Skip to main content

A Book on the Philosophy of Time II

rognvalduringthorsson

As I was saying last weekend, Valdi Ingthorsson, (portrayed here) of Sweden's Lund University, has written a book on the philosophy of time. Much of it is devoted to a reconsideration of McTaggart's argument to the effect that time is not real. 

To summarize ruthlessly, Ingthorsson says that if McTaggart's argument is taken as a stand-alone, it fails, because it begs the question. McTaggart is arguing that IF reality is a single block, THEN it can't be divided in any meaningful way into that which has happened already and that which hasn't. But that is just to say that if it is indivisible, then it is indivisible: which isn't informative.

If one is willing to contend with McTaggart's idealistic metaphysics as a whole, OTOH, then his argument serves a useful purpose. It draws out some of the implications of some parts of that whole. 

Ingthorsson also contends that the philosophical literature about McTaggart's paradox has been sharply split between those who are sympathetic and those who think it absurd. That split makes perfect sense on Ingthorsson's reading: if you adhere to McTaggart's premises (or even analogous premises!) you will find the argument at the least plausible. Otherwise, it may seem childish, as it does for example to C.D. Broad. 

Scholarship aside, you might ask, what about philosophy? Scholarship may well elucidate somebody else's views about time, but a philosopher as such should be willing to present his own. And Ingthorsson does so. He is a presentist. He believes that neither the past nor the future are real. He writes thus:

"The very idea of an enduring particular ... is of a three-dimensional thing that exists wholly and exclusively at one time at a time, i.e. is not multiply located in time any more than a football that crosses the pitch is multiply located at all points of its spatial trajectory." (Italics in original.)

As for my own view of time: I will reserve my exposition on that to a later you-know-what. But I think my regular readers probably have a fair idea where I stand. 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Great Chain of Being

One of the points that Lovejoy makes in the book of that title I mentioned last week is the importance, in the Neo-Platonist conceptions and in the later development of the "chain of being" metaphor, of what he calls the principle of plenitude. This is the underlying notion that everything that can exist must exist, that creation would not be possible at all were it to leave gaps.

The value of this idea for a certain type of theodicy is clear enough.

This caused theological difficulties when these ideas were absorbed into Christianity.  I'll quote a bit of what Lovejoy has to say about those difficulties:

"For that conception, when taken over into Christianity, had to be accommodated to very different principles, drawn from other sources, which forbade its literal interpretation; to carry it through to what seemed to be its necessary implications was to be sure of falling into one theological pitfall or another."

The big pitfalls were: determinism on the on…

A Story About Coleridge

This is a quote from a memoir by Dorothy Wordsworth, reflecting on a trip she took with two famous poets, her brother, William Wordsworth, and their similarly gifted companion, Samuel Taylor Coleridge.



We sat upon a bench, placed for the sake of one of these views, whence we looked down upon the waterfall, and over the open country ... A lady and gentleman, more expeditious tourists than ourselves, came to the spot; they left us at the seat, and we found them again at another station above the Falls. Coleridge, who is always good-natured enough to enter into conversation with anybody whom he meets in his way, began to talk with the gentleman, who observed that it was a majestic waterfall. Coleridge was delighted with the accuracy of the epithet, particularly as he had been settling in his own mind the precise meaning of the words grand, majestic, sublime, etc., and had discussed the subject with William at some length the day before. “Yes, sir,” says Coleridge, “it is a majestic wate…