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DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-N120-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2005
Retrieved July 25, 2024, from

Article Summary

Presentism, as a metaphysical thesis about time, is the view that only what is present exists. The past and future are in some sense to be explained, unreal. Although this appears at first sight to be both an intuitive and a substantial thesis about the world, the first challenge to anyone wishing to espouse it is to show that it is not simply the trivial truth that only what is present exists now. One way of giving content to the presentist thesis is to provide a positive account of how past and future can be constructed from presently existing items, in ways that parallel attempts to construct possible states of affairs from actual states. Some presentists, however, would decline the invitation to provide such a construction, arguing that the flow of time allows one to say quite unproblematically that the past is what once existed, but no longer does so. A further challenge to the presentist is to account for the truth of statements that appear to require the existence of relations between non-contemporaneous items, statements that contain terms such as ‘is earlier than’, ‘is a cause of’, ‘is the larval stage of’, ‘is the remote ancestor of’, etc. Although the initial attraction of presentism is its offer to provide a more systematic statement of our pre-theoretic views, a fully worked-out and consistent presentist theory seems likely to be quite revisionary.

Citing this article:
Le Poidevin, Robin. Presentism, 2005, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N120-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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