2022 Sanders Metaphysics Prize Awarded


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.

 

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Kaila Draper
2 months ago

Congrats to the authors. I look forward to reading it!Report

Narasimhan Marehalli
2 months ago

Hearty congratulations. Narasimhan.Report

Kay Mar
2 months ago

The bookshelf containing all the analytic philosophy that changed my life remains empty.Report

Hunter Curry
Hunter Curry
Reply to  Kay Mar
2 months ago

Agreed! After the abstract and excerpt the commitment “to help the world approach larger personal and societal issues” reads a little funny.Report

Dean Zimmerman
Dean Zimmerman
Reply to  Hunter Curry
2 months ago

It’s true that the Sanders essay prizes for early career scholars, like this Metaphysics prize, are not primarily designed to further the goals you mentioned; they are, instead, part of the “promoting excellence in philosophy” portfolio of the Foundation. However, most of the Foundation’s resources are invested elsewhere, in things like the National High School Ethics Bowl (which encourages rigorous philosophical thinking about important “personal and societal issues” among high school students), Just Ideas (taking philosophy to the incarcerated in Brooklyn), UCI THINK (developing philosophical curricula for elementary school kids), various on-line forums on philosophical issues of great public interest (over-policing, our duties to the past, structural injustice), support for “Minorities in Philosophy”, etc. In addition to the prizes for excellence in philosophy (there are usually five each year), in 2020-21 there were 30 prizes or fellowships given to philosophers for writing that engaged a broader audience (op-eds, longform magazine writing) and podcast creation. You can find out more about the Marc Sanders Foundation here: https://marcsandersfoundation.orgReport

Samuel
Samuel
Reply to  Kay Mar
2 months ago

You keep an empty bookshelf just to prove a point?Report

Me Me
Me Me
Reply to  Kay Mar
2 months ago

That’s a childish thing to say on a post like this.Report

Platypus
2 months ago

Since it hasn’t been said yet: this paper is creative, deeply researched, meticulously argued, and mind-blowing.

If it’s right, it has *huge* implications for the link between metaphysics and science. You can get evidence for a paradigmatically metaphysical thesis using paradigmatically scientific methods.

It also has striking implications for how we think about time. (Naturally.)

Three cheers to the authors!Report