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Where have all the Californian tense-logicians gone?

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Arthur N. Prior, in the Preface of Past, Present and Future, made clear his indebtedness to “the very lively tense-logicians of California for many discussions”. Strangely,with a notable exception of Copeland (Logic and reality: essays on the legacy of Arthur Prior, 1996), there is no extensive discussion of these scholars (as a group, if not a school) in the literature on the history of tense logic. In this paper, I propose to study how Nino B. Cocchiarella, as one of the Californian tense-logicians, interacted with Prior in the late 1960s. By gathering clues from their correspondence available at Virtual Lab for Prior Studies, I will highlight some of the differences between their views on tense-logic, which might still have far-reaching philosophical implications. I will conclude with a sketchof how to study in what ways Prior and Cocchiarella influenced some other Californian tense-logicians.

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  1. 1.

    Thanks to an anonymous reviewer’s extremely meticulous comments, I was able to correct several mistakes and overstatements. By my historical conjecture, I by no means claim that Cocchiarella was superior to Lemmon or Scott from Prior’s point of view. After all, it is just a historical conjecture to be examined critically.

  2. 2.

    Please note that Prior was not always following the alphabetical order in naming the Californian tense-logicians.

  3. 3.

    Here again I am indebted to the reviewer mentioned above, who incisively pointed out the incorrectness and lousiness of my references to the relevant literature.

  4. 4.

    See also Vlach (1973, p. 9 and p. xi). The Chapter 3 of Vlach (1973) entitled “An Axiomatization” seems to be the most extensive study of Cocchiarella (1966a) to date.

  5. 5.

    In the Virtual Lab of Prior Studies, there are quite a lot of letters written by Prior to UCLA people. The earliest item is Prior’s telegram to Moody declining the invitation, dated February 8, 1963 (Prior 1963). But there was a second chance. In Prior (1964), we find Prior accepting UCLA’s invitation for the Fall semester (September 1965–January 1966).

  6. 6.

    Copeland’s view could be further strengthened by Clifford and Segerberg. Clifford mentions Scott’s talk on the modification of Priorian logic of the future before the Southern California Logic Colloquium, October, 1963 (Clifford 1966, p. 220). Segerberg presents Scott as the dominant figure at Stanford in the 1960s, who had been working with problems in tense and modal logic since the late “fifties” (Segerberg 1977, p. v).

  7. 7.

    While all letters from Prior to Cocchiarella are handwritten, all letters from Cocchiarella to Prior,x except for 1223 and 1224, are typed.

  8. 8.

    Still there are other letters such as 1224 (Cocchiarella 1968b) and 935 (Cocchiarella 1968d), which could be very important. 1224 is a ten page handwritten letter dealing with technical problems of logic. 935 contains a report of Cocchiarella’s work done in Summer of 1968, and complaints about Leblanc Case.

  9. 9.

    Cocchiarella never used the term “logical purity”, though he extensively discussed tense-logical truth in his dissertation and in his letters to Prior.

  10. 10.

    Nor do we find anyone else witnessing the alleged revolution.


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This study would not have been possible without the Virtual Lab for Prior Studies and Professor Nino B. Cocchiarella’s help through personal communication, including Cocchiarella (2013a). I am also indebted a lot to the anonymous reviewers and the editors of this special issue. Needless to say, however, every remaining error is entirely my own responsibility.

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Correspondence to Woosuk Park.

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Park, W. Where have all the Californian tense-logicians gone?. Synthese 193, 3701–3712 (2016).

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  • Arthur N. Prior
  • Californian tense-logicians
  • Montague grammar
  • Nino B. Cocchiarella
  • Tense logic