Time without Change: A Challenge to Sydney Shoemakerâ•Žs Argument

Transcript

1 Res C og itans | Issue 1 Volume 3 Article 21 6-7-2012 ithout C hange: A C Time w o S ydne y hallenge t em Sho er’s A rgume nt ak Erlantz E txe berria A ltun a Universit y of Co lorado Follow thi s and additional works at: http://c ommon s.pacificu.edu/r escogitans Part of the Philosophy Common s nded Citation Recomme ithout C hallenge to Sydney S : Vol. 3: Iss. 1, Res Co Time w Altuna, Erlantz Etxeberria (2012) " gitans hoemaker’s Argument," hange: A C Article 21. ized es Cogitans by an author en accepted for inclusion in R wledge. It has be n access by CommonKno ree and ope s brought to you for f This Article i admini mation, p e infor wledge. For mor CommonKno [email protected] acificu.edu . ommonKno strator of C lease contact

2 Res Cogitans (2012) 3:148-153 mmons.pacificu.edu/rescogitans 2155-4838 | co Time without Change: A Challenge to Sydney Shoemake r’s Argument Erlantz Etxeberria Altuna University of Colorado Published online: 07 June 2012 © Erlantz Etxeberria Altuna 2012 Abstract s time is widely accepted and beyond doubt. Its cou In philosophy of time, the view that change involve nterpart, namely that time involves change has also been supported by man r tried to y philosophers since Aristotle, but Sidney Shoemake t out what Shoemaker’s argument is, and I will put undermine this view. In this paper I am going to se forth reasons why it does not accomplish its goal. The point will focus in the logical impossibility to conceive the scenar io that Shoemaker oncerning temporary dependent properties, since he propounds, due to a double interpretation he does c explicitly sets aside these properties because they probably cannot be re garded as genuine change, but I will try to show th at he actually does consider them as genuine implicitly to develop his argument. The contradiction leaves us in good posit ion to conclude that ains logically impossible. given Shoemaker’s scenario, time without change rem 1. Introduction 1 Sydney Shoemaker wrote in 1969 a paper defending the logical possibility of time without change. But this is only one part of the paper’s goals, since apart from a me taphysical account of time he also if ordinarily we are able to perceive inquires about the epistemology of time. He tries to show that even possible to legitimately infer, time through the awareness of changes happening around us, it is also though not perceive, that an interval of time has elapsed without chang e. That way, he aims to give an answer to McTaggart’s skeptical argument that at any given time of our e xperience, it might have passed a period of time without us knowing it, as long as there had not occurred any change. I am going to start explaining the argument Shoemaker puts forth i n his article, as well as the possible objections he considers that can be done, together with his answers to each of them. I will then evaluate his argument, focusing in a main problem that I will try to show he does not manage to solve, namely, the logical impossibility of the scenario he suggests due to the impos sibility to explain how a global freeze could start and end without falling into a contradiction. As I consider this one as the major problem he faces, I will devote my criticism to this point, and in addition, I believe that he does give proper answers to other sort of objections considered in the article. 2. Text analysis and argument reconstruction Let me start reconstructing the argument from the end. Shoemaker ends up the article denying the skeptical claim that we can never be justified in believing tha t a given amount of time has elapsed since we can know that the interval the occurrence of a certain event, because there is no way in which

3 Res Cogitans 49 Etxeberria Altuna | 1 (2012) 3:1 changeless intervals (perhaps lasting between an that event and the present does not contain one or more billions of years). Main Thesis According to Shoemaker, a scenario is conceivable where time could l apse without changes, and that in such a world, people should have very good reasons for thinking that there ar e changeless intervals, that they should have well grounded beliefs about when in the past such interval s have occurred and when in the future they will occur again as well as their duration. The main body of the article is focused in justifying the thesis , since it might seem logically impossible at a first sight that we can know time intervals without change have taken place. He points out that actually mainstream philosophers along history (including Aristotle or Hume) argued that it is impossible to conceive time without change, but Shoemaker argues that this is not right. The opposite is evidently true, i.e. that change does involve time, but it does not follow that no changes entails no time going by. An epistemological approach helps us to understand why: we usually co nclude that time has elapsed addressing changes as supporting evidence. Changes can be perceived eit her directly in our h cases the fact that we can consciousness or indirectly through other objects, such as clocks. In bot report some change has taken place gives us grounds to conceive time . What then, when no changes are perceived? Thought experiment Shoemaker suggests the following scenario. A world divided in three exha ustive regions, A, B, and C, each of them undergoing a “local freeze,” a phenomenon that freeze s all processes in that region, r, and at the end of it, everything preventing any change from occurring. This period lasts for one yea region can ever be aware that time has remains exactly the same as before, so that nobody living in the elapsed. Nevertheless, reports from inhabitants of other regions or directly observed changes in adjacent regions would eventually lead the people to believe that time has passed without changes. At this point of the example, time still involves change. But suppose that the local freezes happen with regular intervals: eve ry three, four, and five years for the regions A, B, and C respectively, so that at the 60th year all t hree regions would freeze simultaneously, and unfreeze one year later. During the freeze, no change happens, and no evidence can be reported at the end of the period; yet, the inhabitants of this world would have ground f or believing that there are intervals during no changes occur anywhere. Auxiliary premise I call the auxiliary premise the one that Shoemaker uses to make the inference from the fact that past evidence suggests the prediction of a simultaneously freeze, to the c laim the prediction involves knowledge of changeless time has occurred. As he explains, although there is not certainty to hold this belief, it is yet the most logically consistent conclusion, and by no means preferable to the hypothesis of there not being any freeze in terms of the simplicity of the former. Possible objections and answers 2155-4838 | commons.pacificu.edu/rescogitans

4 Res Cogitans 50 Etxeberria Altuna | 1 (2012) 3:1 there can be change though not perception. A first sort of objections could argue that during the freeze Shoemaker does not grant this verificationist view so it is not an objection. ng the legitimacy to infer from the local A second sort of objections attacks the auxiliary premise, denyi ppen at all. Shoemaker’s response is that periodic freezes that at the sixtieth year a global freezing will ha though both possibilities are compatible with the evidence, it would lea d to a more complex world as regular freezes would happen except for every sixty years. In addition, some modifications into the example can avoid the doubt raised to the inference. A final objection claims that the world described in the example i s logically impossible to exist, as it could not be explained neither the beginning nor the end of a global fr eezing period. The end in single regions’ freezes could be caused by changes in the adjacent regions , but it is not applicable for a simultaneous freeze. Having discarded that the global freeze is uncaused, Shoemaker’s alternative is to assume a kind of causality he calls “action at a temporal dista nce” and defined as follows: “X’s happening at t is a necessary but not sufficient part of an actual ly obtaining sufficient condition for Y’s happening at t; and t and t’ are separated by an interval during w hich nothing happens that (the interval) is sufficient for Y’s happening.” Shoemaker makes an effort t o make this kind of causality compatible with the usual principle of causality, so that the rest of the caus al inferences are also justified. He adds, that even if this kind of causality could be odd in our world nothing prevent it from existing in another imaginary world as the one presented in the text. 3. Evaluation of the arguments presented in the text Among the possible objections Shoemaker points out, there is one especial ly challenging, the one referred to the causality. He is aware of the difficulties and addresses the faces the problem directly in the last part of the text. Excluding time related properties t is understood by “change.” A reservation is made from the very beginning of the article concerning wha being 10 years old” or the Shoemaker, with good reasons, excludes time dependent properties such as “ well-known property among philosophers of “being grue,” again, a propert y depending on time, that Nelson Goodman defined elsewhere. These are regarded as non genuine prope rties and so excluded from the analysis of the possibility of time without change. Th at is to say, time-dependent properties are not considered changes. but we can easily observe that if we Shoemaker does not state explicitly the reasons for that exclusion, accept them, they lead us to a circular argumentation on time invol ving change. Since it is true that change involves time and we could report changes in objects because time has elapsed, we therefore conclude that as changes have been noticed, then time has elapsed. In other words, the fact that time has elapsed leads us to conclude the perfect tautology that time has elapsed. Freeze intervals need a causal sufficiency As I said, Shoemaker was right to leave these properties aside, but as soon as he finds it necessary to postulate the “action at a temporal distance” causality he is a ssuming that time dependent properties he cause (together with other states of affairs) that exist and are in fact relevant. The time lapse itself is t 2155-4838 | commons.pacificu.edu/rescogitans

5 Res Cogitans 51 Etxeberria Altuna | 1 (2012) 3:1 sensitive to time and at the end converts triggers the unfreeze process, so there must be something that is the time related property into a real property. counted as change, it would follow In other words, if a difference in time-dependent properties was ly impossible. Thus, it differs from the case immediately that the idea of time without change was logical “grue” which does not involve of a purely conceptual definition of a property involving time lapse as any change; rather, Shoemaker implicitly accepts the case wh ere these kinds of properties are able to produce an effect, and therefore, change. To explain this relation between merely time dependent properties and its effe ct in a genuine property let me put it this way. Suppose there is an object with the genuine proper ty P at the described universe, and that by its own nature, it has in itself the necessary conditions for exchanging the genuine property P for ent until a time elapses, that is to the genuine property Q. But this necessary conditions are not suffici say, it is activated at a temporal distance. In other words, a r eal change is going to happen due to a time change, which means that genuine changes, and not merely conceptual c hanges, will occur. Therefore, if we compare the same object in two different times after underg oing the property exchange, we are supposed to see real differences in the object Now suppose that every one year this object exchanges its properties from P to Q and vice versa, in such a way that is aligned with a six months delay with the frequenc ies of freezing periods. Consequently, if we saw it changing from P to Q six months prior to the beginning of the freeze, what should we expect to happen to the object as soon as the period is over one year later? So here is the first question : either the object with the new property P (gained at the sixth month of the f reeze) or the object with the the outcome. property Q (just the way it was the instant when the freeze started) will be An intuitive answer, given the world described, is that the object would still remain with its property Q, since the freeze period has been defined such that no change happens at all. But if time has indeed elapsed, the temporal causality chain must have been triggered, so t here is a : what second question should we expect to happen six months later; either to change from Q to Q again (because that is what to take back again the causality “time time causality establishes to the object to do: “change to Q”), or sed, so that the object will exchange its Q meter” at the same point it was before, as if time did not pas property for P? If we accept the latter, it involves denying t ime without change so we fall into a contradiction. But if we consider the former alternative i.e. to chan ge from Q to Q or in other words, to start another one year period being Q, it would suppose an indirect evi dence that a freeze period has happened, since people would observe the object being Q for two years in a row. Considering now the other alternative to the first question I posed, t hat is to say, if we expect that when freeze ends the object has got the property P instead of Q, it ent ails that change has happened during the freeze, which violates the principle used in the thought experiment of there being time without change. A final interpretation would include that since the causal conditions have been met at the half of the freeze period but change was not possible, we might consider that the conditions are met yet in the first moment after the unfreeze. The problem here is that inhabitants would again be aware of sudden unexpected change, from which to infer that one year time has passed. 6 months 6 months Freeze Feeze Halftime of Consequence starts freeze prior ends later 2155-4838 | commons.pacificu.edu/rescogitans

6 Res Cogitans (2012) 3:1 Etxeberria Altuna | 1 52 Alternative Time not Q → Q P → P Q Q Q 1 elapsed Alternative Freeze P → Q Q Q Q = → Q Q Q 2 noticeable Alternative Violates P → Q Q → P Q P → P Q 3 pple. Alternative Freeze P → Q Q → Q → P P Q Q 4 noticeable I hope the table above will help to clarify the four different inte rpretations. I believe that all of them undermine Shoemaker’s intention to show how it would be justified to people i n this world to believe that time has elapsed without any evidence of any sort, only by m eans of regularity predicted to a future case. ves 2 and 4 are consistent with Shoemaker’s Yet, it can be objected to this interpretation that the alternati thesis and that the evidence, as long as they it does not show the im possibility of time without change argument in the text includes the during the freeze period. But if we are to consider that the full possibility to infer the freeze period merely by past evidence, Shoemaker. Temporal distance causality cannot explain unfreeze Nevertheless, I see another major problem still unsolved concerning causal sufficient reason for the unfreeze process to begin. Take the previous example of the object w ith two properties, but let them define now as Q: “start freeze” and P: “end freeze,” while the object being “all states of affairs of the universe.” How is it conceivable that when by temporal causality Q turns to P, it is the case that something else apart from the temporal change can actually change? If we grant that freeze involves no change, then Q → P occurring within the boundaries of this period a violation of the principle (including the very previous instant to the beginning of unfreeze) involves that the no changes can occur during the freezing period, as it is expressed in t he table. For this reason I think the whole example fails to achieve its g oal, i.e. to present a scenario where it is logically possible time without change and yet people in that world having good reasons to believe that such an interval indeed happens. The scenario to be logically possible S hoemaker introduces a special temporal causality which in turn, entails the violation of the principle of time wit hout change. 4. Conclusion I have sketched Shoemaker’s argument not only focusing on the conceivabili ty of time without change, but in his more extensive conclusion that if such intervals occurred we need not fall in the skeptic argument of not knowing whether right now an interval of one million year s has passed. Shoemaker’s claim is that we could have good reasons in a world described in hi s thought experiment. My conclusion is that he fails in his attempt to use this very scenario for it involves logical i mpossibility. On the other hand, if we are to consider only the thesis that time without change is possible, we could 2 formulate a much simpler scenario where we assume conservations laws exist (entailing that if a certain me) and the world had a single particle. From here states of affairs exist, they must exist at a later ti 2155-4838 | commons.pacificu.edu/rescogitans

7 Res Cogitans Etxeberria Altuna | 1 53 (2012) 3:1 follows that if the particle is at rest, so that the universe h as the only state of affair of “the particle x future. having a mass m,” this very state of affairs must exist at any time in the 1 Sydney Shoemaker (1969). “Time Without Change,” in Journal of Philosophy 66 (12):363-381. 2 chael Tooley. I owe this point to my professor at CU Boulder, Mi 2155-4838 | commons.pacificu.edu/rescogitans

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