David Builes, assistant professor of philosophy at Princeton University, and Michele Odisseas Impagnatiello, a graduate student in philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are the winners of the 2022 Sanders Prize in Metaphysics.
Builes and Impagnatiello were awarded the prize for their article, “An Empirical Argument for Presentism.” Here’s the abstract of the paper:
According to orthodoxy, our best physical theories strongly support Eternalism over Presentism. Our goal is to argue against this consensus, by arguing that a certain overlooked aspect of our best physical theories strongly supports Presentism over Eternalism.
And here’s a bit more from the opening of the piece:
We all think that some things are present. Presentists go on to say that everything is present: nowhere in reality will you find any dinosaurs or Martian outposts. Eternalists disagree. According to Eternalists, the present is just one part of a four-dimensional reality that includes both past and future things.
A very influential objection to Presentism is empirical: insofar as Presentism entails that there is an absolute relation of simultaneity, Presentism seems to be in conflict with relativistic physics. Our goal is to argue against the orthodox view that our best physical theories strongly support Eternalism. However, we won’t be directly responding to the objection from relativity. Many have already responded to the objection from relativity, and we don’t have anything to add beyond their responses. Instead, we will argue that there is a different aspect of our best physical theories, which so far has been overlooked, that strongly supports Presentism.
We’ll begin by introducing the relevant aspect of physics that we will be focusing on, namely, that our universe is Markovian. We’ll then argue that, while Eternalism does not give us any reason to expect that our universe should be Markovian, certain versions of Presentism imply that our universe must be Markovian… We then argue that this constitutes strong evidence for Presentism, and we conclude by assessing the balance of empirical
considerations for and against Presentism.
The Sanders Prize in Metaphysics is sponsored by the Marc Sanders Foundation, which “is committed to using philosophy to help the world approach larger personal and societal issues with the thoughtfulness, care, and rigor needed to drive understanding and change.”
The prize is $5,000 and publication of the winning essay in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics. You can learn more about the prize, which will next be awarded in 2024, and see a list of previous winners, here.