The Instigator
Pro (for)
The Contender
Con (against)

Persons do not posses temporal parts. II

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Started: 4/12/2011 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Challenge Declined
Viewed: 405 times Debate No: 15850
Debate Rounds (1)
Comments (1)
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This is the final round of the debate found here:

I must thank my opponent Vi_Veri for a very stimulating debate and, again, for her graciousness.


I think Con here misconstrues my case a bit (or I didn't make it sufficiently clear). I proposed a Neo-Lorentzian interpretation of special relativity not as an alternative to STR itself - just as an alternative interpretation of STR to the standard Einstenian/Minkowskian interpretation of STR. It uses Lorentz's framework but the role of the immobile aether originally played in LET is played by some other phenomena that plays the objective frame of reference. It should be noted that there is no actual aether in Neo-Lorentzian interpretations of STR. The two interpretations, as is widely conceded as fact, both make sense of all of the empirically data equally. The source I posted earlier acknowledges this as do other sources:

"Because of the same mathematical formalism it is not possible to distinguish between LET and SR by experiment." [1]

"Admitted on all sides to be at least empirically equivalent to the Einsteinian and Minkowskian interpretations..." [2]

Thus to say that the empirical evidence refutes N-L STR and favors E-M STR is to simply miss the point. They both have the same amount of empirical amount of data in their favor but have different philosophical implications which is what was the point in me bringing up the philosophical underdeterminedness of scientific theories. The N-L STR interpretation has no more been refuted by the empirical data than the E-M STR interpretation has yet they clearly have huge metaphysical divergences hanging on them. This issue isn't going to be settled right now through appeals to empirical evidence.

One philosophical consideration for N-L STR is this it preserves presentism (A-theory) which preserved tensed language something that alternate (B-theories) don't do. They propose "tenseless" construals of time. Our tensed language seems to make sense and presupposed by all of us, but if time is tenseless (like the various B-theories of which one Con presumably advocates), this is not actually true. Statements such as "It's 9:00" are informative because they can start or end some planned timely action. Translated into B-theory tenseless that sentence means "9:00 is simultaneous with 9:00," which hardly says anything at all.

As for Con's argument about quantum gravity, QG, the appeal to empirical evidence is, again, irrelevant in this context since they both have the same amount evidence in their favor. Indeed, all empirical evidence that counts for the E-M interpretation counts equally as well for the L-N interpretation. It seems Con attributes a stronger argument to me here than I made - I never said that some component of QG proves presentism - all I am doing is asserting the mere compatibility of presentism with QG.
Since I cannot know which arguments from Wuthrich that Con endorses it's singularly hard defend the claim presentism is compatible with QG so I'll just make a general remark that the principle of relativity is not incompatible with LET much less a N-L interpretation of STR.

"As this required just minor modifications of Lorentz's work, also Poincar´┐Ż asserted [A 8] that Lorentz had succeeded in harmonizing his theory with the principle of relativity: "It appears that this impossibility of demonstrating the absolute motion of the earth is a general law of nature. [..] Lorentz tried to complete and modify his hypothesis in order to harmonize it with the postulate of complete impossibility of determining absolute motion. He has succeeded in doing so in his article [Lorentz, 1904b]."[C " [3]

As the for the disanalogous features between space and time what I was referring to in the "passing" of time is the directional nature of time. Things seem to pass by in time to where we can't do anything about the past but we can exert causal power on the future. You can "go back" in the spatial dimensions, but you cannot "go back" in time. Time is directional while space is not. By "directional" I mean time is not time-reversal invariant. [4]

Too Many Thinkers Argument

My opponent says I have misconstrued her argument that when a temporal parts metaphysician says "I" and that personal pronoun "I" is attributed she takes it to mean that "I" refers to the whole person - the aggregate of all the temporal parts. On the contrary, I understand perfectly that a perdurantist takes "I" to mean that. However, I wasn't misconstruing Con's argument as I wasn't attributing my preferred semantics of the word "I" (the very thinker of this thought) to Con. What I was doing what challenging that assumption that the perdurantist takes with regards to the meaning of the word "I'. What I was saying is this: on any plausible account of the meaning of the word "I" it means "the very thinker of this thought". If "I" means "the very thinker of this thought then when a temporal part of me, PCP-present, thinks "I am hungry" it is referring to itself and not to me, PCP, the aggregate of all my temporal parts. On any plausible account of the word "I" it denotes a self-referential term in that it is referring to itself and not to the person it is a part of. Absent Con presenting a coherent meaning of the word "I" that can have a temporal not refer to itself (even though "I" is a self-referential word) and also not refer to the very thinker of that thought (because the temporal part of me obviously thinks that thought) then Con's counter argument fails. On my very plausible account of the word "I" the contradictions and paradoxes in the too many thinkers argument rear their ugly head again. The counter-arguments fail to connect with my argument. If "I" refers to "the thinker of this very thought" then PCP-present wrongly thinks "I am a person" (because it's not a person - it's part of a person) while PCP (me)rightly thinks "I am a person". This then leads to the problem I alluded to earlier where I can never tell myself apart from my present temporal part because we have all the same thoughts yet my temporal part is wildly mistaken every time it thinks something that refers to itself. If something that has all the same thoughts as I do how can I tell myself apart from it and why is it not a person as well since I, PCP-present, am a person. Surely this is still absurd- and this is all predicated on my understanding of the word "I" that I have offered. It is up to Con to find a more plausible account of the word "I" or else my argument stands essentially unrefuted.

Too Many Grabbers/Too Many Digesters

Con's counter-analogy (as it were) is again predicated on a similarity between the hand or the body (i.e. the person) and the parts of the hands or the body that is similar to her understanding of "I" where it refers to the aggregate of all temporal parts. However,this is an assumption that I do not share because it certainly does violence to the word "I". The "very thinker of this thought" is a very plausible account of the word "I" and, again, it's up Con to come up with a coherent account of "I" that doesn't make it lose all it's essential characteristics - like self-reference.


I enjoyed the debate, Con. Good luck. I hope readers enjoyed it as well.

[2] (pg 50)
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Debate Round No. 1
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by popculturepooka 3 years ago
Reinstating for ya, Vi.
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