Review of Michael Tooley: 'Time, Tense, and Causation'
Mellor (D.H.)
Source: Philosophy 73 (4):629-632, 1998
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Most philosophers of time buy one of two metaphysical and semantic package deals. On one, our temporal language is tensed because time is tensed, i.e. everything in time flows from future to present to past. Simple statements of fact are statements of present fact, of what is the case now. Statements of non-present fact, if true at all, have truthmakers, and hence meanings, which include the pastness or futurity of whatever they are about. This is the traditional tensed view of time and its semantics. On the rival, tenseless, view, nothing flows in time, since nothing is in reality ever future, present or past; and statements of temporal fact need not be tensed, i.e. need not imply that what they are about is future, or present, or past. Of course statements can be tensed; but when one is, as when I say that I am typing now, what makes this true is not the tensed fact that my typing is present but the tenseless fact that I am typing as I speak. All truthmakers are tenseless, and the meanings even of tensed statements, while they differ from those of tenseless ones, can all be stated in tenseless terms.
  2. Michael Tooley’s book argues forcefully and in detail that the dispute between promoters of these two package deals rests on a false dichotomy. On the one hand he shares the tenseless view that all ‘states of affairs’ (his truthmakers) are tenseless; so that, as he puts it, tensed facts supervene logically on tenseless ones, not the other way round. On the other hand he thinks the world is ‘dynamic rather than static’ because the number of actual facts increases over time. Thus by defining present facts as the latest facts he can, while admitting only tenseless states of affairs, accept the common tensed view that to become present is to come into existence.

Author’s Conclusion
  1. The universe may be expanding in the sense of being larger at later times than it is at earlier times; but it is not, as Tooley claims, growing by the continual coming into existence of tenseless states of affairs. Which is not to deny that all those who follow Tooley’s formidable and largely original arguments, whether or not they agree with them, will grow greatly in their understanding of time. On the contrary, no one can now hope to make a serious contribution to the philosophy of time who has not first read, marked, learned and inwardly digested the contents of this splendid book.

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