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Q & A: philosophy of time

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Most recent answer: 01/15/2015
Q:
Hi there. I'm currently taking a philosophy course about the philosophy of time. The two main positions seem to be presentism and eternalism. Presentists believe that the present moment is special metaphysically speaking. The past no longer exists and the future has yet to exist. Only the present currently exists. Eternalists deny that the present moment is in anyway metaphysically special seeing all of the moments throughout cosmic history as being equally real. But I was wondering what physicists thought. I have a very academic understanding of physics but from it I tend to think that Einstein's theory of relativity basically disproved presentism 110 years ago. Are we not all in different time slices so what is simultaneous for me is not simultaneous for you. I was wondering if you would comment. thank you
- Jason Kinzie (age 42)
Edmonton, AB Canada
A:

I doubt that there is any consensus among those physicists who think much about this question. I've thought about it occasionally, and have no definite opinion. Einstein did express express "eternalist" views sometimes. David Mermin has written on the topic, but I'm not sure if his views fall into either category. Perhaps an operationalist would claim that the question is meaningless, since neither answer has any observational implications.

Mike W.

posted without vetting until Lee returns


(published on 01/15/2015)

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