A Bergsonian response to McTaggart's paradox

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This paper provides a Bergsonian response to J.M.E. McTaggart’s argument for the unreality of time. McTaggart’s argument has been used as the primary framework for analytic discussions about time for over a hundred years. McTaggart argued that all events in time can be categorised in two ways: either using the A-series (whereby all events are ‘past,’ ‘present,’ or ‘future’) or the B-series (whereby two events are linked by the relation of ‘earlier’ and ‘later’). He argued that the A-series is contradictory and that the B-series does not capture the nature of time. So he famously concluded that time is unreal. I demonstrate that McTaggart’s argument does not pay sufficient attention to the time of consciousness captured by Bergson’s durée. I show that two distinct temporal realms can be extracted from Bergson’s philosophy: (i) la durée and (ii) a mathematical time-ordering generally classified by analytic philosophers as the B-series. The A-series is shown to be an attempt to ‘have it all’ – to retain the features that apply only to the mathematical ordering (e.g., divisibility into distinct segments), but that also somehow contain only those features that apply to subjective temporal experience (e.g., the ‘flow’ of time).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Bergsonian mind
EditorsMark Sinclair, Yaron Wolf
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9780429667985, 9780429020735
ISBN (Print)9780367074333, 9781032137650
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2021

Publication series

NameRoutledge philosophical minds


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