The Metaphysics of the Thin Red Line

In F. Correia & A. Iacona (eds.), Around the Tree. Semantical and Metaphysical Issues Concerning Branching and the Open Future. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 105-125 (2013)
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There seems to be a minimal core that every theory wishing to accommodate the intuition that the future is open must contain: a denial of physical determinism (i.e. the thesis that what future states the universe will be in is implied by what states it has been in), and a denial of strong fatalism (i.e. the thesis that, at every time, what will subsequently be the case is metaphysically necessary).1 Those two requirements are often associated with the idea of an objective temporal flow and the non-reality of the future. However, at least certain ways to frame the “openness” intuition do not rely on any of these. Branching Time Theory (BTT) is one such: it is compatible with the denial that time flow is objective and it is couched in a language with a (prima facie) commitment to an eternalist ontology. BTT, though, urges us to resist certain intuitions about the determinacy of future claims, which arguably do not lead either to physical determinism or to fatalism. Against BTT, supporters of the Thin Red Line Theory (TRL) argue that their position avoids determinism and fatalism, while also representing the fact that there is a future which is “special” because it is the one that will be the case. But starting with Belnap and Green 1994, some have objected to the tenability of TRL, mainly on metaphysical grounds. In particular, those argue that “positing a thin red line amounts to giving up objective indeterminism,”2 and that “has unacceptable consequences, ranging from a mistreatment of actuality to an inability to talk coherently about what would have happened had what is going to happen not taken place.”3 In this paper, we wish to reframe the..

Author Profiles

Giuliano Torrengo
Università degli Studi di Milano
Andrea Borghini
Università degli Studi di Milano


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