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Temporal Existence



Costa D.



Everything in our concrete universe, from the smallest elementary particle to the largest galaxy, exists at some time and at some place. But what is it for something to exist at a time? What is temporal existence? Even though other topics in the vicinity, such as tenseless existence, time, persistence, and temporary intrinsics, have been at the centre of much recent philosophical research, this specific question has been overlooked so far, as witnessed by the state of current research (§2.1). This project tackles this problem head-on. Drawing from metaphysics and physics, this project will launch the first systematic inquiry into the nature of temporal existence and explore the transformative impact that this inquiry can have in philosophy and beyond.

The first part of the project will be devoted to the investigation of the nature of temporal existence. In this context, we will adopt an inter-disciplinary approach, combining elements from metaphysics and the philosophy of physics. First, a cartography of theories of temporal existence will be properly charted, thanks to recently developed formal tools in location theory and in the theory of grounding (§2.3A). Second, we will consider Relativity Theory, and the four-dimensional, spatiotemporal, worldview that is routinely taken to support, and explore the consequences that Relativity can legitimately be taken to have on the nature of temporal existence (§2.3B). In a second part of the project, we will apply the results of the first part to two case studies. First, the case of abstract objects, such universals and fictional entities (§2.3-C). Second, the case of the possibility of an afterlife (§2.3-D). Almost without exception, investigations into these topics are marked by the adoption of a purely a priori approach. On the other hand, the hybrid approach of the present project promises to get us to new and solid results on these central and perennial questions of philosophy, as detailed in §2.3C-D.

This inter-disciplinary project puts forward, and envisages to answer, new fundamental philosophical questions. It also aims to tackle classical questions in philosophy and beyond in fundamentally innovative ways. The research team, composed of the PI, two post-docs as well as a PhD student, will deliver high-impact outputs, detailed in §2.5, including a book to be published with a first-class publisher, several papers in peer-reviewed international journals and dissemination of the results of the project in media for the general public outside academia.

Additional information

Start date
End date
54 Months
Funding sources
Swiss National Science Foundation / Transitional Measures / SNSF Starting Grant