Edited Collection on The Growing-Block view of time

Time is something we all have experience of, and yet is very difficult to characterise. Often, in an effort to say more about why time is so mysterious and yet so captivating, we split time up into past, present and future, and try to say something about how these are different and relate to each other. The Growing Block view of time often seems to come up in, or come out of such discussions of the nature of time. The idea is that the past exists, implacably, while the future is not there yet. This is appealing, because it fits with the fact that we remember and come to terms with the past, whereas we anticipate and attempt to shape for the future. As time passes, the fixed past we must come to terms with grows as the things we struggle to anticipate become first present, and then past.

The contrast between an existing past and an open future may be intuitive in explaining the distinctions between past, present, and future, but it leaves much work to be done. The details of such a view need spelling out, and where there are different ways of doing this, it is important to see which best does justice to the intuitive picture with which we began. The Growing Block view is not the only attempt to say something about the nature of time, and many of the other attempts are very sophisticated. The Growing-Block view needs to be considered in contrast to its rivals, and its broader role in capturing the nature of time. It also needs to respond to its critics; there is a big leap between finding a view intuitive and establishing its truth.


This blog is to host a discussion of issues relating to the Growing-Block view, in anticipation of an edited collection on the topic.

An online conference will take place from the 24th August to the 30th August. Links will be provided to all the papers, and the threads open to comments. The papers will be password protected, so contact me at G.A.Forbes@kent.ac.uk to register for the conference, and get the password.

Last Day of the Conference

The online conference is drawing to a close.

It has been great to see the way the same themes have come through in different ways in the different papers, but also to see how much variety there is in defence of the Growing-Block view, from neglected figures from history, like Hilda Oakley, to those working primarily in the Philosophy of Physics, to those who are contemporary Metaphysicians.

As organiser of the conference, it falls upon me to say a massive thank-you to everyone involved.
I should thank the University of Kent for hosting the conference, and a huge, huge, thank-you to everyone who has given us a paper to read, and responded to questions, comments, and concerns.
Finally, a big thank-you to everyone who has read and commented on the papers. There has been excellent discusiion, and I hope that the authors will find it useful feedback in devloping the papers.

The plan now is to try and put together an edited collection of these papers, so, once the block has grown a little more, a book might come into existence.

The conference is coming into existence. UPDATE

The Online Conference is in full swing!

Oliver Pooley‘s paper, after some delay, is now available.

The papers by Emily Thomas; D.H. Mellor; Peter Forrest; Rachael Briggs and Graeme A Forbes; Joseph Diekemper; Kristie Miller; David Sanson, and Natalja Deng are all still available, too, and some intersting discussion is taking place.

Sara J Bernstein will not be providing a paper for the conference, due to unforeseen circumstances, though she still plans to contribute something to the proposed volume.

Background Reading

You may not be familiar with the Growing-Block view of time. While all the papers in this conference are meant to be written in quite an accessible way, they are often continuing debates that have been going for some time.

The proposed edited collection will contain a substantial introduction, with an attempt to fill in some of the gaps for the uninitiated, but, to borrow Broad’s charming phrase, the following works may be consulted with profit:


The classic discussion of the Growing-Block view is C.D. Broad’s (1923) Scientific Thought, chapter 2, pp. 53-84.

The fullest defence of the Growing-Block view has been given by Michael Tooley (1998) in his Time, Tense, and Causation.

The objection that the Growing-Block view has problems about the status of it’s past is discussed by David Braddon-Mitchel in his (2004) ‘How do we know it is now now’ in Analysis.

The issues that the Growing-Block view faces from the perspective of contemporary physics are discussed in John Earmans’s (2008) ‘Reassessing the Prospects for a Growing Block Model of the Universe’ in International Studies in the Philosophy of Science

The prospects for Time-Travel on the Growing-Block view are discussed in Peter Van Inwagen’s (2010) ‘Changing the Past‘ in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, volume 5.

How does an online conference work?

You may be unfamilar with the idea of an online conference. We’re trying it out ourselves.

Here’s how it’s meant to work:

  • Various Philosophers contribute written papers on a given theme (in this case, the Growing-Block view of time).
  • Those participating in the conference are given access to the papers, through a different page for each paper.
  • Participants comment on the papers in the comments thread on the relevant page, and the authors reply.


The contributors are located in various places around the world. The conference lasts a week (24th-30th August) to give each of the contributors a chance to look at comments, think about them, and reply, while repecting the fact that we don’t all live in the same timezone.

How to access the papers:
Each page has the title and abstract of the paper on it, and there will be a dropbox link on that page to a pdf of the associated paper. Clinking on the link should take you to the paper. It may well ask you to sign up to dropbox. This is not needed to access the papers.

The pdfs are password protected. This is because the papers are works in progress, and we don’t want to distribute them as if they were the authors final thoughts on the matter. Hopefully there will be a book, and we don’t want to preempt that. To get the password to access the papers, e-mail Graeme A Forbes at G.A.Forbes@kent.ac.uk. You don’t need to sign-in to anything to access the pages on the blog.

Comment ettiquette:

This is an online conference. That means it is on the internet, and you can’t see each other face to face. Nonetheless, this is meant to have the same virtues as a good conference. Discussion of the papers should be collegial, constructive, and charitable. The point of the conference, and of letting people comment on work-in-progress, it to make the papers better. Comments that are not in the spirit of the conference will be deleted.

Your comments may not show up immediately. The commenting parameters have been set so the first comment that you make is pre-moderated, this is mainly to prevent spam.