Does the future always arrive?

To clarify by example : can a future event and an event that occurs in the present ever be identical ?

closed as unclear what you're asking by Swami Vishwananda, Chelonian, Geoffrey Thomas, Conifold, Mark Andrews Apr 24 '18 at 0:39

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    Could you please clarify your second sentence "So I'm wondering ..."; thank you. – Jo Wehler Apr 23 '18 at 6:03
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    The future is a act of imagination not a real thing waiting to arrive. An event cannot happen in the future since the only time is now. Mind you, as 'Now' has no duration the event can't happen now either. As Zeno notes our usual idea of time is rather garbled. – PeterJ Apr 23 '18 at 10:28
  • You have to be more clear if your question is about determinism or simply about the "use of language": up to now, the "future" always arrived. – Mauro ALLEGRANZA Apr 23 '18 at 12:37
  • Although not entirely related, your question brought to my mind the paper "Changes in Events and Changes in Things" by A.N. Prior. A considerable amount time has passed since I've read it, and at what rate it has passed I cannot say (if you read the paper, you might get a good chuckle from what I've said--apologies for the poor attempt at joking), so it may not directly answer your question. Still, it's a fun paper (at least from what I remember). – Eli Bashwinger Apr 23 '18 at 16:37
  • @PeterJ. Spot on : we often try to deal with the durationless present by recourse to 'the specious present' but specious is precisely what it is. Neither past nor future is real and the present is a paradox. – Geoffrey Thomas Apr 23 '18 at 16:40

According to the well-known model from special relativity (Minkowski space) an event is a point in spacetime. Expressed in common language: An event is at least characterized by 4 components, namely 3-spatial components: Where does the event take place? - Crossing of 48th street with 5th Avenue, 35th floor. And one time component: When does it take place? Tomorrow, 4 p.m. Hence:

A future event is different from a present event, at least because both happen at different time. The two events cannot be the same event.

One could say much more about the relation between different events, about the relativity of time and concerning the question: Does the future really happen, or why does it seem to us as if the future will happen?

But my answer were more focused if you explain a bit more the aim of your question.


Is the future real ? If it is, then future events are real. But is it real ? Jan Faye thinks so :

'... the future is [. . .] real if some future fact will make a future utterance of 'e occurs now' true (or false) and if that fact is the same fact which now makes a present utterance of 'e is going to occur' true (or false)'. (Jan Faye, The Reality of the Future: An Essay on Time, Causation and Backward Causation, Odense University Press, 1989, 83.)

One could retort that the future fact and the future utterance are not themselves real. And if the future fact is not real it cannot be the same fact which now makes a present utterance of 'e is going to occur' true (or false). So I am unpersuaded by Faye's argument.

But if purely for the sake of (further) argument one grants that an event, X, 3000 years in the future is real, and also that at some point 'it' is present, there is an identity problem. For X in the future and X (eventually) present to be identical, all descriptions of X-future and X-present must be the same. But there are descriptions of X-future, e.g. that it is 3000 years in the future, that do not apply to X-present.

I offer all this very tentatively. By all means refute it if it is wrong at any or all points but I should like it to be treated as zetetic, investigative. I am happy to risk falling flat on my face.

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