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Prof. L. Nathan Oaklander on the Philosophy of Time

The Department of Philosophy of De La Salle University-Manila in partnership with the Department of Philosophy of University of the Philippines Diliman invites you to L. Nathan Oaklander's talk on his paper entitled "Does Analytic Philosophy of Time Rest on a Mistake?"



The main debates in the analytic philosophy of time have centered on the A-theory vs. B-theory. According to the B-theory, the “B-series” (so-called by McTaggart, 1908, 1927) of events ordered by the B-relations of earlier than or later than alone is sufficient to account for time. According to the A-theory, the “A-series” (again so-called by McTaggart) of events ordered by the A-properties of pastness, presentness, and futurity are more fundamental to the reality of time than B-relations. Thus, the central debate revolves around the question of whether the A-series or the B-series is more fundamental, or perhaps both A- and B-series can be equally fundamental and necessary. Is time more accurately understood in terms of the dynamic notion of events changing from future to present to past, or in terms of the static relations of earlier and later wherein events never change their temporal location? Heather Dyke, a notable B-theorist recently put the dispute in similar terms in Time (2021): Is time fundamentally what we know to be objective from a universal standpoint—time as it is understood scientifically—as a block universe that is B-theoretic and static or is time more adequately represented in the personal subjective point of view, as what we commonsensically believe time to be and as it is revealed to us in temporal experience, which is A-theoretic and dynamic. R-theorists (so-called because of Russell’s (1915, 1918) influence), believe that the debates between A- and B-theorists and between our experience of time and our objective understanding of time, rest on two closely related mistakes. The first mistake is to accept McTaggart’s account of the B-series and B-relation as Russell’s. But McTaggart’s ontological analysis of B-relations is fundamentally different from Russellian R-relations, and the difference makes a difference because objections to the B-theory do not apply to the R-theory.

The second mistake, parasitic on the first, assumes that an adequate ontological assay of time as we experience it and commonsensically conceive it to be, cannot be time as it is objectively. This is a mistake because the R-theory countenances time relations that are objectively dynamic and provides an ontological analysis of our temporal experience that is entirely R-theoretic since it does not appeal to any A-theoretic content in its account of temporal phenomena. Both mistakes can be subsumed under one overarching problem that the B-theory, which is McTaggart’s misrepresentation of Russell, has nevertheless generally been accepted as Russellian. For that reason, the authentic R-theory has not received the attention it deserves.

In his classic anthology The Philosophy of Time (1967), Richard Gale coined the terms “A-theory” and “B-theory,” and in The Language of Time (1968) Gale says, “The father of the modern B-theory is Bertrand Russell” (Gale, 1967, p. 16). What I shall attempt to demonstrate is that the father of the ontology of the modern B-theory is not Russell, but McTaggart since the R-theory has a fundamentally different ontology of time from the B-theory. Thus, to believe that the B-theory of time derives from Russell, when in fact it derives from McTaggart who rejects the reality of B-time, is the mistake on which analytic philosophy of time rests and is common to A-theory critics and B-theory defenders alike.

What then, exactly, is the R-theory and how does it differ from the B-theory? The central theme of my current project, authored with Emiliano Boccardi and Erwin Tegtmeier, New Directions in the Russellian Theory of Time: Metaphysical and Ontological Issues (forthcoming), intends to answer that question and defend the thesis that the R-theory is not only different from A- and B-theories, but preferable to them. The aim of this paper is more modest, namely, to defend an affirmative answer to the question it raises.

Program flow:

1. Opening Remarks by Dr. Mark Anthony Dacela

2. Paper Presentation of L. Nathan Oaklander

3. Discourse with Dr. Ma. Liza Ruth Ocampo

4. Q&A Portion

Speaker: L. Nathan Oaklander

Bionote: L. Nathan Oaklander is currently a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and a retired professor at the University of Michigan-Flint, and former Chair of the Philosophy Department from 1985-1995 and 2002-2004. He obtained his PhD in 1973 at the University of Iowa and began teaching as an assistant professor. He gave lectures on the philosophy of time at the University of Cambridge during 2001 and became a David M. French Professor in 1990. He published 16 books such as Time, Change and Freedom: An Introduction to Metaphysics (Routledge, 1995), The Philosophy of Time: Critical Concepts in Philosophy Volumes I, II, III, and IV (Routledge, 2008), and many more. He also has 83 published works such as The New Tenseless Theory of Time: A Reply to Smith (Prometheus Books, 2004). Recently, he completed a monograph on C.D. Broad’s Philosophy of Time in 2020.

Reactor : Dr. Ma. Liza Ruth A. Ocampo

Bionote: Ma. Liza Ruth A. Ocampo, Ph.D. is currently a Professor in the Department of Philosophy, and the Coordinator of the Office of the Graduate Program, College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines, Diliman. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts (Cum Laude) and her Master of Arts degrees in Philosophy from the same institution where she teaches Ethics, Metaphysics, Philosophical Analysis, and the History of Ideas with a particular stress on Medieval Philosophy: Themes on the Philosophical Anthropology of Thomas Aquinas. She was awarded the UP Diliman Centennial Professorial Chair in 2008 and 2010 respectively for the following works: The Dignity of the Thinking Person: A Philosophical Reflection on Human Nature (UST Publishing House, 2006) and the article-essay, “Man’s Definition in Thomas Aquinas’s De Unitate Intellectus Contra Averroistas: Some Doctrinal and Historical Considerations” (2008). She finished her Licentiate and Doctoral programs in Philosophy at the Pontificia Universitas Sanctae Crucis (Pontifical University of the Holy Cross), Rome, Italy. Her stay in the eternal city of Rome served as a turning point in her understanding, study, and appreciation of each and every human person in action.

You can find the pre-registration link here: https://tinyurl.com/2p93pr55

Please e-mail erfernando1@up.edu.ph for any questions or clarifications. We hope to see you there!

Call For Applications: Senior/Junior Office Aide

Call For Applications (Senior/Junior Office Aide)

The Department of Philosophy, University of the Philippines, Diliman invites applications for administrative staff positions (AY 2022-2023). The deadline of applications is on Monday, 25 July 2022.