Objects in Time: Studies of Persistence in B-time

Dissertation, Lund University (2009)
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This thesis is about the conceptualization of persistence of physical, middle-sized objects within the theoretical framework of the revisionary ‘B-theory’ of time. According to the B-theory, time does not flow, but is an extended and inherently directed fourth dimension along which the history of the universe is ‘laid out’ once and for all. It is a widespread view among philosophers that if we accept the B-theory, the commonsensical ‘endurance theory’ of persistence will have to be rejected. The endurance theory says that objects persist through time by being wholly present at distinct times as numerically the same entity. Instead of endurantism, it has been argued, we have to adopt either ‘perdurantism’ or the ‘stage theory’. Perdurantism is the theory that objects are four-dimensional ‘space-time worms’ persisting through time by having distinct temporal parts at distinct times. The stage theory says that objects are instantaneous temporal parts (stages) of space-time worms, persisting by having distinct temporal counterparts at distinct times. In the thesis, it is argued that no good arguments have been provided for the conclusion that we are obliged to drop the endurance theory by acceptance of the B-theory. This conclusion stands even if the endurance theory incorporates the claim that objects endure through intrinsic change. It is also shown that perdurantism and the stage theory come with unwelcome consequences. Paper I demonstrates that the main arguments for the view that objects cannot endure in B-time intrinsically unchanged fail. Papers II and III do the same with respect to the traditional arguments against endurance through intrinsic change in B-time. Paper III also contains a detailed account of the semantics of the tenseless copula, which occurs frequently in the debate. The contention of Paper IV is that four-dimensional space-time worms, as traditionally understood, are not suited to take dispositional predicates. In Paper V, it is shown that the stage theory needs to introduce an overabundance of persistence-concepts, many of which will have to be simultaneously applicable to a single object (qua falling under a single sortal), in order for the theory to be consistent. The final article, Paper VI, investigates the sense in which persistence can, as is sometimes suggested, be a ‘conventional matter’. It also asks whether alleged cases of ‘conventional persistence’ create trouble for the endurance theory. It is argued that conventions can only enter at a trivial semantic level, and that the endurance theory is no more threatened by such conventions than are its rivals.

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