Time is an intriguing subject because it is difficult to define. Clocks track time for us in terms of hours, minutes and seconds. However, there are many theories that attempt to define time in a larger sense. Theories of the past, present and future existence of time are often discussed by philosophers, scientists and meta-physicians.
People tend to speak of the past in the sense that it exists. They also speak of the future in terms of things that are going to happen. Past and future scenarios are a mainstay in normal conversation; however, there are some scientists and philosophers who believe that these reference points do not exist.
This viewpoint is known as Presentism.
What is Presentism?
Presentism is the belief that only present objects are in existence. According to this view, if you were to make a list of all things that exist, there would not be a single object on the list that is not physically present. Thus, the Eiffel Tower would be listed, but neither Plato nor any of your future grandchildren would be on the list. This is a very concrete way to look at time.
We often discuss past events in a temporal way; our pasts are memories that stay with us for a long time. However, according to Presentism, they are nonexistent because our memories are intangible. Presentism is part of an ongoing battle to explain time. It is only one part of two refuting theories that attempt to define time.
The A-Theory of Time and the B-Theory of Time
Philosophers state that the A-theory and B-theory of time are two completely different descriptions of how we order events.
They differ in the use of tense to explain the temporal relation we use to describe time between each event. The terms were first introduced by philosopher John McTaggart in 1908. They were part of his argument for explaining the unreality of time. Since then, these terms have been widely used as references in modern debates concerning time.
McTaggart believed that time holds two distinct modes, which can be arranged by order. In the first mode, events are ordered through past, present and future. When we speak of time in this way, we are speaking of positions in a series, which occur from different points of the past, present and future. The important characteristic that relates to this description is that time is a continual transformation. Essentially, every event is first part of the future, part of the present and part of the past. This type of description comes from the temporal perspective of the person who utters their recollection of events in time. The aforementioned describes the B-theory of time. We listed the B-theory of time first because it is the way that so many of us view time.
The A-theory of time describes Presentism, which implies that time is ordered by what is in the present. Science explains that this viewpoint takes into account the finite speed of light and the finite time it needs for material interactions to occur. Additionally, a scientist who subscribes to this view would say it prevents everything from happening all at once. In essence, this theory would hold that time is merely a relative duration between events that allows us to measure change. We should note that Presentism is an extreme form of the A-theory. It is the doctrine that the whole of reality is confined to the present. All quantified statements that commit to past or future things are false. This theory also disallows time travel because of the absence of past and future scenarios. There are those who believe that Presentism is the ultimate explanation of time, but the debate continues over whether it is the correct way to describe it.
In his book “A Future for Presentism”, author Craig Bourne presents a defense of Presentism. Specifically, he tries to help us solve the problem of knowing that our time is indeed present. He articulates that a past doesn’t exist because a problem is raised when we endorse pluralist positions to describe time. He states that given we know that we are present, all tense theories disprove that the present describes time. In fact, he believes that we claim the present as the moment of time that is metaphysically privileged, and therefore, the present can be distinguished from whatever moment of time is chosen from an index, which we use to refer to as the present. If we suppose that Socrates is indeed as real as all tense theorists acknowledge, then his presence is no different from our present, but the belief that he is present is false. According to Bourne, this is one example of how only Presentism can truly explain time in a factual way.
Arguments Against Presentism
Those who do not subscribe to Presentism often articulate scenarios that attempt to disprove the notion of it.
They argue that if objects that are not present do not exist, then no one can presently stand in any relation to these objects. Therefore, you cannot presently stand in the relation of being an admirer of Socrates. Additionally, if your grandfather has passed away, you could not stand in admiration of him because he is no longer in existence. These are counter-intuitive consequences of the Presentism viewpoint, and they are fuel for many serious debates.
After all, to believe in Presentism as a way to describe time, we would have to pay a price.
Specifically, we would have to reject all notions and relative beliefs in a past or a future. Often, when we think of someone who doesn’t see a future, it’s not a good thing. However, looking at such a belief from the scientific viewpoint, anything could happen; the future is uncertain. Since there is no fact that can prove a future is coming, there should be no feeling that it will be either bad or good; it doesn’t exist.
We sincerely hope that you didn’t get a headache from our attempt to explain this theory about time; we realize that it’s complicated. 😉
Since OnlineClock.net is aligned with time in such a precise way, Presentism seemed like a good topic for discussion. What do you think about it? Perhaps you have your own ideas about time that you would like to share with us. If you do, please feel free to leave a comment here on our blog. We would be glad to lend an ear to your opinion on the matter. After all, we have lots of time ahead of us to consider them. Of course, if you believe in Presentism, we might not! In any case, thank you for visiting our site. We hope today’s blog has given you something interesting to ponder.