Is ontology the key to understanding tense?

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In this paper I claim that as bitter as the eternalist/presentist rivalry is, as far as both camps are concerned, a third position—which I defend—is more disturbing. The reason is that what eternalists and presentists agree on is more fundamental than what they disagree about. They agree that time carves, to use Orilia’s term, “ontological inventories.” This in a way answers the “fundamental question”—what is time? They disagree about the contents of the inventories, but that, I suggest, is a secondary issue. Thus, an argument against what they agree about would be more detrimental to their joint project—analyzing tense in ontological terms—than the internal disagreement they are engaged in. I develop this thesis by responding to Orilia’s paper “Two Metaphysical Perspectives on the Duration of the Present” (Orilia in Debates in the metaphysics of time. Bloomsbury, London/New York, pp 51–70, 2014). I criticize the specialized use Orilia makes of the notion of an “ontological inventory” in the context of the metaphysics of time, but also Quine’s approach to ontology, on which Orilia’s account relies. The gist of my criticism is that it is question begging to rely on the notion of an “ontological inventory” for giving content to the presentism/eternalism debate, and for arguing that there can’t be an alternative.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1741-1749
Number of pages9
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2018


  • Eternalism
  • Ontology
  • Presentism
  • Quine
  • Tense
  • Time

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Philosophy
  • General Social Sciences


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