THE SERIES A CONTRADICTION OF TIME
From Groundhog Days – Intercourse on Time
By Melina Costello & David Arthur Walters
August 9, 2004
Dear Madame Melina,
I beg your pardon for wasting time with time, but I would fain add to my previous letter about the Series A Contradiction of Time. McTaggart’s logical contradiction – between past, present, and future – which he asserted to prove that “time” is “unreal,” is based on an linguistic error. He posits that the three tenses are three different things which simply cannot exist at the same time. But the tenses are not things but are something that can be said about things. I mean, the tenses are adjectival, or predicate classes indicating or indexing the relation of a continuously existing thing to a particular point in time, say, the time you might speak of it as something that existed, exists, or will exist.
Do you agree?
In other words, the thing which you might refer to might be a past thing, a present thing, or a future thing in reference to yourself as you read this note. That a thing was red, is white, and will become blue, does not contradict the existence of the colored thing itself simply because the qualities or colors changed. The categories past, present, future, do not contradict the existence of the continuant or thing existing in time in reference to your perception at a certain time.
Do you follow me on this?
In other words, I think McTaggart errs in ignoring the three tenses as tenses, or categories of existence in time. But to ignore the tenses is absurd because that defeats their purpose, which is to serve as indexes. Why McTaggart, a master logician, did not recognize his error I do not know. Perhaps, being the mystic that he was, he proceeded with a prejudice or foregone conclusion, that the changes we describe when we use the term ‘time’ do not really exist, that all action or motion is some sort of illusion. Since that is contrary to common sense, perhaps he contrived an abstract logical argument, one unconsciously designed to fall into a contradiction in order to avoid change and embrace eternity (hence avoid the implication of death). Such a trap might be easily constructed, since “time” does not exist as a thing but as a general term referring to change in general. A time refers to a change of one process in respect to another, say, the rain which began to fall when the clock read 0745 yesterday.
If McTaggart had said, “What we mean by time is ‘unreal’ because it is an ideal,” I might agree with him, for time is not a concrete thing, but is a notion of change. Time is not some-thing that passes us by. Perfect or metered time is an abstract ideal. Furthermore, time is something which cannot be rightly said to exist in itself or to refer to itself as a passage or flow, as if we could measure time with time, or compare a change to its change, or have a ruler measure itself, and so on. To say that change changes, or that what becomes becomes, is redundant. I mean to say that the “passage of time” is a myth.
Of course I might be mistaken, wherefore I look forward to your advice, in the name of the past, the present, and the future, as one.
Your Truest Groundhog!