Things in Time

Subproject 2

This second part focuses on issues relative to things in time. In particular, three issues need to be addressed:

  1. The Ontological Question. Are there things other than those which are present? Are there merely past things? Merely future things?
  2. A question about the nature of the things which occupy time. Are they three-dimensional continuants or four-dimensional worms?
  3. Another question about the nature of these things. Do they have an intrinsic nature, or is their nature purely relational?

In this part of the project we will explore recent trends in the metaphysics and philosophy of physics to the point that relativity theory seems to favor a four-dimensionalist view according to which objects are temporally extended, almost event-like worms (issues (1) and (2) above). We will also critically investigate the controversial claim according to which quantum mechanics seems to force us to abandon a robust conception of objectuality according to which material objects are fundamental entities with distinguishing features or qualities (issue (3) above). On this view objects would be either dependent on physical structures encoded in some quantum relations (they would just be nodes in the structure, so to say), or even and more radically, eliminable altogether from our ontological inventory of the world.

We will finally also examine forms of skepticism about questions (1)-(3), in particular the recent “quantifier variance” attack against the Ontological Question. Recent work suggests that the commonsense conception of objectuality can be (at least partly) vindicated by describing the relation between object and structure by means of suitable concepts of metaphysical priority.

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