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Unreality of Time

Unreality of Time

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Published by Matt Iskra
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Published by: Matt Iskra on Aug 20, 2011
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Mind Association
The Unreality of TimeAuthor(s): J. Ellis McTaggartSource:
Mind,
New Series, Vol. 17, No. 68 (Oct., 1908), pp. 457-474Published by:
on behalf of the
Stable URL:
Accessed: 05/04/2011 01:14
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NEWSERIES.
No.
68.]
LOCTOBER,
1
908.
AQUARTERLY REVIEW
OF
PSYCHOLOGYANDPHILOSOPHY
I.-THE UNREALITYOF TIME.
BY J.ELLISMCTAGGART.
ITdoubtlesseemshighlyaradoxicaloasserthatTimeisunreal,ndthat llstatementshichnvolvetsrealityreerroneous. uchanassertionnvolves fargreaterepar-turerom henaturalositionfmankindhansinvolvedinthessertionf theunrealityfSpaceoroftheunrealityofMatter.Sodecisivebreachithhataturalositionsnot o beightlyccepted.Andyetnallageshebeliefntheunrealityfimeasprovedingularlyttractive.InthephilosophyndreligionftheEast wefindhatthisdoctrinesof cardinalmportance.nd ntheWest,wherehilosophyndreligionreesscloselyonnected,efind hathesamedoctrineontinuallyecurs, othmongphilosophersndamongheologians.heologyeveroldsitselfpart rommysticismornyongperiod,ndalmostallmysticismeniesherealityftime.Inphilosophy,again,ime s treateds unrealySpinoza,yKant,byHegel,andbySchopenhauer.nthephilosophyfthepresentayhewomostmportant,ovementsexcludingthosewhichre asyetmerelyritical)rethosewhichooktoHegelndtoMr.Bradley.And bothfthesechoolsdeny hereality ftime.Such aconcurrencefopinioncannotedeniedobehighlyignificant-ands notthelesssignificantecausethedoctrineakesuchdifferentforms,nd issupportedy suchdifferentrguments.Ibelievehattimesunreal.'ButIdo soforeasonswhichrenot,think,mployedynyfthephilosopherswhom havementioned,ndproposeoexplainmyeasons
inthispaper.
31
 
458
J. ELLISMCTAGGART:
Positionsin time,astimeappearsto usprima'facie,aredistinguishedntwoways.Each positionis Earlierthansome,and Laterthansome, of theother positions.Andeachpositionis eitherPast, Present,or Future.Thedis-tinctionsofthe formerclass arepermanent,whilethoseofthelatter are not. IfM iseverearlierthanN,it is alwaysearlier. Butanevent,whichis nowpresent,wasfuturendwill be past.Sincedistinctionsof the firstclassarepermanent,heymightbeheldto be more objective,andtobe moreessentialto thenature oftime.Ibelieve,however,thatthis wouldbe a mistake,and thatthedistinctionf past,presentandfuturesasessentialtotimeas the distinctionof earlierandlater,whilein a certain sense,asweshallsee,it mayberegardedasmore fundamentalhan thedistinctionfearlierand later.And it is becausethedistinctionsf past,presentand futureeemtome to beessentialfortime,thatI regardtimeasunreal.Forthe sakeofbrevityshallspeakofthe seriesof posi-tionsrunningfrom he far pastthroughthenearpasttothepresent,and thenfromthepresenttothe,nearfuturendthe farfuture,s the Aseries.Theseries ofpositionswhichrunsfrom arlier to laterI shallcall theB series.The con-tentsofapositionntimearecalledevents.Thecontentsofasinglepositionareadmittedto be properlycalledapluralityofevents. (Ibelieve,however,thatthey canastruly,thoughnotmoreruly,be calledasingleevent.This-views notuniversally ccepted,anditis not necessaryformyargument.)Apositionn timescalleda moment.Thefirstuestionwhichwemust considers whethertisessentialto therealityof time that itseventsshouldformnAseriesaswell asaBseries. And itisclear,tobegin-with,thatwenever observe ime exceptas formingboth theseseries. Weperceiveeventsintimeasbeing present,ndthoseare theonlyevents whichwe perceivedirectly.Andall otherevents in timewhich,bymemoryorinference,webelieve to-bereal,areregardedaspastorfuture-those.earlierhan thepresentbeing past,and those laterthanthepresentbeingfuture.Thusthe events'ftime,asobservedby us,form nAseriesas wellasaBseries.It ispossible,however, thatthisismerely ubjective.It-maybethecasethatthe distinctionintroducedamongpositionsintimebythe Aseries-thedistinctionofpast,presentand future is simplya constantillusionofourminds,and that thereal natureoftimeonlycontains thedistinctionoftheBseries-thedistinctionofearlierand

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