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The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. , No.  ISSN 

April  doi: ./j.-...x



BS M

Time for Aristotle: Physics IV . BU C. (Oxford UP, . Pp. viii + . Price £..)

Ursula Coope’s book on Aristotle’s treatment of time is excellent. It forms a good dual to Ben Morison’s On Location. Both are published in the same Oxford Aristotle series, both have an amusing title, and both treat of topics which receive a self- contained discussion in Aristotle’s Physics IV: Morison’s concern is chs , on place; Coope’s is chs , on time. I start with two general thoughts about Coope’s book. First, since she is discussing a continuous and fairly short body of text, it would have been helpful had the book started with a translation (and maybe even a Greek text). Coope provides her own translations of much of the text throughout, while acknowledging her debt to Ed- ward Hussey’s Clarendon Aristotle translation of Physics III–IV. But she gives no translation of the text as a continuous whole. This is a pity. After reading Coope’s introduction, some readers will want to read quickly through Physics IV , in order, for example, to acquaint themselves with the rough structure of Aristotle’s discussion. And it would be helpful to be reading Coope’s own translation as a whole and from the start. Even if a continuous translation were not thought necessary (for there is material in IV  which Coope does not discuss), a useful alternative would have been an indication in the comprehensive Index Locorum (for example, by use of asterisks) of pages where a translation of a particular portion of text can be found. Secondly, while Coope concentrates on a continuous block of Aristotelian text, she has not written a commentary. So she is able to structure her discussion with an eye on dialectical clarity, without having to follow too slavishly the detailed structure of Aristotle’s text (she does, of course, follow its general structure). As a result she can move backwards and forwards over the text in discussing particular issues: for example, at pp. , in the course of explaining how earlier and later nows are in some ways the same and in some ways dierent, she cites a , b  and

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b . To a great extent this is welcome, since Physics IV  is not very tightly structured. But the disadvantage is that it is often hard for the reader to see where and in what order Aristotle himself is making the points which Coope pre- sents, and the diculty of getting an overview of Aristotle’s treatment is exacerbated by the absence of a continuous Coope translation of the four chapters.

. A summary

Time for Aristotle starts with an introduction (pp. ) which lays the necessary groundwork for what is to follow, for example, concerning Aristotle’s general account of continuity and his characterization of change as ‘the actuality of that which potentially is, qua such’ (Physics III , a ). There then follow five parts containing two chapters each. Part I deals with the introductory material in IV , arguments which suggest that time either does not exist at all or exists only ‘scarcely’ (b a ), and arguments on the relation of time and change (a a ), which culminate in the important preliminary conclusion that time is ‘something of change’ (a ). Part II examines in detail Aristotle’s view that important features of time some- how depend on corresponding features of change, which features in turn depend on features of magnitude (roughly IV , a ). Part III unpacks the opaque claim that time is ‘a number of change with respect to the before and after’ (IV , b ; see also IV , a b and IV , a b ). Part IV tackles the idea that there is a single time within which all dierent changes have a position. Relevant portions of Aristotle’s text are IV , b a , and IV , a b  and a . Aristotle’s writing here is very dense, and Coope does a fine job in helping the modern reader to engage with the issues Aristotle raises. Her ch. is particularly helpful in clarifying his somewhat unsuccessful attempts to explain how it is that earlier and later nows are in a way the same and in a way dierent, and includes (pp. ) a novel interpretation of one of the analogies on which Aristotle relies in the course of that explanation, the analogy between a now and a thing in motion. Finally, part V looks at two broad consequences of Aristotle’s treatment of time. First (IV , b a and IV , b ), there are some things which are in time, while there are others which are not (the latter including not only things like Sherlock Holmes, which do not exist at all, but also anything which does exist and lasts forever, IV , b ). Secondly (IV , a ), Aristotle sees a complex relation between time and the soul, summarized at the fiendishly dicult a :

‘But if nothing else has the nature to count than soul (and in the soul, the intellect), it is impossible for there to be time if there is no soul, except that there could be that, whatever it is, by being which time is, for example, if it is possible for there to be change without soul’ (Coope’s translation, p. ). In what follows I shall concentrate on a few points I found particularly dicult. Parts of Physics IV  are opaque even by Aristotle’s standards, but at every turn Coope’s discussion aided engagement, cast light and stimulated thought. Time for Aristotle is an impressive and exciting book, and it would benefit not only specialists

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in ancient philosophy, but also anyone interested in the philosophy of time, since in

this area, as in so many others, Aristotle’s contributions are of value.

. Magnitude, change and time

A central feature of Aristotle’s account of time is that there is some sort of depend-

ence of time on change, and of change on magnitude:

Since the changing thing changes from something to something and all magnitude is continuous, the change follows the magnitude. For through the magnitude’s being continuous the change too is continuous, but through the change the time. For the amount of time that has passed is always thought to be as much as the amount of change. Therefore, the before and after is first of all in place. And there it is in position. But since the before and after is in magnitude, it is necessary that also the before and after is in change, by analogy with the things there. But the before and after is also in time, through the following always of the one upon the other of them (IV , a ; Coope’s translation, p. ).

This raises many issues. Coope makes a good case for taking magnitude (µέγεθος) to mean spatial path, while change (κίνησις) incorporates all types of change (see pp. for her attempt to reconcile these two interpretations). What sort of dependence does Aristotle have in mind when he talks of change following magni- tude? According to Coope, what is at issue is explanatory dependence (p. : ‘it is the continuity of the magnitude which explains the continuity of the change and not vice versa’). What does this come to? Coope first (pp. ) introduces a symmetrical relation, making possible and ensuring : since change is continuous, time both can be and is guaranteed to be continuous (and likewise mutatis mutandis for change and magnitude). But, as Coope notes (p.  fn. ), what Aristotle has in mind is asymmetrical depend- ence. So there are two questions:



Why say that certain features of change depend on corresponding features of magnitude, rather than vice versa? Why say that certain features of time depend on corresponding features of change, rather than vice versa?

vice versa ? Why say that certain features of time depend on corresponding features of change,

Aristotle is not very explicit about his reasons here. Coope oers interesting specula- tions on each question. But her answers pull in opposite directions. On question () she makes two points (p. ):

a. Because there can be a spatial magnitude over which no change is going on,

while there cannot be a change which does not have a spatial magnitude as its path Because a single spatial magnitude can be the path for lots of dierent changes, while a single change can occupy only one spatial path.


(a) suggests a does-not-require criterion (features of change depend on those of magni- tude because magnitudes do not require changes, while changes do require magnitudes); (b) suggests a onemany criterion (features of change depend on

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features of magnitude because one magnitude can be associated with many changes, while one change cannot be associated with many magnitudes). These criteria are consistent with each other as applied to (), change–magnitude, but they give entirely the wrong answers when applied to (), time–change. Aristotle says that features of time depend on those of change. But does-not-require fails to give that verdict, since it is not the case that changes do not require times in which to occur while times do require changes to occur in them. Nor does onemany give the expected answer: it is not the case that one change can go with many times while one time cannot go with many changes. Quite the opposite: a single period of time, just like a single spatial magnitude, can be associated with many changes, while a single change cannot be associated with many periods of time, any more than it can with many spatial paths. Coope does indeed say something quite dierent about () as contrasted with (). She refers back (pp. ) to Aristotle’s reasons for saying that time is ‘something of’ change (rather than change being ‘something of’ time). Her account of those reasons appeals to the privileged ontological status Aristotle typically accords individual substances (p. : ‘changes are more closely related to individual substances than time is’). But Coope’s explication of this closer relation renders the conflict between () and () even more severe. Changes are more closely associated with substances than are times, because a single change is the change of just one substance (this motion is the motion of this chariot), whereas a single period of time can be associ- ated with lots of dierent changes in lots of dierent substances (the motion of this chariot and the walking of that man occur in the very same time). But this sits ill with the onemany criterion behind (b). There is an important underlying issue here. Aristotle’s treatment of time is shaped by his general ontological preferences. Time, for Aristotle, should not be something ontologically primary. He hopes to give time its proper status by viewing it as a way of ordering changes, while changes are to be understood (in some way) as the actualization of potentialities possessed by substances, which are ontologically privileged. It is natural to assume that what goes for time goes for place too. And certainly, for Aristotle, places are not ontologically primary – they are the locations of substances (Physics IV , a : ‘the limit of the surrounding body, at which it is contact with that which is surrounded’). But it seems that changes are more closely related to individual substances than are either times or places (dierent changes can occur at the same time, although in dierent places, just as dierent changes can occur in the same place at dierent times – and maybe even at the same time). So it is hard to understand why Aristotle should choose to make features of magnitude explanatorily basic (features of magnitude being more basic than change, while features of time are less basic than change). 1 It may be that Coope does not worry that no single set of criteria decides ques- tions () and (), and that there is no single notion of explanatory dependence in which features of time depend on those of change and features of change depend on

1 Coope says explicitly that she takes Aristotle to be using magnitude and place inter- changeably in his discussion of time. He typically says ‘magnitude’ (µέγεθος), but we have ‘place’ (τόπος) at IV , a .

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those of magnitude. For she starts her interpretation (pp. ) of Aristotle’s account

of ‘the before and after’ in magnitude, change and place like this:

The central claim of this interpretation is that the way in which the before and after in place is related to the before and after in change is quite dierent from the way in which the before and after in change is related to the before and after in time.

Aristotle holds not only that the continuity of time is derived from that of change, which is derived from that of magnitude, but also that temporal order (‘before and after’) is derived from the order of stages in a change, which is derived from spatial order. This is very puzzling. Many philosophers are apt to think that order (or direc- tion, if this comes to the same thing) is one of the most significant features of time, and to think, for example, that temporal order sustains striking modal dierences between past and future. In contrast, though, it is not clear even what a before/after order is in the case of place; and so it is surprising to find Aristotle saying it is there ‘first of all’ (πρ τον, a ) and ‘by position’ (θέσει, a ). Further, while it is easier to recognize a before/after ordering in the stages of a change, it is hard to avoid seeing this as a temporal ordering of earlier and later stages; but if that were so, it would undermine any attempt to derive a temporal before/after from a before/after in change. Coope’s constructive interpretation of Aristotle’s position here is intriguing. At Metaphysics , a , Aristotle explains the important notion of before/after (priority/posteriority) ‘in nature and substance’: a is before b ‘in nature and sub- stance’ if a can exist without b while b cannot exist without a. In this light, for the before/after in place, bare claims about spatial order make little sense. If I am asked whether Birmingham is before or after Sheeld, I have no idea what to say. I require reference to an origin (is Birmingham before or after Sheeld in relation to London?). And I require reference to a path (travelling north on the M, rather than south and round the globe?). Thus specified, the question has a clear answer:

Birmingham is before Sheeld in relation to London and travelling north on the M. That is to say that a path London–Sheeld has a path London–Birmingham as

a part; and therefore that the London–Birmingham part can exist without the

London–Sheeld whole, while the London–Sheeld whole cannot exist without the London–Birmingham part (pp. , ). London–Birmingham is before London–Sheeld ‘in nature and substance’. Coope then uses this asymmetry – that London–Birmingham can exist with- out London–Sheeld, but not vice versa – in order to generate a non-temporal asymmetry in the stages of a change. But there is a point to raise even before moving on to the application to change. Quite what does it mean to say, in the case of

places/magnitudes, that London–Birmingham can exist without London–Sheeld, but not vice versa? It is clear enough that I can travel (north on the M) from London

to Birmingham without travelling from London to Sheeld, but not vice versa. But

this would be to understand a before/after relation in place in terms of a before/after in a change (i.e., a journey), which would get things the wrong way round. Rather, what Coope has in mind is that we can think of London– Birmingham as standing to London–Sheeld as a line segment stands to a whole

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line. Thinking of it thus is intended to connect with Metaphysics , a  and , although it would remain hard to understand the further claims Aristotle makes in the surrounding  text, that London–Birmingham is posterior in sub- stance to London–Sheeld ‘in actuality’ (a ); and that London–Sheeld is prior to London–Birmingham ‘in respect of generation’ (a ; I think Coope ducks this issue at p.  fn. ). If we do think of matters thus, however, it seems we are considering not places from which and to which substances move, nor extended spatial regions across which they pass, but rather the abstracted magnitudes of those bits of the world. For we are being asked to consider a line actually divided into two line segments so that the whole no longer exists, rather than the London– Birmingham chunk of the cosmos existing without the London–Sheeld chunk. 2 Perhaps it is unproblematic that these paths-with-an-origin are abstracted magni- tudes. Indeed, perhaps it is to be expected, for that will be why they have two di- mensions rather than three, and why there is no answer to questions such as ‘Where does Liverpool stand on the London–Birmingham–Sheeld path?’. But the danger then is that it again becomes unclear why the before/after order of these abstracted magnitudes should be privileged. For, as noted earlier, these abstract lengths and distances, just like periods of time, seem to be less closely related to the ontologically privileged individual substances than are the individual changes, the before/after structure of which is claimed by Aristotle to be derivative. It is invariably the case that when something about Aristotle’s position is puzzling, Coope recognizes the fact and has something to say. On the question of why order in change is explanatorily dependent on spatial order, see pp. . She makes two points:


It is reasonable for Aristotle to make the before/after in place prior to the before/after in change because he is already committed to the priority of place over change as regards their continuity


It is easier to make sense of actually dividing a magnitude than of actually interrupting a change; actual division of a magnitude takes me from a whole which exists to a part which exists; but if I do in fact interrupt a change, what I interrupt is not an actually occurrent change but something which would have existed had I not interrupted ‘it’.

However, as regards (i), I have already noted some problems in Aristotle’s idea that the continuity of place is prior to, while that of time is posterior to, the continuity of change. And as regards (ii), the point about actual division is far more plausible as regards abstracted magnitudes than as regards chunks of the world; and it remains puzzling why we should privilege these magnitudes over changes, which are, after all, more robustly connected than the former are with the ontologically basic indi- vidual substances. Suppose, however, that we let pass any problems about the basic status of the before/after ordering in magnitude. Coope’s appeal to the Metaphysics  notion of priority in substance as ontological independence is nevertheless valuable, because it

2 See fn. above on Coope on Aristotle’s use of magnitude and place.

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suggests a way to explicate a prima facie non-temporal before/after order in change; and if that change-order is genuinely non-temporal, then Aristotle could derive temporal order from it without circularity (one time is before another so long as a change-stage at the first time is non-temporally before a change-stage at the second). The idea is as follows. Suppose I am asked to interrupt a change, for example, a journey from London to Sheeld, or a reading of Anna Karenina. Starting at London, going north on the Mto Birmingham, and stopping, is (or could be) an interrupted journey from London to Sheeld; but starting at Birmingham and going to Sheeld is not (and could not be). So too starting at p. , continuing to p. , and stopping, is an interrupted reading of Anna Karenina, while opening the book at p.  and then reading to the end is not. The crucial point on which this turns is not about the temporal order of change-stages, but rather about what makes a change the change that it is. A change is a transition between a point-from-which and a point-to-which (my rebarbative terms are intended to avoid the temporal con- notations of starting- and finishing-points). The crux of Coope’s interpretation (p. ) is that there is a non-temporal asymmetry between the from-which and the to-which of a change:

The dierence between the beginning and the end of the change is this. A changing thing can be going to a point C, even though it in fact never gets there. But a changing thing cannot be coming from a point A if it has never been there.

This sounds highly plausible. But of course it would not help Aristotle if it owed its plausibility to some covert temporal content. For example, Aristotle would get nowhere if this was his thought: if something is going to C then its being at C is future and the future is contingent, while if it is coming from A then its being at A is past and the past is necessary. Naturally Coope is well aware of this, and her favoured way (p. ) of bringing out the putatively non-temporal asymmetry is (as in my examples above) by reference to interruption:

the change-parts that might be left over when the change is interrupted all share a common boundary. It is this fact that makes it possible to define the start of a change without presupposing temporal order.

However, one might suspect that interruption is a covertly temporal term (and suited for its purpose for precisely that reason). Interruption can be compared and contrasted with a couple of other notions. First, with interference. 3 A pollutant might interfere with the development of the eye without

3 Coope tends to use interruption and interference interchangeably, but this does not seem reasonable. See, e.g., p. : ‘A crucial step in our account of the before and after in change was the claim that it is possible for a part of a change to occur although, because of interference, the complete change does not. This claim presupposes that interrupting a change is, in a certain sense, analogous to destroying a line’ (my italics). Or p. : ‘When we interfere with an on- going change, what is left is part of the interrupted change’. I suspect Coope adds ‘on-going’ in this second remark because her claim would be far less plausible without it. Is it really the case that any interference with the natural development of a human embryo interrupts a pro- cess which starts with the fertilization of an egg by a sperm? What the use of ‘on-going’ does is to import the idea that the change is already under way (i.e., that it has already started).

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this implying that the development starts as it should: maybe it is precisely the initial stages which the pollutant causes to go wrong. Or secondly, interruption can be com- pared with incomplete occurrence. If things go wrong, Candy may manage only an incomplete London marathon: maybe she overslept, missed the start, joined the race late and ran only the second half. If someone interrupts Candy’s philosophy exam then he allows her to start but prevents her continuing, and she turns in an in- complete script. But if someone prevents her turning up on time and she starts half way through, would we not say exactly the same thing, that her exam was incom- plete? By contrast, it seems the upshot of Coope’s view would be that we cannot say that Candy turns in an incomplete exam, and – stranger still – that what she actually does is turn in a complete sub-exam. The problem, then, is that if Coope’s claims are plausible only about interruption (rather than, for example, interference or incomplete performance), and if the reason for this is that interruption has some covert temporal content (you can interfere with a process before it starts, but you cannot interrupt a process until it is already under way), then the before/after order in change will not be genuinely non-temporal, and Aristotle will not after all be able to derive a temporal before/after from an order of change-stages without circularity.

. Numbers and measures

Aristotle’s general project, of deriving features of times (continuity, before/after order) from corresponding features of changes, gives rise to a problem. To put it simply, there are many changes in the world, but only one time order. How is Aristotle to guarantee that there is a single (inclusive) temporal dimension within which all the dierent changes have a position, and which inherits its features from their features? What is there that is common to the variety of changes (which are variously rooted in dierent potentialities of dierent substances) apart from the fact that they all stand in a single set of temporal relations? And if it is only their temporal relations which connect them together, then it is hard to see how the structure of that single temporal dimension can be derived from their structure. Aristotle is well aware of this. Indeed he appeals to the fact that there is a single time for all changes in arguing that time cannot be identical to change:

The movement and change of each thing is only in the changing thing itself or wherever the moving or the changing thing itself happens to be. But time is similarly both everywhere and with everything (IV , b ; Coope’s translation, p. ).

How does Aristotle approach the issue? The first step is to explain how it is that time stands to any individual change. Here are some extracts from Physics IV :

But time, too, we become acquainted with when we mark ochange, marking it oby the before and after, and we say that time has passed when we get a perception of

the before and after in change

then we speak of time. For that is what time is: a number of change in respect of the

before and after


Just as the moving thing and the motion go together, so too do the number of

the moving thing and the number of the motion. Time is the number of the motion,

whenever [we do perceive] the before and after,

It is the now that measures time, considered as the before and

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and the now is, as the moving thing is, like a unit of number (a , a b , b , a ; Hussey’s translation).

Aristotle’s characterization of time is puzzling: ‘a number of change with respect to the before and after’ (Coope’s translation, p. ). What does this mean? There is a tempting (and fairly common) interpretation according to which Aristotle is saying something which looks (relatively) straightforward: that time is what it is that measures change (the quantity of change, as it were). However Aristotle says that time and change measure each other (IV , b : ‘not only do we measure change by time but also time by change, because they are defined by one another. The time defines the change, being its number, and the change the time’; Coope’s translation, p. ). Further, Aristotle’s characterization of time as a number of change follows im- mediately (and seems to be intended to follow uncontroversially) on his claim that we are aware of the passage of time by being aware of the occurrence of changes; and there is nothing in the latter claim to suggest that Aristotle has in mind aware- ness of the special sort of regular repeated changes that would be needed as the units for clock measurement of time. When we register any alteration we say that time has passed, even if we are unable to say how much, or to measure the passage by reference to a regular unit. So Coope oers a dierent interpretation, according to which Aristotle is not using number simply to mean measure (see pp. for her criticism of the alternative). But now there is a problem: how can something continuous (such as time) be counted or numbered? The answer lies in Aristotle’s refinement of the claim: time is

a number which is counted rather than with which we count (b ). We count with

discrete pluralities (e.g., the numerals ‘’, ‘’, ‘’,

, or intermediaries, such as one

mark after another on a page). By contrast, though, we can in an extended sense count continuous wholes. That is to say, we can order them in the same sort of linear order as that in which numbers stand. And this, according to Coope, is the core of the matter. What we count in counting time are nows. To count a now is to mark it o– to register it, as it were. Sometimes the reason to mark oitems in a series is not to find out how many there are, but to fix an order or direction.

In counting nows, though, the order is all-important. It does not matter how many nows we count; what is important is that we count a series of nows in a certain definite order (an order that reflects the dierent before and after orders within changes) (p. ).

It is important to appreciate how strong Coope’s claim is. She is not saying merely

that while we in fact count how many nows there are, what is important is not that there are this number of them but that they are in a certain order. It is relatively uncontroversial that there can be counting procedures like this (if I write down a name every time a runner passes the finishing line, in order to produce a ranking for the race, then in fact I count the number of runners, although what matters is not that there were that many people competing but that they finished in that order). Coope is envisaging something stronger, a case in which it does not even matter

whether we count all the Fs, so long as the Fs we do count are put in a certain order. And since it may be more controversial that there are counting procedures like this,

it would have been helpful to oer some other examples. (Perhaps this would be

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one: I ask you to count orocks as we walk through the wilderness because what I want to fix is the direction in which we have come, so that we can return, rather

than the precise number of rocks there are – it does not matter at all to me whether there are rocks which you have missed out.)

If this is the way in which time is a number of change – i.e., it is the order in which

change occurs – then it is natural for Aristotle’s characterization of time as ‘a number of change with respect to the before and after’ to follow on from his claim that we are aware of time by being aware of change. Being aware that this change- stage (e.g., passing through Birmingham) is dierent from that change-stage (e.g., passing through Nottingham) is a matter of marking opotential divisions in the

change (my journey could have been interrupted at Birmingham, or it could have been interrupted at Nottingham). And in registering those dierent potential divisions I thereby mark oa period of time, between this now and that now.

I shall not attempt to do justice to the subtlety and detail of Coope’s discussion

of numbering and measuring in part III (which includes welcome constructive en- gagement with material in Metaphysics Ι, one of the driest, most unrewarding and neglected of Aristotle’s metaphysical treatises). I shall say something, though, about how the ‘time is a number of change’ doctrine is said to contribute to the project of showing that time is a single and universal dimension. There is a gain, in numbering changes by marking ostages, in ascending from changes to time, precisely because time is a single order within which all dier- ent changes have a position. And given that time is a single order within which changes have a position, we can, as Aristotle says, use time to measure change and also change to measure time. A regular and repeated change (the movement of the clock hand, or the rising and setting of the sun) measures out a period of time (an hour, a day); and since time is a single continuum, that period of time will also measure out other changes (Candy’s running of the mile). But now the problem facing Aristotle’s strategy of deriving features of time from those of changes looms large. On the one hand it seems plausible to say that we are not aware of the passage of time directly, but indirectly through recognition of dierent change-stages, so that time will inherit the linear before/after order manifest in any individual change. On the other hand, though, the order and structure of time should be independent of any particular change, so that we can be assured of a single temporal order accom- modating any individual change there might be. Suppose I mark otwo stages in this change, and two stages in that change. There is no reason to think that the two change-intervals stand in any (non-temporal) before/after relation to each other (that there is any relation of priority in substance and nature between them). But we are very much inclined to expect that the two change-intervals will stand in some temporal relation. How can we be confident of that?

. A single time for all changes

I was not clear, either from the Physics text or from Coope’s discussion in part IV, how far Aristotle thought it necessary to go in answering this question. A running theme of Coope’s book is that while Aristotle’s discussion of time is not of merely historical and scholarly interest, it is also important to recognize that his concerns

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are sometimes orthogonal to our own. Maybe the current problem is a case in point, as suggested by this deflationary remark by Coope (p. ):

Nows are dierent by being at one stage of a movement and at another

full account of temporal order would also have to explain the relation in which one and the same now stands to dierent changes. Aristotle’s remarks about following tell us nothing about this. As we have seen, he assumes that when we count a now we count all the change-stages that are ‘at’ it. This naturally raises the question: in virtue of what are these change-stages simultaneous or ‘at the same now’? To this, he appears to have no answer.

However, a

To what does Aristotle have no answer? If there is to be a single time for all changes, then one and the same now will have to stand in some relation to each and every change – namely, it must either count a stage of the change or be before or after a now which does so. Immediately following this deflationary comment Coope turns her attention to a peculiar Aristotelian claim at Physics IV , b , ‘all simultan- eous time is the same’, δ’ µα π ς χρόνος α τός. (See p.  fn. ; it is important to have Coope’s translation here rather than Hussey’s very dierent ‘though the whole time in sum is the same’. The revised Oxford Translation agrees with Coope.) Coope argues that what Aristotle is concerned to establish here is that as regards any change which is going on at the same time (e.g., this afternoon), a single now (as, e.g., when I shout ‘Now’) marks oa potential division in every one of them. This sounds like the view which according to the deflationary passage cited above, Aristotle merely assumes (‘when we count a now we count all the change-stages which are “at” it’); although Coope then goes on to provide a wonderful exposition of Aristotle’s defence of the claim, based on a dicult comparison between the same- time of dierent changes and the same-number of dierent pluralities (see esp. pp. ). Still, why should Aristotle think it of any significance either to assume or to defend the claim that all simultaneous changes are marked oby one and the same now – that there is some one now which marks all simultaneous changes? The reason, according to Coope, is that the claim is required for a crucial (and natural) assumption concerning overlapping changes, that if two changes overlap, then there are some parts of each which are exactly simultaneous. For example, if I am walking to the shop while a bird flies from one tree to the next, then there is some part of my walk and some part of the bird’s flight which are exactly simul- taneous. Whether this is plausible or not depends on whether uninterrupted changes have parts of arbitrary size (since it is arbitrary precisely how my walk should overlap with the bird’s flight). What is it for an uninterrupted change to have parts? Dividing a change is interrupting it, so an uninterrupted change will not have actual parts (pp. ). But we can create potential parts in a change when we mark oa point at which it could be interrupted. So we are guaranteed that two overlapping changes have exactly simultaneous (potential) parts, so long as one and the same now marks oa potential division in every change going on ‘at’ that now. For if this is the case, then marking oa pair of nows while two changes are overlapping will mark otwo change-parts which are simultaneous, since each is bounded by one and the same pair of nows.

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Coope’s exposition of the connection between


All simultaneous changes are marked oby one and the same now



If two changes overlap then they have parts which are exactly simultaneous

was persuasive. But I was less clear about how (ii) is supposed to connect with the view that there is a single time for all changes. Coope argues (p. ) that (ii) is required for that claim:

In fact this assumption [(ii)] is not merely natural. It is an assumption that is pre-

Aristotle needs to show how we

can make such arbitrary divisions in changes if he is to defend his assumptions about

the universality of time.

supposed by Aristotle’s view that time is universal

Coope’s argument turns on the relation between (ii) and the following claims


There could be a change with no parts which are exactly simultaneous with the parts of any other changes


Time is a single ordered series in which all changes are related.

Coope argues that if (ii) is false, (iii) is true, and if (iii) is true, (iv) is false. 4 It follows, then, that Aristotle has a motive for defending (ii), since in doing so he is furthering the project of establishing (iv). And since (i) entails (ii), then there is a purpose to Aristotle’s peculiar remark that ‘all simultaneous time is the same’ (IV , b ). But Coope’s argument looks unconvincing. For (iii) would be true quite inde- pendently of whether (ii) were true or false if and only if it is possible for there to be a lone change (that is, a change which does not overlap any other). For in that case (iii) would be true in virtue of that lone change’s having no parts simultaneous with any- thing else. Nevertheless, even given the truth of (iii), (iv) could still be true, so long as any lone change is either earlier or later than any other change you care to pick. Therefore the truth of (iii) would not entail the falsity of (iv), in which case estab- lishing the truth of (ii), in order, supposedly, to guarantee that (iii) is not true, would contribute little to the defence of (iv). Consequently the significance of (i) – proered as necessary for the truth of (ii) – is diminished; and one may then as a result be less confident in Coope’s controversial translation of b , from which (i) arises. What would Aristotle need to establish in order to guarantee (iv), that there is a single temporal order? He has argued in the earlier part of Physics IV  that there are no periods of time which are empty of change (b a ; see Coope, ch. ). He also argues that there are no first or last times (IV , a b ). So

4 Cf. the summary at p. : ‘If the fact that two changes were both going on at once did not guarantee that they had parts that were exactly simultaneous, then there could be changes that stood outside the order of the before and after in time. For in that case there could be a change which had no parts that were exactly simultaneous with the parts of any other changes. In counting the parts of such a change, we would not also be counting the parts of other changes (since there would be no other change-parts that were exactly simultaneous with those that we were counting). Hence our counting could not produce a single ordered series within which this change and all others were related.’

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if there were a lone change, it would have to be continuous with some preceding and succeeding changes, and therefore any lone change would be bounded by a pair of nows, each one of which is also the boundary of some other change. Therefore the existence of a lone change, and the truth of (iii), will not threaten (iv), the

universality of time, so long as the fact that one and the same now is the end of one change and the start of another entails that the first change is earlier than the second, and the second change later than the first – and it may be that Aristotle takes this to require no great argument, since it comes to pointing out that the now is a boundary and a link between past and future (IV , a ; IV , a ;

IV , a ).

. Life spans

In part V, Coope discusses two consequences of Aristotle’s treatment of time, his

(striking) views about the things that are and are not ‘in time’ (ch. ), and his argu- ments concerning the relation between time and the soul (ch. ). I shall concentrate

on a couple of issues arising from the earlier of these discussions. It is not particularly striking to discover that a philosopher holds that some things are ‘in time’ and some things are not. But it is extremely striking to discover what Aristotle recognizes as ‘not in time’. That this is so is the result of two facts. First, he holds that all things which are in time are ‘surrounded’ by time (i.e., have a finite duration), and therefore that anything which lasts forever is not in time:

So it is manifest that the things that always are, considered as such, are not in time, for they are not surrounded by time, nor is their being measured by time, and an indication of this is that they are not acted on at all by time either, which shows that they are not in time (IV , b ; Hussey’s translation).

Secondly, Aristotle counts among the eternal items things which are moving (the celestial bodies). So what can he mean by the claim that there are some changing bodies which are not in time? According to Coope, we can best make sense of Aristotle’s position by adopting a rich interpretation of what ‘being in time’ involves. She argues that items of finite duration are not the only things which can stand in temporal relations, or be past or present or future, or undergo changes (pp. ). If this is correct, then since

Aristotle holds that items of finite duration are the only things which are ‘in time’,

we may well conclude that there is more to ‘being in time’ than, for example,

standing in temporal relations. What more is involved is that all and only the things that are in time get older, and this in two ways. First, their past accumulates as time passes (my past is longer this year than it was last year); and secondly, they decay (I become ever more decrepit as the years pass). If this is what being in time involves, then Aristotle will be quite correct to hold that something eternal is not in time – even if it is eternally moving in circles. For if something has existed for infinite time past, then it will not have existed for any longer at the end of next year than it has now; and if it were going to decay it would already have done so. It is the idea of

things in time being subject to decay to which Aristotle is adverting when he speaks of things’ being ‘acted on by time’ in the passage quoted above.

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Coope renders Aristotle’s talk of certain things’ being ‘acted on by time’ respect- able by reference to the Aristotelian distinction between ecient and formal causes. Time is not a something which can impart causal force, as it were, or trigger changes, or push around the stuthat an animal is made of – that is to say, time is never an ecient cause. But when my dog dies, and you ask me why, and I say ‘Its time had come’ or ‘Its time was up’, I am giving a perfectly good and compre- hensible explanation. I am saying that it was not struck down in its youth by disease or accident, but that it had completed the life span characteristic of that type of thing. That is, I am providing a formal cause and saying something about the canine form (the natural life span of a dog is around fifteen years). Coope is therefore able to suggest a charitable explication of Aristotle’s views on being in time: as she puts it, ‘to be in time is to be something that is, in the sense we have explained, aected by time’ (p. ). But she notes the diculty of applying this explanation to non-living things (which is why, presumably, the phrase ‘natural life span’ rolls othe tongue far more easily than ‘natural existence span’). Yet lots of in- animate things presumably are in time – Mount Everest and my house, for example. The problem is that inanimate things do not seem to have a natural determinate time span characteristic of the type of thing they are, and so it is implausible to suppose that saying ‘Its time was up’ could constitute a formal explanation of the crumbling away of a mountain or the collapse of a house. This is intriguing, and one wonders whether there is a way of extending Coope’s treatment to inanimate entities. There are two sorts of case to consider, stutypes and artefacts. As regards the first, there is a pattern of explanation which we could view as an extended formal cause. Suppose I ask you ‘How is it that my wall needed rebuilding so soon, while yours still remains strong?’. You give a perfectly good and comprehensible explanation in saying ‘What else do you expect? Yours was made of clay while mine was made of stone’. You are not, of course, citing the processes which led to my clay wall’s crumbling while your stone wall resisted the wind and rain – that is, you are not providing ecient causes (although there will be an ecient cause story to tell). What you are doing is pointing out that it is of the nature of clay to decay or to succumb more rapidly to the natural environment than would stone (cf. Metaphysics Θ , a : stone has, while clay lacks, a capacity to resist being acted on for the worse and so as to be destroyed; see also Metaphysics Η , b , where Aristotle talks of water undergoing certain changes, e.g., into vinegar rather than wine, in virtue of a corruption contrary to its nature, φθορ παρ φύσιν). Further, if it is possible to make some headway along these lines with the decay of stus, then the case of artefacts might be handled by reference to that first case. Perhaps it could be argued that an artefact has a natural life span not qua artefact but qua artefact made of certain stu. The questions ‘How long do dogs last?’ and ‘How long do axes last?’ are superficially similar; but whereas the first has a fairly determinate answer, the second immediately invites the response ‘It depends on whether they are made of bronze or iron’.

University of Sheeld

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