Cambridge Studies in Philosophy: Other Times: Philosophical Perspectives on Past, Present and Future

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We view things from a certain position in time: in our language, thought, feelings and actions, we draw distinctions between what has happened, is happening, and will happen. Frequently, approaches to this feature of our lives - those seen in disputes between tensed and tenseless theories, between realist and anti-realist treatments of past and future, and in accounts of historical knowledge - embody serious misunderstandings of the character of the issues; they misconstrue the relation between metaphysics and ethics, and the way to characterize the kind of sense which tensed language has. David Cockburn argues that the notion of 'reasons for emotion' must have a central place in any account of meaning, and that the present should have no priority in our understanding of tense. This allows for a more satisfactory articulation of the place of past, present and future in our thought, and of the form which criticism of our thought might take.