Dr Graeme A. Forbes

Lecturer in Philosophy

About

Dr Graeme A. Forbes joined the University of Kent in 2013, having previously taught at Southwestern College, Kansas, USA, and at the University of Sheffield.

Graeme is currently working on a number of projects in the philosophy of time, which aim to clarify and defend the Growing-Block view of time: the view that the passage of time is events coming into existence. He collaborates with Professor R.A. Briggs, of Stanford University, with whom he won the Oxford Studies in Metaphysics Younger Scholars’ Prize in 2010.

Besides his metaphysical interests, Graeme is interested in time as it affects our practical lives, for example in how we regulate inquiry, how we view ageing, or how we can have shared projects with other generations. He is a member of various research centres at Kent that investigate these issues: the Centre for Reasoning, the Centre for Practical Normativity, and the Aesthetics Research Centre

Research interests

Graeme's research interests are mainly in the metaphysics of time, contemporary analytic metaphysics more generally, and issues in philosophical methodology. Although he works in contemporary debates, his work is informed by historical movements, such as analytic philosophy from the 1920's and 30's, Pragmatism (especially the work of C.S. Peirce and Hilary Putnam), and the Phenomenologists. He is an associate of member of the Centre for Philosophy of Time, in Milan, and on the advisory board of the International Association for Philosophy of Time.  

Graeme welcomes applications from candidates for postgraduate study who are interested in metaphysics (especially philosophy of time, causation, or persistence), and metaphilosophy (especially topics related to American Pragmatism).   

Teaching

Graeme teaches mainly in contemporary analytic philosophy, especially in issues in metaphysics. He has broad interests and also regularly teaches topics in ethics and aesthetics. 

Publications

Article

  • Briggs, R. and Forbes, G. (2018). The future, and what might have been. Philosophical Studies [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-017-1026-y.
    We show that five important elements of the ‘nomological package’—
    laws, counterfactuals, chances, dispositions, and counterfactuals—needn’t be a
    problem for the Growing-Block view. We begin with the framework given in Briggs
    and Forbes (in The real truth about the unreal future. Oxford studies in metaphysics.
    Oxford University Press, Oxford,2012), and, taking laws as primitive, we show that
    the Growing-Block view has the resources to provide an account of possibility, and
    a natural semantics for non-backtracking causal counterfactuals. We show how
    objective chances might ground a more fine-grained concept of feasibility, and
    furnished a places in the structure where causation and dispositions might fit. The
    Growing-Block view, thus understood, provides the resources to explain the close
    link between modality and tense, so that it predicts modal change as time passes.
    This account lets us capture not only what the future might hold for us, and also
    what might have been.
  • Briggs, R. and Forbes, G. (2016). The Growing-Block: Just one thing after another? Philosophical Studies [Online]. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11098-016-0714-3.
    In this article, we consider two independently appealing theories—the Growing-Block view and Humean Supervenience—and argue that at least one is false. The Growing-Block view is a theory about the nature of time. It says that (a) past and present things exist, while future things do not, and (b) the passage of time consists in new things coming into existence. Humean Supervenience is a theory about the nature of entities like laws, nomological possibility, counterfactuals, dispositions, causation, and chance. It says that none of these entities are fundamental, since if there were, this would entail the existence of irreducible necessary connections between matters of fact. Instead, these entities supervene on a fundamental, nonnomological
    “Humean mosaic” of property instances at spacetime points. We will further explain and motivate the Growing-Block view and Humean Supervenience in sections 2 and 3, but first, we turn to our master argument.
  • Forbes, G. (2015). The Growing Block’s past problems. Philosophical Studies [Online] 173:699-709. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11098-015-0514-1.
    The Growing-Block view of time has some problems with the past. It is committed to the existence of the past, but needs to say something about the difference between the past and present. I argue that we should resist Correia and Rosenkranz’ (Oxford studies in metaphysics, vol 8, pp 333–350, 2013) response to Braddon-Mitchell’s (Analysis 64:199–203, 2004) argument that the Growing-Block leads to scepticism about whether we are present. I consider an approach, similar to Peter Forrest (Analysis 64:358–362, 2004), and show it is not so counter-intuitive as Braddon-Mitchell suggests and further show that it requires no ‘semantic and metaphysical gymnastics’, as Chris Heathwood (Analysis 65:249–251, 2005) has suggested. In doing these things I make the problem of the past on the Growing-Block view a problem in its history, not its present.
  • Forbes, G. (2014). Accounting for Experiences as of Passage: Why Topology Isn’t Enough. Topoi [Online] 34:187-194. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11245-014-9254-7.
    Time appears to us to pass. Some philosophers think that we should account for these experiences by appeal to change in what there unrestrictedly is (i.e. ontological change). I argue that such an appeal can only be the beginning of an account of passage. To show this, I consider a minimal type of view—a purely topological view—that attempts to account for experiences as of passage by an appeal to ontological change and topological features of the present. I argue that, if ontological change is needed to account for our experiences as of passage, then there are other features of our experiences as of passage that a purely topological view does not have the resources to explain. These features include the implacability of time’s passage, the orderliness of time’s passage, and the impossibility of a having a past that was never present.

Book section

  • Briggs, R. and Forbes, G. (2012). The Real Truth about the Unreal Future. in: Bennett, K. and Zimmerman, D. W. eds. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 257-304.

Review

  • Forbes, G. (2014). Review of Adrian Bardon (ed), 'The Future of the Philosophy of Time'. Mind [Online] 123:576-579. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1093/mind/fzu090.
  • Forbes, G. (2010). Critical Notice: Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: Vol. 5. Analysis [Online] 70:571-577. Available at: http://doi.org/10.1093/analys/anq051.

Forthcoming

  • Forbes, G. (2016). Dunbar’s Challenge to Dynamic Metaphysics. Chronos: The Annual Proceedings of the Philosophy of Time Society:1-17.
    Dunbar, the character from Joseph Heller’s novel Catch-22, tries to extend his life by making it boring. I use Dunbar’s case to pose a challenge to those who think our phenomenology gives us reason to defend time’s passage as a metaphysical view. I argue that the reason phenomenology gives for us to defend time’s passage cannot be that our brains detect time’s passage, unless we take Dunbar’s metaphysics more seriously than it deserves. Instead we must resort to the ordinary practice of trying to make sense of things in order to reach such a metaphysically substantive view.
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