I would revisit some of the topics in yesterday’s post on temporality, especially since the post likely seems obscure. I will explain some of the background leading to the view of time that I assumed, and I hope that this post is far more clear. I also comment on specific theories of time.
Time is change; it is not the measure of change. Theories that presuppose that one can denote a particular instant, and investigate the determinate nature of a thing at that instant, have insufficiently described time. Those views do not explain how something changed, just that it did change at time t1, t2, etc. I insist that this is not adequately describing the nature of temporality, though I would acquiesce to the rebuttal that my aim is a theory of motion, not of time. In response, I would insist that those so-called theories of time are really theories of measurement allowing change to be treated as indexical, but are not theories of time itself. When I write that time is change, I could just as well say motion, which is the actualization of time.
I criticized theories of time that treated speaking of “time slices” as a coherent notion. I will now be more specific. I take it that such theories presume that a thing has determinate existence at all moments. Per continuity, it is coherent to speak of “time slices” of a thing, or a at time t is F; however, since time is also a constitutive relation, a representation of a “slice” of time must also include what a thing was and what it might be.
I do not believe that dimensional theories of time can do this, of which McTaggart’s theory appears to be a case. McTaggary conceives of time as a linear series, yet time is not linear or dimensional. Part of what is implied in time being “constitutive” is that what a thing is at a given time can change, such that it is incoherent to speak of a time series. A series is a chain of self-same terms that differ depending upon their relative placement in the series, although it is usually granted that future terms are neither actual nor determinate. My objection is that time has no fundamental unit; this treats time as a unit of measurement, and index, and not a change. As I said before, this view does not explain time or how something changed—just that it did change. It reduces time to an index or a series of indices.
Continuing, I am not convinced that endurance or three-dimensionalist theories of time succeed. These theories treat an event as fully actual, and explain endurance in time as a series of actualities. This appears to reduce time to an index and shift the burden of explaining change to causality. I have difficulty seeing how this view could amount to anything other than mechanical and efficient views of causality.
Finally, perdurance, “time worm,” or four-dimensionalist theories treat the individual as atemporal yet having temporal parts. The parts come into existence to express the individual, but the whole is atemporal at least relative to any given time. This view appears, prima facie, to presuppose the whole “worm” as past, present, and future, yet this is counter-factual for any present or future. It dodges the serious issues to temporality by postulating the atemporal. Even if such a theorist insisted that the whole individual is historical, and thereby the whole is temporal, the theory still rests on a counterfactual.
All of these treat time as dimensional, but if time is a constitutive relation it cannot be dimensional. I will admit that some theorists, likely any anti-realist about time or an endurance theorist, will deny that time is a constitutive relation. We then have a substantive disagreement that I might engage at another time. But for those who understand time to be constitutive, these theories offer little.
I will summarize the problem again, since it is difficult to grasp. Any theory that treats time as dimensional, e.g., such that we can speak of a time index, conflates a theory of time with a theory of measurement or indexicality. Yes, we might speak of a “slice” of time, which is valid as time is continuous, but the constitutionality of time requires that any “slice” includes what a thing was and what it might be. I do not think that most theories can do this, including those mentioned above. Why not? Because any given present event is indeterminate; only the past is fully determinate, yet the past does not change. Thus, time can be “sliced,” or denotated indexically by a “at time t”if we only consider past events, but then our theory of time can explain only one phase of the triad. Endurance theories appear committed to this. Series-theories like McTaggart’s reduce time to indexical units and fare little better. Perdurance theories atemporalize individuals and then claim that only a temporal part of an individual exists at any given instant. None of these theories explain time as change itself.
I do not presume to have definitive critiques against these theories, since as a scholar I know better than to presume such given this limited amount of discussion. I intend this to be an opener in a much longer discussion and practice for when I engage argumentation at a much higher level of rigor than blog posts.