Peter Forrest’s Response to Braddon-Mitchell

In document Time, causation and the laws of nature: combining the growing block view with a Humean theory of laws (Page 123-129)

In response to Braddon-Mitchell’s objection and self-reply to it, Peter Forrest (2004) offers a different approach over how each now in Braddon-Mitchell’s enquiry should be interpreted, as each now represents different meanings in Forrest’s statement. Instead of asking ‘how do we know it is now now?’, Forrest thinks that the more adequate way to pose this question should be ‘How do we know nowi that it is nowb?’

(Forrest, 2004:358) To start with, his argument in reply to Braddon-Mitchell’s objection is to distinguish one now from the other. The nowi represents an indexical/

token-reflexive meaning of ‘now’, that is, the moment where the token of the ‘now’ is, while nowb rather indicates the time that is constantly at the boundary of temporal

realms, which is the present. That being said, Forrest goes on to agree with Braddon-Mitchell that merely saying this explains how it is possible for us to know if we are in the same state as a past conscious entity, such as Caesar, or Robin Hood, currently is in, as explained above, Caesar or Robin Hood might well believe that he is in the present moment as well.

Forrest, however, further develops his position by claiming that there is a distinction between activities and states in temporality. According to Forrest (2004:

359), things such as life and sentience belong in the spectrum of activities, and activities’ occurrence merely happens on the edge of temporal reality. At the same time, states are something that only exists in the past. Now recall Braddon-Mitchell’s claim that ‘consciousness is some by-product of the causal frisson that takes place on the borders of being and non-being.’ (Braddon-Mitchell, 2004: 201), Forrest has a different perspective on how to understand this. He believes that the interaction of the cause and the effect do not happen simultaneously, rather, if the cause happens in one moment, then its effect only happens in the next moment. Specifically speaking, he says:

If x causes y then in the normal case y is after x. If there is a precise moment at which x ends then y begins only after that moment, not at it. At the precise moment of the end of the cause there is as yet no effect. (Forrest, 2004: 359)

In this statement, the end of the cause x and the beginning of the effect y do not happen at the same time, but rather happen in a sequel order, that is to say, as stated by Forrest (2004: 359), the cause x’s causal property has a certain tendency of producing the effect that belongs in the type of Y, in this case, the effect y.

Moreover, Forrest (2004: 359) carries on to argue that such causal activities and causal relations should not be considered as a provisional feature of the growing block view, instead, they are

[A] consequence of combining that theory with the innocent enough supposition that causes precede effects.’ (Forrest, 2004: 359)

temporal reality entails that entities in the past, such as Caesar and Robin Hood, can only be in causal states rather than have causal activities. Given the distinction between the past beings and the present beings, it is reasonable therefore to say that Robin Hood, despite existing in the past, is in a causal state but not undergoing any causal activity, and so isn’t having any conscious experiences, and so is in that sense ‘dead’.

Although Forrest makes ‘the Past is Dead’ hypothesis seem like a legitimate response, there is still Braddon-Mitchell’s point about special relativity to answer. Forrest acknowledges Braddon-Mitchell’s concern but answers is quite simply. He states that Braddon-Mitchell can only make a case out of the combination of the growing block view and ‘the Past is Dead’ hypothesis when the temporal boundary in question is assumed to be flat. In other words, without the assumption that the boundary is flat, it is not necessary for the advocate of the growing block view to commit to ‘a privileged relativistic frame of reference.’ (Forrest, 2004: 360)

It seems, at this point, that Forrest’s accounts over the growing block view and the Dead Past hypothesis provide reasonable answers to Braddon-Mitchell’s enquiries. However, another metaphysician Heathwood (2005) disagrees with Forrest over his conduct of defending the growing block view, and claims that the manner in which Forrest combines the Dead Past hypothesis with the growing block view actually undermines the advantages the growing block view has over other rivals of temporality. For instance, as claimed by Heathwood (2005: 250), compared to presentism, the growing block view is supposed to have the upper hand in providing the solid truth grounding for the propositions as to the past. Nevertheless, if combined with the Dead Past hypothesis, Heathwood (2005) believes that the growing block view will have to confront the same problems all over again. In order

to support this claim, Heathwood (2005) brings up a few propositions regarding the past, and asks for the uniform account for these propositions. The first two propositions are:

(CC) Caesar was conscious when he crossed the Rubicon.

(SA) Socrates was alive when he was sentenced to death. (Heathwood, 2005:


Clearly, these propositions about Caesar and Socrates being alive and sentient during their temporal events in the past are true. However, Heathwood (2005) goes on to offer two more propositions, which seem to be made true in the same manner the above two are made true, but Heathwood (2005) argues that it is not the case. It follows as:

(CW) Caesar was wet when he crossed the Rubicon.

(SF) Socrates was fat when he was sentenced to death. (Heathwood, 2005:


Naturally, I, as a reader, would think that these two sequent propositions are made true the same way as the first two. As to this idea, Heathwood (2005:250) argues that it may seem so on the face of it, but by using the Dead Past hypothesis as the growing block view’s defensive strategy it then generates issues for what makes each of these sentences true. The problem is, he says, either there is nothing to make the first two propositions true, or they are made true in a different way the sequent two propositions. More specifically speaking, the problem arises because the growing block view advocate defends the theory by saying that the past is dead

contradiction in which the first two proposition are not made true by past objects, while the sequent two propositions are made true by past objects. For this reason, the conclusion he draws is that the Dead Past hypothesis leads the growing block view into a situation in which:

[S]ome of the semantic and metaphysical gymnastics Presentists train for but G r o w i n g B l o c k T h e o r i s t s t h o u g h t t h e y c o u l d a v o i d [ . . . i s required]’ (Heathwood, 2005: 250 - 251).

Nevertheless, Forrest firmly believes that there is a response here. So in response to Heathwood’s (2005) concern, Forrest (2006: 161) claims that offering a uniform account for these propositions is not difficult at all as long as the subject/predicate form of these propositions is understood appropriately. It is obviously true that the subject and predicate form for the propositions ‘Caesar is conscious’ and ‘Caesar is

wet’ are almost identical, however, Forrest (2006: 161) admits that it is also true that

for these two propositions in the present tense there are different types of truth- conditions, which are applicable to the past-tensed propositions as well. In short, he brings in his notion of a causal state versus a causal activity again, and argues that present tense sentences about consciousness are made true by the existence of causal activities rather than causal states, However, he then also thinks that the truth of past tense sentences about what beings did undergo causal activities is made true by the fact they are, in the back of the block, in causal states. That they are in such causal states implies that, when the were present, they underwent causal activities, and thus this is sufficient to ground the truth of the past tense sentences. As such, it is not at all clear why such so-called presentists’ semantic and metaphysical

for Forrest (2006) believes that consciousness has its roots deep in the temporal causation.

This more or less completes my discussion of this objection to the growing block view. I think Forrest’s reply to it is convincing, and so that there are no good objections to the growing block view. But, before I finish with this section I want briefly to return to a point I raised in section 2 when discussing how the growing block view explains the flow of time and how we endure over time. There I said:

On the growing block view this is captured by the idea that we bear a special privileged relation to the moment of time at the edge of the block. As such, defenders of the growing block can explain not only the flow of time in terms of the growing of the block, but also our experience of that flow. We bear a special relationship to the moment that is at the edge of the block, which gives rise to experiences within us, and they constantly shift as time flows because we constantly become specially related to a new moment, i.e. the one that has just now come into existence.

As such, it turns out that the arguments I have already given in favour of endurantism and the A-theory already entail that something like Forrests view must be true. That is, for reasons entirely independent of the “How Do We Know It Is Now Now?” objection, I came to the conclusion that consciousness and experiences only take place at the edge of the block, and so that the past is dead. This is important, because one might view Forrest’s response as being an ad hoc move, designed merely to overcome the “How Do We Know It Is Now Now?” objection. But, this is

so, this bolsters Forrest’s argument, and shows even more strongly that the growing block view is the best account of time available.

This basically completes my overall argument in favour of the growing block view. But, before I finish, I wish to consider one alternative account of the growing block view due to Michael Tooley. His view is interesting because he develops a

tenseless version of the view. Clearly, due to the fact that I have argued for the

necessity of tense in reality, and so for the A-theory on this grounds, I should reject this view. And indeed I do. So, I finish by explaining why.

In document Time, causation and the laws of nature: combining the growing block view with a Humean theory of laws (Page 123-129)