Monash University
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The dynamic present: not yet an ontology of the past

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posted on 2017-02-23, 02:40 authored by Dempsey, Sarah-Jane Anna
The notion of the dynamic present is a fundamental part of human life and culture. Despite this, over the past century it has fallen from favour within metaphysical temporal models with the rise of static time. In this thesis the four main areas of objection to the idea of passing time are investigated; they fall under the headings of logical, epistemic, semantic and physical. Available responses to these objections are surveyed, and it is concluded that these objections to passage, whilst being prima facie legitimate concerns, are not conclusive reasons to reject passage. It is argued that these concerns are not compelling enough to warrant a dismissal of dynamic time. In response, a new temporal model is formulated, that directly acknowledges and addresses the concerns raised, whilst preserving the notion of the dynamic present. This model is called the Proto Model. It is a temporal structure of branching possibilities. These possibilities are all uninstantiated properties of the present and have modal statuses which correspond to their position relative to the instantiated present. As time progresses these statuses change. Each moment of passing time is successively instantiated within prototime, an additional, passageless temporal dimension. Thus the model constitutes the passage of time by the changing modal statuses of possible properties within prototime. This model is an asymmetric, dynamic picture, which is a more complicated adaptation of standard Presentism. Due to its complexity it is able to better defend itself from a number of the objections to dynamic time. The aim of this thesis is to demonstrate that the arguments against dynamic time are not as conclusive as often thought. Further, I aim to demonstrate that it is possible to formulate a unique, internally consistent model which preserves dynamic time, whilst also addressing these objections against dynamic temporal theory.


Principal supervisor

Toby Handfield

Additional supervisor 1

John Bigelow

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

School of Philosophical, Historical & International Studies


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type


Campus location



Faculty of Arts