Hesperus is Bosphorus

A group blog by philosophers in and from Turkey

Talk at Bogazici: Rögnvaldur (‘Valdi’) Ingthorsson, Lund University: ‘McTaggart’s Paradox: Obscure or Misunderstood?’

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Friday, November 8
 
5pm, TB 130. 
 
ABSTRACT
There are few items in the philosophy of time that have received as much attention for the last century than McTaggart’s notorious argument for the unreality of time. Richard Gale observes that if “one looks carefully enough into the multitudinous writings on time by analysts, one can detect a common underlying problem, that being that almost all of them were attempting to answer McTaggart’s paradox” (1968, p. 6). The argument has in any case been extremely controversial. Practically everyone rejects the conclusion that time is unreal, and hardly anybody agrees on the content or professed validity of the argument, or of any of the many reinterpretations that have been offered. In this talk I will argue (or, really, demonstrate) that the argument has been found to be obscure because it has always been treated as a self-contained argument that is independent of the rest of McTaggart’s metaphysics. It has been treated that way in spite of McTaggart’s own words to the contrary. When it is treated as an argument that takes McTaggart’s metaphysics as given, then it comes across as a straightforward demonstration of a contradiction from certain premises. I will present what those premises are and how the argument builds on them. This does not mean that I think McTaggart is right. I think he is wrong but my disagreement with him revolves around the validity of the initial premises rather than on some mistake in the argumentation. In particular it is interesting that one of the premises is a thesis that is known today as the principle of temporal parity; the thesis that all moments of time are equally existent and real. The principle of temporal parity is a cornerstone in the so called B-view of time, but it is typically rejected by adherents to the A-view. To my mind, this shows that McTaggart’s argument is circular if it is understood as an attempt to refute the A-view. Besides presenting my own positive understanding of the argument for the unreality of time, I will also argue that many of the more popular objections levelled at the argument are misguided. For instance, the claim that McTaggart misunderstands temporal language is based on the assumption that McTaggart was occupied with the same kind of semantic analysis that only became fashionable with the next generation of philosophers. However, this assumption is completely at odds with McTaggart’s own positive views about language and meaning. 
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Written by markedwardsteen

November 6, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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