I'm still fishing for help I guess with the unreality of time.

A theorists are said to think that the A series is not reducible to the B.

  1. Are there different forms this rejection of reductionism can take?
  2. Does anyone suggest that the A series does exist, in addition to the B, but only includes the psychological experience of tense, not the reality of tense?
  3. And would that mean that there is an A series but in reality all of its points occur in ever tense at every time?

I want to do some fairly in depth reading on this, if you can help with references.

  • 1
    "I'm still fishing for help ..." -- You need better bait.
    – user4894
    Commented Sep 15, 2014 at 21:59
  • I am currently reading Lee Smolin's Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe. It argues for the reality of time from a different angle and with different terminology (no A-series and B-series there). I enjoy it but would not call it very deep. It mentions Einstein's general relativity (where time is "unreal") a lot and since McTaggart published his The Unreality of Time only 3 years after Einstein's annus mirabilis perhaps there is an indirect link concealed by different terminologies and domains.
    – Drux
    Commented Sep 16, 2014 at 7:33
  • i'm sorry what is missing?
    – user6917
    Commented Sep 17, 2014 at 0:14
  • As for different forms it can take, here is a recent, quite different "personalized" form dialectica.philosophie.ch/dialectica/article/view/3 which also has further references.
    – present
    Commented Sep 10, 2023 at 13:31

3 Answers 3


It's simply that in one conception of time, a particular event, let's call it E, is at one "point" in the future, then in the present, and "later", in the past and in the other series, if an event is at a temporal position P, it is always at position P, I guess no matter what. It's a criticism of the well-worn time triad future, present and past. At some level, the difference between time as dynamic (in flux) and time as static (space-like, re: Minkowski spacetime). More than just a pinch of salt recommended though. Hard to wrap one's head around such stuff.

  • Yes. But I never understood how an event can be in the future. If it hasn't happened, it has no reality. Lately, I question that anything in the past has existence. But this is no more or less than Buddhist writings or some psychological writings say.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 2:40
  • @ScottRowe, assume x will happen. It then is in the future. Does that make sense?
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 4:51
  • @ScottRowe, perhaps we could say, taaking into account uncertainty, that (say), a scheduled appointment (if today is 3/6/2045) tomorrow (4/6/2045) is either in the past or present or future. It definitely isn't in the past (it hasn't happened), it also isn't in the present (it isn't happening); ergo, it has to "be" in the future. So, the linguistic shortcut, the appointment is in the future is actually the appointment has to be in the future. The qualifier thus is " if it must be ...."
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 5:05
  • But to assume something is in the future basically makes it a static time model, doesn't it? For me, this moment is what is. Former things are gone and future things don't exist. Makes it much simpler. Science and math with timelines is helpful, but doesn't make timelines a real thing. Airplanes don't fly because of equations and drawings.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 10:14
  • @ScottRowe, so your definition of dynamic time is an unknown/unpredictable future? In other words, knowing the future implies it has happened in some sense of that phrase? My take on static time is not contingent on awareness of what is going to happen. To me, static time is the absence of a change in an event's temporal status from future, through present, to past
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Oct 11, 2023 at 20:59

You may find this helpful: What is McTaggart's vicious circle problem with the A series?

In the comments Conifold says: "McTaggart was an objective idealist, all subject bound constructs were "unreal" to him."

So McTaggart wants a scientific alternative to the A series that does not involve an observer who fixes the present moment by existing, and the B series is just that: no past, present and future, just one event before, simultaneous with or after another.

This is fine for an abstract scientific timeline, but from a phenomenological perspective the observer is not omittable. For example from the IEP on the phenomenological reduction:

scientists take the world to be their axioms; and it is this axiomatic status that Husserl throws into question when he shows that the results of scientific investigation are a function of both the architectonics of scientific hypotheses and the psychological coloring of the investigating scientist. For this reason, Husserl says that if we are ever to be able to access the pure world so that it can act as a proper foundation, we must strip away both of these qualifications and return to the “things themselves” [die Sache selbst]. That is, we must return to the world as it is before it is contaminated by either the categories of scientific inquiry or the psychological assumptions of the scientist.

  • Perhaps making this return then becomes the most essential thing to do.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 2:42
  • @ScottRowe These guys think that's what Heidegger was doing (though others disagree) : “The real impulse, or justification, for what occurs... eventually becomes ‘Being & Time’ was actually Philosophy of Science. A radical attempt to re-ground Philosophy of Science in a way that makes a serious rupture with the tradition that was super-bogged-down in some dogmatic ways.” - from youtube.com/watch?v=tpeUlhuVq3o&t=377s Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 7:44
  • @ScottRowe Also, circuitously, what Donald Hoffman say in TED: Do We See Reality As It Is?, as mentioned by Conifold in Why care about scientific realism?. i.e. reality is subjective. Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 8:29
  • Subjectiveness is subjective. I think that is all we can really say for sure. Time to solve some problems?
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 12:28

Our three most popular models of time: presentism, block time and growing time, are logically incompatible hence none of the three can reduce to one of the others.

All three also have refuting test cases. And each is highly useful for some of the tasks where we need to deal with time. What three incompatible but each useful models is characteristic of is is fields of engineering theory. That we use three different and incompatible models is SOP in engineering. The mistake many philosophers make is to invalidly try to universalize one of these three models. Here is an answer that lists refuting test cases. The passing of time

  • How many incompatible Geometries are there? Time is not true, it is useful.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 0:52
  • 1
    @ScottRowe There are at least 3. I suspect there can be many more.
    – Dcleve
    Commented Oct 8, 2023 at 2:24

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