Sunday, January 25, 2009

Truth at a Time and Truth Simpliciter

As a follow-up to my previous post, I'd like to say a bit about how truth at a time and truth at a world relate to truth simpliciter.

Unlike 'truth at a world' and 'truth at a time', truth simpliciter is not evaluated from the perspective of any given time or world, but absolutely. In other words, it is evaluated from the proverbial "God's eye" or absolute perspective, that is, in relation to what exists simpliciter. Consequently, what is true simpliciter depends on the correct metaphysics.

Actualism is the thesis that the only possible world that exists simpliciter is the actual world, whereas possibilism is the thesis that all possible worlds exist simpliciter. Presentism is the thesis that only what exists now exists simpliciter, whereas eternalism is the thesis that all past, present, and future world states exist simpliciter. If actualism and presentism are correct, then what exists simpliciter is coextensive with what exists now. Moreover, truth simpliciter coincides with what is true now. Hence, "Obama is now President" is true simpliciter.

In contrast, if actualism and eternalism are correct, then all instantaneous world states (however foliated into past, present, and future) exist simpliciter. As a result, truth simpliciter and truth at a time can come apart. Omnitemporal truths, which are true at all times, hold distributively across the entire time series and are true simpliciter. So are transtemporal truths, which hold collectively of the entire time series. These can, but arguably need not, be true at all times in the series. For example, "At some time or other, Obama is President" is true simpliciter. It is also true now. But it may not have been true at all earlier times because the fact that makes it true may not be accessible from all earlier times. One way in which this could happen (defended by Peirce, Prior, Hartshorne, and Ryle) is through reference failure. Arguably, before Obama was conceived, there was no such individual for propositions to refer to. Finally, there may be (though this is controversial) atemporal truths, truths about matters that stand in no relation to time whatsoever. These truths, if they exist, are true simpliciter, but fail to be true at any time. (Some people think mathematical truths fall into this category. I doubt this. I say that '2+2=4' is omnitemporally true, not atemporally true. It sounds rather odd to say that it isn't true now.)

Finally, if possibilism and eternalism are correct, then all worlds and all instantaneous world states in all worlds exist simpliciter. As before, truths that hold distibutively over all world-time pairs (i.e., at all times in all worlds) will be true simpliciter. Similarly, anything that is true at all worlds (i.e., necessary truths) will be true simpliciter. Further, truths that hold collectively of the entire world/history ensemble (e.g., "At some time in some world Obama is President") will be true simpliciter. This latter truth is true now in alpha (the actual world), but it need not be true true at all times in all worlds for it may not be accessible from all times in all worlds.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home