Research Article

Time and Truth: The Presentism-Eternalism Debate

Tom Stoneham


There are many questions we can ask about time, but perhaps the most fundamental is whether there are metaphysically interesting differences between past, present and future events. An eternalist believes in a block universe: past, present and future events are all on an equal footing. A gradualist believes in a growing block: he agrees with the eternalist about the past and the present but not about the future. A presentist believes that what is present has a special status. My first claim is that the familiar ways of articulating these views result in there being no substantive disagreement at all between the three parties. I then show that if we accept the controversial truthmaking principle, we can articulate a substantive disagreement. Finally, I apply this way of formulating the debate to related questions such as the open future and determinism, showing that these do not always line up in quite the way one would expect.