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Thank Goodness that's Over

  • A. N. Prior (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 February 2009

In a pair of very important papers, namely “Space, Time and Individuals” (STI) in the Journal of Philosophy for October 1955 and “The Indestructibility and Immutability of Substances” (IIS) in Philosophical Studies for April 1956, Professor N. L. Wilson began something which badly needed beginning, namely the construction of a logically rigorous “substance-language” in which we talk about enduring and changing individuals as we do in common speech, as opposed to the “space-time” language favoured by very many mathematical logicians, perhaps most notably by Quine. This enterprise of Wilson's is one with which I could hardly sympathize more heartily than I do; and one wishes for this logically rigorous “substance-language” not only when one is reading Quine but also when one is reading many other people. How fantastic it is, for instance, that Kotarbinski1 should call his metaphysics “Reism” when the very last kind of entity it has room for is things—instead of them it just has the world-lines or life-histories of things; “fourdimensional worms”, as Wilson says. Wilson, moreover, has at least one point of superiority to another rebel against space-time talk, P. F. Strawson; namely he (Wilson) does seriously attempt to meet formalism with formalism—to show that logical rigour is not a monopoly of the other side. At another point, however, Strawson seems to me to see further than Wilson; he (Strawson) is aware that substance-talk cannot be carried on without tenses, whereas Wilson tries (vainly, as I hope to show) to do without them. Wilson, in short, has indeed brought us out of Egypt; but as yet has us still wandering about the Sinai Peninsula; the Promised Land is a little further on than he has taken us.

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