Early last century an article appeared which transformed the philosophy of time. The article was James Ellis McTaggart's ‘The unreality of time’, published in 1908. As his title implies, McTaggart argued in this article that there is in reality no such thing as time. But that claim, although startling enough, is not what makes the article so remarkable. The same claim had after all been made long before McTaggart, for example by Kant in 1781, and in McTaggart's sense it is still made by those who think that time is merely one of the four dimensions of an unchanging ‘block universe’. However, most of those who think this are more influenced by Minkowski's comment, also made in 1908, that relativity has doomed space and time to ‘fade away into mere shadows’ of a unified spacetime than they are by McTaggart's more substantial arguments.
Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Emeritus Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge; Member of the Council of the Royal Institute of Philosophy.