Has any philosopher ever claimed that possibility can't really be tensed? So that whatever will be possible is possible now.

I really have no idea, and would love an answer. I'll add my motive, so that the good users of this site may be better able to understand, though my motive may make little sense to them, and I'm not interested in an answer to this part of my question.

I'm on an endless pathetic search to work out if there's ever going to be any motive to claiming that my death is aporetic. I think this covers it. It is not possible to imagine that my worlds has ended (my being dead is not possible), so given the above it is not possible to imagine that my world will end (my being dead in the future is not possible).

It seems to follow that I'm immortal, if what I can't imagine is metaphysically not possible, as is sometimes claimed. Even if not, an answer to the question may help me decide if there is any aporia here.

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    oh come on, the question is fine.
    – user28660
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 10:47
  • i think there's a really great answer there, somewhere. sorry :)
    – user28660
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 11:06
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    Maybe if you added examples of what tensed or untensed statements of possibility might look like, and reworded things a bit to make it more clear and concise.... just my 2 cents
    – hellyale
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 15:35
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    Standard modal logic of possible/necessary is as tenseless as classical logic, adding temporality is always extra work. What I do not see is how it would make your death aporetic.
    – Conifold
    Commented Sep 17, 2017 at 21:09
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    @user329056: I didn't close vote; my smart phone corrects my spelling or rather my typos as I'm writing - which leads me to think that people deliberately misspell to say something over and above what they are saying; I've seen this occur a few times; this reminds me that some people have mooted the notion of 'digital literacy' and knowing what deliberate errors means probably is part of digital literacy. Commented Sep 18, 2017 at 22:20

3 Answers 3


Unexpectedly (upsetting somebody, perhaps), this answer will be completely away of the domain of modal logic or statement analytics; rather, it will be existential. The thing is that in the OP question itself there was no requirement that an answer should come from some specific branch of philosophy.

Sartre claimed that possibility (or opportunity) of an entity or event is always my (rain's probability today is my possibility to get wet or not) and that it is what initially introduces time in my reality here: possibility temporalizes me. The time I'm speaking is primeval or pre-reflective time and should not be confused with psychological or "physical" time which appears as a special time-object later, upon reflection having come into play.

Whereas psychological time is graded into chunks (into before a landmark and after a landmark where a landmark is some thing or event, obstacle or facilitator coming from world) primeval time is smooth. It connects me with the future (which is my state alongside with the possibility realized) without any kind of glue such as promise/guarantee or resources/facilitators - as if the possibility has already come true. Simultaneously, it perfectly detaches me from the above possibility realization without any chronology/postponing or shortages/obstacles. I'm thus fully connected and fully separated at once from the aim which is my possibility, in pre-reflective mode. This seeming contradiction is at the core of human conscious nature because it is based on pure negation. A citation from another local answer:

There is nothing (no anything) that separates the Venus as it appears from its identity of Venus armless, yet it is not equal to it. Simultaneously, there is that same nothing that separates it from the possibility of armness, yet having arms is not any guaranteed, even not under consideration. (Nothingness does separates by no miles or millimeters, and it does link by no bridges or molecules.)

Possibility realization is in the future (possibility brings in future by temporalizing me), but that future is "around me", it is here already with me in its final perfect sense - but is in pure inaccessibility. From this point of view,

So that whatever will be possible is possible now

is indeed so. It is surely possible to happen now while it won't. I exist - ever immortal [Ftn.] - right in the form of that future which makes the (meaning of the) "now" and which is out of access.

What is possible is necessary because possibility of something is my future that has been freely chosen by the consciousness, and also because it has not yet come true nor is guaranteed to come. In temporalization, "is possible" and "will be possible" are indistinguishable.

But in reflection, we deal with psychologic or wordly time that is tiled with events like necklace is. Psychologic future is actually always past future ("future in the past", one is tempted to put). When we plan to reach an aim, we reflect on doings, obstacles, resources and order, all of which are objects we process in knowledge; but knowledge (as opposed to intuitive apprehension) is always past. That is why in our dreaming/planning of the future possibility it has the taste of not actual or desirable/scary anymore. We need reflection to plan, yet reflected dream of the future possibility is nothing more than reminiscence of the now "dead" possibility, possibility which is no more necessary despite we may claim we are interested in it. In that profane time "is possible" inertly precedes "will be possible" and both are seen (treated) as occured already: it is future-modal facts (facts cannot be necessary or needed, they simply are there).

Ftn. In Sartre's novel Reprieve, there are several outstanding pages towards the end of the book describing Mathieu's opening to himself that he is free and is an everlasting immortal moment, which is, like light skimming the beach, could never be buried by this sand and stones and is always to be an exile from them all.

Addition. Note that for Sartre, my death cannot be my possibility (for Heidegger, it can and is). My death is a destiny which is always on the side of worlds contingencies and not my freedom; we - for ourselves - are devoid of destiny because we are free, and when sometimes we look at ourselves as at somebody having destiny that means we are seeing currently ourselves as others, or even as things, i.e. living objects which are amenable to outer contingencies. Freedom is amenable only to inner spontaneousness (while in specific conditions, though). Although it is possible to suppose own death, this is not real expectation but rather an apprehension like that the train will arrive late or an icicle will hit my head - the butt in my possibilities, and not my possibilities themselves. So, it is easy to imagine, lying on the sofa, "my death is possible" or "my death will be possible", given that - what I've said in the body of the answer - both events already happened and, to add, happened not with very me. (Dying process can really be my possibility, but dying is a mode of living or life project yet.)

  • sorry i didn't get round to reading this complex answer yet, but i will. hope you got the bounty
    – user28660
    Commented Oct 1, 2017 at 13:37
  • wait i can just decide myself lol
    – user28660
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 14:30

[I can not imagine that my world has ended, therefore it is not imaginable that my world will end.]

This is an equivocation fallacy. The sense of 'imagine' in the first clause refers to the mental activity of using one's imagination, and since death is a state in which imagination cannot function, it is true that it is not a state that can be imagined.

The sense of imagination in the second clause does not refer to the act of imagining, but of plausibility/possibility. 'It is not imaginable that we will need to pack a lunch, there will be refreshments provided' or 'It is imaginable that she will get angry at you'. This is how you are getting from the imaginability of death to its future plausibility.

Two senses of imaginability, one referencing the mental act, the other referencing plausibility/possibility, are being equivocated, therefore the argument is invalid.

  • that's not the question i asked, and i don't think it's a fallacy, and you failed i think to show it is, just stated the background without the question which it is based in
    – user28660
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 18:06
  • Wait, is the question just whether any philosopher has considered tense in relation to claims about possibility? Not that I've heard. If there is no equivocation fallacy, then both senses of 'imagine' might refer to the mental act, in which case, the ability to carry out a mental task has no bearing on immortality. If they both refer to possibility, you need to qualify the statement [It is not imaginable (read: possible) that I would die right now].
    – Allen More
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 19:43
  • Also, just to clarify, an equivocation fallacy occurs when two senses of a word are conflated: my car is a lemon, all lemons are citrus fruit, therefore my car is a citrus fruit. Symbolically, this argument looks valid, but the fact that two senses of the word 'lemon' are being conflated makes it an equivocation fallacy.
    – Allen More
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 19:44
  • Wait, you think that imaginability means possibility, don't you? You think that because you cannot imagine what it would be like to be dead it is not possible for you to die, right? You might not be able to imagine what it is like to be dead, but you could certainly imagine a possible world in which you are dead, right? Also, consider the case where you receive brain damage and you lose the ability to imagine certain things, those things do not now become impossible, etc.
    – Allen More
    Commented Sep 27, 2017 at 20:05

All the theologians (e.g. Augustine) that insist God is eternal and that God is what makes things possible automatically imply that possibility is eternal.

  • worth noting, even if a little sparse. thanks
    – user28660
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 15:42
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    I just think this is perfectly obvious but has nothing to do with the use you wish to put it to. At least in English, the subjunctive mode in which possibility is expressed is the eventual future of an alternative past. Would/could/might is the past tense of will/can/must. Since you can move that past point where reality changes back as far as you wish, and that future point at which the proposition might be evaluated forward as far as you wish, your reference loses its tense. That has nothing to do with your death.
    – user9166
    Commented Oct 3, 2017 at 19:57

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