Argumenta – Journal of Analytic Philosophy

Dummett on McTaggart’s Proof of the Unreality of Time

Topics: History of Analytic Philosophy, Theoretical philosophy
Keywords: A-series., Dummett, McTaggart, Space, Time


Michael Dummett’s paper “A Defence of McTaggart’s Proof of the Unreality of Time” put forward an ingenious interpretation of McTaggart’s famous proof. My aim in this discussion is not to assess the cogency of McTaggart’s reasoning, but to criticise Dummett’s interpretation of McTaggart.

The reasoning of McTaggart’s 1908 article “The Unreality of Time” runs as follows. We distinguish positions in time in two ways: a permanent B-series (in which events and facts are distinguished using the relations of earlier than and later than) and a dynamic A-series (in which events and facts are future, then present, then past). Both series are essential to time, yet the A-series is more fundamental since only it allows for change (McTaggart 1908: 458). This concludes the first part of McTaggart’s reasoning: his argument for the fundamentality of the A-series.


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