The Static Versus the Dynamic Temporal



This section will consider the treatment of time in twentieth-century analytic philosophy, this being a generic term which includes logical atomism, logical positivism, rational reconstruction, and linguistic analysis (ordinary language philosophy). We shall begin our investigation by considering J. M. E. McTaggart’s famous argument for the unreality of time, which was first published in 1908. McTaggart’s discussion is a key to the views of time held by twentieth-century analytic philosophers, for one can detect in their writings a common underlying concern: almost all of them are attempting to answer McTaggart’s paradox. This is not to say that all these writings mention McTaggart by name, or even that their authors always had him consciously in mind; but only that the problems they wrestled with were those bequeathed to them by McTaggart. A person can scratch a mosquito bite without knowing that it is a mosquito bite. McTaggart’s argument is fallacious, but it is fallacious in such a deep and basic way that an adequate answer to it must supply a rather extensive analysis of the concept of time, along with a host of neighboring concepts that are themselves of philosophical interest, such as change, substance, event, proposition, truth, and others. What we shall notice is that the answers proposed involve very different analyses of these concepts.


Dynamic Temporal Qualitative Change Temporal Relation Temporal Fact Ordinary Language 
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  1. McTaggart’s argument first appeared as “The Unreality of Time,” M, 17 (1908), reprinted in his Philosophical Studies, Edward Arnold, London, 1934. Attempts to refute his argument through the use of the B-Theory of Time are, in addition to the D. Williams article in this section: C. D. Broad, “Time,” in Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1922. Broad was under the influence of Russell when he wrote this article, and completely reversed his position in his subsequent writings. For a detailed account of Broad’s shifting views on time see C. W. K. Mundle, “Broad’s Views about Time,” in The Philosophy of C. D. Broad, P. A. Schilpp, ed., Open Court, La Salle, Ill., 1959Google Scholar
  2. R. B. Braithwaite, “Time and Change,” PAS, Supp. Vol. 8 (1928)Google Scholar
  3. D. W. Gotshalk, “McTaggart on Time,” M, 39 (1930). Bertrand Russell developed the B-Theory of Time in his: The Principles of Mathematics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1903, especially pp. 458-76Google Scholar
  4. Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1919, p. 164Google Scholar
  5. “The Philosophy of Logical Atomism,” Monist, 28-29 (1918-1919) (see Lecture IV, where Russell discusses the philosophical importance of “emphatic particulars,” which are later termed “egocentric particulars” in his An Inquiry into Meaning & Truth, W. W. Norton, New York, 1940, ch. vii). Russell’s views about the reducibility of A-determinations to B-relations are developed and defended in: G. P. Adams, “Temporal Form and Existence,” in PT N. Goodman, The Structure of Appearance, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1951Google Scholar
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  10. B. Mayo, “Objects, Events, and Complementarity,” PR, 70 (1961). Taylor’s position is criticized by: N. L. Wilson, “Space, Time, and Individuals,” JP, 52 (1955)Google Scholar
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  14. Answers to McTaggart’s argument employing the A-Theory of Time are: C. D. Broad, Scientific Thought, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, London, 1923Google Scholar
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  16. John Wisdom, “Time, Fact and Substance,” PAS, 29 (1928-1929)Google Scholar
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  22. Richard M. Gale, “Is It Now Now?” M, 73 (1964). Works defending tenets of the A-Theory of Time are: R. Collingwood, “Some Perplexities about Time with an Attempted Solution,” PAS, 26 (1925-1926)Google Scholar
  23. W. R. Dennes, “Time as Datum and as Construction,” in PT D. S. Mackay, “Succession and Duration,” in PT E. W. Strong, “Time in Operational Analysis,” in PT J. N. Findlay, “Review of Ehrenfel’s Cosmogony,” P, 25 (1961)Google Scholar
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  26. D. Y. Deshpande, “Professor Ayer on the Past,” M, 65 (1956)Google Scholar
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  28. K. W. Ranldn, “Order and Disorder in Time,” M, 66 (1957)Google Scholar
  29. A. N. Prior, “Time After Time,” M, 67 (1958)Google Scholar
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  32. Stuart Hampshire, Thought and Action, Viking Press, New York, 1960, ch. iGoogle Scholar
  33. M. Black, “The ‘Direction’ of Time,” A, 19 (1959)Google Scholar
  34. Black, “Review of G. J. Whitrow’s The Natural Philosophy of Time” in Scientific American, 206 (1962)Google Scholar
  35. L. E. Palmieri, “Empiricism and a Time-Line,” PQ, 10 (1960)Google Scholar
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  37. David Shwayder, “The Temporal Order,” PQ, 10 (1960)Google Scholar
  38. Richard M. Gale, “Dewey and the Problem of the Alleged Futurity of Yesterday,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 21 (1961)Google Scholar
  39. Gale, “Tensed Statements,” PQ, 12 (1962), which article is criticized by J. J. C. Smart, “‘Tensed Statements’: A Comment,” PQ, 12 (1962)Google Scholar
  40. B. Mayo, “Infinitive Verbs and Tensed Statements”; and by I. Thalberg, “Tenses and ‘Now’,” both in PQ, 13 (1963), along with Gale’s answer “A Reply to Smart, Mayo, and Thalberg on ‘Tensed Statements’,” in the same issue. A further criticism of the original Gale paper is J. Rosenberg, “Tensed Discourse and the Eliminability of Tenses,” PQ, 16 (1966). Other articles by Gale are: “Existence, Tense and Presupposition,” Monist, 50 (1966), and “McTaggart’s Analysis of Time,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 3 (1966). Other articles defending the A-Theory are listed under Sections III and IV. The problem of detensing language is discussed in the articles by A. Duncan-Jones, P. N. Smith, B. Mayo, and L. J. Cohen in ch. vii of Philosophy and Analysis, M. Macdonald, ed., Philosophical Library, New York, 1955.Google Scholar
  41. The Either-Way-Will-Work Theory of Time is put forth in J. J. C. Smart, “The River of Time,” in Essays in Conceptual Analysis, cited earlier in full, as well as in the Findlay and Smart.articles included in this volume. The only philosopher who has defended the view that neither the A-nor the B-Series alone is sufficient to account for our concept of time is L. O. Mink, “Time, McTaggart and Pickwickian Language,” PQ, 10 (1960).Google Scholar

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© Richard M. Gale 1968

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