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I need help with this passage please

Does the past exist? No. Does the future exist? No. Then only the present exists. Yes, But within the present there is no lapse of time? Quite so. Then time does not exist? Oh, I wish you wouldn’t be so tiresome. - Bertrand Russell, Human Knowledge

My question is what is the main conclusion and what is the sub-conclusion?

Will the main conclusion be If time exists, then there is lapse of time?? and I'm not sure about sub conclusion

If someone can please help me it would be greatly appreciated!

  • "Does the past exist? No." - my main conclusion is that someone may be jumping into conclusions there :) – ngn Jan 27 '18 at 20:35
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For the sake of other readers, here's the passage with some additional context:

Most people will be inclined to agree with St. Augustine: "What, then, is time? If no one asks of me, I know: if I wish to explain to him who asks, I know not." Philosophers, of course, have learned to be glib about time, but the rest of mankind, although the subject feels familiar, are apt to be aware that a few questions can reduce them to hopeless confusion. "Does the past exist? No. Does the future exist? No. Then only the present exists? Yes. But within the present there is no lapse in time? Quite so. Then time does not exist? Oh I wish you wouldn't be so tiresome." Any philosopher can elicit this dialog by a suitable choice of interlocuter.

There's not much to this. From the perspective of a hypothetical representative of the "rest of mankind", here's an outline of the hypothetical "argument" that time does not exist.

  1. The past does not exist (it may have existed in the past, but it's now gone)
  2. The future does not exist (it may at some point, but it doesn't now)
  3. The present, however, does exist.
  4. The present is just an instant; it has no duration. (Just rephrasing "within the present there is no lapse in time?").
  5. By 1, 2, 3, and 4, the only thing that exists is this present instant. That implies that time (i.e., "the passage of time") does not really exist (because there's no room in "the only thing that exists", that being an instant of time, to have such things as "flow of time").

The argument above isn't meant to be taken seriously (see the passage); it's simply an example of how "a few questions" can reduce "the rest of mankind" into "hopeless confusion".

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