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Philosophy Research Archives

Volume 14, 1988/1989

Jon Torgerson
Pages 381-394

Reichenbach and Smart on Temporal Discourse

One of the problems which surfaces in philosophical literature as regularly as clockwork is the status of tensed and tenseless discourse. This received its most influential formulation in McTaggart The Nature of Existence. Two philosophers who respond to McTaggart are Hans Reichenbach and J.J.C. Smart. In this paper, I review their analysis of token-reflexive terms. First, I examine Reichenbach’s arguments for translating tensed discourse into tenseless discourse. In order to show its subtlety, I also discuss Smart’s attempt to provide such translations. This analysis is adequate for a limited number of tenseless utterances. Yet even Reichenbach’s analysis fails in certain important instances. That this attempt fails is a strong argument for supposing that any other such attempt will fail as well. If correct, it should put to rest the philosophically tempting quest for a tenseless discourse.