Prior Studies

Life and Work of Arthur Norman Prior

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Secondary literature

An overwiev by Per Hasle and David Jakobsen

The overview of secondary literature significantly dealing with Prior is subdivided as follows:


Since temporal logic has become an intensively studied discipline, and since this one was initiated through the work of Prior, a huge body of papers and books bear on and owe to Prior, directly or indirectly. Already for that reason this overview has to be highly selective. The criteria of selection for the main section (A) are described below.

As for Reviews, Obituaries and Memoirs (B, C, and D) the following can be said:

(B) Only reviews of full books are included. It has been possible to locate a significant number (see the list of Journals Analysed). Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that some significant reviews have yet to be included. For instance, it seems highly likely that 'Past, Present and Future' (1967a) has been reviewed much more extensively than evident from (B)-section.

(C) Most important obituaries and/or memorial papers are found here, even though I also know of a few which I have so far been unsuccessful in locating.

(D) As for D, the idea simply is to mention some works which I have found interesting. This list is not meant to be anything near complete.

Turning now to the more comprehensive questions concerning Books and papers dealing with the work of A. N. Prior, the following needs to be observed:


I. The basic principle for inclusion is that the work in question should be discussing or otherwise dealing directly with Prior's contributions, from a historical or systematical perspective. The few exceptions to this rule are the seminal and authoritative works on tense/temporal logic by McArthur (1976), van Benthem (1983) and Burgess (1984). This basic principle means that:

(i). Work dealing specifically with more mathematical issues – soundness and completeness of systems of tense logic etc. - is in general omitted. For these issues readers are referred to other work; an ideal starting point would be: Gabbay, Dov M.: 1994, Temporal Logic: Mathematical Foundations and Computational Aspects, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

(ii). Work dealing with temporal logic with special reference to linguistics and computer science is also largely left out. For such issues I suggest these starting points:

- Galton, Antony (editor): 1987, Temporal Logics and Their Applications. Academic Press, London (still excellent even if relatively old);

- van Benthem, Johan: 1995, 'Temporal Logic'. In Handbook of Logic in Artificial Intelligence and Logic Programming (Edited by Dov M. Gabbay, C. J. Hogger and J. A. Robinson), Vol. 4, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 241-350;

- van Benthem, Johan; ter Meulen, Alice (editors): 1997, Handbook of Logic and Language. North-Holland Publishing Co., Amsterdam; MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.

Furthermore, a number of relevant papers can be found in Copeland (1996).

II. I concentrate on post 1969-work, which deals with Prior and, moreover, such issues which are in my opinion of more general importance for his thought. Apart from those unreasonable omissions, of which I shall without doubt be guilty, this principle means omission of:

(i). Papers which were part of ongoing discussions of Prior's work within his lifetime – and to which Prior has often replied himself - are omitted (for instance: the discussion between Professor Lachs and Prior on 'Omniscience' around 1963).

(ii). Work which deals with rather specific issues within Prior's work is omitted (for instance: 'Prior and Williams on Berkeley' by D. Park, (1981), Philosophy 56, pp. 231-241). I admit that in these cases there will almost always be a possible argument w.r.t. the potential overall importance of the discussions in question.

III. Finally, work which has been more or less absorbed by later publications is omitted. Again, just for instance, I have omitted papers from the 70'es and 80'es by Philip Hugly and Charles Sayward (respectively), which are now largely included in or superseded by Hugly and Sayward (1996).

--- Per Hasle

A. Books and papers dealing with the work of A. N. Prior (entirely or to an important degree)

van Benthem, Johan: 1983, The Logic of Time. Synthese Library, 156. D. Reidel Publishing Co., Dordrecht-Boston.

Burgess, John P: 1978, 'The Unreal Future'. Theoria, Vol. 44 (1978), no. 3, pp. 157-179.

Burgess, John P.: 1984, 'Basic Tense Logic', in Gabbay, D.; Guenthner, F. (editors): 1984, Handbook of Philosophical Logic II, Synthese Library, Dordrecht, pp. 89-113.

Butterfield, Jeremy: 1984, 'Prior's Conception of Time'. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Vol. 84 (1983-84), pp. 93-209.

Chapman, Tobias: 1978, 'A Modal Logic with Temporal Variables'. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic, Vol. 19 (1978), no. 4, pp. 558-578.

Copeland, Jack (editor): 1996, Logic and Reality: Essays on the Legacy of Arthur Prior, Oxford University Press/Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Copeland, Jack 1996, Prior, Arthur. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Denyer, Nicholas: 1981, Time, Action and Necessity: A Proof of Free Will. Duckworth, London.

Flo, Olav: 1970, 'Bibliography of Prior's Philosophical Writings', Theoria, Vol. 36, pp. 189-213.

Geach, P.T.: 1965, 'Some Problems about Time'. Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. 51, pp. 321-336.

Geach, P.T.; Sutherland, Stewart R.: 1982, 'Truth and God, Part I'. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume 56, pp. 83-97.

Godfrey-Smith, William: 1978, 'Prior and Particulars'. Philosophy, Vol. 53, pp. 335-342.

Godfrey-Smith, William: 1979, 'Thought of Objects'. Monist, Vol. 62, pp. 223-237.

Gurevich, Yuri; Shelah, Saharon: 1985, 'To the Decision Problem for Branching Time Logic'. Foundations of logic and linguistics (Salzburg, 1983), Plenum, New York-London, 1985, pp. 181-198.

Haack, R.J.: 1974, 'Prior on Extensionality'. Logique et Analyse, Vol. 17, no. 67-68, pp. 295-299.

Hart, W. D.: 1982, 'Prior and Belnap'. Theoria, Vol. 48, pp. 127-138.

Hasle, P.: 1997a, 'Linguistic and Tense-Logical Considerations on the Generality of a Three-Point Structure of Tenses'. In Faye, J., et al., editors, Perspectives on Time, Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997, Boston, pp. 323–344.

Hasle, P.: 1997b, 'The Problem of Predestination – a Prelude to A. N. Prior's Tense Logic' (To appear in Wegener, Mogens (editor): Time, Creation and World-Order. 22 pages).

Hasle, P: 'The problem of predestination: as a prelude to A. N. Prior’s tense logic'. Synthese 2011 1. [Link]

Hughes, G.E.: 1982, 'Some Strong Omnitemporal Logics'. Synthese, Vol. 53, pp. 19-42.

Hugly, Philip; Sayward, Charles: 1996, Intensionality and Truth: an Essay on the Philosophy of A.N. Prior. Synthese Library Vol. 255, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht.

Jakobsen, David; "An introduction to ‘faith, unbelief and evil’ Published in Synthese 2011.

Jakobsen, David; “A.N. Prior's Notion of The Present” Published in A. Vatakis et al. (Eds.): Time and Time Perception 2010, LNAI 6789, pp. 36-45. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Jakobsen, David; “A.N. Prior’s Ideas on Tensed Ontology”. Published in S. Andrews et al. (Eds.): ICCS 2011, LNAI 6828, pp. 118–130. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011. Together with Peter Øhrstrøm and Henrik Schärfe. [Link]

Jakobsen, David: "Arthur Norman Priors bidrag til metafysikken." (In danish). Part of phd thesis thesis. Aalborg University, Denmark. 2012.

Kiernan-Lewis, Delmas: 1991, 'Not Over Yet: Prior's 'Thank Goodness' Argument'. Philosophy, Vol. 66 (1991), pp. 241-243.

Massey, G. J.: 1969, 'Tense Logic - Why Bother?' In Nous,Vol. 3 (1969), no. 1, pp. 17-32.

McArthur, R. P.: 1976, Tense Logic. Synthese Library 111, D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht-Boston.

McKirahan, R.: 1979, 'Diodorus and Prior and the Master Argument'. Synthese, Vol. 42 (1979), no. 2, pp. 223-253.

Miller, Barry: 1981, 'Individuals Past, Present and Future'. Philosophy, Vol. 56, pp. 253-257.

Mortensen, Chris: 1995, 'Prior and Rennie on Times and Tenses'. History and Philosophy of Logic, Vol. 16 (1995), no. 1, pp. 65-73.

Needham, Paul: 1975, Temporal Perspective. Philosophical Studies published by the University of Uppsala, No. 24. Ph.D. dissertation.

Slater, B.H.: 1986, 'Prior's Analytic'. Analysis, Vol. 46, pp. 76-81.

Smart, J.J.C.: 1982, 'Prior and the Basis of Ethics'. Synthese, Vol. 53, pp. 3-17.

Verkuyl, H.J.; le Loux-Schuringa, J.A.: 1985, 'Once Upon a Tense'. Linguistics and Philosophy, Vol. 8, pp. 237-262.

Wegener, Mogens: 1990, 'Arguing for the Reality of Privileged Time'. Proceedings from "Physical Interpretations of Relativity Theory", (British Society for the Philosophy of Science), London 1990.

Wegener, Mogens: 1997, 'Towards a Metaphysics of Time and Creation'. (To appear in Wegener, Mogens (editor): Time, Creation and World-Order. 22 pages).

Wegener, Mogens; Øhrstrøm, P.: 1997, 'A New Tempo-Modal Logic for Emerging Truth.' In Faye, Jan; Scheffler, Uwe; Urchs, Max (editors): 1997, Perspectives on Time. Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 417-442.

Williams, C.J.F.: 1973, 'Prior and Ontology'. Ratio, Vol. 15, pp. 291-302.

Williams, S.G.: 1986, 'On the Logical Possibility of Time Without Change'. Analysis, Vol. 46, pp. 122-125.

Øhrstrøm, P.; Flo, O.: 1996, Bibliography of Prior's Philosophical Writings, in: Copeland, Jack (editor): 1996, Logic and Reality: Essays on the Legacy of Arthur Prior, Oxford University Press/Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp. 519-532.

Øhrstrøm, P.; Hasle, P.: 1993, 'A. N. Prior's Rediscovery of Tense Logic'. Erkenntnis, Vol. 39, pp. 23-50

Øhrstrøm, P.; Hasle, P.: 1995, Temporal Logic - from Ancient Ideas to Artificial Intelligence. Studies in Linguistics and Philosophy, 57. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, 1995. <Info order form>

B. Reviews of Prior-publications

Baldwin, T.R.: 1972, 'Objects of Thought by A.N. Prior' (Edited by P.T. Geach and A.J.P. Kenny). The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 22 (1972), pp. 174-175.

Beth, E.W.: 1959, Review of 'A. N. Prior: Formal logic'. Synthese, Vol. 11 (1959), pp. 85-86.

Blackburn, S.: 1968, 'Papers on Time and Tense' by Arthur N. Prior. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 19 (1968), pp. 371-373.

Brown, M. A.: 1956, Review of 'A. N. Prior: Formal logic'. Franciscan Studies, Vol. 16 (1956), pp. 299-301.

Bull, R. A.: 1968, Review of 'A. N. Prior: Past, Present and Future' (1967). Mathematical Reviews, Vol. 36 (1968), p.10.

Clark, Michael: 1972, 'Objects of Thought by A.N. Prior' (Edited by P.T. Geach and A.J.P. Kenny). Philosophy, Vol. 47 (1972), pp. 278-280.

Cocchiarella, Nino B.: 1971, Review of 'A. N. Prior: Papers on Time and Tense', The Journal of Symbolic Logic, Vol. 36 (1971), pp. 515-518.

Cohen, L. J.: 1970, 'Past, Present and Future' by Arthur Prior. The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 20 (1970), pp. 83-84.

Cohen, L. J.: 1973, 'Objects of Thought by A.N. Prior' (Edited by P.T. Geach and A.J.P. Kenny). Mind, January 1973, pp. 127-142.

Fine, Kit: 1973, 'Objects of Thought by A.N. Prior' (Edited by P.T. Geach and A.J.P. Kenny). The Philosophical Review, Vol. 82 (1973), pp. 392-395.

Hamblin, C.L.: 1958, Review of 'Time and Modality. By A. N. Prior.' Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 36 (1958), pp. 232-234.

Heyting, A.: 1956, Review of 'A. N. Prior: Formal logic' (1955). Mathematical Reviews, Vol. 17 (1956), p. 569.

Kanger, S.: 1960, Review of 'A. N. Prior: Time and Modality'. The Journal of Symbolic Logic, Vol. 25 (1960), pp. 342-343.

Leblanc, Hugues: 1962, Review of 'A. N. Prior: Formal logic'. The Journal of Symbolic Logic, Vol. 27 (1962), pp. 218-219.

Lejewski, Czeslaw: 1959, 'Time and Modality by A. N. Prior'. Philosophy, Vol. 34 (1959), pp. 56-59.

McCall, Storrs: 1968, Review of 'A. N. Prior: Past, Present and Future'. Dialogue 6 (1968), pp. 618-621.

Smart, J. J. C.: 1956, Critical Notice of 'Formal Logic. By A. N. Prior.' Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 34 (1956), pp. 118-126.

Thomas, Ivo: 1956, 'Formal Logic by A. N. Prior'. Philosophy, Vol. 31 (1956), pp. 379-381.

Tomberlin, James E.: 1970, 'Prior on Time and Tense'. The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 24 (1970-71), pp. 57-81. [A review and discussion of 'Papers on Time and Tense' = 1968a].

C. Obituaries/memorial papers

Geach, P. T.: 1970, 'Arthur Prior: A Personal Impression'. Theoria, Vol. 36, pp. 186-188.

Hughes, G. E.: 1971, 'Arthur Prior (1914-1969)'. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 49, No.3, December, pp. 241–243.

Kenny, Anthony: 1970, 'Arthur Norman Prior (1914-1969)', Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. 56, pp. 321-349.

Thomas, Ivo: 1971, 'In Memoriam A. N. Prior (1914-69)'. Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic, Vol. 12, No. 2, pp. 129–130.

D. Memoirs etc. with descriptions of Prior

Emmet, Dorothy: 1996, Philosophers and Friends. Reminiscences of seventy years in philosophy. MacMillan, Basingstoke.

Kenny, Anthony: 1985, A Path from Rome, Sidgwick and Jackson, London.

Kenny, Anthony: 1997, A Life in Oxford, John Murray, London.

Smart, J. J. C.: 1989, 'Australian Philosophers of the 1950s'. Quadrant, June 1989, pp. 35-39.

Journals Analysed

Per F. V. Hasle ©
  • Department of Information Studies

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Peter Øhrstrøm ©

  • Department of Communication and Psychology

  • Aalborg University

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David Jakobsen ©

  • Department of Communication and Psychology

  • Aalborg University

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  • Denmark