Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

The Ancient Master Argument and Some Examples of Tense Logic [Special Issue]

Keywords: Arthur Prior, Diodorean logic, modalities, semantics for tense logic, time and tenses


The Master Argument of Diodorus Cronus has been long debated by logicians and philosophers. During the Hellenistic period it was so famous that doxographers and commentators took for granted its notoriety and none of them gave us a detailed report. The first section presents a philosophical account of the ancient Master Argument, by trying to retrace its meaning, originated from the Megarian context, and so halfway between ancient logic and metaphysics. The second section introduces a logical analysis of the Master Argument against the backdrop of the Jarmużek-Pietruszczak semantics for the tense logic Kt4P; but the main aim of the section is to deal with one of the most fascinating attempts to peruse the Master Argument, i.e. A. Prior’s reconstruction. Prior stays true to the Diodorean philosophical stance even if he uses modern logical tools. The significance of the work by Prior marks the beginning of tense logic. The third section expounds an argument by Øhrstrøm-Hasle. Danish logicians do not consider additional premises for the Master Argument. They give, in primis, a sentential example for the third premise, proving its inconsistency with the first two. The deterministic conclusion is the implicit result of this stratagem. Finally, in the fourth section, we compare the strategies by Prior and Øhrstrøm-Hasle.

The debate about the doctrine of potency by Aristotle is a vexata quaestio in the Ancient context. It had wide appeal among the contemporaries of the Stagirite and the topic was dealt with great interest by the Megarian philosophers, the strongest opponents of Aristotle. In a first period, the Megarian thesis seemed to vouch for the position to which the incipit of Arist., Metaph. IX, 3, alludes.


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