"Im Not the Man I used To Be" – Perdurantism/Eternalism vs Endurantism/Presentism

Essay by dreyazHigh School, 10th gradeB+, March 2008

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This comment presents us the situation of choosing how to treat time: whether we treat it as if all times, that is, the past, present, and the future, are all as equally important and makes up the parts of a being, or that if one of these times, especially the present, is a more important concept than the other. The former view is called perdurantism, - the view that objects are four dimensional and these objects are split into temporal parts and, and each temporal part only PARTLY exists at each moment of their existence. Time, it is viewed, can be likened to the 3 spatial dimensions, in that it is a dimension that allows things to ‘spread out’, thus all temporal parts stretch across space-time, and objects are then called to be four dimensional and makes up the being of a person. For example, as perdurantism goes, the persons that makes the human being ‘Emille’ is Emille from the past, Emille of today and the Emille of the future; thus all parts from the past, present and future are all equal in making up the whole being that is Emille.

The latter view, the view that states that the present is THE important concept, is the view of endurantism. Endurantism states that objects are 3D, and are wholly present at every moment of their existence, that objects have only spatial parts. This belief goes against the view of the perdurantists, in that there endurantists believe that objects are not extended in time when the Perdurantists believe objects do.

Thus, Perdurantists are typically eternalists, since both views very closely relates to one another’s views: that all times (the past, present, the future) are all equally real and existent, and that both views denies that there is anything special about the use of tense language, ie the present tense, the past tense and the future tense.

Endurantism are typically presentists, as also, they have both very similar views, that what is present now, at this point in time, exists, and the past and the future no longer exists and are made from logical or fictionm and that the use of tenses is considered to be very important in determining reality and what is important in it or not.

I can almost feel something, perhaps sadness or grief, at the implication of the comment “I’m not the man I used to be”. I believe that the comment has particularly stressed the use of time, and would be more of an enduratist/presentist point of view as it has signified the significance of the present compared to the past, and confirming the fact that the person has changed overtime in such a way that he is somehow different from the past.

With this in mind, I would probably more inclined towards endurantism/presentism rather than perdurantism/eternalism. This is simply because in some cases, I would find perdurantism to come against my common knowledge of my identity and my consciousness. For example, say that a student is top of the class in from one term and suddenly dropping to the bottom 20% in the next two terms, then it is clear that there is change, although perdurantism claims that there would be no change, since the present, past and the future are all equal. Endurantism allows one to analyse the past, and make way for rationalized thinking into the future instead of simply assuming that events and causes ‘has always been there, there was no way to go against it’. This rationalizing and simply thinking about things seems to give the object more of a ‘free will’ and to decide, upon changing or staying the same, compared to the perdurantism point of view, which I think can be likened to as having the present, past and future ‘written in stone’ and not giving much choice to the object. So, even though an endurantist may think about the future, it is not written in stone, and may be liable to change, and the concept of change is perhaps the concept that perdurantism becomes a bit murky on. Besides, endurantism offers presentism, and living in the present, or living ‘for the moment’, sounds very much more appealing than living in the past or the future.

Consider the past. The excitement and pains and experiences, and other emotions in the past gradually recede, so much that they become nothing more than our memories, and even then, they will recede so much that we will not be able to feel anything, or at least not as strongly as we first thought, for them at all. The things that we saw a few years ago probably has diminished from our vision, and perhaps it is safe to say that people TAKE photos in order to capture the present, and to keep it to keep reminding us of how great and beautiful that moment, that present moment, was.

The concept of the past is also a sore point in many cases, as interpreting the past and comparing it to our ‘present’ usually leads us to assume that the society, ie Australian society that we live in now are morally more righteous and fair than the past; The Ancient World had their slaves, The Nazi Regime were racist, and even the early Australians did not encourage such a wide variety of cultures before now. Our forbears constantly fail to measure up to our present-day standards. This is not to say that any of these findings are irrelevant, or studying history is irrelevant in anyway, it is to say that we must question the stance of the past and history that has become very important in judging just how far our society has progressed, and that we may be able to use the mistakes of the past in order to better the society in the present. With this reasoning, the importance of the past in determining how the present exists is quite elevated, although the vagueness and impracticality of some concepts from the past makes the importance of history and the past to somewhat dampen. An example of this are the legends of dragons and beasts, of witches and demons, and all other kinds of mythology of the one God which has challenged present day knowledge of science which has speculated that at least some aspects about God is untrue.

How about the future? The future is probably much more worse than the past. It is like walking through a thick fog and very much hoping, or expecting the best outcome and come out of the fog safely. We try to find our way through the fog, trying to locate the closest way out, but with little or no sense of direction, we are blindly walking, hoping, hoping for something but somehow never quite getting there. The future tries to give us false sensations of what we may feel, but again this is very delusional as one cannot feel something unless they are directly and immediately experiencing it by the help of sensations.

Anyway, the present gives us so much more. The things we see, the food we eat and the sounds we hear are more direct, more exciting and often the feeling that this moment is more pleasurable than the other times, in the past. It is in the present that we become more focused and more attentive; it is the in the present that helps us strive for something we desire in life.

References: wikipedia.org/wiki/Perdurantismwww.bloomu.edu/departments/philosophy/pages/content/hales/articles/sr.htmlplato.stanford.edu/entries/time/