While experience tells us that time flows from the past to the present and into the future, a number of philosophical and physical objections exist to this commonsense view of dynamic time. In an attempt to make sense of this conundrum, philosophers and physicists are forced to confront fascinating questions, such as: Can effects precede causes? Can one travel in time? Can the expansion of the Universe or the process of measurement in quantum mechanics define a direction in time? In (...) this book, researchers from both physics and philosophy attempt to answer these issues in an interesting, yet rigorous way. This fascinating book will be of interest to physicists and philosophers of science and educated general readers interested in the direction of time. (shrink)
The distinction between presentism and eternalism is usually sought in some formula like ‘Only presently existing things exist’ or ‘Past, present, and future events are equally real’. I argue that ambiguities in the copula prevent these slogans from distinguishing significant opposed positions. I suggest in addition that one can find a series of significant distinctions if one takes spacetime structure into account. These presentisms and eternalisms are not contradictory. They are complementary elements of a complete naturalistic philosophy of time.
Mark Hinchliff concludes a recent paper, "The Puzzle of Change," with a section entitled "Is the Presentist Refuted by the Special Theory of Relativity?" His answer is "no." I respond by arguing that presentists face great difficulties in merely stating their position in Minkowski spacetime. I round up some likely candidates for the job and exhibit their deficiencies.
I propose that the passage of time is the successive occurrence of sets of simultaneous events (assuming classical or Newtonian spacetime structure as background). This conception of passage, I claim, is lean enough to survive the criticisms of passage-deniers while robust enough to satisfy the needs of passage-affirmers. I undertake to describe and defend this minimal notion of passage.
The aim of this essay is to introduce philosophers of science to some recent philosophical discussions of the nature and origin of the direction of time. The essay is organized around books by Hans Reichenbach, Paul Horwich, and Huw Price. I outline their major arguments and treat certain critical points in detail. I speculate at the end about the ways in which the subject may continue to develop and in which it may connect with other areas of philosophy.
In this paper I argue that the clash of the Sellars’ two images is particularly acute in the case of time. In Time and the World Order Sellars seems embarked on a quest to locate manifest time in Minkowski spacetime. I suggest that he should have argued for the replacement of manifest time with the local, path-dependent time of the “scientific image”, just as he suggests that manifest objects must be replaced by their scientific counterparts.
In a recent book, Asymmetries in Time, Paul Horwich presents a systematic account of various temporal asymmetries, including a neo-Reichenbachian account of the (apparent) fact that we know more about the past than the future, the epistemological time asymmetry. I find some obscurities in Horwich's presentation, however, and I argue that when his view is understood in a way that I shall propose, it does represent an advance on Reichenbach's, but it fails to vindicate Horwich's "main point...that our special knowledge (...) of the past derives from the fork asymmetry. (shrink)
Some elementary properties of tachyons are described and then it is argued that the claim that (T) Tachyons exist, is incompatible with the truth of the Special Theory of Relativity (STR). First it is argued that from T, STR, and the negation of the principle that (Pl) Effect never precedes cause, one can derive a paradoxical conclusion, one of the so-called "causal paradoxes". An obvious response is to affirm (Pl), but then it is argued that (Pl) and (T) entail that (...) STR is false. (shrink)
In this paper we present six criteria for assessing proposed solutions to environmental risk problems. To assess the final criterion-the criterion of ethical responsibility-we suggest another series of criteria. However, before these criteria can be used to address ethical problems, business persons must be wiIling to discuss the problem in ethical terms. Yet many decision makers are unwilling to do so. Drawing on research by James Waters and Frederick Bird, we discuss this “moral muteness”-the inability or unwillingness to use (...) morallanguage to solve moral problems-and suggest some underlying causes of moral muteness. (shrink)
Frederick Douglass, in his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, describes how his sociopolitical identity was scripted by the white other and how his spatiotemporal existence was likewise constrained through constant surveillance and disciplinary dispositifs. Even so, Douglass was able to assert his humanity through creative acts of resistance. In this essay, I highlight the ways in which Douglass refused to accept the other-imposed narrative, demonstrating with his life the truth of his being—a human being (...) unwilling to be classified as thing or property. As I engage selected passages and key events from Douglass's narrative, I likewise explore the ways in which the resistance tactics .. (shrink)
Although Frederick Douglass disclaimed any patriotism or love of the United States in the years when he considered its constitution to be pro-slavery, I argue that he was in fact always a patriot and always a lover of his country. This conclusion leads me to argue further that patriotism is not as expressly political as many philosophers suppose. Patriots love their country despite its politics and often unreasonably, although in loving their country they are concerned with its politics. The (...) greatest among them freely dedicate themselves selflessly to the improvement of their country, partly because they love it, and partly because they are moved to take on great projects. (shrink)
Imagine putting together a jigsaw puzzle that works like the board game in the movie “Jumanji”: When you finish, whatever the puzzle portrays becomes real. The children playing “Jumanji” learn to prepare for the reality that emerges from the next throw of the dice. But how would this work for the puzzle of scientific research? How do you prepare for unlocking the secrets of the atom, or assembling from the bottom-up nanotechnologies with unforeseen properties – especially when completion of such (...) puzzles lies decades after the first scattered pieces are tentatively assembled? In the inaugural issue of this journal, Michael Polanyi argued that because the progress of science is unpredictable, society must only move forward with solving the puzzle until the picture completes itself. Decades earlier, Frederick Soddy argued that once the potential for danger reveals itself, one must reorient the whole of one’s work to avoid it. While both scientists stake out extreme positions, Soddy’s approach – together with the action taken by the like-minded Leo Szilard – provides a foundation for the anticipatory governance of emerging technologies. This paper narrates the intertwining stories of Polanyi, Soddy and Szilard, revealing how anticipation influenced governance in the case of atomic weapons and how Polanyi’s claim in “The Republic of Science” of an unpredictable and hence ungovernable science is faulty on multiple levels. (shrink)
This critical editorial introduction summarizes and explicates Frederick Will’s pragmatic realism and his account of the nature, assessment, and revision of cognitive and practical norms in connection with: the development of Will’s pragmatic realism, Hume’s problem of induction, the oscillations between foundationalism and coherentism, the nature of philosophical reflection, Kant’s ‘Refutation of Idealism’, the open texture of empirical concepts, the correspondence conception of truth, Putnam’s ‘internal realism’, the redundancy theory of truth, sociology of knowledge, the governance of practice by (...) norms and the assessment and revision of norms in practice, scientific realism, the alleged independence of reason and tradition, rule-following, legal realism, ethical intuitionism and moral relativism, the regress problem (both in epistemology and in moral theory), the paradox of analysis, and culminating in Will’s account of the philosophical governance of norms. These issues are discussed in close consideration of the views of: William Alston, John Dewey, Descartes, Leibniz, Waismann, Austin, Russell, Schlick, Ayer, Richard Rorty, Michael Williams, Hempel, Carnap, Simon Blackburn, Ramsey, Strawson, Kuhn, Wilfrid Sellars, Wittgenstein, Nozick, Dretske, Quine, Barbara Herman, Hardy Jones, Marcus Singer, and Gerd Buchdahl. (shrink)
A recent proposal by Norton (2003) to show that a simple Newtonian system can exhibit stochastic acausal behavior by giving rise to spontaneous movements of a mass on the dome of a certain shape is examined. We discuss the physical significance of an often overlooked and yet important Lipschitz condition the violation of which leads to the existence of anomalous nontrivial solutions in this and similar cases. We show that the Lipschitz condition is closely linked with the time reversibility of (...) certain solutions in Newtonian mechanics and the failure to incorporate this condition within Newtonian mechanics may unsurprisingly lead to physically impossible solutions that have no serious metaphysical implications. ‡I thank StevenSavitt of the Philosophy Department at the University of British Columbia for drawing my attention to the Lipschitz condition, and Alexei Cheviakov of the Mathematics Department at the University of British Columbia for useful discussions. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z1, Canada; e-mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
Steven French and Décio Krause have written what bids fair to be, for years to come, the definitive philosophical treatment of the problem of the individuality of elementary particles in quantum mechanics and quantum field theory. The book begins with a long and dense argument for the view that elementary particles are most helpfully regarded as non-individuals, and it concludes with an earnest attempt to develop a formal apparatus for describing such non-individual entities better suited to the task than (...) our customary set theory. Along the way one is treated to a compendious philosophical history of quantum statistics and a well-nigh exhaustive (I’m tempted to say, “exhausting”) analytical history of philosophical responses to the quantum theory’s prima facie challenge to classical notions of particle individuality. The book is also a salvo from the headquarters artillery company of the “pro” side in the contemporary structuralism wars, and an essay in metaphysical naturalism. Whew! There are too many places where the friendly critic wants to engage the argument, and few where the authors have not already anticipated such engagement. I take this as my excuse, then, for offering not any systematic response to the whole project, but just some questions and observations about several points that caught my attention. (shrink)
The portrayal of novel neurotechnologies in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report serves to inoculate viewers from important moral considerations that are displaced by the film’s somewhat singular emphasis on the question of how to reintroduce freedom of choice into an otherwise technology driven world. This sets up a crisis mentality and presents a false dilemma regarding the appropriate use, and regulation, of neurotechnologies. On the one hand, it seems that centralized power is required to both control and effectively implement such (...) technologies and, on the other hand, individual heroic resistance is required to protect citizens from the invasions of personal privacy and state control made possible through neurotechnologies. While Minority Report, as a dystopic vision of emergent neurotechnologies, engages surface ethical issues it risks cheapening them through its rather simplistic, dichotomous analysis. Most conspicuously absent from this approach is a sense of the social matrices that work to circumscribe or augment expressions of human freedom, privacy, control and power that are all implicated in our engagement with novel neurotechnologies. Were Minority Report unique in this respect it would have little interest, but we think this type of cheapening of ethical discourse about novel technologies is common. Because science fiction film informs the social imaginary in which ethical considerations and ultimately policy decisions take place, such cheapening risks subverting pervasive and tangible ethical issues by focusing on the sensationalistic and simplistic. (shrink)
Aspects of an example of simulated shared subjectivity can be used both to support Steven Lehar's remarks on embodied percipients and to triangulate in a novel way the so-called “hard problem” of consciousness which Lehar wishes to “sidestep,” but which, given his other contentions regarding emergent holism, raises questions about whether he has been able or willing to do so.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- What will English be like a hundred years from now? No one has ever observed what happens when a language is used for a century in a global village. Will MTV and CNN infiltrate every yurt and houseboat and drive out all other languages? Will regional accents go extinct, leaving everyone sounding like a Midwestern newscaster? Some language lovers worry that e-mail and chat rooms will influence writing & F2F (face-to-face) lang. & leadd it 2 loose it's (...) grammer spllng etc. :-(. (shrink)
In a recent paper, StevenSavitt attempts to demonstrate that there is an area of common ground between one classic proponent of temporal passage, C.D. Broad, and one classic opponent of passage, D.C. Williams. According to Savitt, Broad's notion of “absolute becoming” as the ordered occurrence of (simultaneity sets of) events, and Williams’ notion of “literal passage,” as the happening of events strung along the four-dimensional space-time manifold, are indistinguishable. Savitt recognizes that some might think it (...) preposterous to maintain that Broad and Williams agree regarding the nature of passage, but by a consideration of Broad’s “OstensibleTemporality,” and Williams’ “The Myth of Passage,” Savitt attempts to demonstrate that they do in fact hold the same, and indeed the correct, view of passage. I shall argue, however, that Broad’s account of the transitory aspect of time is ontologically distinguishable from Williams’ and that only by confusing Broad’s A-theory with Williams’ B-theory or Williams’ B-theory with Broad’s A-theory could Savitt have thought that there is an area of overlap between them. A demonstration of these points will have the benefit of enabling us to clarify the ontological character ofthe dispute, of which Broad was well-aware, between the A- and B-theories of time. (shrink)
Should a theory of meaning state what sentences mean, and can a Davidsonian theory of meaning in particular do so? Max Ko¨lbel answers both questions affirmatively. I argue, however, that the phenomena of non-homophony, non-truth-conditional aspects of meaning, semantic mood, and context-sensitivity provide prima facie obstacles for extending Davidsonian truth-theories to yield meaning-stating theorems. Assessing some natural moves in reply requires a more fully developed conception of the task of such theories than Ko¨lbel provides. A more developed conception is also (...) required to defend his positive answer to the first question above. I argue that, however Ko¨lbel might elaborate his position, it can’t be by embracing the sort of cognitivist account of Davidsonian semantics to which he sometimes alludes. (shrink)
Steven Pinker's How the mind works (HTMW) marks in my opinion an historic point in the history of humankind's attempt to understand itself. Socrates delivered his "know thyself" imperative rather long ago, and now, finally, in this behemoth of a book, published at the dawn of a new millennium, Pinker steps up to have psychology tell us what we are: computers crafted by evolution - end of story; mystery solved; and the poor philosophers, having never managed to obey Socrates' (...) command, are left alone to wander in the labyrinth of their benighted speculation forever. Unfortunately, though HTMW is to this point the crowning attempt of psychology to make systematic sense of persons by integrating everything relevant science knows, the book fails - and it fails so fundamentally and irremediably that we would do well to wonder anew whether we should supplant the basic view it promotes with what I call the super-mind hypothesis: the view that though mere animals are evolved computers, persons are more. (shrink)