What does a presentist see when she looks at photographs of dead relatives?


The objective of this paper is to bring to the foreground some metaphysical commitments present in the debate about the relation between photography and the past. I will try to answer the question: what does a presentist see when she looks at photographs of dead relatives? According to presentism, if a particular object does not exist in the present, it does not exist simpliciter. For this reason, in Priorian presentism, there can be no de re (singular) propositions about past particulars. Part of the requirement for singularity would be played by reality, which suffers metaphysical restrictions from the passage of time. After outlining the metaphysical and semantical debate about presentism, I will briefly explore some theories of photography and separate them in two groups: de re theories that accept that through photography we indirectly perceive the past object itself and de dicto theories that deny it. Then, I will connect those theories to the problem faced by presentism, showing that a presentist must limit herself, in the case of objects that no longer presently exist, to a de dicto approach of photography. In other words, a presentist cannot accept that through photography she can indirectly see the past object itself. There would be nothing in the past for her to be remotely acquainted with or to demonstratively single out. I attempt to develop a presentist theory that could account for the descriptive and causal referential elements of photography using John Zeimbekis’ theory coupled with Craig Bourne’s presentist causal theory of reference (that jettison the Millian element of the causal theory). I will show how this theory is different from Kendall Walton’s counterfactual theory (also accepted by Dominic Lopes) and explore a criticism that could be formulated from his perspective.

Palabras clave

metaphysics of time; tense operators; quantification; particulars; de re/de dicto

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