Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 3, pp 635–654 | Cite as

To B- or not to B- a relation

  • Robert E. PezetEmail author


In his seminal work, McTaggart (Mind 17(68):457–484, 1908; The nature of existence, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1927) dismissed the possibility of understanding the B-Relations (earlier than, simultaneity, and later than) as irreducibly temporal relations, and with it dismissing the B-Theory of time, which assumes the reality of irreducible B-relations. Instead, he thought they were mere constructions from irreducible A-determinations (pastness, presentness, and futurity) and timeless ordering relations (his C-Relations). However, since, philosophers have almost universally dismissed his dismissal of irreducible B-relations. This paper argues that McTaggart was correct to dismiss the possibility of B-relations, and that would be B-theorists should be C-theorists and its concomitant commitment to the unreality of time. I do this by first elaborating C-Theory, noting that B-relations appear indiscernible from C-relations on close examination. This establishes an onus on B-theorists to distinguish B-relations from C-relations by elaborating the distinctively temporal character of the former. I then present a problem for the possibility of accommodating temporal character in B-relations. Following this, I question from whence derives our sense of the temporal character that purportedly resides in the irreducible B-relations. Finally, I extend the challenge against irreducible B-relations to a series of irreducible abstract temporal relations—so called Ersatz-B-Relations—modelled on them.


B-theory C-theory Ersatz presentism McTaggart Relations Time 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of LeedsLeedsUK
  2. 2.BexleyUK

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