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The Old B-Theory of Language

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Part of the Synthese Library book series (SYLI,volume 293)

Abstract

For the first three-quarters of the twentieth century, the standard answer of B-theorists to the challenge posed by tensed discourse was that linguistic tense is a superfluous and even annoying feature of ordinary language which philosophically and scientifically trained minds are only too glad to dispense with. Russell, who may be ranked among the progenitors of the Old B-Theory of Language, opined, “Both in thought and feeling, even though time be real, to realize the unimportance of time is theate of wisdom.”1 By “time” evidently meant A-series time, which he regarded as obscurant: “...there is some sense—easier to feel than to state—in which time is an unimportant and superficial characteristic of reality. Past and future must be acknowledged to be as real as the present, and a certain emancipation from slavery to time is essential to philosophic thought.”2 Russell did not deny that human language provides a clue into the nature of the world; on the contrary, he affirmed that “Although a grammatical distinction cannot be uncritically assumed to correspond to a genuine philosophical difference, yet the one is prima facie evidence of the other, and may often be most usefully employed as a source of discovery.”3 Yet in the case of tense, Russell held ordinary language to be an impediment to philosophical and scientific understanding of the world and therefore in need of expurgation of its tensed elements. Other Old B-theorists shared this same disdain for ordinary tensed language. According to Goodman, ”...ordinary language deals with time by means of special devices that are used and understood with the greatest facility in everyday discourse but misused and misinterpreted with nearly as much facility in most philosophical discourse.”4 Similarly Reichenbach, classing tense among the “Deficiencies of Traditional Grammar,” declared, “Our present grammar as it is taught... is based on obvious misunderstandings of the structure of language. We should like to hope that the results of symbolic logic will someday, in the form of a modernized grammar, find their way into elementary schools.”5 These thinkers, united in their conviction that language must be de-tensed, provided two fundamental ways of translating tensed sentences into tenseless, canonical statements: (i) replacing tensed expressions by appropriate dates and/or clock-times or (ii) analyzing tensed expressions in terms of token-reflexivity. Each of these two basic versions of the Old B-Theory of Language merits critical examination.

Keywords

  • Belief State
  • Propositional Content
  • Ordinary Language
  • Tensed Fact
  • Ideal Language

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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References

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  21. Ibid., p. 148. “Everything that there is in the world I call a `fact’.... Facts are what make statements true or false.... I mean by a `fact’ something which is there, whether anybody thinks so or not” (Ibid., p. 143). “The difference between a true and a false belief is like that between a wife and a spinster: in the case of a true belief there is a fact to which it has a certain relation, but in the case of a false belief there is no such fact” (Ibid., p. 149). See also idem, Analysis of Mind, pp. 231–232: beliefs “are the vehicles of truth and falsehood”; what makes a belief true or false is called a “fact.”

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  26. Russell, Inquiry, p. 115. Commenting on the three kinds of belief–memory, expectation, and bare assent–, Russell wrote, “Each of these I regard as constituted by a certain feeling or complex of sensations, attached to the content believed. We may illustrate by an example. Suppose I am believing, by means of images, not words, that it will rain. We have here two inter­related elements, namely the content and the expectation. The content consists of images of (say) the visual appearance of rain.... Exactly the same content may enter into the memory `it was raining’ or the assent `rain occurs.’ The difference of these cases from each other and from expectation does not lie in the content. The difference lies in the nature of the belief-feeling” (Idem, Analysis of Mind, p. 250).

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  27. He went on to confess that he could not analyze the sensations constituting respectively memory, expectation, and assent.

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  36. Ibid., pp. 4–5.

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  37. In Frege’s own vocabulary, the Bedeutung of a term or sentence was its referent; but our understanding will be clearer if we use contemporary vocabulary. Salmon explains that Frege conflates three linguistic attributes of a term or expression under the notion of “sense”: (i) the purely conceptual representation of an object, (ii) the mechanism whereby the referent of a term is fixed, and (iii) the information value of a term (Nathan V. Salmon, Reference and Essence [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981], pp. 12–13; cf idem, “Reference and Information Content: Names and Descriptions,” in Handbook of Philosophical Logic, ed. D. Gabbay and F. Guenther, vol. IV: Topics in the Philosophy of Language, Synthèse Library 167 [Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1989), p. 444). Since (i) and (iii) are conflated, and (iii) is independent of context, the conceptual representation of objects referred to by indexical expressions in a particular context must also be context-independent. Indexical expressions are thus purely descriptional in nature, and in the case of temporal indexicals the definite descriptions will be date-specifications, as we shall see. Frege does not differentiate the meaning of such expressions from their descriptional content. Thus, on his theory, sentences which have different meanings (through their terms’ having different descriptional content) may have the same referents but do not express the same propositions; and sentences expressing the same proposition must have the same meaning. Linguistic meaning in a particular context is thus indistinguishable from propositional content. Moreover, Frege did not seem to allow for any significant distinction of cognitive states of the knowing agent which is not determined by differences in meaning—except perhaps in the case of knowledge by direct acquaintance such as in the case of the first person indexical. Certainly with respect to time and temporal indexicals, it is meanings that individuate cognitive states. Since propositional content corresponds to meaning in a particular context and meaning in a particular context to the agent’s cognitive state, it follows that agents grasping the same proposition are in similar cognitive states and that agents in similar cognitive states grasp the same proposition.

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  38. Gottlob Frege, “On Sense and Meaning,” in Translations from the Philosophical Writings of Gottlob Frege, ed. Peter Geach and Max Black (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1952), p. 60.

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  39. Ibid., p. 56.

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  40. Frege remarks, “The discovery that the rising sun is not new every morning, but always the same, was one of the most fertile astronomical discoveries” (Ibid., p. 56). The same verdict holds with respect to the discovery of the identity of the morning star and the evening star.

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  41. Ibid., p. 62.

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  42. Ibid., p. 58.

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  43. Ibid., p. 71.

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  46. Ibid., pp. 10–11.

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  48. Ibid., pp. 24–25.

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  49. Ibid., pp. 28–29.

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  50. Willard Van Orman Quine, Word and Object (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1960), p. 193; cf. pp. 170, 173.

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  51. See Willard Van Orman Quine, Elementary Logic, rev. ed. (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965), pp. 5–6:

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  52. “The words `I,” `he,“ `Jones,’ `here,’ remote,’ and `good’ have the effect...of allowing the truth value of a sentence to vary with the speaker or scene or context. Words which have this effect must be supplanted by unambiguous words or phrases before we can accept a declarative sentence as a statement. It is only under such revision that a sentence may, as a single sentence in its own right, be said to have a truth value.

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  53. Quine, Word and Object, p. 208. As an example of an eternal sentence or statement, Quine provides “Henry Jones of Lee St., Tulsa, is ill on July 28, 1940,” which corresponds to the tensed sentence “Henry Jones of Lee St., Tulsa, is ill” uttered on July 28, 1940 (idem, Elementary Logic, p. 6).

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  54. Richard M. Gale, The Language of Time International Library of Philosophy and Scientific Method (London: Routledge, Kegan & Paul, 1968), p. 55.

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  55. George Schlesinger, Aspects of Time (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1980), p. 29.

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  56. Quentin Smith, Language and Time (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 9.

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  57. Ibid., p. 25.

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  60. Ibid., pp. 57–58. Markosian astutely observes that Gale’s illustration also involves a spatial “tense” of “within 100 yards,” which Markosian uses to press a to quoque argument against the A-theorist’s call for objective tense (Ned Markosian, “On Language and the Passage of Time,” Philosophical Studies 66 [19921: 21–22). For a discussion of this argument, see chap. 4. Markosian misses the point of Gale’s illustration by insisting that the tensed sentence and tenseless translation still express the same tenseless proposition. This moot question is irrelevant; what the illustration shows is that the two sentences do not have the same meaning,as is evident from the different behaviors that result from their utterance. Markosian’s failing is that he equates a sentence token’s meaning with the proposition it expresses; he is oblivious to the revolution wrought by Perry and others (see note 75 below) which has served to differentiate meaning and propositional content.

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  61. The deeper defect in Gale’s argument lies in his definition of an A-statement. By a “statement,” Gale apparently means a “proposition” (Gale, Language of Time, p. 40). But his definition of an A-statement does not seem to exclude that Fregean propositions are A-statements, since Frege held that non-simultaneous sentence tokens of the same sentence type could express propositions differing in truth value. Take, for example, the sentence “It is raining.” Let it be tokened in the same place, once while it is raining and later when it is not. On Frege’s analysis, these two non-simultaneous uses of this sentence express statements differing in truth value, though they both refer to the same things and places, e.g., “It rains in Freiburg on June 6, 1916” and “It rains in Freiburg on June 7, 1916,” and therefore each of these are A-statements! Gale just assumes that B-propositions are not expressed by tensed sentences lacking an explicit date. If we allow Fregean propositions to be classed among A-statements, then it is not true that all A-statements are informative in a way that B-statements are not. In this sense Gale illicitly assumes that all A-statements express A-determinations.

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  62. See illustration by Tobias Chapman, Time: a Philosophical Analysis, Synthèse Library (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1982), p. 65; also David Lewis, “Attitudes De Dicto and De Se,” Philosophical Review 88 (1979): 513–543.

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  63. Quine, Word and Object, pp. 159–161, 182.

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  64. Quine, Elementary Logic, pp. 5–6.

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  65. Quine, Word and Object, p. 182. “...there is no call to think of S’ as synonymous with S. Its relation to S is just that the particular business that the speaker was on that occasion trying to get on with, with help of S among other things, can be managed well enough to suit him by using S’ instead of S” (Ibid., p. 160).

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  66. Ibid., pp. 258–259.

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  69. Ibid.

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  70. Charles Sayward, “Propositions and Eternal Sentences,” Mind 77 (1968): 537–542.

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  71. William G. Lycan, “Eternal Sentences Again,” Philosophical Studies 26 (1974): 411–418. 71Ibid., p. 416.

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  72. W. V. O. Quine, “Reply to J. J. C. Smart,” in The Philosophy of W. V. Quine, Library of Living Philosophers 18, ed. Lewis Edwin Hahn and Paul Arthur Schilpp (LaSalle, III.: Open Court, 1986), p. 518. Smart had complained that tenses commit us to a particularity which is “contrary to the spirit of science” and that when tenses are understood metaphysically they lead to the objectionable notion of the flow of time (J. J. C. Smart, “Quine on Space-Time,” in Philosophy of Quine, p. 511). For discussion of Smart’s views on the flow of time, see my Tenseless Theory of Time: a Critical Examination, Synthèse Library (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, forthcoming).

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  73. Frege, “Thoughts,” p. 25.

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  74. Lycan, “Eternal Sentences,” p. 417. It hardly needs to be said that his tenseless fact is not what one communicates to another person by the utterance “It is raining.” See also the scientism evinced by Steven E. Boer and William G. Lycan, “Who, Me?” Philosophical Review 89 (1980): 445–446, where it is implied that tensed facts would be “surds in nature... inaccessible to science” and therefore unreal.

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  75. See Steven T. Kuhn, “Tense and Time,” in Topics in Philosophy of Language, pp. 513–514.

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  76. John Perry, “The Problem of the Essential Indexical,” Nods 13 (1979): 3–29; idem, “Frege on Demonstratives,” Philosophical Review 86 (1977): 474–497; idem, “Castarïeda on He and I,” in Agent, Language, and Structure of the World, ed. James E. Tomberlin (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1983), pp. 15–42. For discussion, see Lewis, “Attitudes De Dicto and De Se, pp. 513–543; Palle Yourgrau, “Frege, Perry, and Demonstratives,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy 12 (1982): 725–752; Patrick Grim, “Against Omniscience: The Case from Essential Indexicals,” Noüs 19 (1985): 151–180; Howard Wettstein, “Has Semantics Rested on a Mistake?” Journal of Philosophy 83 (1986): 188; William Seager, “The Logic of Lost Lingens,” Journal of Philosophical Logic 19 (1990): 407–428. We shall discuss the view of tense of Perry and other Direct Reference theorists when we come to the New B-Theory of Language.

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  77. Perry, “Essential Indexical,” p. 4.

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  78. Perry, “Frege on Demonstratives,” p. 492.

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  79. Grim, “Omniscience,” p. 156.

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  80. Actually knowledge de praesenti is a proper part of our knowledge de se.

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  81. Smith deals with a similar argument under the head of the different confirmation conditions of tensed and tenseless date sentences (Smith, Language and Time, pp. 39–50). But it seems rather artificial to interpret these concerns in terms of confirmation conditions, and it is not clear to me that synonymous sentences must be confirmable or disconfirmable to the same degree by the same sort of observations.

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  82. Examples of reductionistic date-sentence theorists would be Russell and Grünbaum. Russell rejects Newton’s substantival time and takes the “t” of physics to refer to instants which are defined as classes of events such that all the events in the class overlap and no event outside the class overlaps with every member of the class. An event is said to exist at an instant if it is a member of that instant. These instants are ordered into temporal series by the “earlier than” relation (Russell, Human Knowledge, pp. 266–277). It is interesting that Russell rejects substantival time because science does not require it. He seems to confuse “absolute” in the sense of “non-relativistic” with “substantival.”

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  83. Grünbaum treats the temporal indexical “now” as referring to some conceptualized awareness (Adolf Grünbaum, “The Status of Temporal Becoming,” in Modern Science and Zeno’s Paradoxes [Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1967], p. 8). He insists that `9t is 3:00 now“ is informative and means something like ”3:00 is simultaneous with this conceptualized awareness,“ where this last expression is used referentially. Clearly, such a tenseless sentence does not translate the tensed sentence, and, interestingly, Grünbaum even seems to admit this, commenting that he is not trying to eliminate nowness in favor of tenseless temporal attributes—but then his inference that becoming is non-objective and mind-dependent seems a non sequitur. For further discussion of Grünbaum’s view, see my Tenseless Theory of Time.

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  84. Lycan, “Eternal Sentences,” pp. 411–413. Cf. Boer and Lycan, “Who, Me?” pp. 432–437, where “John believes that he himself is John” is analyzed as belief in an identity statement whose terms are rigid designators of the same person. How, they ask, could John be ignorant of a necessary identity of which he himself is a term? The answer is, by not knowing that he himself is a term of the proposition. Boer and Lycan beg the question by reducing the content of what John knows to a de re fact. Of course, he knows that that very person is that very person; but he does not know that he himself is that very person. He needs knowledge de se as well. On the authors’ distinction between pragmatics and semantics, see note 92.

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  85. Smith, Language and Time, p. 43.

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  86. Ibid., sec. 2. 2.

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  87. It might be thought that Quine could evade this argument since he does not think sentence tokens are true or false and so have no truth conditions. But he must admit that tensed sentence tokens can be truly asserted, and Smith’s argument can be recast in terms of the conditions under which tensed vs. tenseless sentences may be truly asserted.

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  88. J. J. C. Smart, “Time and Becoming,” in Time and Cause,ed. Peter Van Inwagen (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1981), p. 5.

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  89. Smith’s argument is that for some tensed utterance U, it is not the case that a necessary condition of U’s truth is that the event described occur on the specified date. According to the non-token-reflexive, date-specific analysis, “Henry is ill” when uttered on July 28, 1940, is true only if Henry is ill on July 28, 1940. “In possible worlds terminology,” says Smith, “this means that U is not true in any world in which Henry is not ill on July 28, 1940” (Language and Time,p. 35). But Smith shows that in other worlds Henry’s illness may have been dated differently.

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  90. This line of argument seems to involve an obvious faux pas. To say that a necessary condition of U is that Henry be ill on the specified date means only that “Henry is ill” uttered on July 28, 1940, materially implies “Henry is ill on July 28, 1940”; this is not an entailment, as Smith seems to assume, and therefore need not be true in all possible worlds.

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  91. Smith tries to justify taking the biconditional, not as material equivalence, but as logical equivalence by pointing out that if the two sentences are only materially equivalent, then the date-sentence “no longer gives the meaning of the utterance `Henry is ill’.” “Only a stricter criterion of truth can make truth condition sentences meaning-giving, namely, the criterion that the clause mentioned after the biconditional is true in all and only the possible worlds in which the mentioned utterance is true” (Ibid., p. 38).

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  92. But this response is both inadequate and misleading. Logical equivalence is not a sufficient condition of synonymy, as Smith himself recognizes.. To borrow one of Smith’s own examples, “The sun has a shape” “The sun has a size”. Yet these sentences are clearly not synonymous. Thus, the motivation to turn truth conditions into expressions of synonymy is not an adequate motivation for turning the material equivalence asserted in truth condition analyses into logical equivalence. In any case, Smith’s response misleads because it sidetracks the issue. The question is whether non-token­reflexive, date-specific truth conditions can be given for A-sentences, not whether those truth conditions give the meaning of A-sentences. Recall that the A-theorist is trying to show that A-sentences do not mean the same as B-sentences because they have different truth conditions respectively; the rejoinder of the Old B-theorist is that the argument fails because similar truth conditions can be given. It is not incumbent upon him to argue further that it is because of identical truth conditions that they mean the same thing.

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  93. One final comment: in his arguments that the date of Henry’s illness might be different in other possible words, Smith seems to have overlooked the fact that it is not truth conditions for U simpliciter that are being offered, but for U-as-uttered-by-P-at-t. lf, in some other world, t (the date of the event) is different, then so is U-as-uttered-by-P-at-t. Hence, one is not offering an exception to the truth conditions of the original utterance-in-context after all. This seems to have been the point which was made by Nathan Oaklander, “A Defense of the New Tenseless Theory of Time,” Philosophical Quarterly 41 (1991): 37, and Smith’s response fails to see that the time of the utterance parallels the time of the event, so that one never has a possible world in which there are different dates on each side of the biconditional operator. In the end, Smith admits that by world-indexing the sentences, one solves the problem of divergent dates; but he falls back on the argument that then synonymy has not been proved by the B­theorist—which succumbs to the same “burden of proof’ criticism I raised above.

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  94. The salutary feature of Smith’s argument is that it raises the question, why think that an A-sentence and its purported tenseless translation have the same meaning? What positive proof does the Old B-theorist offer that they are synonymous?

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  95. See J. L. Mackie, The Cement of the Universe (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1974), pp. 53–54, 197–203.

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  96. To avoid misunderstanding, it should be said that one must employ the same formulation method of truth conditions for both of the sentences. Otherwise, an A-sentence could be shown not to be synonymous with itself by showing its token-reflexive truth conditions are not the same as its non-token­reflexive truth conditions. The point I am making is that the token reflexive truth conditions of an A-sentence are not the same as the token-reflexive truth conditions of a corresponding date-sentence.

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  97. Smith, Language and Time, sec. 2. 4.

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  98. Goodman, Structure of Appearance, p. 370.

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  99. Smith also launches into what I think is a misguided attack on those who hold that tensed and tenseless sentences have the same semantic content but differ by following different pragmatic rules (Steven E. Boer and William G. Lycan, “Who, Me?” Philosophical Review 89 [19801: 448–453; see also Milton Fisk, “A Pragmatic Account of Tenses,” American Philosophical Quarterly 8 [19711: 94; Michelle Beer, “Temporal Indexicals and the Passage of Time,” Philosophical Quarterly 38 [1988]: 162). He does so, I think, because he identifies the meaning of a sentence with the propositional or semantic content it expresses; hence, he cannot allow that tensed and tenseless sentences differ in their meaning but express the same proposition. But the New B-theorists he attacks do not equate semantic content with meaning, so that their admission that semantically equivalent sentences follow different pragmatic rules is, in effect, an admission that the sentences do not have the same meaning.

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  100. At any rate, Smith’s argument, which crops up repeatedly in his book and work, seems to me unsound. He argues, first, that tensed sentence tokens are not semantically equivalent to their tenseless translations because counterfactuals like the tensed “John is asleep now, but he might not have been” are possibly true, whereas on the relational view of time their tenseless translations, in this case, “John is asleep at t, but there is some possible world in which t exists and John is not asleep at t” is necessarily false. The counterfactual is necessarily false if we take the relational view of times as sets of simultaneous events, for sets have their members essentially, and therefore if John is not sleeping at t then t does not exist. If, on the other hand, we adopt a substantivalist view of times as event-independent moments, then other possibly true A-sentence tokens are given necessarily false translations. For example, the true, July 23, 1986, A-sentence token “Necessarily, some time is present if time exists” is “Necessarily, some time is July 23, 1986, if time exists, which is false, since in some possible world time ends before that date. Similarly, the true, April 14, 1989, A-sentence token “If April 14, 1989, were not present, it would be past or future, if actual at all,” is translated by “If April 14, 1989, were not April 14, 1989, it would be earlier or later than April 14, 1989, if actual at all,” which is necessarily false. Thus, such A-sentence tokens are not even materially equivalent to their supposed tenseless translations.

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  101. Neither of these arguments is persuasive. The first depends on taking “set” as a technical mathematical notion, rather than as a looser notion of a collection. One that would seem particularly apt is that of a cluster concept, according to which clusters do not possess their members essentially and so may vary in membership without the identity of the cluster being destroyed. The relationalist could postulate time cluster concepts which take times to be constituted by clusters of events. Any one of these events could be missing from the cluster without the identity of the time being abrogated. (For discussion, see Frederick Suppe, “The Search for Philosophic Understanding of Scientific Theories,” in The Structure of Scientific Theories, 2d ed., ed. F. Suppe [Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 1977], pp. 73–74).

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  102. The second argument commits a fallacy which, ironically, Smith himself points out elsewhere. (For discussion, see Gilbert Plumer, “Expressions of Passage,” Philosophical Quarterly 37 [1987]: 341–354; Quentin Smith, “The Co-Reporting Theory of Tensed and Tenseless Sentences,” Philosophical Quarterly 40 [19901: 219–221.) When it is said that some time is present, this is not to assert that some time is the present moment, the “now.” Otherwise in saying that tomorrow will be present, one would be asserting the absurdity that tomorrow will be the present moment, i.e., today. Rather what is meant is that the time in question has the property of presentness. When tomorrow comes, it, rather than the present moment, will have this property. Hence, the B-sentences translating Smith’s A-sentences are not the absurdities he alleges, but “Necessarily, some time has the property of presentness, if time exists” and “If April 14, 1989, did not have the property of presentness, then it would have the property of pastness or futurity, if actual at all.” Of course, the B-theorist will regard such sentences as either false or vacuously true because there are on his view no such properties; but then it is question-begging for Smith to claim that the A-sentences are possibly true. He is hoist on the same petard as, on his view, Gale was.

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  103. Fortunately, Smith’s line of argument is not essential to his case, for he presents other, cogent arguments against New B-theorists.

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  104. Russell, critical notice of Symbolic Logic, p. 256.

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  105. Frege, “Thoughts,” p. 10.

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  106. Smith, Language and Time, p. 56.

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  107. Perry, “Cognitive Significance and New Theories of Reference,” Nods 22 (1988): 9.

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  108. Perry, “Frege on Demonstratives,” p. 491. Perry’s point holds whether one interprets date-sentences de ditto or de re. If one has lost track of the time, then one may deny not only that it is now noon, but also deny of the moment which is noon that it is now, all the while believing of that moment that it is when the meeting starts. Thus, Smith is correct that Grim, “Omniscience,” pp. 157–158, is making a great to-do about nothing (Smith, Language and Time, pp. 60–61); indeed, I should say that Smith also overestimates the consequences of interpreting dates as referential expressions rather than attributive expressions. Grim tries to show that one may believe of some time that “The meeting is starting then” without believing that “The meeting is starting now,” for one may be watching a live broadcast in which the time is mentioned, without one’s realizing it is live. The problem with the example becomes evident when one recalls that the grammatical function of “now” is to indicate an A-series position, that is, to assign a temporal location and to ascribe presentness to it. But these same functions could also be carried out by referring de re to a time and using a verbal present-tense with respect to it. In Grim’s example “The meeting is starting then,” the verb is not tenseless, and “then” is misleading, since the function of “then” is to indicate times other than now. If we substitute t for “then,” what one believes, in effect, is “The meeting is starting (and it is starting) at t.” But in this case the sentence is synonymous with “The meeting is starting now,” since the dual function of “now” has been taken over by the tensed verb and the de re date. Yet it is obvious that one can mistake a live broadcast for a taped broadcast, as Grim suggests, and so not realize of some time that it is now. So why does the illustration fail? The answer is that Grim fallaciously assumes that the tense in “The meeting is starting at t” pertains to the time of the events in the broadcast, when in fact what it pertains to is the time of the image of the meeting appearing presently on the television screen. One cannot properly say of the meeting itself that it is starting because one does not know that the broadcast is live. One must use a tenseless verb instead and say, “The meeting starts at t.” Since the tense of the verb is lacking, this sentence, though it refers de re to the date, is not synonymous with “The meeting is starting now.” Hence, a proper understanding of the broadcast illustration shows that a de re reference to a date cannot make a tenseless date-sentence synonymous with a tensed sentence.

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  109. Smith’s development of the point that tensed sentences and their tenseless date sentence translations are not intersubstitutable salva veritate in belief contexts leads him into a needless attack on Castaneda’s theory of quasi-indexicals. Smith surmises that someone might contend that the reason intersubstitutability fails is because the expressions involved are quasi-indexicals, rather than because synonymy fails for the sentences in question. But as we have already seen, one may avoid quasi­indexicals altogether simply by keeping the context of utterance in the present-tense: “John believes that the meeting starts at noon, September 15, 1976” may be true, but it may be false that “John believes that the meeting is starting now.” And in any case, the use of so-called quasi-indexicals just amounts to the need for double indexing, as we have seen, and in no way eliminates tense. Smith attacks Castaneda’s further claim that what is expressed at one time using a temporal indexical can itself be expressed at another time using a quasi-indexical in oratio obliqua. He correctly points out that K’s knowing at ti that M knows at t2 that the Chrysler Building is then 1,086 feet tall does not imply that K knows the same fact that M knows, for K’s knowledge is insufficient to tell him whether t2 is present or not. That M does have such knowledge is evident from his timely action in tuning into a broadcast using the new antenna atop the building. Unfortunately, this critique, while sound, is consistent with Castaneda’s claim if one rejects his principle P: If a sentence of the form `X knows that a person Y knows that...’ formulates a true statement, then the person X knows the statement formulated by the clause filling the blank `...’ (Castaneda, “Omniscience,” p. 307).

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  110. Pointing out that in the case of personal indexicals someone who knows the complex proposition might fail to know the proposition expressed quasi-indexically because he does not know the identity of the person to whom the oratio obliqua is ascribed, Robert Adams rejected P (Adams and Castaneda, “Correspondence,” pp. 293–295; see also Grim, “Against Omniscience,” pp. 166–167 for some good illustrations). A similar argument against P can be constructed using temporal indexicals. Suppose I know that Jones knew that he would arrive today. From P it follows that I know the same fact that Jones would express in oratio recta. But this is clearly wrong. Due to the phenomenon of double indexing, I have no idea of the device Jones used to refer to today. Jones might have known he would arrive at a certain calendar date of which I am unaware. Hence, P fails. By rejecting P, one could retain the claim that the same proposition is expressed in the indexical and quasi-indexical clauses.

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  111. Interestingly Castafieda, conceding that he realized “embarrassingly slowly” that already in his article “He” he had established the difference between first-person propositions and their quasi-indexical counterparts, chooses to abandon, not P, but the propositional identity claim (Castafieda, “Reply to Perry,” p. 327). He admits that this would destroy his argument against Kretzmann (Castafieda, “Correspondence,” p. 301). Instead he holds that the quasi-indexical propositional guises are “intimately equivalent” to their corresponding indexical propositional guises (Ibid., p. 307). Upon reflection, he surmises that although his argument against Kretzmann has been weakened, it is not fatally so (Idem, “Reply to Perry,” p. 327), perhaps because God can still be said to know all quasi-indexical facts (Idem, “Correspondence, p. 308).

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  112. Although Castafieda thus had already conceded since 1979 Smith’s point, still Smith needs to close off the alternative that someone might take of rejecting P while retaining the factual identity claim. The arguments we presented above already suggest this, for if the factual content of the expressions were identical, there is no reason this would not be transitive in the above cases. But the conclusion can be made more clearly by simply considering what one agent knows. What M knows in 1966 in truly saying, “The Chrysler Building is now 1,046 feet fall” is not known in his truly saying, “I know in 1966 that the Chrysler Building is 1,046 feet tall then,” for this latter sentence does not tell him if he needs to get to work on the extension. Indeed, if he does not know the date he might believe the former sentence, but not the latter. Thus, the fact expressed “quasi-indexically” is not the same fact as that expressed indexically in oratio recta. It also follows that God’s knowledge of merely “quasi-indexical” facts is not enough for omniscience.

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  113. D. H. Mellor, Real Time (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), p. 6.

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  114. Reichenbach, Symbolic Logic, secs. 50, 51.

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  115. Ibid., p. 284.

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  116. Russell, Inquiry into Meaning and Truth, p. 110; idem, Human Knowledge, p. 85.

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  117. Reichenbach, Symbolic Logic, p. 286.

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  118. Ibid., pp. 288–297. 10° Ibid., p. 295.

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  119. J J. C. Smart, “`Tensed Statements’: A Comment,” Philosophical Quarterly 12 (1962): 264–265; idem, Philosophy and Scientific Realism, International Library of Philosophy and Scientific Method (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963), pp. 134–140; idem, “Introduction,” in Problems of Space and Time, ed. J. J. C. Smart, Problems of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan Co., 1964), p. 18; Encyclopedia of Philosophy (1967), s.v. “Time,” by J. J. C. Smart. For a comparison of Reichenbach and Smart’s views, see Jim Torgerson, “Reichenbach and Smart on Temporal Discourse,” Philosophy Research Archives 14 (1988–89): 381–394.

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  120. Smart, Scientific Realism, pp. 133–134.

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  121. For example, he says, “`E was future, is present, and will become past’ goes over into `E is later than some utterance earlier than this utterance, is simultaneous with this utterance, and is earlier than some utterance later than this utterance.’ This is about as near as we can get to it, and it will be seen that we have to refer to three different utterances” (“Time,” p. 127). Later he appropriated Reichenbach’s original insight, but by that time Smart had already been converted to the New B-Theory (Smart, “Quine on Space-time,” pp. 508–509). See also Torgerson, “Reichenbach and Smart,” pp. 387–388.

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  122. Cf. Russell’s struggle to specify the meaning of “this” (Russell, Inquiry into Meaning and Truth, pp. 109–110). He observed that if we treat “this” as a concealed definite description such as “the object of attention,” then it will always apply to everything that is ever “this,” whereas in fact “this” applies to one thing at a time. But if we hold that “this” means “what I am now noticing,” then we are involved in circularity, for we are trying to define “now” in terms of “this.” Russell’s point, I think, is that if we try to define “this” in terms of a definite description, then the indexical nature of the word will have been lost, which is contrary to English grammar; but if to retain its indexical character we define “this” in terms of other indexicals, then tense is not eliminated.

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  123. So how does Smart understand the expression “this token”? Gale charged that such an expression is tensed, meaning something like “the present token” (Richard Gale, “Tensed Statements,” Philosophical Quarterly 12 [1962]: 56). Smart retorts that Gale’s objection is simply a dogmatic rejection of the analysis in terms of token-reflexiveness (Smart, Scientific Realism, p. 139). Elsewhere he states, “We have as good a right to say `now’ means `simultaneous with this utterance’ as our opponent has to say that `this utterance’ means `the utterance which is now.’ The notion of an utterance directly referring to itself does not seem to be a difficult one” (“Time,” p. 127).

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  124. But what is that notion? It is arguable that demonstratives are analyzable in terms of more basic indexicals but that the attempt to reduce indexicals to demonstratives is flawed. Thus Kaplan contends that it is “the sloppy thinker” who adopts a demonstrative theory of indexicals: that “I” is synonymous with “this person” along with an appropriate subjective demonstration, that “now” is synonymous with “this time” and “here” with “this place” along with appropriate demonstrations (David Kaplan, “Demonstratives: an Essay on the Semantics, Logic, Metaphysics, and Epistemology of Demonstratives and Other Indexicals,” in Themes from Kaplan, ed. Joseph Almog, John Perry, Howard Wettstein [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989], p. 534). These thinkers err, he says, (i) in thinking that the sense of the demonstration is the sense of the indexical, and (ii) in believing that such senses are necessarily associated with the uses of pure indexicals. Since “now” lacks an essential demonstrative sense, it cannot be legitimately analyzed in terms of “this ” By contrast “this” can, it seems, be analyzed as “the thing to which I am presently directing attention.” Therefore, if we take “this token” as a de dicto expression, it means “the token to which I am presently directing attention,” in which case tense has not been eliminated. Therefore, a reductive analysis of “now” in terms of “simultaneous with this token” cannot be given. On the other hand, if we take “this token” in Smart’s canonical translation as referring de re, then it is like a rigidly referring proper name of the tenseless utterance containing it, not of the original tensed utterance as in Reichenbach’s theory; e.g., “Caesar crosses the Rubicon earlier than U, where U is the token just made, not a token of “Caesar crossed the Rubicon.” This avoids circularity, but only at the price exacted in note 110.

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  125. “Time,” p. 127. Hence, Smart uses locutions like “...a person who said that a certain event E is past could equally well have said, `E is earlier than this utterance.”’

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  126. See the somewhat similar point made by Paul Fitzgerald, “Nowness and the Understanding of Time,” in PSA 1972,Boston Studies for the Philosophy of Science 20, ed. Kenneth F. Schaffner and Robert S. Cohen (Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1974), pp. 267–268, who notes that the tokens referred to by the tensed and tenseless tokens respectively are different, since they have a different number of words. Schlesinger’s counter-argument that the tensed token is a sort of abbreviation for the tenseless one and so is referred to by “this token” (Schlesinger, Aspects of Time, p. 132) misses the point. For even if the tensed token abbreviates the tenseless one, there are still two tokens (after all, one is an abbreviation and the other is not!) and, hence, “this token” refers to each token in which it occurs. It must be kept in mind that Smart is not trying to give the propositional content of the tensed token, but analyzing it in terms of another token. (If we were to adjust Smart’s theory such that the tenseless translation gives the propositional content of the tensed token, this would be incoherent because a proposition is not a token, yet the proposition would include a reference to “this token.” To avoid this incoherence, we would have to take “this token” as a proper name referring de re to the original token. But then Smart’s theory ceases to be distinct from Reichenbach’s with respect to difference (ii) in the text, though the problems occasioned by difference (i) would remain.)

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  127. A point also made by Smith, Language and Time,p. 79.

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  128. Smart, Scientific Realism, p. 140. In his concern to fit ordinary language to the scientific way of looking at the world, we see Smart’s scientism beginning to show itself; the unnecessary mystification he fears is the notion of time’s passage, which we shall address in chap. 7. See also Smart, “Quine on Space-Time,” p. 511, where his dual concerns are stated explicitly.

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  129. Smart, Scientific Realism, p. 140. Smart did finally come to abandon the translatability thesis of the Old B-Theory, acknowledging that tensed statements convey practical information which tenseless statements could not possibly have (J. J. C. Smart, Our Place in the Universe [Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989], p. 37).

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  130. Gale, Language of Time, p. 55. Gale misstates Reichenbach’s view, which is that S’s being 0 is simultaneous with the time of B, not with O itself.

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  131. Ibid., pp. 56–57. When Fitzgerald objects that A-sentence tokens do not of themselves supply information about A-determinations because the token could be a recording from an earlier time (Fitzgerald, “Nowness,” p. 270), he is raising a problem about the communication of tensed facts which is extraneous to the problem of whether such facts exist. In order for tensed beliefs or facts to be communicated, the context of hearing or apprehension must be roughly the same as the context of utterance. When these do not roughly coincide, then the tensed facts are not communicated. Such divergence is a common experience with written A-sentence tokens. If anything, the inability to communicate tensed facts when the contexts of utterance and apprehension do not coincide serves to underline the difference between tensed and tenseless sentences, since the information conveyed by tenseless sentences can be communicated across diverse contexts. The point Fitzgerald makes about recordings is exactly what we should expect to be the case for tensed facts if they exist.

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  132. Smart fails to appreciate this point. In Smart, —Tensed Statements’,“ p. 265, he notes that the reason Gale classes Smart’s canonical sentences as tensed is because they are not freely repeatable, as a B-sentence should be. But the reason they are not freely repeatable, he explains, is because of the demonstrative ”this,“ which picks out a new token upon each utterance, not because the sentence is tensed. Smart agrees that the tenseless ”Kiss me simultaneous with this utterance“ is not freely repeatable and so has a pragmatic function which cannot be served by a sentence lacking the demonstrative expression. The problem with Smart’s analysis is that unless ”this utterance“ is tensed, one cannot even know whether the utterance is at a time which is past, present, or future, and so one cannot decide to obey the tenseless command. The token-reflexive version of the Old B-Theory thus leads to frigidity, which ought to be enough to condemn any theory!

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  133. Smith, Language and Time, pp. 84–85.

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  134. If the token-reflexive theorist is willing to admit the existence of entities like sentence-types or propositions, what account does he propose to offer of them which is distinct from the date-sentence analysis? It is difficult to imagine what sort of coherent account could be given. The propositions expressed by the proposed tenseless translations are presumably of the form “S is p earlier than/simultaneous with/later than the time of band earlier than/simultaneous with/later than the speaker’s point of reference.” Obviously, untokened propositions cannot be of this form, since they have ex hypothesi no tokens and no speaker. Untokened propositions must have a different form than tokened propositions. For if the untokened propositions were to be tokened, they would have the above form, which they cannot have so long as they are untokened. It follows that untokened propositions are essentially incapable of being tokened. Since propositions are immutable, they cannot change their form in passing from being untokened to tokened. Rather the token previously unuttered or unthought expresses a different proposition than the untokened proposition. Hence, it is false that what is expressed by “The paper is in the desk drawer” would be true had no one uttered this token. Some other inexpressible proposition would be true instead. Nor does it seem to make any sense to say that what is expressed by “No language users exist” is possibly true or was once true. One cannot mean that the proposition expressed by these words is true in some other possible world or at some other time where there are no language users, for the proposition expressed by these words involves a reference to the tensed token O and so cannot be true in O’s absence. Similarly, one cannot mean that some other proposition which would be expressed by O at some other world or time without language users is true there because O does not exist there. Nor can one mean that some other proposition which would be expressed by Bat some other world or time sans language users if it were tokened, though in fact it is not, is true there; for if B were to be tokened in that other world or time, it would not express the same proposition as the untokened proposition, but would express the canonical proposition. So what is expressed by “No language users exist” is not possibly true; rather some other ineffable proposition is possibly true instead.

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  135. If untokened propositions have neither the form of tenseless date-sentences nor of token-reflexive­sentence tokens, what form do they have? Perhaps they have a proposition-reflexive form: “S is p earlier than/simultaneous with/later than the time of W,” where `P is the proposition. Such a proposal makes no sense, however, for even if propositions have temporal duration, they do not presumably come to be and pass away, but are everlasting, so that there is no time earlier or later than W. In short, I do not know what to make of the claim that untokened propositions or sentence types exist on the token-reflexive view.

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  136. For more on this conception, see Quentin Smith, “The Conceptualist Argument for God’s Existence,” Faith and Philosophy 11 (1994): 38–49; for a related discussion see Thomas Morris and Christopher Menzel, “Absolute Creation,” American Philosophical Quarterly 22 (1985): 353–362.

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  137. See Thomas Aquinas Summa theologiae 1a.3. For a contemporary defense, see William E. Mann, “Divine Simplicity,” Religious Studies 18 (1982): 451–471; idem, “Simplicity and Immutability in God,” International Philosophical Quarterly 23 (1983): 267–276.

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  138. For a critique see Thomas V. Morris, “On God and Mann: A View of Divine Simplicity,” in Anselmian Explorations (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1987), pp. 98–123.

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  139. William Alston, “Does God Have Beliefs?” Religious Studies 22 (1986): 287–306.

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  140. See comments in William Lane Craig, Divine Foreknowledge and Human Freedom, Studies in Intellectual History 19 (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1991), pp. 10–11, 288.

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  141. See the arguments of Smith, Language and Time,chap. 3. I have adapted Smith’s examples to take cognizance of God’s cognition, which Smith leaves out of account.

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  142. This example shows that the difficulty of translating (3) lies not in its ascription of some allegedly unintelligible property of presentness, as the B-theorist might be tempted to claim (cf. Smart, Scientific Realism, p. 134), but rather in the ineptness of the token-reflexive analysis of tensed expressions.

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  143. Note that we are not talking about so-called “soft facts” about the past, e.g., “Caesar died 2007 years before Saunders wrote his article” or “The world’s greatest pianist was born at t.” We are talking about the straightforward fact of there being no sentient creatures. See also Jeremy Butterfield, “Indexicals and Tense,” in Exercises in Analysis, ed. Ian Hacking (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 72–73.

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  144. A similar point can be made concerning the token-reflexive analysis of the first person indexical. The token “I am not tokening anything” is to be translated as “The person who tokens O tokens nothing simultaneously with the time of O.” The former cannot be asserted, but the latter is self-contradictory.

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  145. When Hinckfuss differentiates between an analytic and an explicatory reduction of tensed sentences on the grounds that only an analytic reduction purports to provide synonymy of meaning and then claims that the token-reflexive analysis is intended to be merely explicatory, i.e., to provide a description which is as rich as the analysandum but more explicit, so that the objection fails that the tensed token, unlike the translation, does not entail that a token exists (Ian Hinckfuss, The Existence of Space and Time [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975], pp. 10, 90), he is combining the outlook of the New B-Theory of Language with that of the Old. The New B-Theory admits that tensed sentences cannot be translated without meaning loss into tenseless sentences and that therefore the former are richer and more useful than the latter. Hinckfuss agrees that an effective objection to the explicatory translation thesis would be the demonstration that tensed statements are useful and/or interesting in a way that their tenseless counterparts are not (Ibid., p. 89).

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Craig, W.L. (2000). The Old B-Theory of Language. In: The Tensed Theory of Time. Synthese Library, vol 293. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-015-9345-8_2

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