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Ideas of Robin Le Poidevin, by Text

[British, fl. 1996, Leeds University]

1998 Intro to 'Questions of Time and Tense'
Intro p.2 In the tenseless view, all times are equally real, so statements of the future have truth-values
     Full Idea: The tenseless stance is quite clear: all times are equally real, so there are truth-makers for the future-tense statements, which consequently have determinate truth-values.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Intro to 'Questions of Time and Tense' [1998], Intro)
     A reaction: The tenseless view is linked to the B-series view, and to eternalism. This seems to mean that Aristotle took a tensed A-series view of time.
Intro p.2 It is claimed that the tense view entails the unreality of both future and past
     Full Idea: It has been argued that the tensed view of time is actually committed to the unreality, not just of the future, but of the past also.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Intro to 'Questions of Time and Tense' [1998], Intro)
     A reaction: There seem to be strong and weak version here, since if you are committed to tenses, you are presumably committed to the possibility of truths about the past and future. The strong version (denying past and future) seems to make tenses pointless.
1 p.3 If things don't persist through time, then change makes no sense
     Full Idea: It would appear that any denial of the existence of continuants entails a denial of change.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Intro to 'Questions of Time and Tense' [1998], 1)
     A reaction: [He cites Lowe for this view] Presumably we don't just accept change at face value, in that case. Indeed, views about temporal parts or time-worms give a different account of change (though perhaps a less convincing one).
1 n2 p.3 Things which have ceased change their A-series position; things that persist change their B-series position
     Full Idea: Events and objects that have ceased to exist change their A-series position (by becoming increasingly past), but persisting objects, in contrast, change their present B-series position.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Intro to 'Questions of Time and Tense' [1998], 1 n2)
     A reaction: The second half seems to imply a 'moving spotlight' of the present. This distinction is important, as it creates problems for all theories. The asymmetry seems weird.
2 p.4 Evil can't be an illusion, because then the illusion that there is evil would be evil
     Full Idea: The view that evil is an illusion is self-refuting: that is, if there is no evil, the illusion that there is evil is certainly evil.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Intro to 'Questions of Time and Tense' [1998], 2)
     A reaction: [The idea comes from McTaggart, and Le Poidevin is quoting Dummett on it]
2 p.4 At the very least, minds themselves seem to be tensed
     Full Idea: A worry haunts the denial of tense: if tense is just mind-dependent, then minds at least themselves must be tensed.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Intro to 'Questions of Time and Tense' [1998], 2)
2 p.5 We share a common now, but not a common here
     Full Idea: We appear to share a common now, but not a common here.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Intro to 'Questions of Time and Tense' [1998], 2)
     A reaction: Personally I take this to be quite a strong argument against the simplistic view that there is just something called 'spacetime', with no distinction of dimensions.
3 p.6 The new tenseless theory offers indexical truth-conditions, instead of a reductive analysis
     Full Idea: The new tenseless theory has given up Russell's attempt to reduce tensed statements (in terms of 'simultaneous with'), and instead give tenseless truth-conditions (in terms of indexicals).
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Intro to 'Questions of Time and Tense' [1998], 3)
     A reaction: [compressed]
5 p.8 If the future is not real, we don't seem to have any obligation to future individuals
     Full Idea: If the future is unreal, future individuals are ontologically problematic. Any apparent obligations towards them cannot, it seems, have an object.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Intro to 'Questions of Time and Tense' [1998], 5)
     A reaction: I certainly 'feel' obligations to the future, but I am not sure whether I 'have' them. How far into the future do the extend? Should I care if homo sapiens is replaced by a different dominant species?
6 p.9 God being inside or outside of time both raise a group of difficult problems
     Full Idea: Is God within, or outside time? How can God causally interact with the universe? How are 'all times present to God'? If the future is not real, can God not know the future? How would he then be omniscient? Does God know the truth of tensed assertions?
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Intro to 'Questions of Time and Tense' [1998], 6)
     A reaction: This lot constitutes one of the main reasons why I cannot believe in God. In brief, the concept is incoherent. The metaphysical convolutions needed to reconcile these problems smack of the absurd aspects of medieval theology.
7 p.10 Fiction seems to lack a tensed perspective, and offers an example of tenseless language
     Full Idea: If we cannot coherently adopt a tensed perspective on events within fiction, then fictional discourse seems to provide an example of a tenseless language of before and after which is quite independent of the language of tense.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Intro to 'Questions of Time and Tense' [1998], 7)
1998 Past, Present and Future of Debate about Tense
1 (a) p.13 In the B-series, time-positions are unchanging; in the A-series they change (from future to present to past)
     Full Idea: The crucial distinction is that in the B-series positions in time are unchanging. Positions in the A-series, in contrast, do change: what is now present was once future and will be past.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Past, Present and Future of Debate about Tense [1998], 1 (a))
     A reaction: So does A-series time consist of a property which things gain and then lose, or a location which things enter and then leave? Neither analogy seems to throw much light.
4 (b) p.33 Tensed theorists typically try to reduce the tenseless to the tensed
     Full Idea: Tensed theorists typically seek to reduce facts about tenseless relations to tensed facts.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Past, Present and Future of Debate about Tense [1998], 4 (b))
     A reaction: This presumably involves denial of tenseless truths like '2+2=4', which might become '2+2 is always 4'. I can't see an objection to that. Tooley 1997 is cited as an exception to this idea.
5 p.37 It is the view of the future that really decides between tensed and tenseless views of time
     Full Idea: It is crucially one's view of the status of the future that makes one a tensed or a tenseless theorist.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Past, Present and Future of Debate about Tense [1998], 5)
     A reaction: If you believe in the reality of the future, you are an eternalist and like the B-series. If you deny the existence of the future, you must opt for Presentism or the Growing Block (depending on the status of the past).
5 p.41 We want illuminating theories, rather than coherent theories
     Full Idea: Don't ask, which theory is more coherent? Ask, which theory is more illuminating?
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Past, Present and Future of Debate about Tense [1998], 5)
2001 Interview with Baggini and Stangroom
p.174 p.174 It is disturbing if we become unreal when we die, but if time is unreal, then we remain real after death
     Full Idea: For the A-theorists called 'presentists' the past is as unreal as the future, and reality leaves us behind once we die, which is disturbing; but B-theorists, who see time as unreal, say we are just as real after our deaths as we were beforehand.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Interview with Baggini and Stangroom [2001], p.174)
     A reaction: See Idea 6865 for A and B theories. I wonder if this problem is only superficially 'disturbing'. Becoming unreal may sound more drastic than becoming dead, but they both sound pretty terminal to me.
p.174 p.174 A-theory says past, present, future and flow exist; B-theory says this just reports our perspective
     Full Idea: The A-theory regards our intuitive distinction of time into past, present and future as objective, and takes seriously the idea that time flows; the B-theory says this just reflects our perspective, like the spatial distinction between here and there.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Interview with Baggini and Stangroom [2001], p.174)
     A reaction: The distinction comes from McTaggart. Physics seems to be built on an objective view of time, and yet Einstein makes time relative. What possible evidence could decide between the two theories?
p.222 p.222 Existentialism focuses on freedom and self-making, and insertion into the world
     Full Idea: I take existentialism to be the focus on the freedom and self-making of the human being, and his or her insertion into the world.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Interview with Baggini and Stangroom [2001], p.222)
     A reaction: I take 'self-making' to be the key here. If neuroscientists somehow 'proved' that there was no free will, I don't see that making any difference to existentialism. 'Insertion' seems odd, unless it refers to growing up.
2003 Travels in Four Dimensions
02 'Everything' p.27 A thing which makes no difference seems unlikely to exist
     Full Idea: It is a powerful argument for something's non-existence that it would make absolutely no difference.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 02 'Everything')
     A reaction: Powerful, but not conclusive. Neutrinos don't seem to do much, so it isn't far from there to get a particle which does nothing.
02 'without change' p.22 Since nothing occurs in a temporal vacuum, there is no way to measure its length
     Full Idea: Since, by definition, nothing happens in a temporal vacuum, there is no possible means of determining its length.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 02 'without change')
     A reaction: This is offered a part of a dubious proof that a temporal vacuum is impossible. I like Shoemaker's three worlds thought experiment, which tests this idea to the limit.
03 'Lessons' p.36 Temporal vacuums would be unexperienced, unmeasured, and unending
     Full Idea: Three arguments that a temporal vacuum is impossible: we can't experience it, we can't measure it, and it would have no reason to ever terminate.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 03 'Lessons')
     A reaction: [summarised] The first two reasons are unimpressive. The interiors of black holes are off limits for us. The arrival of time into a timeless situation may actually have occurred, but be beyond our understanding.
03 'Lessons' p.40 We can identify unoccupied points in space, so they must exist
     Full Idea: If the midpoint on a line between the chair and the window is five feet from the end of the bookcase. This can be true, but if no object occupies that midpoint, then unoccupied points exist
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 03 'Lessons')
     A reaction: We can also locate perfect circles (running through fairy rings, or the rings of Saturn), so they must also exist. But then we can also locate the Loch Ness monster. Hm.
03 'Redundancy' p.41 Absolute space explains actual and potential positions, and geometrical truths
     Full Idea: Absolutists say space plays a number of roles. It is what we refer to when we talk of positions. It makes other things possible (by moving into unoccupied positions). And it explains geometrical truths.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 03 'Redundancy')
     A reaction: I am persuaded by these, and am happy to treat space (and time) as a primitive of metaphysics.
03 'Search' p.45 If spatial points exist, then they must be stationary, by definition
     Full Idea: If there are such things as points in space, independently of any other object, then these points are by definition stationary (since to be stationary is to stay in the same place, and a point is a place).
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 03 'Search')
     A reaction: So what happens if the whole universe moves ten metres to the left? Is the universe defined by the objects in it (which vary), or by the space that contains them? Why can't a location move, even if that is by definition undetectable?
05 'beyond' p.93 For relationists moving an object beyond the edge of space creates new space
     Full Idea: For the relationist, if Archytas goes to the edge of space and extends his arm, he is creating a new spatial relation between objects, and thus extending space, which is, after all, just the collection of thos relations.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 05 'beyond')
     A reaction: The obvious point is what are you moving your arm into? And how can some movements be in space, while others create new space? It's a bad theory.
05 'Great' p.87 The logical properties of causation are asymmetry, transitivity and irreflexivity
     Full Idea: The usual logical properties of the causal relation are asymmetry (one-way), transitivity and irreflexivity (no self-causing).
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 05 'Great')
     A reaction: If two balls rebound off each other, that is only asymmetric if we split the action into two parts, which may be a fiction. Does a bomb cause its own destruction?
05 'Limits' p.77 The present is the past/future boundary, so the first moment of time was not present
     Full Idea: The present is the boundary between past and future, therefore if there was a first moment of time, it could not have been present - because there can be no past at the beginning of time.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 05 'Limits')
     A reaction: How about at the start of a race the athletes cannot be running. How about 'all moments of time have preceding moments - apart from the first moment'?
05 'Limits' p.78 In addition to causal explanations, they can also be inferential, or definitional, or purposive
     Full Idea: Not all explanations are causal. We can explain some things by showing what follows logically from what, or what is required by the definition of a term, or in terms of purpose.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 05 'Limits')
     A reaction: Would these fully qualify as 'explanations'? You don't explain the sea by saying that 'wet' is part of its definition.
08 'First' p.138 If the present could have diverse pasts, then past truths can't have present truthmakers
     Full Idea: If any number of pasts are compatible with the present state of affairs, and it is only the present state of affairs which can make true or false statements about the past, then no statement about the past is either true or false.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 08 'First')
     A reaction: He suggests an explosion which could have had innumerable different causes. The explosion could have had different origins, but not sure that the whole of present reality could. Presentists certainly have problems with truthmakers for the past.
08 'First' p.140 To say that the past causes the present needs them both to be equally real
     Full Idea: The causal connection between the past and the present seems to require that the past is as real as the present.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 08 'First')
     A reaction: Cause and effect need to conjoin in space, but their subsequent separation doesn't seem to be a problem. The idea that causes and their effects must be eternally compresent is an absurdity.
08 'Mystery' p.122 We distinguish time from space, because it passes, and it has a unique present moment
     Full Idea: The most characteristic features of time, which distinguish it from space, are the fact that time passes, and the fact that the present is in some sense unique
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 08 'Mystery')
     A reaction: The B-series view tries to avoid passing time and present moments. I suspect that modern proponents of the B-series mainly want to unifying their view of time with Einstein's, to give us a scientific space-time.
08 'Mystery' p.124 We don't just describe a time as 'now' from a private viewpoint, but as a fact about the world
     Full Idea: In describing a time as 'now' one is not merely describing the world from one's own point of view, but describing the world as it is.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 08 'Mystery')
     A reaction: If we accept this view (which implies absolute time, and the A-series view), then 'now' is not an indexical, in the way that 'I' and 'here' are indexicals.
08 'Mystery' p.125 Time can't speed up or slow down, so it doesn't seem to be a 'process'
     Full Idea: Processes can speed up or slow down, but surely the passage of time is not something that can speed up or slow down?
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 08 'Mystery')
     A reaction: If something is a process we can ask 'process of what?', but the only answer seems to be that it's a process of processing. So it is that which makes processes possible (and so, as I keep saying) it is best viewed as a primitive.
08 'Second' p.141 The B-series doesn't seem to allow change
     Full Idea: How can anything change in a B-universe?
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 08 'Second')
     A reaction: It seems that change needs time to move on. A timeless series of varying states doesn't seem to be the same thing as change. B-seriesers must be tempted to deny change, and yet nothing seems more obvious to us than change.
08 'Second' p.142 If the B-universe is eternal, why am I trapped in a changing moment of it?
     Full Idea: What in the B-universe determines my temporal perspective? I can move around in space at will, but I have no choice over where I am in time. What time I am is something that changes, and again I have no control over that
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 08 'Second')
     A reaction: The B-series always has to be asserted from the point of view of eternity (e.g. by Einstein). Yet an omniscient mind would still see each of us trapped in our transient moments, so that is part of eternal reality.
09 'in present' p.156 If time is infinitely divisible, then the present must be infinitely short
     Full Idea: Assuming time to be infinitely divisible, the present can have no duration at all, for if it did, we could divide it into parts, and some parts would be earlier than others.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 09 'in present')
     A reaction: I quite like Aristotle's view that things only have parts when you actually divide them. In modern physics fields don't seem to be infinitely divisible. It's a puzzle, though, innit?
09 'in present' p.158 Instantaneous motion is an intrinsic disposition to be elsewhere
     Full Idea: Being in motion at a particular time can be an intrinsic property of an object, as a disposition to be elsewhere than the place it is.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 09 'in present')
     A reaction: This needs an ontology which includes unrealised dispositions. People trapped in boring meetings have a disposition to be elsewhere, but they are stuck. I think 'power' is a better word here than 'disposition'. The disposition isn't just for 'elsewhere'.
09 'in present' p.158 The primitive parts of time are intervals, not instants
     Full Idea: Intervals of time can be viewed as primitive, and not decomposable into a series of instants.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 09 'in present')
     A reaction: Given that instants are nothing, and intervals are something, the latter are clearly the better candidates to be the parts of time. Is there a smallest interval?
09 'Questions' p.147 How could a timeless God know what time it is? So could God be both timeless and omniscient?
     Full Idea: Could a timeless being now know what the time was? If so, does this show that there must be something wrong with the idea of God as both timeless and omniscient?
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 09 'Questions')
     A reaction: This is a potential contradiction between the perfections of a supreme God which I had not noticed before. Leibniz tried to refute such objections, but not very successfully, I think.
09 'Zeno' p.161 The dynamic view of motion says it is primitive, and not reducible to objects, properties and times
     Full Idea: According to the dynamic account of motion, an object's being in motion is a primitive event, not further analysable in terms of objects, properties and times.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 09 'Zeno')
     A reaction: [The rival view is 'static'] Physics suggests that motion may be indefinable, but acceleration can be given a reductive account. If time and space are taken as primitive (which seems sensible to me), then making motion also primitive is a bit greedy.
11 'Objections' p.195 The multiverse is distinct time-series, as well as spaces
     Full Idea: The multiverse is not just a collection of distinct spaces, it is also a collection of distinct time-series.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 11 'Objections')
     A reaction: This boggles the imagination even more than distinct spatial universes.
12 'Hidden' p.205 An ordered series can be undirected, but time favours moving from earlier to later
     Full Idea: A series can be ordered without being directed (such as the series of integers), …but the passage of time indicates a preferred direction, moving from earlier to later events, and never the other way around.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 12 'Hidden')
     A reaction: I wonder what 'preferred' means here? It is not just memory versus anticipation. The saddest words in the English language are 'Too late!'. It is absurd to say that being too late is an illusion.
12 'Seeds' p.219 If time's arrow is causal, how can there be non-simultaneous events that are causally unconnected?
     Full Idea: An objection to the Causal analysis of time's arrow is that it is surely possible for non-simultaneous events to be causally unconnected.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 12 'Seeds')
     A reaction: I suppose the events could be linked causally by intermediaries. If reality is a vast causal nexus, everything leads to everything else, in some remote way. It's still a good objections, though.
12 'simultaneous' p.226 Time's arrow is not causal if there is no temporal gap between cause and effect
     Full Idea: If there is no temporal gap between cause and effect, then the causal analysis of time's arrow is doomed.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 12 'simultaneous')
     A reaction: A number of recent commentators have rejected the sharp distinction between cause and effect, seeing it as a unified process (which takes time to occur).
12 'The mind's' p.217 If time's arrow is psychological then different minds can impose different orders on events
     Full Idea: If the Psychological account of time's arrow is correct …then there is nothing to prevent different minds from imposing different orders on the world.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 12 'The mind's')
     A reaction: All we need is for two people to disagree about the order of some past events. The idea that we are psychologically creating time's arrow when everyone feels they are its victims strikes me as a particularly silly theory.
12 'Three' p.206 There are Thermodynamic, Psychological and Causal arrows of time
     Full Idea: The three most significant arrows of time are the Thermodynamic (the direction from order to disorder), the Psychological (from perceptions of events to memories), and the Causal (from cause to effect).
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 12 'Three')
     A reaction: It would be nice if one of these explained the other two. Le Poidevin rejects the Psychological arrow, and seems to favour the Causal. Since I favour taking time as a primitive, I'm inclined to think that the arrow is included in the deal.
12 'Three' p.211 Presumably if time's arrow is thermodynamic then time ends when entropy is complete
     Full Idea: One consequence of the Thermodynamic analysis of time's arrow is that a universe in which things are as disordered as they could be would exhibit no direction of time at all, because there would be no more significant changes in entropy.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 12 'Three')
     A reaction: And presumably time would gradually fizzle out, rather than ending abruptly. If entropy then went into reverse, there would be no time interval between the end and the new beginning. Entropy can vary locally, so it has to be universal.
12 'Three' p.213 If time is thermodynamic then entropy is necessary - but the theory says it is probable
     Full Idea: The Second Law of Thermodynamics says it is overwhelmingly probable that entropy will increase. This leaves the door open for occasional isolated instances of decrease. But the thermodynamic arrow makes the increase a necessity.
     From: Robin Le Poidevin (Travels in Four Dimensions [2003], 12 'Three')
     A reaction: Le Poidevin sees this as a clincher against the thermodynamic explanation of the arrow. I'm now sure how the Second Law can even be stated without explicit or implicit reference to time.