Part of the Studies in Contemporary Philosophy book series
A number of philosophers (e.g. Ryle (1953), Mayo (1962)) have found the doctrine that the future is unreal-that it is simply a collection of possible worlds-tempting: it fits with a certain notion of free will (see Denyer (1981)). The view that Arthur Prior adopted near the end of his life is more radical: he held that the past, too, is unreal. Prior had no particular name for this position, but we may call it ‘temporal solipsism’. In earlier writings this radical position is not explicit, and when important component doctrines are entertained, some doubts are occasionally expressed (Prior (1967), pp. 170–71). But his last paper is quite unambiguous on the point:
the present simply is the real considered in relation to two species of unreality, namely the past and the future. (Prior (1970), p. 245.)
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© The Scots Philosophical Club 1991