Tense and the psychology of relief

Topoi 34 (1):217-231 (2015)
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At the centre of Arthur Prior’s ‘Thank goodness’ argument for the A-theory of time is a particular form of relief. Time must objectively pass, Prior argues, or else the relief felt when a painful experience has ended is not intelligible. In this paper, I offer a detailed analysis of the type of relief at issue in this argument, which I call temporal relief, and distinguish it from another form of relief, which I refer to as counterfactual relief. I also argue that existing discussions of the ‘Thank goodness’ argument—including Prior’s own—fail to give a satisfactory account of temporal relief, and that it needs to be seen as an emotion linked to the ability to engage in fairly sophisticated forms of planning. I also suggest that this has an impact on Prior’s claim that the idea of points in time plays no fundamental role in the semantic analysis of tenses

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Christoph Hoerl
University of Warwick


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