Academic journal article Review of Contemporary Philosophy

The World-Time Parallel

Academic journal article Review of Contemporary Philosophy

The World-Time Parallel

Article excerpt

The World-Time Parallel Adriane Rini (Massey University) Max Cresswell (Victoria University of Wellington) New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012, 260 pp. ISBN 978-1-107-01747-4

Rini and Cresswell state that sentences about what is necessary or about what is possible have literal truth values. Whenever you meet one of temporal and modal arguments, you should carefully examine the corresponding one. It is a trivial matter to be clear about what the corresponding argument is. An "indexical" semantics is one in which a sentence is held to be true or false at a semantical index. Rini and Cresswell offer an account of various kinds of propositions as sets of indices, and look at the possibility that truth at an index can be given an analysis in terms of a primitive notion of actual present truth. It may not matter whether you take truth at an index as basic, or simple actual present truth. Whatever you do about this you can do equally for tense and for modality. Rini and Cresswell present an attitude to ontology which makes it depend on the structure of truths (it applies to the modal case in the same way as it applies to the temporal case), and introduce predicate tense and modal languages as the formalized object languages in which they discuss the world-time parallel. We understand sentences of the languages we speak by building them up from the words in them together with their grammatical structure. The languages of formal logic are sufficient for studying the worldtime parallel. The tensed/tenseless distinction can only be drawn at the level of whole sentences.

In sum, there is considerable theoretical support for the notion that tense is a grammatical phenomenon. An index of truth is something with respect to which a sentence is determined for truth or falsity. Statements about necessity and possibility, modal statements, abound in ordinary discourse. Our logical language contains a family of L and M operators, each with its own accessibility relation. Rini and Cresswell present an indexical semantics for temporal operators, and a parallel indexical semantics for modal operators. Untensed propositions are sets of worlds, while tensed propositions are sets of worldtime pairs. It is not coherent to ask whether an index is possible or impossible. An impossible world is one at which something impossible is true. Natural language semantics demands truth at indices. We can think of possible worlds as constructed with the aid of primitive actual truth and primitive modality. …

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