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Human Imprints of Real Time: from Semantics to Metaphysics

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Abstract: 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 inquiry: 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) and ‘vertical reduction’. I present a view 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, featuring as degrees of epistemic commitment to representations of states of affairs. I present evidence from tensed and tenseless languages (endorsing the L > E path) and point out its compatibility with the view of real time as metaphysical modality (endorsing the E > M path).


Funder: University of Cambridge


Article, Metaphysical time, Real time, Human concept of time, Time in language, Temporal reference, Reductionism, Modal reduction, Default Semantics, Tenseless languages

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Springer Netherlands