What Makes Time Special?

Oxford: Oxford University Press (2017)
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As we navigate through life, we model time as flowing, the present as special, and the past as “dead.” This model of time—manifest time—develops in childhood and later thoroughly infiltrates our language, thought, and behavior. It is part of what makes a human life recognizably human. Yet if physics is correct, this model of the world is deeply mistaken. This book is about this conflict between manifest and physical time. The first half dives into the physics and philosophy to establish the conflict’s existence; but it also argues that the claim that physics “spatializes” time is overstated. Rather, even relativity theory makes time special in deep and significant ways. The second half turns to psychology, biology, and more, seeking to understand why creatures like us develop manifest time. The novel picture that results is that manifest time is a natural reaction to the many cognitive and evolutionary challenges that we face. For subjects embedded in our circumstances, it makes sense to develop—even if fundamentally wrong.



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Craig Callender
University of California, San Diego

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