Our ordinary language shows a tiresome bias in its treatment of time. Relations of date are exalted grammatically as relations of position, weight, and color are not. This bias is of itself an inelegance, or breach of theoretical simplicity.And for the purposes of his canonical notation, he drops all tenses but the present, using "before now" and "after now" as useful.
In the former of The Blue and Brown Books, Wittgenstein writes
And when we are worried about the nature of thinking, the puzzlement which we wrongly interpret to be one about the nature of a medium is a puzzlement caused by the mystifying use of our language. This kind of mistake occurs again and again in philosophy; e.g. when we are puzzled about the nature of time, when time seems to us a queer thing.And a few pages farther on,
It was such a "contradiction" which puzzled Saint Augustine when he argued: How is it possible that one should measure time? For the past can't be measured, as it is gone by; and the future can't be measured because it has not come. And the present can't be measured for it has no extension. The contradiction which here seems to arise could be called a conflict between two different usages of a word, in this case the word "measure". Augustine, we might say, thinks of the process of measuring a length: say, the distance between two marks on a traveling band which passes us, and of which we can see only a tiny bit (the present) which passes in front of us.Locke writes, without naming St. Augustine,
The answer of a great man, to one who asked what time was "Si non rogas, intelligo', (which amounts to this; the more I set myself to think of it, the less I understand it,) might persuade one, that time, which reveals all things, is itself not to be discovered. Duration, time, and eternity, are, not without reason, thought to have something very abstruse in their nature. But however remote these may seem from our comprehension, yet if we trace them right to their originals, I doubt not but one of those sources of all our knowledge, viz. sensation and reflection, will be able to furnish us with these ideas, as clear and distinct as many other, which are thought much less obscure; and we shall find, that the idea of eternity itself is derived from the same common original with the rest of our ideas.(An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Book II, Chapter XIV, Section 2.)