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A Book on the Philosophy of Time II


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. 


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