Essays in Conceptual Analysis

By H. Brotman; E. Daitz et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter XI
TIME, TRUTH, AND INFERENCE

BY D. F. PEARS


I

McTaggart's way of thinking about time leads in the end to paradoxes of reduplication. These paradoxes are the revenge which time takes on philosophers who deprive it of its proper means of expression, temporal verbs. For temporal verbs, when they are banished from their natural logical level, persist in reappearing at a higher logical level. The usual origin of the preference for timeless verbs which generates this regress is an obscure misconception about the eternity of truth. For it is dimly felt that thoughts about the future somehow have eternal truths as their contemporary objects. Thus thought, itself a symbolic reduplication of objects, when those objects are not contemporary with it, generates surrogate contemporary objects. And, since this spurious reduplication is the ultimate source of McTaggart's conception of time, it is not surprising that McTaggart's conception of time led to more and more puzzling reduplications. And McTaggart's argument for the unreality of time, which used that conception and its attendant regress, was only a complicated way of expressing a mistaken prejudice against temporal verbs.

THE sun will rise to-morrow if and only if to-morrow's sunrise is an event which will happen. And to-morrow's sunrise is an event which will happen if and only if to-morrow's sunrise is an event which will become present. These two equivalences, taken together, express McTaggart's way of thinking about time. Now McTaggart went further down this road than most people. But most people follow it in its

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