Pretence Fictionalism about the Non-Present

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Presentists hold that only present things exist. But we all, presentists included, utter sentences that appear to involve quantification over non-present objects, and so we all, presentists included, seem to commit ourselves to such objects. Equally, we all, presentists included, take utterances of many past-tensed (and some future-tensed) sentences to be true. But if no past or future things exist, it’s hard to see how there can be anything that those utterances are about, which makes them true. This paper presents a hitherto unexplored response to both problems: pretence fictionalism about the non-present. This view combines semantic factualism with psychological non-cognitivism. Sentences that appear to quantify over the non-present have propositional content and (almost all of) those propositions are false because the thing they are about—the non-present—does not exist. Nevertheless when we utter such sentences we don’t thereby utter something false. Our utterances do not report the belief that the propositional content of the sentence uttered is true; rather, they express a non-cognitive attitude towards that content: namely an attitude of pretence. Hence by thinking various thoughts, and uttering various sentences we are, collectively, pretending as though things were (or will be) thus and so.

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Kristie Miller
University of Sydney

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