Oxford Studies in Metaphysics - Vol. 1

By Dean W. Zimmerman | Go to book overview

11.
Recombination, Causal Constraints
and Humean Supervenience:
An Argument for Temporal Parts?

Ryan Wasserman, John Hawthorne, and Mark Scala

According to the doctrine of four-dimensionalism, our world and everything in it consists of stages or temporal parts; moreover, where an object exists at various times, it does so, according to the fourdimensionalist, in virtue of having distinct temporal parts at those times. While four-dimensionalism is often motivated by its purported solutions to puzzles about material objects and their persistence through time, it has also been defended by more direct arguments. Three such arguments stand out: (1) the argument from temporary intrinsics, (2) the argument from vagueness, and (3) the argument from recombination, Humean supervenience, and causal constraints. Not surprisingly, each of these arguments originates in the work of four-dimensionalism’s most prominent modern defender, David Lewis.1 The third of these arguments has received, by far, the least attention, critical or otherwise; it is now time to begin to address this imbalance.2

Thanks to Tamar Szabo Gendler, Ted Sider, and Dean Zimmerman for helpful discussion and for comments on earlier drafts of this paper.

1 For Lewis’s formulation of the argument from temporary intrinsics, see Lewis (1986a, pp. 202–5). Theodore Sider develops the argument from vagueness (1997, pp. 197–231). Sider’s argument is an extension of the argument for unrestricted composition that is presented in Lewis (1986a, pp. 212–13). Finally, for the argument from recombination, causal constraints, and Humean supervenience, see Lewis (1983, pp. 73–7).

2 Harold Noonan’s recent commentary offers a striking endorsement of this argument. As he sees it, the three-dimensionalist will have to resist by rejecting the supervenience thesis underpinning the move from four to five. But Noonan claims, “Apart from the incompatibility with three-dimensionalism that Lewis’s argument exposes, [it] seems philosophically uncontentious” (Noonan 2001, p. 128). As will become clear, this evaluation is somewhat misguided.

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