Time as a Number of Change: Aristotle's "Physics" Iv, 10--14

Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley (1999)

Ursula Coope
Oxford University
The subject of this dissertation is Aristotle's account of time. I argue that much that is puzzling in this account becomes clearer once we recognise that Aristotle is addressing a problem about temporal unity. For Aristotle, temporal order depends upon the orders of the stages within different changes. This raises the question: how can a single temporal order be derived from the orders of the stages within each of many different changes? I begin, in chapter two, by discussing Aristotle's claim that time is 'not change but something of change'. I argue that Aristotle is starting out from an assumption that is based on our common beliefs. In chapter three, I show how Aristotle can derive a partial temporal order from the order of the stages within a change. In chapter four, I discuss Aristotle's definition of time. I argue that Aristotle defines time as a number, rather than a measure. It is because time is a kind of number that it is able to be a single ordered system within which stages of different changes are all related to each other. In chapter five, I discuss Aristotle's account of the now. This account is puzzling because, though Aristotle has views that imply that the now cannot move, he draws here an extended comparison between the now and a moving thing. I show how to make sense of this comparison without attributing to Aristotle the view that the now moves. In chapter six, I discuss Aristotle's argument that time cannot exist in the absence of souls. I first defend my claim that Aristotle draws this idealist conclusion. I then show that this is what he should say, given the rest of his account of time. It is because of the way in which time is counted that time is a single unified system. If there were nothing to count time, there might still be changes, each with its own before-and-after ordering. But there would be no one system within which all these changes were related to each other
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