Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement


Presentism, Ontology and Temporal Experience

L. Nathan Oaklander

In a recent article, ‘Tensed Time and Our Differential Experience of the Past and Future,’ William Lane Craig (1999a) attempts to resuscitate A. N. Prior's (1959) ‘Thank Goodness’ argument against the B-theory by combining it with Plantinga's (1983) views about basic beliefs. In essence Craig's view is that since there is a universal experience and belief in the objectivity of tense and the reality of becoming, (that he identifies with ‘the presentist metaphysic’) ‘this belief constitutes an intrinsic defeater-defeater which overwhelms the objections brought against it.’ (1999a, 519) An intrinsic defeater-defeater is a belief that enjoys such warrant for us that it simply overwhelms the defeaters brought against it without specifically rebutting or undercutting them. Thus, Craig claims that an effete philosophical argument like McTaggart's paradox is nothing more than ‘an engaging and recalcitrant brain teaser whose conclusion nobody really takes seriously.’ (1999a, 532) It is difficult to reconcile this statement with Craig's own writings elsewhere. For Craig has vigorously argued in at least two other articles that 'hybrid A-B theorists like McCall, Schlesinger, and Smith [who give ontological status to both A-properties and B-relations] are in deep trouble’ (1998, 127) since they are all effectively refuted by McTaggart's Paradox (cf. Craig 1997). It is not Craig's inconsistency regarding the significance of McTaggart conundrum that I want to draw attention to, however. Rather I wish to raise a different issue.

Nathan Oaklander is Professor of Philosophy, University of Michigan-Flint.