- The starting point for recent work on the metaphysics of time is McTaggart’s argument that time is unreal. McTaggart claimed that the things in time – events and the times at which they occur – can be ordered in two ways. There is the B-series which orders events and times in terms of the tenseless relations of being earlier than and later than, and there is the A-series which orders events and times in terms of the tensed properties of being past, present, and future. McTaggart argued, first, that the B-series presupposes the A-series and, second, that the assumption that there is an A-series leads to a contradiction; and he concluded that time is unreal.
- There were two sorts of replies to McTaggart. One group of thinkers (B-theorists) attacked the claim that the B-series presupposes the A-series. They insisted that the B-series is a properly temporal framework all by itself. They took time to be just a dimension along with the three spatial dimensions; they held that all times and their contents are equally real; and they insisted that tensed language can be translated into tenseless language. Other thinkers (A-theorists) rejected McTaggart’s claim that the A-series is contradictory. They held that time is inherently tensed, and they attacked the B-theorists’ attempts to reduce tensed language to tenseless language. Their attacks on the attempt to eliminate tensed language were compelling and led many to reject the B-theory. Then in the 1980s, a new breed of B-theorists appeared on the philosophical scene. They endorsed the metaphysical claims of the old B-theory, but rejected its claim that tensed language is eliminable. They argued that while tensed language is ineliminable, the states of affairs that constitute the truth conditions for tensed sentences are just the tenseless states affairs making up the B-series.
- Overview – 205
- McTaggart’s argument – 205
- The B-theory – 212
- The A-theory – 217
- The new B-theory – 224
Notes – 228
Further reading – 229
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