A tenseless account of tensed sentences and tensed belief
In this dissertation I provide a tenseless account of tensed sentences and tensed belief. I begin by distinguishing tensed theories of time from tenseless theories of time. Tensed theories of time hold (a) that there is a time that is objectively present, and (b) that the moment that is objectively present changes from one moment to the next. I reject tensed theories of time. I deny that there is a time that is objectively present that changes from one moment to the next. Instead, time is in many ways analogous to space and 'now' is in many ways analogous to 'here'. Just as there is no one location that is objectively here, there is no one moment that is objectively now. Nothing metaphysically distinguishes the present moment from past and future moments.
There are two major challenges facing the tenseless theory of time. The first challenge is: can a tenseless theory of time provide a plausible account of the truth-conditions for tensed sentences? Tensed sentences such as 'The meeting is now!' provide a prima facie reason in favor of irreducibly tensed properties: the sentence is true if and only if the meeting has the tensed property of being now. I examine existing attempts by tenseless theorists for providing tenseless truth-conditions for tensed sentences. I argue that they are unable to provide a complete account of what makes tensed sentences true. I formulate and defend a new tenseless account of the truth-conditions for tensed sentences, the type-context theory, which makes use of David Kaplan's theory of indexicals.
The second challenge facing the tenseless theory of time is: can a tenseless theory of time provide a plausible account of our tensed psychological attitudes? Most of our psychological attitudes such as belief, desire, relief, regret and anticipation are irreducibly tensed: we cannot adequate describe such attitudes without appealing to tensed language. I do not take relief in the tenseless fact that I got my wisdom teeth out in 1998. I take relief in the tensed fact that my wisdom teeth were extracted in the past. I do not run to the bus stop merely because I believe that the bus arrives at 8:45. I run to the bus stop because I believe that the bus is arriving now. How can the tenseless theory of time explain the central role that tense plays in our psychological attitudes? I claim that the objects of tensed beliefs are properties (or relations). The account I defend is a version of the self-ascription accounts defended by Roderick Chisholm and David Lewis. I argue that such a view can provide a plausible tenseless account of tensed belief.