An Ontology of Persistence and Time Theodore Sider an intriguing new theory of the nature of reality clearly written and fun to read Four-Dimensionalism An Ontology of Persistence and Time Theodore Sider Clarendon Press Description Four-Dimensionalism defends the thesis that the material world is composed of temporal as well as spatial parts. This defense includes a novel account of persistence over time, new arguments in favour of the four-dimensional ontology, and responses to the challenges four-dimensionalism faces. Theodore Sider pays particular attention to the philosophy of time, including a strong series of arguments against presentism, the thesis that only the present is real. Arguments offered in favour of four-dimensionalism include novel arguments based on time travel, the debate beween spacetime substantivalists and relationalists, and vagueness. Also included is a comprehensive discussion of the paradoxes of coinciding material objects, and a novel resolution of those paradoxes based on temporal counterpart theory.
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Reviewed by Hud Hudson, Western Washington University This is simply a superb book in metaphysics — handsomely written, cleverly argued, and exceedingly clear. A number of philosophical questions about ontology, mereology, vagueness, identity, persistence, modality, space, and time and also about the relation of these issues to modern science have been center stage for the last few decades in the literature in contemporary analytic metaphysics.
In Four-Dimensionalism, Ted Sider presents an accessible but rigorous, highly original, and admirably fair discussion of several of these questions as they relate to the popular debate concerning the thesis associated with the title of the book — informally, the thesis that objects have temporal parts.
The text proper is divided into i a sustained argument against the doctrine of presentism, thus clearing the way for eternalism which then serves as a backdrop for the rest of the book [chapter 2]; ii a careful formulation of and introduction to our competitors — Three-Dimensionalism and Four-Dimensionalism [chapters 1 and 3]; iii a critical evaluation of the case for Four-Dimensionalism [chapters 4 and 5], and iv a critical evaluation of the case against Four-Dimensionalism [chapter 6].
For the record, the presentists I know best are perfectly willing to take seriously the suggestion that we revise science on the basis of a priori reflection on the nature of time.
Such presentists should take heart for they will find something congenial in this chapter aimed against them; for although Sider is clearly less than optimistic about the wisdom of this course of action, he does offer descriptive advice about how such revisions might be constructed.
Finally, Sider also introduces what I believe is an entirely original challenge to this theory of time, namely, that presentists are unable to account for the truth of what appear to be uncontroversial claims about cross-time spatial relations. He honestly acknowledges that his is a defense by elimination and that his guided tour through the catalog of arguments for and against the thesis in question is designed to show that, on balance, Four-Dimensionalism is the most palatable or least objectionable of the views on offer.
So what does Sider have to say in favor of Four-Dimensionalism? What tips the balance in favor of temporal parts? This particular defense, I should note, is really quite powerful and well presented — a genuine highlight of the book. Here I am convinced. I concede that this is the finest of the reasons to count oneself a Four-Dimensionalist, and I think Sider has done a terrific and compelling job of saying what can be said on this score.
In fact, one really outstanding feature of this book is just how concise and clear Sider manages to be when covering so much contemporary literature on this topic.
There are, of course, other reactions to the paradoxes of coincidence, each with its own very able defenders — including those who deny the existence of material composites altogether, those who deny the doctrine of arbitrary undetached parts, those who adopt mereological essentialism, those who depend upon and exploit a sortal-essentialism principle, those who recognize a relation of temporary identity that does not bind numerical identity, and even those who are happy to acknowledge the co-location of distinct material objects and see nothing worth apologizing for in these puzzles.
Sider does not exaggerate the shortcomings of these alternative resolutions, but he does plainly expose them — and in my view successfully shows why Four-Dimensionalism is the most plausible lesson to extract from investigation of these puzzles. Given a principle of unrestricted composition and the doctrine of arbitrary undetached parts, the orthodox view and the stage view will share an ontology. The difference between these two versions of Four-Dimensionalism comes in identifying just which objects in this common ontology are the ones we typically name, refer to, and quantify over.
Which, for example, are the persons? Whereas the proponent of the orthodox view takes such objects to be spacetime worms i. The chief virtue leading Sider to award the stage view higher marks than the orthodox view has to do with intuitions about counting and how best to square those intuitions with puzzles pressuring us to count objects say, the Fs by relations other than identity or else to secure an acceptable count of the Fs only by counting things other than the Fs.
The stage view, it turns out, solves these puzzles by letting us attend to the Fs themselves, count by identity, and get what appears to be the proper answer. But — that point aside — the stage view has pretty good credentials when it comes to the criterion of success-at-counting-puzzles. And that, we can admit, is a mark in its favor. What are the costs? But this is precisely what temporal counterpart theory endorses.
So, so much the worse for it. Sider disagrees. Similarly, since in a familiar longevity scenario I might currently have a pre, future-oriented counterpart whose future-oriented counterpart is no future-oriented counterpart of mine, ii will come out true. Finally, suppose as is the case with its modal analogue the temporal counterpart relation also fails to be symmetric.
Then on the assumption that I am currently misbehaving in some manner if I have a future-oriented counterpart who does not have me as a past-oriented counterpart, iii will come out true, as well.
These are significant costs. I take them to outweigh the advantages of the stage view. Of course, we might observe that the stage view can boast a few other advantages over the orthodox view as well, including being better supported by the argument from temporary intrinsics and being immune to the modal argument designed to force a union between the orthodox view and counterpart theory.
At the end of the day, however — whether or not Sider entices some subset of his converts to Four-Dimensionalism to also embrace the stage view — I think we may confidently judge that he has contributed a genuinely challenging and philosophically satisfying book to the literature in contemporary metaphysics.
Four-Dimensionalism: An Ontology of Persistence and Time
One of these uses four-dimensionalism as a position of material objects with respect to dimensions. Four-dimensionalism is the view that in addition to spatial parts, objects have temporal parts . According to this view, four-dimensionalism cannot be used as a synonym for perdurantism. Perdurantists have to hold a four-dimensional view of material objects: it is impossible that perdurantists, who believe that objects persist by having different temporal parts at different times, do not believe in temporal parts. However, the reverse is not true. Four-dimensionalism is compatible with either perdurantism or exdurantism.
Four-Dimensionalism : An Ontology of Persistence and Time