Instructor:       Christian Loew

Email:             christian.loew@umu.se


Craig Callender warns that “[t]ime is a big invisible thing that will kill you.” In this class, we will discuss what else is true of time. We ordinarily think that time is drastically different from space. We believe that the present moment (what happens now) is special in a way that our spatial location (the here) is not. We think that time but not space has a privileged direction. And we think that time flows, but space does not. Science, by contrast, is often said to ‘spatialize’ time by denying these differences. It, arguably, portrays time as static, lacking an (intrinsic) direction, and with no moment being metaphysically special.

The goal of the class is to examine what motivates this scientific picture of time and whether it can be reconciled with everyday experience. Are there compelling scientific arguments that time is analogous to space? Why does the present moment appear special to us? If time has no (intrinsic) direction, what explains the many differences between past and future? Why, if the past is intrinsically no different from the future, do we prefer pains to be in our past but pleasures to be in our future? And what prevents us from travelling to the past? And is time travel even logically coherent?


Sept 5 – Intro

Sept 12 – The Problem of Time

  • Chapter 3 (“Time”) in: E. Conee and T. Sider (2005) Riddles of Existence. Oxford University Press, 44–61.
  • VIDEO: Huw Price: “The passage of time is an illusion,” watch from 5:44 until 9:59.  
  • Optional: Mellor, D.H. (2001) “The Time of our Lives,” Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 48: 45-59.

Sept 19 – Time and Relativity

  • VIDEO: David Albert, “Time in Newtonian Mechanics, watch from 3:58 until 10:00
  • Chapter 2 (“Time and Space: A Marriage is Arranged”) in: Lockwood, M. (2005) The Labyrinth of Time. Oxford University Press, pp. 23–51.
  • Optional: Putnam, H. (1967) “Time and Physical Geometry,” Journal of Philosophy 64: 240-247.

Sept 23 – Theories of Time

  • Miller, K. (2013) “The Growing Block, Presentism, and Eternalism,” in: H. Dyke & A. Bardon (eds.) A Companion to the Philosophy of Time. Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Optional: Zimmerman, D. (2007) “The Privileged Present: Defending an ‘A-theory’ of Time,” in: T. Sider, J. Hawthorne & D. Zimmerman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics. Blackwell, 211–225.

Sept 30 – The Block Universe

  • Chapter 3 (“The Block Universe”) in: Dainton, B. (2010) Time and Space. Second Edition. Acumen, pp. 27-41.
  • VIDEO: Alison Fernandes, “Physics and Everyday Experience.” Watch from 10:20 until 13:16

Oct 3 – The Direction of Time

  • VIDEO: Sean Carroll, S. “The Arrow of Time feat. Sean Carroll.”
  • North, Jill (2011) “Time in Thermodynamics,” in: C. Callender (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time. Oxford University Press. pp. 312—350. Read until §5.1 (you can skip §2).
  • Price, Huw (2004) “On the Origins of the Arrow of Time: Why There is Still a Puzzle about the Low Entropy Past,” in: C. Hitchcock (ed.) Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Science, Blackwell.

Oct 10 – Time Travel

  • Lewis, David. 1976. ‘The Paradoxes of Time Travel’. American Philosophical Quarterly 13(2): 145−152.
  • VIDEO: Augustine Rayo, “The Grandfather Paradox
  • Chiang, T. (2007) The Merchant and the Alchemist’s Gate. Subterranean Press.

Oct 17 – The Value Asymmetry

  • Hare, C. (2013) “Time – The Emotional Asymmetry,” in: A Companion to the Philosophy of Time, pp. 507-520
  • Suhler, C. and Callender, C. (2012) “Thank Goodness That Argument Is Over: Explaining the Temporal Value Asymmetry,” Philosophers’ Imprint 12: 1-16.

Oct 21 – Discussion & unfinished business

Oct 24 – Discussion & unfinished business

Completion Requirements

To successfully complete the class, you need to fulfill the following four requirements:

  1. Attendance and discussion: You need to attend every class session (except when you have a reasonable excuse) and participate in the discussion.
  • Prepared questions: For six out of the seven sessions where materials are assigned, you need to come prepared to class with at least two question you would like us to discuss. These questions could be specific to a particular text or video: For example, an argument in a text might be really unclear to you; or you might think that some claims the author makes is not well-supported. Or, the questions could be more general: something you see as fundamental to the topic of the week or simply that you think would be very interesting/important to discuss in relation to the texts and the topic. In general, if there is anything that puzzles you about a text or video, you should write down your question and bring it to class.
  • Draft & Final Paper: Write both a draft and a final version of a 2000–3000 word paper. I will make topics available in due course. We will talk more about the form of these papers throughout the class.
  • Comments: Provide written feedback on one the paper draft of one of your colleagues.