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A Philosophical Investigation into Time and Tense

Dyke, Heather Louise Morland (1996) A Philosophical Investigation into Time and Tense. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

I defend and develop the new tenseless token-reflexive theory of time. I begin by charting the development of the debate between the tensed and the old tenseless theories of time. The tensed theory of time maintains that time exists and is intrinsically tensed. According to the old tenseless theory, time exists and is intrinsically tenseless, the notions of past, present and future being analytically reducible to tenseless temporal relations. The new tenseless theory of time concedes that tense is an irreducible feature of language and thought. However, it rejects the claim of the tensed theory that tense is an irreducible feature of temporal reality. Tensed sentences have truth conditions statable in entirely tenseless terms, so the irreducibility of tensed language and thought does not imply that the metaphysical nature of time is such that it is intrinsically tensed. The new tenseless theory of time must be defended on two fronts. It must be shown that the truth conditions of tensed sentences can indeed be stated in entirely tenseless terms. I consider and reject the date version of the new tenseless theory of time. I then consider and defend the token-reflexive version of this theory. It must also be shown that tense is not a feature of reality. I argue that the notion of tense has two essential features. It involves the ontological distinction between past, present and future, and the objective reality of temporal becoming. A careful examination of these two essential features reveals that they cannot, under any interpretation, be consistently held together. The supposition that tense is an objective feature of reality is thus logically unsustainable. I develop the new tenseless token-reflexive theory of time in three substantial areas. I argue that, despite appearances, there is no analogy between this theory of time and the theory of genuine modal realism, according to which all possible worlds, including the world we inhabit, are equally real. This comparative analysis between these two theories reveals that the new tenseless theory of time is on firmer ground than both its apparent modal counterpart and various tensed theories of time. I undertake a conceptual analysis of the notion of the direction of time. I argue that the tensed theory of time is singularly unable to account for this notion, while the new tenseless theory has the conceptual equipment necessary to provide a satisfactory and perspicuous account of it. Finally, I consider the notion of tensed meaning. I argue that the distinction between character and content can be combined with the token-reflexive account of the truth conditions of tensed sentences to yield a highly illuminating account of tensed meaning that is consistent with a tenseless ontology.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Arts (Leeds) > School of Humanities (Leeds) > School of Philosophy (Leeds)
Depositing User: Digitisation Studio Leeds
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2012 08:37
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2014 11:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/2653

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