The Philosophy Department will host a talk from Meghan Sullivan (University of Notre Dame) on "An A-Theory Without Tense Operators." (Abstract below.)
Tuesday, Dec 9, 3-5pm, Chris Maloney Seminar Room, Social Sciences 224 (1145 E South Campus Drive).
An A-Theory of time is a theory that postulates a fundamental difference between the present and other times. In the literature on A-theories of time, there is a widespread assumption that the main commitments of A-theories of time can only be consistently expressed in a logic with primitive tense operators (akin to primitive modal operators). There are serious semantic and metaphysical issues that come along with primitive tense operators, and this has been one source of objection to A-theories.
I'm of the opinion that anytime a philosopher tells you you *must* use a certain logical formalism to express a metaphysical view, you should question them. In this talk, I will argue that A-theorists can (and probably should) dispense with tense operators. My talk will have four parts. First, I will explain the basic metaphysical commitments of an A-theory of time and describe one of the most common arguments for thinking that tense operators are indispensable for expressing A-theories. I'll also remind you how the old Priorian system of tense logic works. Second, I will teach you a new formalism for expressing tense---one that is much more flexible than the old Priorian system and very easy to pick up. Third, I will argue that the main commitments of an A-theory of time can be consistently expressed in this new system. I'll also describe the picture of time and change that would follow from adopting this new system. Finally, I will consider a few objections to my Operator-Free A-Theory and reply to them.