To B- or not to B- a relation

Philosophical Studies 176 (3):635-654 (2019)


In his seminal work, McTaggart :457–484, 1908; The nature of existence, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1927) dismissed the possibility of understanding the B-Relations as irreducibly temporal relations, and with it dismissing the B-Theory of time, which assumes the reality of irreducible B-relations. Instead, he thought they were mere constructions from irreducible A-determinations and timeless ordering relations. However, since, philosophers have almost universally dismissed his dismissal of irreducible B-relations. This paper argues that McTaggart was correct to dismiss the possibility of B-relations, and that would be B-theorists should be C-theorists and its concomitant commitment to the unreality of time. I do this by first elaborating C-Theory, noting that B-relations appear indiscernible from C-relations on close examination. This establishes an onus on B-theorists to distinguish B-relations from C-relations by elaborating the distinctively temporal character of the former. I then present a problem for the possibility of accommodating temporal character in B-relations. Following this, I question from whence derives our sense of the temporal character that purportedly resides in the irreducible B-relations. Finally, I extend the challenge against irreducible B-relations to a series of irreducible abstract temporal relations—so called Ersatz-B-Relations—modelled on them.

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References found in this work

A World of States of Affairs.D. M. Armstrong - 1997 - Cambridge University Press.
Material Beings.Peter van Inwagen - 1990 - Ithaca: Cornell University Press.
The Foundations of Arithmetic.Gottlob Frege - 1884/1950 - Evanston: Ill., Northwestern University Press.
Critique of Pure Reason.I. Kant - 1787/1998 - Philosophy 59 (230):555-557.
The Unreality of Time.John Ellis McTaggart - 1908 - Mind 17 (68):457-474.

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