In the last blogpost, we covered the A and B theories of time. I also mentioned the fact that the A-theory, being the theory most comfortable with our tensed language, is the most intuitive. But there is another issue to consider. Is belief in the A-theory of time properly basic? More explicitly, is belief that things are objectively coming into and going out of existence—that time is really passing—properly basic?
First, we should understand proper basicality. I’m not going to explain the whole thing here (I actually want to keep this somewhat brief). However, I will say that some belief is properly basic when one is rational for holding the belief, even if he does not have evidential, non-circular justification for it. Consider, for example, the laws of logic (specifically let’s take the law of noncontradiction). Suppose you cannot quite explain why the law of noncontradiction holds. Suppose (as is the case) you cannot give non-circular justification for why you believe this law. Are you irrational for holding it? No, in fact you are at the height of rationality in holding it, and would be in the depths of irrationality in so denying it. When one tries to articulate the justification for her beliefs, there will come a stopping point (that is, when she tries to spell out just how she knows that she knows, for example). That stopping point is most plausibly a foundation. Some belief is foundational, then, as it is properly basic. Other beliefs may be quite right and rational to hold, but they will be properly based—that is, they will be deduced from properly basic beliefs (or at least can be).
This isn’t to say that properly basic beliefs cannot be defeated; they certainly can. It is a properly basic belief to take one’s perceptive faculties as delivering the truth of the world around you; generally, you can trust what you see as being true. However, this doesn’t mean your eyes can never play tricks on you, or that you can never be wrong. It appears, from our view, that the sun rises; but our best science says that is mistaken.
So, is the A-theory like this? Is belief that time passes such that it is properly basic? Well, it seems that it is. It’s quite intuitive to think that there is such a thing as “now,” and that tensed language describes the truth of the matter. Combining this view with a view of warranted true belief (a theory of knowledge) called proper functionalism will illustrate this.
Proper functionalism is the view that a belief is warranted just in case it is produced by cognitively reliable faculties operating in a proper epistemic environment according to a design plan successfully aimed at truth. Our cognitive faculties do seem to be generally reliable, which is helpful for survival. And, we do operate in an appropriate epistemic environment in general. However, what about the belief that tensed language is true? Is our environment proper for that? I don’t see that we’re in an epistemic environment that’s inappropriate (for example, we don’t have reason to think that an evil demon is manipulating our thoughts so that we merely think time is passing in such a way). And, for Christians especially, we have good reason to think that the design plan is successfully aimed at truth. So it seems then, that the A-theory is both properly basic and stands as warranted, in the absence of a defeater.
Now some may protest: “But won’t this mean just any belief counts as warranted, so long as you believe it?” No, for a number of reasons: first, there are defeaters for any number of beliefs. Second, there are beliefs formed from improperly functioning cognitive faculties (such as would be the case were I suddenly to form the belief that I had made myself invisible through a loud whooshing noise). We could go on, but it wouldn’t be the case that just any and all beliefs would be permissible.
Tensed language is an important part of our lives, and I suspect that it’s nearly impossible to rid ourselves of, even while paying lipservice to the B-theory. Thus, I hold to the A-theory as a quite intuitive one!
 I realize this is controversial, and one could be forgiven for claiming that this theory is no more intuitive than the one where spacetime exists as a four-dimensional block. But I submit such a view is not really intuitive at all; rather, it is a view that has been ingrained in us by years of repetition and education. This is not a bad thing, but it’s not intuition. It’s a presupposition—taken for granted, perhaps—but not an intuition.
 Of course, one may shrug her shoulders and simply say, “Well, I’ve got your defeater right here.” So be it. My main concern is that belief in the A-theory is properly basic, or at least warranted in the lack of a good defeater.