"The Unreality of Time" is the best-known philosophical work of the Cambridge idealist J. M. E. McTaggart (1866?1925). In the argument, first published as a journal article in Mind in 1908, McTaggart argues that time is unreal because our descriptions of time are either contradictory, circular, or insufficient. A slightly different version of the argument appeared in 1927 as one of the chapters in the second volume of McTaggart's greatest work, The Nature of Existence.
The argument for the unreality of time is popularly treated as a stand-alone argument that does not depend on any significant metaphysical principles (e.g. as argued by C. D. Broad 1933 and L. O. Mink 1960). R. D. Ingthorsson disputes this, and argues that the argument can only be understood as an attempt to draw out certain consequences of the metaphysical system that McTaggart presents in the 1st Volume of The Nature of Existence (Ingthorsson 1998 & 2016).
It is helpful to consider the argument as consisting of three parts. In the first part, McTaggart offers a phenomenological analysis of the appearance of time, in terms of the now famous A- and B-series (see below for detail). In the second part, he argues that a conception of time as only forming a B-series but not an A-series is an inadequate conception of time because the B-series does not contain any notion of change. The A-series, on the other hand, appears to contain change and is thus more likely to be an adequate conception of time. In the third and final part, he argues that the conception of time forming an A-series is contradictory and thus nothing can be like an A-series. Since the A- and the B- series exhaust possible conceptions of how reality can be temporal, and neither is adequate, the conclusion McTaggart reaches is that reality is not temporal at all.
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