McTaggart's Overlooked Second Construction of the Argument against the Reality of Time in the A-Series

Journal of Philosophy 120 (5):257-282 (2023)
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Abstract

McTaggart’s argument for the unreality of time was first published in the 1908 article “The Unreality of Time,” and a revised version appeared in the 1927 book The Nature of Existence. I argue that these two versions are significantly different. The second construction of the argument is important because it neutralizes a compelling objection. McTaggart’s initial argument tries to show that the conception of an A-series is self-contradictory. A natural objection is that the apparent contradiction can be resolved by making clear that an event has incompatible A-properties only successively. McTaggart anticipates and responds to the objection. My main contention is this: McTaggart’s initial response to the objection fails, but in the second construction of his argument he succeeds in showing that the contradiction cannot be resolved in the way suggested by the objection. I also explain why the second construction has been overlooked for so long.

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Wai-hung Wong
California State University, Chico

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