The Napoleon Delusion Argument – Peter Forrest (University of New England)
The Napoleon Delusion Argument against the Growing Block invites us to consider Napoleon , still real according to the Growing Block , thinking thoughts about what is going on ‘now’ in 1815. Poor deluded man we think! David Lewis points out that growing-block theorists have no grounds for rejecting the thesis that we are as deluded as Napoleon it is now, say, 2115 and we are all dead, but mistakenly think it is now 2014. That this absurd conclusion follows is a serious objection to the Growing Block.
In this paper, I expound a version of the Growing Block and offer what I take to be the only possible solution, namely that to be a conscious Self, such as Napoleon once was, requires the absence of future conscious states. This leads to a theory of the ephemeral character of the unity of consciousness, which may well be edifying. At the risk of being accused of Narcissism I shall also explain why I now reject an earlier solution I proposed.
Full paper here.
Because the papers are works in progress, they have been password protected. To register for the conference, and get the password, please contact Graeme A Forbes at G.A.Forbes@kent.ac.uk
For some reason Kristie Miller’s comment ended up on the thread to ‘How Does an Online Conference Work’. I’ve copied and pasted it here:
I really enjoyed this, especially the discussion of past-future symmetry. However, as a non-expert, I found parts of the discussion in Section 4 a little hard to follow e.g. it might useful to spell out why should we expect neurological evidence for quantization?
Good question, Emily. Suppose, for definiteness, that the specious present is one minute long. Then if consciousness is quantized I would expect there to be something in the brain that happened every minute. Is that naive?
Ah okay thank you, I see what you’re getting it!
I have a couple of comments about section 1. Given the intended audience, you could afford to flesh out some of the contrasts you set up:
Who do you have in mind as Tensers?
The argument that the Growing-Block can be set up without appeal to Tense is interesting.
Eric Olson (2009) ‘The Passage of Time’, in The Routledge Companion to Metaphysics (p.444) argues that dynamic views are true if and only if a tensed theory is true.
The argument that the Growing-Block view can be set up without appeal to primitive tense, then, is of independent interest, and it would be nice to have it spelt out more.
There are a few different versions of the Growing-Block view on offer. Correia and Rosenkranz, and Button defend a view that you might think doesn’t count as dynamic, by your lights. I defend a view not disimilar to your own earlier view, in which causation plays a significant role. Diekemper defends a view that has a past/future asymmetry, but doesn’t think that the past is intrinsically the same as the present. Setting yourself up in contrast to those variations would be quite useful to the reader, who may not be coming to the book with much background knowledge of the various views which go under the name ‘Growing Block’.
Does the problem arise if we don’t ask about inner assertions, but merely ask about beliefs? One can have a belief (it seems more like a state than like a process) at a time that one is not asserting it to oneself.
One (plausibly) contines to have beliefs when unconscious. So can one generate the problem without needing to bring consciousness in at all?
My comments about belief, inner assertion etc were intended only to put to one side an irrelevant privation. Caesar’s unconscious thoughts exist, but are not really Caesar’s. The positin I am trying to articulate is tha
t the individuation of consciousness into discrete minds is privative and so only on the edge.
By a tenser I mean someone who posits irreducible tense modalities like David Sanson . I thought you agreed with me that we can talk tenselessly provided the truth changes. I’ll look at Eric Olson’s argument.
Thanks! I have a question about the final remarks. You say that for God time ‘doesn’t pass, it just grows’. But I thought that time’s passage was constituted by the block’s growth? I take it the idea is that God’s specious present, unlike ours, has no past boundary, only the present one (or one close to the present, like for the rest of us). This suggests that you think our sense of time passing essentially depends on the fact that our specious present has a past boundary, so that things appear to fade away. Things don’t appear to fade away for God, though new things appear to come into existence. But then how things appear to God in this respect seems to be exactly how things are, according to the growing block view. Our sense of time passing, seeing as it depends on its seeming to us that things fade away, is mis-representing things. But wouldn’t a growing block theorist want to point to experience as support for the view?
Perhaps you think that though our sense of time passing essentially depends on, i.e. is given rise to, by the past-boundedness of our specious presents, it doesn’t represent things as fading away, but rather as staying in existence? This would mean that, if these things can come apart in God’s phenomenology too, we haven’t yet said anything about how things seem to God with respect to passage (what is represented by God’s experience as of passage), only how that experience of God’s comes about (namely through a past-unbounded specious present)?
On Growing Block we humans are not misrepresenting time so much as suffering from a direct perception of time that is misleading. when supplemented by memory, history, etc we represent it correctly. Compare the misleading direct tactile perception that needs supplementing by vision etc to get a correct representation.
Interesting. Does that mean you don’t appeal to experience as support for the GB view? Because experience, and in particular our experience as of time’s passing, supports presentism instead? Thanks again.
I found my copy of the Routledge Companion and had a look at Eric Olson’s argument. Charitably it can be interpreted as inapplicable to the Growing Block, according to which time grows rather than passes.Otherwise he begs the question by describing the Taiping Rebellion as past in 2020, present in 1852 and future in 1640 (p.441). I would say the Taiping Rebellion exists (or if you like occurs) in 1852, and that this is not just true but true at any time from 1852 to the present. So it was not true in 1640. It WILL be true in 2020. So I have to give an account of the ‘future’ . I take it as a prediction but I could easily adopt Rachel’s and yours account of the future.
I didn’t realise that time didn’t pass according to you. I thought that the Growing-Block was the view that the passage of time is the coming into existence of events.
I would be surprised, to say the least, if Eric had not had the Growing-Block in mind when he wrote that, since he was supervisiong my PhD on it at the time…