A Taxonomy of Views about Time in Buddhist and Western Philosophy

Philosophy East and West 67 (3):763-782 (2017)
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We find the claim that time is not real in both western and eastern philosophical traditions. In what follows I will call the view that time does not exist temporal error theory. Temporal error theory was made famous in western analytic philosophy in the early 1900s by John McTaggart (1908) and, in much the same tradition, temporal error theory was subsequently defended by Gödel (1949). The idea that time is not real, however, stretches back much further than that. It is common to hear it said that according to Buddhist philosophy (as though that were a monolithic view) time is illusory. While it is not true that, in general, either contemporary or ancient Buddhist scholars have thought time to be illusory, there are certainly some schools of Buddhist thought, such as that of traditional Dzogchen practitioners, according to which there is no time. This paper is an attempt to set out a taxonomy of different views about what it takes for there to be time and, alongside that, a taxonomy of views about whether there is time or not, and if there is time what it is like.
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