Tense and Time

In Dov Gabbay & Franz Guenthner (eds.), Handbook of Philosophical Logic. Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 513-552 (1989)
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The semantics of tense has received a great deal of attention in the contemporary linguistics, philosophy and logic literatures. This is probably due partly to a renewed appreciation for the fact that issues involving tense touch on certain issues of philosophical importance (viz., determinism, causality, and the nature of events, of time and of change). It may also be due partly to neglect. Tense was noticeably omitted from the theories of meaning advanced in previous generations. In the writings of both Russell and Frege there is the suggestion that tense would be absent altogether from an ideal or scientifically adequate language. (Tense was not the only blemish of natural language to be removed, of course, but tense is a more serious omission than, say, pronouns because it is present in every sentence of the language.) Finally, in recent years there has been a greater recognition of the important role that all of the so-called “indexical” expressions must play in an explanation of mental states and human behavior. Tense is no exception. Knowing that our friend died is cause for mourning, knowing that he dies is just another confirmation of a familiar syllogism.



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