Russell’s Causal Explanation of Duration

  • Henry Mehlberg
  • Robert S. Cohen
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 19-1)


In the theories which we have just considered, two important aspects of time, i.e. succession and simultaneity, were defined in terms of causality. There is another aspect, which investigators have often considered as equivalent to time, and which Bertrand Russell (who, however, does not favor a causal theory of the temporal order, as we have seen) has attempted to explain causally — duration. We are using the term here in its Kantian sense, as signifying the tendency of things to be extended through an interval of time while still keeping a fixed identity. This is evidently a new aspect of time, not immediately derivable from either succession or simultaneity: we can easily imagine an energetic universe devoid of matter, where events succeed, or are simultaneous with, one another, but where there is no duration in the Kantian sense. In saying that a monument endured from the twelfth to the fourteenth century, I am saying more than that its construction and destruction were simultaneous respectively with certain events whose separation in time we know, and posterior to certain other events which serve to date them. The essential point of my statement is that the same monument filled the interval of time in question: this identity of the enduring object, the identity of ‘yesterday’s monument’ with ‘today’s monument’, is a new datum with respect to the relations of succession and simultaneity.


Invariant Mass Causal Explanation Causal Theory Logical Type Physical Universe 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • Henry Mehlberg
  • Robert S. Cohen
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Philosophy and History of ScienceBoston UniversityUSA

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