Tauravsky: Presentism, Eternalism, and Nonduality
Presentism, Eternalism, and Nonduality
Keith Tauravsky, Philosopher, Univ. of Texas
What's the "most nondual" way to think about the nature of time? Herein I will consider two opposing metaphysical hypotheses popular among contemporary philosophers of time: presentism and eternalism. Presentism maintains that only the present moment is real—that the past and future literally do not exist. On the other hand, eternalism (sometimes called the "block universe" theory) asserts that the apparent "privileged status" of the present is an illusion, and that the past and future coexist with the present moment, just as different locations in space coexist. Either way, we must acknowledge that our naïve conception of time relies upon one or more illusory concepts. As it happens, this contemporary philosophical debate is paralleled in the nondualist tradition(s): some thinkers stress that the "Eternal Now" is all that exists, while others believe the present moment, in its fleetingness, is insubstantial and illusory. While either theory of time might thus be held to be "more nondual" than the other, I will argue that presentism yields the more philosophically satisfying (and personally empowering) worldview. Special attention will be given to a common objection to presentism involving the theory of relativity; I will suggest that the so-called Twin Paradox not only fails as an objection to presentism but in fact seems to be strong evidence in support of the view.