Friday, February 20, 2009

Proxy "Presentism"

Proxy “actualism,” as defined by Karen Bennett in her article by that name, is roughly the view that while everything that exists is actual, everything—even what could exist but doesn’t—has proxies that do exist. Every possible thing has a proxy that actually exists. (For Plantinga, my essence is my proxy; for Linsky and Zalta, I, when I am nonconcrete, am my proxy.)

Bennett argues that proxy “actualism” is not actualism. In drawing a sharp distinction between two sorts of things that actually exist, the proxies and the objects for which they are proxies, the proxy “actualist” introduced two domains of quantification, just as the possibilist does. The proxy “actualist” has simply moved the distinction between merely possible and actual individuals into the actual world.

Let proxy “presentism” be roughly the view that, while everything that exists is present, everything—even merely past and future objects—has a proxy that presently exists. While I’m not certain, I’m inclined to think Crisp’s view and the view offered to the presentist by Merricks in Truth and Ontology are each a version of proxy “presentism”.

Question: Isn’t proxy “presentism” just as presentist as proxy “actualism” is actualist? That is, if proxy “actualism” is not actualism, then isn’t proxy “presentism” not presentism?


  1. I don't see why not. But they seem like genuine actualist and presentist views, respectively. One holds that absolutely everything is actual. The other holds that absolutely everything is present. What more does it take?

  2. What play the role of proxies for these sorts of presentists?

  3. Chris:

    As I recall, Karen Bennett argues that actualist views are committed, not just to (1) the claim that everything that exists is actual, but also to (2) the claim that everything that is actual exists. And she argues that proxy actualist views deny (2). I never quite got that part, although perhaps I'm misremembering how her argument goes.


    Why can't presently uninstantiated haecceities or present but non-concrete objects serve as proxies?

  4. Jumping in very late here, but it seems to me that this line of objection to proxy presentism is closely related to a standard objection to Meinongian presentism (the source that immediately comes to mind is Keller's "Presentism and Truthmaking" paper), namely, that it is just eternalism in disguise.

    One could describe the Meinongian view as the view that I, when I don't exist, am my proxy. Of course, such a view aims to deny the need for proxies at all.