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Re: [ontolog-forum] Presentism (was Re: Ontology of Rough Sets)

To: "[ontolog-forum]" <ontolog-forum@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
From: Christopher Menzel <cmenzel@xxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2011 13:32:23 -0600
Message-id: <DDD2860F-C247-4F5C-A23E-6CAEA878F720@xxxxxxxx>
On Jan 27, 2011, at 12:58 PM, Chris Partridge wrote:
Hi Chris,
Is the issue here *strict* presentism?
 (Where weak presentism would allow past and future objects to exist, but exist in different ways.)

No.  The qualification "strict" adds nothing; I should have just said "presentist".

I was under the impression that presentism and standard 3D accounts fitted naturally together (for example, Markosian makes this point in the Stanford article, though I find some of his comments on 3D a bit odd.).

I think Markosian's point is simply that one must be a 3D'ist if one is a presentist, pretty much by definition.  But one can certainly be a 3D'ist without being a presentist.  Presentism is a very problematic (though, I admit, rather metaphysically appealing, for whatever that's worth) form of 3D'ism — see for example the three difficulties Markosian mentions briefly at the end of the section on presentism in his article.

That one of the attractions of a 3D view is that it supports a presentist stance.
Otherwise, I cannot make sense of your comment – copied below.
CM> This is actually a rather radical metaphysical doctrine that encounters very serious semantic roadblocks not encountered by the standard 3D and 4D views.

It seems pretty clear to me that non-presentist 3D'ism is the "commonsense" view, at least, when it comes to the past — Socrates "exists in the past" and we unproblematically refer to him. For the presentist, this is strictly false, as there is no such ontological property as "past existence" and hence no such thing as Socrates to refer to.  But how, then, do we make any sense of such apparently unproblematic commonsense truths as "Socrates was a Greek philosopher"?

Presentism, by my lights, as an utter non-starter for the purposes of knowledge representation.  There might be tortured ways for the presentist to make sense of claims about past and future entities, but if we're interested in building usable knowledge bases for information systems, regardless of where we come down on the 3D-vs-4D issue, we simply need to be "ontologically promiscuous" (to borrow from the title of a lovely (and important) paper by Jerry Hobbs) about past and future objects and refer to them and quantify over them liberally and unabashedly.


From: ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx [mailto:ontolog-forum-bounces@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx] On Behalf Of Christopher Menzel
Sent: 27 January 2011 18:31
To: [ontolog-forum] 
Subject: Re: [ontolog-forum] Presentism (was Re: Ontology of Rough Sets)
On Jan 27, 2011, at 7:00 AM, Ronald Stamper wrote:
The only things deemed to exist in a presentist ontology (metaphysical sense) exist now.  The present is no prison because we now have signs that stand for things we wish to know about in the past and future.  
Actually, for the strict presentist, that is flatly false, because there are no "things…in the past and future" for our signs to refer to and for us to know about, for only presently existing things exist and things only exist now.  This is actually a rather radical metaphysical doctrine that encounters very serious semantic roadblocks not encountered by the standard 3D and 4D views.

Presentism, I contend, provides a valuable discipline for engineers of information systems because that's the kind of world we deal with.
Seems to me that the world we deal with is the same regardless of one's metaphysical take on time. Be that as it may, might I suggest that the view you are actually arguing for is not presentism but rather the standard (and, I think most would agree, commonsense) 3-dimensionalist view that there is a distinguished, objective, ever changing present in virtue of which things are (at any present moment) genuinely presentpast, or future?
Chris Menzel

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