The Concept of Time in Early Twentieth-Century Philosophy

Springer Verlag (2016)

Abstract
Augustine’s analysis of time in Book XI of Confessions represents for Ludwig Wittgenstein a good example of a philosophical question. In dealing with such theme, his thought undergoes relevant changes. In the Philosophical Remarks, written more than 10 years after the drafting of the Tractatus, the Austrian philosopher holds that the essence of the world can be expressed in the grammar of language. Philosophy as “custodian” of grammar can grasp the essence of the world by excluding nonsensical combinations of signs. Philosopher, however, are often “tempted” to straightly describe the nature of the world, producing logical-grammatical paradoxes. An example of such a temptation is offered by the attempt to take hold of the essence of time using propositions like “only the present experience has reality.” The logical mistake hidden in this proposition lies in the bad use of the adjectival word “present” that would lose its everyday use and functional role in the language. Only comparing the term “present” with the background of other words referring to time experiences like “past,” “future,” and so on, we are able to understand the true sense of it. Engaging in a grammatical investigation into the notion of time helps us to dispel the different uses of it staving off logical muddles. Wittgenstein makes, in his lecture held at Cambridge in 1932–1933, a relevant distinction between what he calls “memory-time” and “information-time.” If the first can be understood as a now-centered system mostly expressed by indexical sentences or as an arrangement relied on memory, and therefore inadequate to give any external physical criteria for time measurements, the second clearly refers to a public chronology, implemented by clocks, calendars, diaries, and so on. Grammatical misconceptions, however occur when we are “tyrannized” by a metaphor and not able to “move outside of” it. The Austrian philosopher makes no secret of preferring a characterization of time that rejects a truth-functional interpretation. As for the notion of “game” in the Philosophical Investigations, it is impossible to have something like a common denominator shared by every sentence involving time
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ISBN(s) 9783319248936
DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-24895-0
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