Wishing It Were Now Some Other Time

L. Nathan Oaklander


Recently William Lane Craig (Craig 2000, 2001) has attempted to resuscitate an argument, originally given by George Schlesinger (1980), against the tenseless or B- theory of time, according to which the only intrinsically temporal entities are the temporal relations of earlier/later than and simultaneity. According to Craig, an ontological commitment to temporal becoming—the passage of time or events in time, from the future to the present and into the past—is reflected in “the experience of wishing it were now some other time; for example, ‘I wish it were now 1968!’” (Craig 2001, 160) For, following Schlesinger, Craig maintains that what I am wishing for when I wish that it were now 1968 is that rather than the NOW being at say 2005; I should like it to be at 1968. In other words, in wishing that it were now some other time, I am wishing that the temporal particular, the NOW, the temporal property of presentness, or some other metaphysical substitute for the property of presentness, be at some moment in the temporal series other than the moment at which it is now located. Since, however, on the B-theory there is no moving NOW or property of presentness that moves along the temporal series, and there are no suitable tenseless surrogates, Craig concludes that the experience in question cannot be explained by B-theorists and, for that reason, they must maintain that anyone who has such a wish (including B-theorists themselves since such a wish is commonplace) is to that extent irrational. However, if, as Craig believes, the wish that it were now some other time is rational, and if the rationality of the wish can only be explained by appealing to the objectivity of tense and temporal becoming, then the experience of time as reflected in such a wish is a serious obstacle to accepting the B-theory of time. But is the wish rationale? And can it be explained only if the A-theory is true? The aim of my paper is to explore some answers to those questions and in so doing provide a B-theoretic response to Craig’s argument against the B-theory.


20th century philosophy; philosophy; philosophy of time; Wittgenstein Ludwig; A-series; B-series; cognitive significance; indexical; Craig William Lane; Schlesinger George; rational and irrational wishes

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