On Time chez Dummett

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Butterfield, Jeremy
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preprint description
I discuss three connections between Dummett's writings about time and philosophical aspects of physics. The first connection (Section 2) arises from remarks of Dummett's about the different relations of observation to time and to space. The main point is uncontroversial and applies equally to classical and quantum physics. It concerns the fact that perceptual processing is so rapid, compared with the typical time-scale on which macroscopic objects change their observable properties, that it engenders the idea of a `common now', spread across space. The other two connections are specific to quantum theory, as interpreted along the lines of Everett. So for these two connections, the physics side is controversial, just as the philosophical side is. In Section 3, I connect the subjective uncertainty before an Everettian `splitting' of the multiverse to Dummett's suggestion, inspired by McTaggart, that a complete, i.e. indexical-free description of a temporal reality is impossible. And in Section 4, I connect Barbour's denial that time is real---a denial along the lines of Everett, rather than McTaggart---to Dummett's suggestion that statements about the past are not determinately true or false, because they are not effectively decidable.