about the scene-changing view and hypertenses:

    Suppose – as you ask us to suppose – we grant that we are “spotlight-eternalists” about time and hyperpresentists about hypertime. Now suppose we identify a misdeed in the dark (i.e., in that no-longer-illuminated range of our own spacetime block, at the present hypertime) . . . say, Alcibiades’ drunkenly disfiguring statues in Athens.

    As you say on pp10-11 . . . on this view of time you are opposing, these “past evils are bad because they exist in the past; they remain there forever replaying the horror of what was” . . . i.e., even though they are no longer present, they exist all the same (and that’s bad enough). The advantage of appealing to hyperpresentism and hypertenses is that (i) we need not commit ourselves to the existence of other hypertimes, yet (ii) we can look forward to better days, for it hyperwill be the case that those statues were not disfigured by Alcibiades. Of course, on that happy hyperday it nevertheless remains the case that it hyperwas the case that Alcibiades defaced those statues . . . but that is made true not by some existing evils or some misdeeds in the dark, but rather by that hypertime’s instantiating a hyper-backward-looking property, which as you put it “marks the fact that such things hyper-used to exist.”

    I hope I have that interpretation of your view correct!

    If so, here’s a cost (I think). The improvement you claim for your newly proposed view derives from the result there are no longer any existing evils anywhere; rather – as you put it – only the shadows of previous evils remain in the hyperpresent properties that “mark” them. Similarly, however, don’t we have to say that the same is true of our Alcibiades, the evil-doer? That is, on the view of time you are trying to improve upon, we can refer to Alcibiades whether he is illuminated or no in our hyperpresent, eternalist block. And (on your proposed theory) you are also in a position to refer to him hypernow . . . when you say, for example, “Alcibiades, who exists but is not present, hyperwill never have committed any evil acts against Athens,” for on your view ‘Alcibiades’ is not an empty name now or hypernow.

    But hyperhence . . . when the hypertime comes which presents a spacetime with no evil and no traces of evil . . . you will not be able to say (as I thought you wanted to say) – “There is and was no evil, although (putting your new hypertense-operators to work) it hyperwas the case that Alcibiades perpetrated evil actions; but don’t worry, that’s made true by hyper-backward-looking properties of the current hypertime, not by any events featuring Alcibiades.”

    You won’t be able to say it, because from the point of view of the utterance, you are attempting to use the name ‘Alcibiades’, whereas it is – from that point of view – an empty name, for nothing that exists past, present, future, hyperpast, hyperpresent, or hyperfuture bears it.

    I’m curious to hear your thoughts about that worry.

    Cheers, Hud

    1. Sam Lebens

      Hi Hud,
      Thank you so much for taking part in this symposium. As should be clear from the paper, your work was a massive inspiration to us.
      I’m going to try to respond to your point, but Tyron might have a different response.
      So – here goes:
      Yes, I think you have represented our view correctly – and perhaps more clearly than we were able to do! Thank you.
      Nevertheless, I’m not sure that I’m all that bothered about the cost you describe; at least until you push it further and show me why I should be more bothered than I am.
      Depending upon a number of variables I think there are going to be two responses to your worry.
      In one eventuality, Alcibiades hyper-will-still exist even hyper-once his sins hyper-will-have-been removed. Why? Well, his life wasn’t completely sin-ridden. Even hyper-after evils have been deleted, some of him hyper-will remain; this hyper-will also be the case if his history hyper-gets re-written in various ways.
      So we hyper-will still be able to refer to him directly, given that he hyper-will still exist in the past. And we will be able to say truly of him, that he did no wrong, even though he hyper-did – those hyper-doings hyper-will be marked by the timeline instantiating certain hyper-backward-looking properties, but also (perhaps) by him himself instantiating certain hyper-backward-looking properties.
      On other eventualities he hyper-will never have existed at all. Perhaps he was so evil that nothing hyper-will remain of him, hyper-after his sins are removed. I think these eventualities are going to be much rarer, if they hyper-ever occur at all. But let’s consider it. I guess that in these eventualities, we’ll be in the same situation that presentists are in when trying to refer to wholly past people. He will be wholly hyper-past. Presentists tend to end up saying that our reference to wholly past people is never de re, even when it appears to be. I guess we’d have to say the same thing about wholly hyper-past people.
      I don’t think that that’s a devastating cost.
      The evil has been so thoroughly removed that we can no longer refer to it de re; but its shadow remains, which is what allows for us to talk about it, de dicto. This, perhaps, is the garlic peel of Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner.
      Ty, what do you think?
      Hud, should I be more worried about this cost than I am?

  2. Ty

    Thank you for the comment, Hud.
    First, I wonder about your statement that “it is – from that point of view – an empty name, for nothing that exists past, present, future, hyperpast, hyperpresent, or hyperfuture bears it.” Why think that hyperhence nothing in the past, etc, bears the name?
    Second, I wonder about your statement that “we will not be able to say (as I thought you wanted to say), etc.” I indeed wanted to say it. But why should I?

  3. Hud Hudson

    Thanks, Sam and Ty, for those responses . . . they helped me to understand the paper more clearly.

    And, once again, thank you for such an enjoyable paper!

  4. Sam Lebens

    I know the symposium is over, but here’s a question that’s bothering me at the moment about our own view. I can’t figure out what to say about it.
    The model that we prefer combines a moving spotlight theory of time, with hyper-presentism.
    It seems to me that the moving spotlight was inessential. The view would work just as well if we combined the growing-block theory, or a branching theory with hyper-presentism.
    The only theory of time we can’t combine with hyper-presentism to yield the results we want is presentism.
    So, here’s the question.
    Does the view work just as well if we combine hyper-presentism and eternalism, with no moving spotlight?
    What do people think?

  5. Hud Hudson

    Hi Sam,

    I was wondering about the same thing. I wasn’t sure why you couldn’t have used a growing-block or an eternalist-sans-spotlight theory of time in conjunction with hyper-presentism to make substantially the same moves that you currently make in your paper against backdrop of the moving-spotlight view. Of course, there would then be no scene-changing in the dark — an image you used to get your audience to get the feel of one of the proposals — but that image wasn’t essential to the line of reasoning.

    I’m not sure that you should say “the only theory of time we can’t combine with hyper-presentism to yield the results we want is presentism,” since the shrinking-block theory would generate problems for you, as well. But if you can be neutral between growing block, eternalism (with or without spotlight) that just all the better for your proposals.

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