Philosophy of Time

Spring, 2013

Alexander R. Pruss


Course website:

Class Times: Monday and Wednesday 10:10-11:35 am



Office hours: Tuesday and Thursday, 10:00-11:00 am,
or on most Mondays and Wednesdays after 1 pm



·         Readings in white PRUSS box in mail room

·         Online readings


Expectations from students:  Students will do the assigned reading before every lecture, attend class, participate in discussion, and write the assigned papers. 


There are two evaluation options:

1.      Write a short weekly paper for every week during which there is at least one class meeting, handing it in during that class meeting.

2.      Write a short weekly paper for the first eight weeks during which there is at least one class meeting, handing it in during that class meeting, plus write a 10-14 page conference-style paper by May 10.  If the latter is an extension of one of the weekly papers, there needs to be a substantive amount of new material.


The short weekly papers are about 1.5-3 pages long (typically 2).  They are to be on the reading assigned for the class during which they are handed in, and the instructor may ask for them to be presented, or else on an approved topic. 

o        The paper can be one of three types:

§         Type I: The paper begins by giving a careful summary of one argument in the reading, and then gives an original argumentative attack on the argument, making clear which assumptions or steps in the argument are being questioned and why.  You are not to attack the conclusion of the paper—only the argument itself.  In your objection to the argument, you must explicitly state whether you are objecting to the argument’s validity or to its soundness or whether you agree that it is sound, but are concerned about some other argumentative fault (such as begging the question).

§         Type II: The paper begins by giving a careful summary of one argument in the reading, as in a Type I paper, and then briefly shows an important weakness in the argument.   The paper then modifies the argument in an original way, improving it in such a way that it avoids the weakness.

§         Type III: The paper describes an important conclusion reached by one of the papers in the reading, and produces an original argument directly for or against that conclusion.  If the original argument makes use of claims that some of our reading argued against, you will need to respond to at least some these objections.  In general, a better Type III paper takes up at least one objection to some point in its argument.



(a)    You are permitted to make up missing one weekly paper by writing an extra paper the successive week.  The extra paper is to be tied to the readings of the class during which you are handing it in (so this isn’t a license to spend more time on a paper on earlier material).  In serious circumstances, other extensions may be permitted, but these should be cleared ahead of time if reasonably possible.

(b)   Your first paper may be handed in on Friday.


If you never impermissibly miss a weekly paper, I will drop the grade from your lowest-graded weekly paper (two lowest-graded weekly papers if you are choosing Option 1), and I will count the grade from your highest-graded weekly paper doubly.


The weekly papers are graded on the following 4.0-10.0 point scale:

·         10.0: Publishable as-is in a good journal that accepts short papers (e.g., Thought and Analysis)

·         9.0: Revisable into a paper publishable in a good journal.

·         8.0: Revisable into a paper presentable at a good conference.

·         7.0: Normal graduate-level work

·         6.0: Barely satisfactory graduate-level work

·         5.0: Unsatisfactory graduate-level work

·         4.0: Very unsatisfactory graduate-level work

You should not worry at all if you get a 6 once.  Nor should a 5 close to the beginning of the semester, especially if you are a first year student, worry you unduly.  But if your grades are consistently below 7, you should make greater effort, in particular by speaking with the instructor before handing in papers.


Academic integrity: We have an omniscient Judge.  And there is the Honor Council.


Course plan: Time permitting, we’ll explore different aspects of the strangeness of time. The pace at which we go will be determined by how class discussion goes. Readings will be put into the online syllabus on the course web page. If this course were taught without temporal limitations, it would cover the following topics:

·         Zeno's paradoxes

·         Special Relativity

·         Time travel

·         Temporal topologies

·         Time's flow

·         The A and B theories, with special attention paid to Kaplan's account of indexicals

·         God, free will and the future

·         Presentism

·         Perdurantism

·         Time's arrow

·         Temporal emotions

·         Death and beyond

Readings (not underlined readings are in box):

Class 2: Zeno's paradoxes, Aristotle on Zeno's paradoxes, Thomson, Benacerraf

Class 3: Mckie, Koons

Class 4: Einstein, Relativity, up to the end of Chapter XIII

Class 5: Finish Einstein book, but Appendix I is optional

Feb 4: Pruss, Tooley, Monton

Feb 6: McTaggart and Thomson

Feb 11: Williams and Quentin Smith

Feb 13: Quentin Smith, Beer

Feb 18: Kaplan; Speaks, Section 2.1

Feb 20: Zimmerman

Feb 25: Merricks

Feb 27: Sider; Wasserman

Mar 4: Pruss; Zimmerman; Bigelow

Mar 6: Merricks

Mar 18: Crisp; Rasmussen; Tallant

Mar 20:

Mar 25: Pruss; Rea

Mar 27: Jacobs; McDaniel; Baron

Apr 3: Lewis; Callender

Apr 8: Lewis; Smith

Apr 15: Mellor (in box in the office)

Apr 17: Gale (emailed); Skow

Apr 22: Hudson; Markosian

Apr 24: Adams (not available yet); Kvanvig

Apr 29: Lucretius/Epicurus; Nagel; Russell;Camus

May 1: Metaphysics Idea Fair