by Christian Wüthrich
Forthcoming in Vesselin Petkov (ed.), Space, Time, and Spacetime: Physical and Philosophical Implications of Minkowski’s Unification of Space and Time, Springer, 2010.
Online available at the PhilSci Archive.
This essay offers a reaction to the recent resurgence of presentism in the philosophy of time. What is of particular interest in this renaissance is that a number of recent arguments supporting presentism are crafted in an untypically naturalistic vein, breathing new life into a metaphysics of time with a bad track record of co-habitation with modern physics. Against this trend, the present essay argues that the pressure on presentism exerted by special relativity and its core lesson of Lorentz symmetry cannot easily be shirked. A categorization of presentist responses to this pressure is offered. As a case in point, I analyze a recent argument by Monton (2006) presenting a case for the compatibility of presentism with quantum gravity. Monton claims that this compatibility arises because there are quantum theories of gravity that use fixed foliations of spacetime and that such fixed foliations provide a natural home for a metaphysically robust notion of the present. A careful analysis leaves Monton’s argument wanting. In sum, the prospects of presentism to be alleviated from the stress applied by fundamental physics are faint.