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Prior, Arthur Norman (1914–69)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD054-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Prior is most often thought of as the creator of tense logic. (Tense logic examines operators such as ‘It will be the case that’ in the way that modal logic examines ‘It must be the case that’.) But his first book was on ethics, and his views on metaphysical topics such as determinism, thinking, intentionality, change, events, the nature of time, existence, identity and truth are of central importance to philosophy. Using methods akin to Russell’s in his Theory of Descriptions, he showed that times, events, facts, propositions and possible worlds were logical constructions. For example, we get rid of events by recognizing among other things that to say that the event of Caesar’s crossing the Rubicon took place later than the event of Caesar’s invading Britain is to say that it has been the case that both Caesar is crossing the Rubicon and it has been the case that Caesar is invading Britain. The title of the posthumous work, Worlds, Times and Selves (1977), indicates the breadth and depth of his thought. He is also fun to read. He died at the age of fifty-four, at the height of his powers.

Citing this article:
Williams, C.J.F.. Prior, Arthur Norman (1914–69), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD054-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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