Oaklander on McTaggart and intrinsic change


Talbot School of Theology

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In his recent paper, William Lane Craig (1998) purports to establish the following four theses: (1) McTaggart's Paradox is a peculiar instance of the Problem of Temporary Intrinsics, i.e., the problem of change. 1 (2) If one adopts a hybrid A-B theory which countenances both B-relations and non-relational A-properties, then McTaggart's Paradox is unavoidable. (3) On the other hand, if one adopts a pure A-theory of time, i.e., the ontology of presentism, then the problem of temporary intrinsics and McTaggart's Paradox are adroitly dissolved. He concludes, therefore, that (4) 'the debate over McTaggart's Paradox needs to be re-focused on the tenability of the metaphysic of presentism' (126). Although I will have something to say about each of Craig's theses, I shall concentrate on the third, and argue that Craig's presentist ontology does not avoid the problems for which it was introduced. First some preliminaries. The problem of ordinary change may be stated succinctly as follows: How can one and the same thing have incompatible intrinsic (that is, non-relational) non-temporal properties such as being straight and being bent? The problem of temporal change (or temporal becoming) may be stated analogously: How can one and the same event have incompatible intrinsic temporal properties, such as being future, being present and being past? Although both questions are instances of the general problem: How can one and the same entity have incompatible properties? there is an impor-tant connection between them that their similarity masks, namely, temporal change is claimed by (some) tensers to explain ordinary change. Thus, for (some) tensers, a persisting thing O changing from straight to bent is explained by claiming that the events, O's being straight and O's being bent, each change from being future to being present to being past. According to McTaggart, however, this explanation of ordinary change (or temporary intrinsics) involves a vicious circle since precisely the same incompatible properties problem that arose with regard things changing their non-temporal properties rearises with regard events changing their 1 Craig claims that that the connection between McTaggart's paradox and the problem of identity and change 'has gone unnoticed in the philosophical literature' but he is mistaken since I raised it Oaklander (1984). Indeed, my extensive critique of numerous versions of the A-theory, including Prior's version of presentism, was based on the thesis that they all failed to avoid McTaggart's paradox since in one form or another they all gave rise to problem of change.


McTaggart's paradox;

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