The New Growing Block Theory: A Shrivelling Past – Kristie Miller (Sydney)
It was once held to be a virtue of the growing block theory that it combines temporal dynamism with a straightforward account of in virtue of what past-tensed statements are true and an explanation for why some future-tensed statements are not true (assuming they are not). This put the growing block theory ahead of its principal dynamist rival: presentism. Of late, however, defenders of the growing block theory have moved towards a view about past-tensed truthmakers that is inching ever closer to that of the presentist, insofar as what makes true our past-tensed statements is not the same kind of thing as what makes true our present-tensed statements. New growing block theorists have moved to this position to defuse the following objection: given that if our world is a growing block there are very many more past locations than there are present locations, and given that the past is relevantly like the present from a first-person perspective we should think it much more likely that we are located in the past than in the present. Call this the ‘now now’ objection. In response to this objection, defenders of the new growing block theory have sought to distinguish the past from the present not merely metaphysically—in terms of which three-dimensional slices of reality are at the end of the growing block and which are located within the block—but also by their qualitative properties such that it is possible, from the first person perspective, to distinguish the past from the present. This paper considers, first, some different ways in which the new growing block theorist could differentiate the past from the present such that they are introspectively distinguishable. It then considers how these strategies fare in providing truthmakers for past-tensed statements. The paper argues that the new growing block theorist faces a dilemma. The more unified a strategy is for responding to the now now objection, the more that strategy results in the new growing block model positing truthmakers that are similar to those posited by the presentist. Thus the new growing block theorist ends up embracing what I call a shrivelling past: a past that is significantly qualitatively different from the way those past times were, when they were present. Embracing a shrivelling past, however, erodes the purported advantage of the growing block theory over presentism. On the other hand, while versions of the new growing block theory that embrace disunified strategies commit themselves to a past that is somewhat less shrivelled, and are therefore better able to differentiate themselves from presentism, they are, in turn, unattractive because of their disunity.
Full paper available here.