The Philosophy of Time: Oxford Readings in Philosophy
LePoidevin (Robin) & MacBeath (Murray), Eds.
This Page provides (where held) the Abstract of the above Book and those of all the Papers contained in it.
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Amazon Book Description

  1. This volume provides a balanced set of reviews which introduce the central topics in the philosophy of time. This is the first introductory anthology on the subject to appear for many years; the contributors are distinguished, and two of the essays are specially written for this collection.
  2. In their introduction, the editors summarize the background to the debate, and show the relevance of issues in the philosophy of time for other branches of philosophy and for science.
  3. Contributors include J.M.E. McTaggart, Arthur N. Prior, D.H. Mellor, Sydney Shoemaker, Graeme Forbes, Lawrence Sklar, Michael Dummett, David Lewis, W.H. Newton-Smith, and Anthony Quinton.


Oxford University Press, 1993. Paperback

"Dummett (Michael) - Bringing About the Past"

Source: Dummett - Truth and Other Enigmas

Philosophers Index Abstract
    Dummett considers the standard argument against the possibility of affecting the past, and finds in it an exact parallel to the standard fatalist argument against the possibility of affecting the future. The fallacy in the fatalist argument is outlined and the same fallacy shown to hold in the argument about the past, so that the notion of acting to affect the past is left with at least logical possibility. (Staff)


"Forbes (Graeme) - Time, Events and Modality"

Source: LePoidevin & MacBeath - The Philosophy of Time

"LePoidevin (Robin) - Relationism and Temporal Topology: Physics or Metaphysics?"

Source: LePoidevin & MacBeath - The Philosophy of Time

"LePoidevin (Robin) & MacBeath (Murray) - The Philosophy of Time: Introduction"

Source: LePoidevin & MacBeath - The Philosophy of Time

"Lewis (David) - The Paradoxes of Time Travel"

Source: Lewis - Philosophical Papers Volume II, Part 4: Counterfactuals and Time, Chapter 18

  1. This paper argues that time travel1 is possible, and that the paradoxes of time travel2 are oddities, not impossibilities.
  2. The defence of the possibility of time travel3 involves
    1. a commitment to enduring things having temporal as well as spatial parts,
    2. psychological continuity4 and connectedness5 and
    3. causal continuity
    as criteria of personal identity, and a distinction between external and personal time.

Author’s Introduction
  1. Time travel6, I maintain, is possible. The paradoxes of time travel7 are oddities, not impossibilities. They prove only this much, which few would have doubted: that a possible world where time travel8 took place would be a most strange world, different in fundamental ways from the world we think is ours.
  2. I shall be concerned here with the sort of time travel9 that is recounted in science fiction. Not all science fiction writers are clear-headed, to be sure, and inconsistent time travel10 stories have often been written. But some writers have thought the problems through with great care, and their stories are perfectly consistent.
  3. If I can defend the consistency of some science fiction stories of time travel11, then I suppose parallel defenses might be given of some controversial physical hypotheses, such as the hypothesis that time is circular or the hypothesis that there are particles that travel faster than light. But I shall not explore these parallels here.
  4. What is time travel12? Inevitably, it involves a discrepancy between time and time. Any traveler departs and then arrives at his destination; the time elapsed from departure to arrival (positive, or perhaps zero) is the duration of the journey. But if he is a time traveler13, the separation in time between departure and arrival does not equal the duration of his journey. He departs; he travels for an hour, let us say; then he arrives. The time he reaches is not the time one hour after his departure. It is later, if he has traveled toward the future; earlier, if he has traveled toward the past. If he has traveled far toward the past, it is earlier even than his departure. How can it be that the same two events, his departure and his arrival, are separated by two unequal amounts of time?


"MacBeath (Murray) - Time's Square"

Source: LePoidevin & MacBeath - The Philosophy of Time
COMMENT: See "King (Daniel) - Two-Dimensional Time: Macbeath's 'Time's Square' and Special Relativity" for a discussion.

"McTaggart (J. McT. E.) - Time (The Unreality of Time)"

Source: LePoidevin & MacBeath - The Philosophy of Time


COMMENT: Photocopy filed in "Various - Papers on Logic & Metaphysics Boxes: Vol 2 (F-N)".

"Mellor (D.H.) - The Unreality of Tense"

Source: Mellor - Real Time, 1981, Chapter 6

  1. Introduction
  2. McTaggart's Proof
  3. The Defence of McTaggart
  4. McTaggart and Token-Reflexives


"Newton-Smith (W.H.) - The Beginning of Time"

Source: LePoidevin & MacBeath - The Philosophy of Time
COMMENT: Chap. 5 of "The Structure of Time"

"Prior (Arthur N.) - Changes in Events and Changes in Things"

Source: Prior - Papers on Time and Tense, Chapter 1

Author’s Introduction
  1. The basic question to which I wish to address myself in this lecture is simply the old one, does time really flow or pass? The problem, of course, is that genuine flowing or passage is something which occurs in time, and takes time to occur. If time itself flows or passes, must there not be some 'super-time' in which it does so? Again, whatever flows or passes does so at some rate, but a rate of flow is just the amount of movement in a given time, so how could there be a rate of flow of time itself? And if time does not flow at any rate, how can it flow at all?
  2. A natural first move towards extricating ourselves from these perplexities is to admit that talk of the flow or passage of time is just a metaphor. Time may be, as Isaac Watts says, like an ever-rolling stream, but it isn't really and literally an ever-rolling stream. But how is it like an ever-rolling stream? What is the literal truth behind this metaphor? The answer to this is not, at first sight, difficult. Generally when we make such remarks as 'Time does fly, doesn't it? — why, it's already the 16th', we mean that some date or moment which we have been looking forward to as future, has ceased to be future and is now present and on its way into the past. Or more fundamentally, perhaps, some future event to which we have been looking forward with hope or dread is now at last occurring, and soon will have occurred, and will have occurred a longer and longer time ago. We might say, for example, 'Time does fly — I'm already 47' — that is, my birth is already that much past, 'and soon I shall be 48', i.e. it will be more past still. Suppose we speak about something 'becoming more past' not only when it moves from the comparatively near past to the comparatively distant past, but also when it moves from the present to the past, from the future to the present, and from the comparatively distant future to the comparatively near future. Then whatever is happening, has happened, or will happen is all the time 'becoming more past' in this extended sense; and just this is what we mean by the flow or passage of time. And if we want to give the rate of this flow or passage, it is surely very simple — it takes one exactly a year to get a year older, i.e. events become more past at the rate of a year per year, an hour per hour, a second per second.
  3. Does this remove the difficulty? It is far from obvious that it does. It's not just that an hour per hour is a queer sort of rate – this queerness, I think, has been exaggerated, and I shall say more about it in a minute — but the whole idea of events changing is at first sight a little strange, even if we abandon the admittedly figurative description of this change as a movement. By and large, to judge by the way that we ordinarily talk, it's things that change, and events don't change but happen. Chairs, tables, horses, people change — chairs get worn out and then mended, tables get dirty and then clean again, horses get tired and then refreshed, people learn things and forget them, or are happy and then miserable, active and then sleepy, and so on, and all these are changes, and chairs, tables, horses, and people are all what I mean by things as opposed to events. An accident, a coronation, a death, a prize-giving, are examples of what we'd call events, and it does seem unnatural to describe these as changing — what these do, one is inclined to say, is not to change but to happen or occur.
  4. One of the things that make us inclined to deny that events undergo changes is that events are changes — to say that such and such an event has occurred is generally to say that some thing has, or some things have, changed in some way. ...


"Quinton (Anthony) - Spaces and Times"

Source: LePoidevin & MacBeath - The Philosophy of Time

Philosophers Index Abstract

The author examines the belief that space and time are unique individuals. He addresses three main questions:
  1. "what... Does the belief that space and time are unique individuals come to?"
  2. "... Is the belief in either case true?" and
  3. "... If it is true in either case, is it necessarily true or is it simply a matter of fact?"
Author’s Introduction

We are accustomed to thinking of space and time as particulars or individuals – even if we should hesitate to describe them as things or objects or substances. We say 'space has three dimensions', 'material things occupy space', 'the debris has disappeared into space' and we talk in a comparable fashion about time. Not only do we think of space and time as individuals but, in many connections at any rate, we think of them as unique individuals. When we talk about spaces and times in the plural, when we say 'fill up the spaces on the form', 'it could go in the space between the lamp and the door', 'there were peaceful times in the early years of their marriage' we think of these multiple spaces and times as parts of the unique all-encompassing space and the unique all-encompassing time. Kant believed that we could not help thinking of them in this way. We do, at any rate, in fact think like this and it is this conviction that I want to examine. What, I shall ask first of all, does the belief that space and time are unique individuals come to? Secondly, is the belief in either case true? Finally, if it is true in either case, is it necessarily true or is it simply a matter of fact?

COMMENT: Originally, Philosophy, Vol. 37, No. 140 (Apr., 1962), pp. 130-147

"Shoemaker (Sydney) - Time Without Change"

Source: Shoemaker - Identity, Cause and Mind

"Sklar (Lawrence) - Up and Down, Left and Right, Past and Future"

Source: Sklar (Lawrence) - Philosophy and Spacetime Physics, Chapter 12

  1. The claim that the direction of time itself is explicable in terms of the direction in time in which the entropy of physical systems increases has seemed exciting and plausible to some and grotesquely absurd to others. Some of the disagreement, I believe, arises from general misunderstanding of just what kind of relationship between temporal asymmetry and entropic asymmetry is intended by the proponents of the reductive standpoint.
  2. Two comparison cases are examined: the association of left-right asymmetrical systems with asymmetries in weak-interactions, and the association of the spatial directions of up and down with the local gradient of the gravitational field. While the first would not lead a rational person to suggest that left and right reduce in any sense to features of weak interactions, the reasonable person will conclude that the familiar up-down distinction does reduce to features of the world characterizable solely in terms of the local direction of increase of the gravitational field. To which case should we appeal when trying to understand the relation of temporal asymmetry to entropic asymmetry?
  3. The claim made here is that the alleged reduction of temporal to entropic asymmetry is supposed to be a reduction of a kind similar to that accomplished by identificatory reductions in science, not the kind of reduction, epistemically motivated, familiar to philosophers from such examples as the alleged phenomenalistic reduction of objects to sense-data. Some of the proponents of entropic reduction of temporal asymmetry have not made this clear. Some of the work which would need to be accomplished in order to make the reduction, so understood, plausible is outlined. Then some fundamental puzzles which will afflict any such claim to a successful reduction are noted.


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