Dummett's Antirealism and Time
Dolev (Yuval)
Source: European Journal of Philosophy 8:3, 2000, pp. 253-276
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Twentieth century discussions in the metaphysics of time have been concerned first and foremost with the reality of tense. Tenseless theorists contend that, to put it somewhat crudely, the distinction between the past, present and future is merely an illusion, or, merely part of mental reality. In opposition to them, tensed theorists defend the view that the present is 'more real', or that it is 'ontologically privileged'.
  2. I wish, in this paper, to locate Michael Dummett's antirealism within this debate. Doing so will prove, I hope, beneficial to both our understanding of Dummett's philosophy, and our understanding of time. For although discussions of Dummett's position have focused for many years on such questions as the 'mind independence of reality' and 'the intelligibility of recognition-transcendent truth', it seems that little that is genuinely new has been said in recent years on either the realist or the antirealist side, and it may well be that by seeing how Dummett's position bears on other issues we will get a deeper insight into these 'grand' questions.
  3. The paper consists, accordingly, of two parts.
    1. The first has to do with Dummett's metaphysics, and asserts that his choice of sentences about the past as the principle example with which to explain his antirealism (outside of mathematics) is not accidental, but is, in fact, a reflection of the extent to which his views are shaped by his conception of time.
    2. The second thesis, to which the bulk of this paper is devoted, concerns a theory of time, or, more specifically, a version of the tensed view, that, I shall try to establish, emerges from Dummett's ideas on truth.
  4. Plan:-
    1. I shall open by presenting an overview of Dummett's antirealism, with the aim of eliciting from it an outline of a tensed theory of time. In the following section it is claimed that the realist's objection to the antirealist is much akin to the tenseless theorist's misgiving with respect to the tensed view of time.
    2. Next, Dummett's rejoinder to the realist is expounded and considered as a defense of the aforementioned version of the tensed view.
    3. It is then argued that, as important and unique as this conception of time is, Dummett's position is, in the end, self-undermining.
    4. In the conclusion I shall explain the role that, despite this result, I believe Dummett's version of the tensed view ought to have in the philosophical study of time.


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