I'm interested in those areas of philosophy for which modern theories of information science offer intuitive explanations and useful solutions to questions historically included under the subject of metaphysics. Reading "Metaphysics: A contemporary introduction" by Michael J. Loux (1998), I read the debates of McTaggert's A-theory, B-theory and can't help but think of Turing Equivalence to the extent some arguments suggest A-theory, B-theory can be taken as independent and sufficient theories of time, which begs the question--Is choosing one over the other a matter of preference?

On the one hand B-theory has value in science: "The B-theorist's account of time has the highest scientific credentials. It is precisely the account of time to which we are committed by Einstein's theory of special relativity." (p 215)

While on the other hand A-theory is highly intuitive and useful, "The present is right there before us in both perception and introspection. As on A-theorist has put it, the present is 'alive' for us in experience. [...] By contrast, we directly experience neither the past nor the future. Indeed, we remember the past, and we feel relief, regret, and nostalgia with regard to what is past. We anticipate the future, and we fear, dread, and hope for the future. And all these different attitudes are appropriate: they fit the ontologial distinctions involved in the past, present and future." (p 218)

What's fueling my imagination are the Gordian arguments throughout Loux debunking the other guy's theory; The classic 'I don't need to prove I'm right, I just need to prove you're wrong' approach. However, when I read the arguments presented here on time, it occurred to me other disciples also have strong theories here which are both meaningful and useful.

I started to think the situation here as similar to the different values and trade-offs between various programming languages where, in truth and fact, two programming languages are equivalent when every function in one language can be expressed (albeit maybe not as elegantly nor as efficiently) in another language. The choice of language then rests on the positive utility of what each language does best.

Are there any writers who are working along similar lines to critique long standing metaphysical arguments in light of modern theory and pragmatics of information science? (An argument appropriately apologetic, and then stunningly obvious for it's insight; In a word more positive?)

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    What are your thoughts on Douglas Hofstadter? I don't know if I can write enough to directly answer your question, but his work feels like its right up your alley
    – Cort Ammon
    Apr 24, 2016 at 17:43
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    Hello. In order to show that A-theory and B-theory are Turing equivalent, one would have to simulate the present in B-theoretic terms. I don't see how that would be possible. Apr 25, 2016 at 3:16
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    On Hofstadter, yes. I have read his book (and watched a TA Lecture on YouTube). Without saying it, I think you've touched on the most practical outcome of this line of inquiry--as cross disciplinary metaphysical investigation citing diverse theories of art and science. Not all bad of an idea
    – xtian
    Apr 30, 2016 at 11:50

1 Answer 1


Can they not both be true without being equivalent? What I mean is, cannot both perspectives be simultaneously true?

A-Theory is subjective time. The referred to event is relative to the moment of utterance, and that moment of utterance does not have a time-stamp.

B-Theory is objective time. The referred to event is relative to a standardised calendar and chronology like the Gregorian calendar and our Ancient Egyptian/Greek 24 equinoctial hours and 60 * 60 sexagesimal minutes and seconds.

I do not see how these perspectives are mutually incompatible frames of reference. They are complementary to my eyes. Yes we all live in our own present now (that is the convention) but we have agreed on an external impersonal time-frame also which doesn't eradicate the relativistic time-frame, does it?

As to your question about using a technique like Turing Equivalence to map from one frame to the other. Unfortunately I don't think so in this case though I do think in general yours is a good idea. Though I have said that the frames are compatible and complementary they are not equivalent in that they do not share some underlying model.

  • In philosophic arguments the historical relationship to logic (truth, falsity, contradiction) is the preeminent form of technical analysis. A reply to the same question from the philosopher who recommended Loux said as much about the book. Loux is written for students who are also studying both. What's interesting about the Phil of CS/Info angle is the new technical insights. It seems, were it proven possible, this technical equivalence could rejoin historic observations to the best/most accepted modern beliefs.
    – xtian
    Jun 12, 2016 at 17:22

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