Alethic Openness and the Growing Block Theory of Time

The Philosophical Quarterly 73 (2):532-556 (2022)
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Whatever its ultimate philosophical merits, it is often thought that the growing block theory presents an intuitive picture of reality that accords well with our pre-reflective or folk view of time, and of the past, present, and future. This is partly motivated by the idea that we find it intuitive that, in some sense, the future is open and the past closed, and that the growing block theory is particularly well suited to accommodate this being so. In this paper, we empirically investigate three claims. First, that people's intuitive or pre-reflective sense that the future is open is at least partly captured by there being truth-gaps for future contingents: what we call alethic openness. Second, that people, perhaps tacitly, believe that the fact that the future is alethically open is a reason to endorse the growing block theory; and third, that part of what explains why people tend to naively represent our world as a growing block is that they represent the future as alethically open. We found evidence in support of the first two claims. We consider the implications of these findings for several debates in the philosophy of time.

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