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Time, Tense, and Causation

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Time, Tense, and CausationMichael TooleyCLARENDON PRESS · OXFORD1997

Great Clarendon Street, Oxford OX2 6DPOxford University Press is a department of the University of OxfordIt furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship,and education by publishing worldwide inOxford New YorkAuckland Bangkok Buenos Aires Cape Town ChennaiDar es Salaam Delhi Hong Kong Istanbul Karachi KolkataKuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Mumbai NairobiSão Paulo Shanghai Taipei Tokyo TorontoOxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Pressin the UK and in certain other countriesPublished in the United States byOxford University Press Inc., New York Michael Tooley 1997The moral rights of the authors have been assertedDatabase right Oxford University Press (maker)All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means,without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press,or as expressly permitted by law, or under terms agreed with the appropriatereprographicsrights organization. Enquiries concerning reproductionoutside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department,Oxford University Press, at the address aboveYou must not circulate this book in any other binding or coverand you must impose this same condition on any acquirerBritish Library Cataloguing in Publication DataData availableLibrary of Congress Cataloging in Publication DataTooley, Michael, 1941–Time, tense, and causation/Michael Tooley.Includes bibliographical references and index.1. Time. 2. Causation. I. Title.BD638.T66 1996 115—dc20 96-33591ISBN 0-19-823579-8

To Sylvia TooleyandRudie Tooley

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Preface and AcknowledgementsAre time and causation related, and if so how? I first became seriously interested in this issue when I was developing anaccount of the nature of causation. The conclusions that I reached at that time were, first, that it is both possible, anddesirable, to offer an account of causation that does not involve any temporal concepts, and, secondly, that, given thatthere appear to be necessary truths that involve both causal and temporal concepts, the relevant connections betweencausation and time should be forged via a causal theory of the direction of time.The resulting picture seemed very appealing. Upon turning, however, from the question of causation to that of thenature of time—and, particularly, to the question of the choice between dynamic and static views of the world—Igradually came to feel that a full account of the relation between time and causation was not provided by a causaltheory of the direction of time. The connection was, I felt, a much deeper one, and in the end I concluded, for reasonsthat will emerge in Chapter 4, that events can be causally related only in a dynamic world. So causation is tied not onlyto time, but to tense as well.My intellectual debts here are many, but two in particular deserve special mention. First, a number of articles by JackSmart, and conversations with him, have increased considerably my appreciation of the difficulties associated bothwith a tensed account of the nature of time, and with a causal theory of temporal order and direction. Secondly, thesustained defence of a tenseless view of the nature of time that Hugh Mellor sets out in his book Real Time convincedme that philosophical attempts to defend tensed approaches to time have been at best highly problematic, and that theyhave generally failed to come to grips with the most powerful arguments on the other side.In working on this book, I have profited from conversations with a number of people. My greatest debt in this regardis to Colin Allen, who went through a complete draft of the manuscript in a very thorough fashion, and who offeredmany incisive comments,

viiiPREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTScriticisms, and suggestions. But I am also very indebted to David Armstrong, George Bealer, William Grey, DavidLewis, Graham Oddie, Graham Priest, and the late Francis Snare for valuable discussions of a number of issues,including my overall defence of a tensed account of the nature of time.I taught a graduate seminar on this material in the Fall Semester, 1994, at the University of Colorado, and I profitedfrom the vigorous challenges to some of my arguments that were mounted by the participants in that seminar.Among the parts of the book to which I devoted the most time and thought is the one dealing with the challengeposed by the Special Theory of Relativity. Discussions with Brian Ellis, John Clendinnen, Allen Hazen, Stephen Leeds,Adam Morton, and Graham Nerlich were very helpful in regard to this, and my indebtedness is especially great in thecase of Graham Nerlich, who talked with me at length about an earlier draft of Chapter 11.I am also very indebted to the anonymous readers for Oxford University Press. They read the manuscript with greatcare, and the very helpful criticisms and suggestions that I received from them have enabled me to strengthen the bookin a number of ways.Finally, much of the work on this book was done during my appointment as a Senior Research Fellow, and later as aSenior Fellow, in the Philosophy Program in the Research School of Social Sciences of the Australian NationalUniversity, and I am very grateful indeed for having had the opportunity to pursue my research on this, and otherprojects, in a very relaxed and congenial environment, remote from the normal demands of academic life.Michael TooleyBoulderColorado

ContentsIntroductionPART I: CAUSATION, TIME, AND ONTOLOGY1. The Nature of Time: Alternative Accounts and Basic Issues2. Actuality and Actuality as of a Time3. Temporally Relative Facts and the Argument from Preventability4. Facts, Causation, and TimePART II: SEMANTICAL ISSUES5. Truth and Truth at a TimePART III: TENSED FACTS6. Tensed Accounts of the Nature of Time7. Past, Present, and Future8. Past, Present, and Future: Alternative AccountsPART IV: TEMPORAL RELATIONS9. Causation and Temporal RelationsPART V: OBJECTIONS10. Philosophical Objections11. The Special Theory of Relativity and the Unreality of the FuturePART VI: A SUMMING-UP12. Summary and 53301335375382391

ContentsIntroductionPART I: CAUSATION, TIME, AND ONTOLOGY1. The Nature of Time: Alternative Accounts and Basic Issues1.1 Alternative Views of the Nature of Time1.2 Dynamic versus Static Conceptions of the Nature of the World1.3 Tensed Facts versus Tenseless Facts, and the Question of Supervenience1.4 Indeterminism and the Openness of the Future1.4.1 Indeterminism and Reichenbach's Approach to Time1.4.2 Indeterminism and Storrs McCall's Model of the Universe1.5 Some Divergences from Other Tensed Views of the Nature of Time1.5.1 Tenseless Concepts and Facts as More Basic than Tensed Ones1.5.2 Time and the Role of Causation2. Actuality and Actuality as of a Time2.1 Facts, States of Affairs, and Truth-Makers2.1.1 Facts as States of Affairs2.1.2 Truth Conditions and States of Affairs2.2 The Idea of a Dynamic World2.2.1 Reality, Existence, Actuality2.2.2 Actuality as of a Time3. Temporally Relative Facts and the Argument from Preventability3.1 The Argument from Preventability3.1.1 Preventability and the Concept of Time-Dependent Facts3.1.2 The Argument from Preventability and the Time-Dependence of Facts3.1.3 Preventability, and Past, Present, and Future 7

CONTENTS3.2 The Question of Backward Causation3.2.1 Causes as Bringing Effects into Existence3.2.2 Causation and Potential Control3.2.3 Four Neutral Arguments against Backward Causation3.2.3.1 Backward Causation and the Bringing-About of Contradictions3.2.3.2 Backward Causation and the ‘Undercutting’ of Causal Chains3.2.3.3 Causation and Increase in Probability3.2.3.4 A Formal Approach: Causation and the ‘Transmission’ of Probabilities from Cause toEffect3.2.4 The Basic Difficulty: Backward Causation without Causal Loops3.3 A Second Objection to the Argument from Preventability3.4 Alternative Lines of Argument?4. Facts, Causation, and Time4.1 The Truth Conditions of Counterfactuals and the Direction of Counterfactual Dependence4.2 The Nature of Causation: I. Realism4.2.1 Direction of Causation Objections to Reductionism4.2.1.1 Causation and Simple Worlds4.2.1.2 Inverted Worlds and the Direction of Causation4.2.2 Underdetermination Objections to Reductionism4.2.2.1 The Argument from the Possibility of Indeterministic Laws4.2.3 Realism or Reductionism?4.3 The Nature of Causation: II. A Singularist Approach4.3.1 Causation and Immediate Observation4.3.2 An Argument for a Singularist Conception of Causation4.3.3 A Singularist Conception of Causation4.4 The Nature of Causation: III. Causal Laws and Probability4.4.1 Causal Laws Connecting Simple Events with Very Complex Events4.4.2 The Postulates for Causal Laws, and the Analysis of 293949598101101103

xiiCONTENTS4.5 The Argument from Causation4.5.1 The Structure of the Argument4.5.2 The Reality of Causation4.5.3 Causation and a Dynamic World4.6 Causation and What Is Actual4.6.1 Causality, Simultaneity, and Actuality Postulates4.6.2 The Ontological Status of Past, Present, and Future4.7 Backward Causation Revisited4.8 Summing UpPART II: SEMANTICAL ISSUES5. Truth and Truth at a Time5.1 Truth at a Time: An Initial Objection5.1.1 The Objection: Propositions versus Propositional Functions5.1.2 Dynamic Worlds, Correspondence, and Truth at a Time5.2 Tensed Views of Time and Three-Valued Logic5.2.1 Reasons for Adopting a Three-Valued Logic5.2.2 Three-Valued Logic and the Third Truth-Value5.2.3 Three-Valued Logic as a Stumbling-Block5.3 Truth-Functionality and the Logical Connectives5.3.1 Factual Truth and Logical Truth5.3.2 Logical Connectives as Functions with Respect to Factual Truth5.3.3 What Is the Basic Property of the Logical Connectives?5.4 Truth Simpliciter5.4.1 Truth Simpliciter as Two-Valued5.4.2 The Need for the Concept of Truth Simpliciter5.4.2.1 Logically True Propositions and Correspondence Truth5.4.2.2 Atemporal Entities5.4.2.3 Universally Quantified Propositions5.4.3 The Definability of Truth SimpliciterPART III: TENSED FACTS6. Tensed Accounts of the Nature of Time6.1 A Tensed Analysis of the Relation of Temporal 57158

CONTENTS6.1.1 Temporal Priority and the Concepts of Past, Present, and Future: I. Events and Properties6.1.2 Temporal Priority and the Concepts of Past, Present, and Future: II. A Tense-Logic Account6.1.3 Broad's Account of the Later-Than Relation6.2 Are Tenseless Quantifiers Analysable in Tensed Terms?6.3 Are Tensed, Temporal Concepts Unanalysable?6.4 An Argument for the Analysability of Tensed Concepts6.5 Summing Up7. Past, Present, and Future7.1 The Analysis of Simple, Non-Indexical Tensed Statements7.1.1 Are All Tensed Statements Indexical?7.1.2 Non-Indexical Tensed Statements about the Present7.1.3 Non-Indexical Tensed Statements about Past and Future Events7.1.4 Some Consequences of the Above Analyses7.2 The Analysis of Indexical Tensed Statements7.2.1 Indexical Tensed Statements about Specific Events7.2.2 Other Indexical Tensed Statements7.3 More Complex Tensed Statements7.3.1 An Alternative Account of the Truth Conditions of Sentences with Nested, Tensed Operators7.3.2 An Analysis of Sentences with Nested, Tensed Operators7.4 Tensed Statements: A Brief Retrospective View8. Past, Present, and Future: Alternative Accounts8.1 The Argument from Causation8.2 Alternative Tensed Views of the Nature of Time8.3 Tensed Sentences and Indexicality8.3.1 Indexicals and Ordinary Tensed Sentences8.3.1.1 Time and the Applicability of Tensed Concepts8.3.1.2 Ordinary Tensed Sentences and Propositions8.3.2 Is Indexicality a Threat to Tensed Views in General?8.4 Instantaneous Events and the Problem of Intrinsic, Tensed 5

xivCONTENTS8.4.1 The Basic Argument: The Case of Two or More Tensed Properties8.4.2 An Extension: The Case of a Single, Intrinsic, Tensed Property8.4.3 Tensed Properties: Intrinsic versus Relational8.5 Tensed Accounts that Involve Two or More Intrinsic, Tensed Properties8.5.1 Necessary Relations8.5.1.1 Necessary Relations between Tensed Properties8.5.1.2 Necessary Relations between Tensed Properties and Tenseless Relations8.5.2 Fixed Relations between Changing Tensed Properties8.6 Presentism8.6.1 Classical, or Austere Presentism8.6.2 Tensed-Facts Presentism8.7 Only the Past and the Present Are Real8.7.1 Modal Realism and the Indeterminateness of the Future8.7.2 Future States of Affairs Are Not Real8.8 Tenseless Accounts of Past, Present, and Future8.8.1 Dubious Objections to Tenseless Accounts?8.8.2 The Need for Metaphysical ArgumentPART IV: TEMPORAL RELATIONS9. Causation and Temporal Relations9.1 Different Conceptions of a Causal Theory of Time9.2 Preliminary Considerations in Support of a Causal Analysis of Temporal Concepts9.3 An Absolute, or a Relational Account?9.4 A Causal Theory of Time, or of Space-Time?9.5 Modal versus Non-Modal Analyses9.6 Qualitative Temporal Relations: Simultaneity and Temporal Priority9.6.1 The Analysis of Simultaneity and Temporal Priority9.6.2 Some Consequences of this Account9.7 Quantitative Temporal Relations9.8 Objections to Causal Theories of Time9.8.1 The Analytical Equivalences Do Not Provide 245245248251253253255258264265267267272274282282

CONTENTS9.8.1.1 Causal Priority Presupposes Temporal Priority9.8.1.2 Modal Concepts and Categorical Facts9.8.1.3 Intensional Contexts9.8.2 Possible Counterexamples9.8.2.1 Empty Spatiotemporal Regions9