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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages


Time: From Semantics to Metaphysics

Professor Kasia Jaszczolt (TAL, MML) will give a talk 'Time: From Semantics to Metaphysics'on Wednesday 30 May 2018, 4.30-6pm in the Faculty of Philosophy Board Room at a meeting of the Serious Metaphysics Group:  

All welcome.

Investigation into the reality of time can be pursued within the ontological domain or it can also span human thought and natural language. I propose to approach time by correlating three domains of enquiry: into metaphysical time (M), the human concept of time (E), and temporal reference in natural language (L), entertaining the possibility of what I call a ‘horizontal reduction’ (L>E>M) paired with a ‘vertical reduction’ (from time to modality, through modal supervenience; Jaszczolt 2009, 2017, 2018). I present my theory of temporalityL/E as epistemic modality, drawing on evidence from the L domain and its correlates in the E and M domains. On this view, the human concept of time is a complex, ‘molecular’ concept and can be broken down into primitive concepts that are modal in nature. Put simply, on the level of the conceptual building blocks, the concept of time features as degrees of epistemic commitment to representations of states of affairs. I present some evidence from tensed and tenseless languages in support of this modal view (endorsing the L>E path) and point out its compatibility with the view of real time as metaphysical modality (endorsing the E>M path). Next, I move to the topic of the passage of time and the subjective ‘feeling of the rate of the passage of time’ and show how they can be accounted for in my modal reductionist view. I conclude by speculating on the challenges for a reductionist perspective of this kind and remark on the place for A-theoretic concepts in this essentially B-theoretic view (McTaggart 1908).
Selected references:
Grice, P. 2001. Aspects of Reason. Ed. by R. Warner. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
Jaszczolt, K. M. 2009. Representing Time: An Essay on Temporality as Modality. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Jaszczolt, K. M. 2013. ‘Temporality and epistemic commitment: An unresolved question’. In: K. M.
Jaszczolt & L. de Saussure (eds), Time: Language, cognition, and reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 193-209.
Jaszczolt, K. M. 2016. Meaning in Linguistic Interaction: Semantics, Metasemantics, Philosophy of
Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jaszczolt, K. M. 2017. ‘Temporal reference’. In: A. Barron, Y. Gu and G. Steen (eds). The Routledge
Handbook of Pragmatics. London: Routledge. 227-240.
Jaszczolt, K. M. 2018. ‘Time, perspective and semantic representation’ Language and Cognition 10.
McTaggart, J. E. 1908. ‘The unreality of time’. Mind 17. Reprinted in: J. E. McTaggart. 1934. Philosophical
Studies. London: E. Arnold. 110-31.
Torrengo, G. 2017. ‘Feeling the passing of time’. Journal of Philosophy 114. 165-188.