Quantum gravity, timelessness, and the contents of thought

  • David Braddon-Mitchell
  • Kristie MillerEmail author


A number of recent theories of quantum gravity lack a one-dimensional structure of ordered temporal instants. Instead, according to many of these views, our world is either best represented as a single three-dimensional object, or as a configuration space composed of such three-dimensional objects, none of which bear temporal relations to one another. Such theories will be empirically self-refuting unless they can accommodate the existence of conscious beings capable of representation. For if representation itself is impossible in a timeless world, then no being in such a world could entertain the thought that a timeless theory is true, let alone believe such a theory or rationally believe it. This paper investigates the options for understanding representation in a three-dimensional, timeless, world. Ultimately it concludes that the only viable option is one according to which representation is taken to be deeply non-naturalistic. Ironically then we are left with two seemingly very unattractive options. Either a very naturalistic motivation—taking seriously a live view in fundamental physics—leads us to a very non-naturalistic view of the mental, or else views in the philosophy of mind partly dictate what is an acceptable theory in physics.


Time Timeless Timelessness Representation Quantum gravity 



Thanks to Jonathan Tallant, Oliver Pooley, Carlo Rovelli, Jeremy Butterfield, Sam Baron and Adrian Bardon, and participants at the International Association or the philosophy of Time Association (2016) for helpful criticisms and encouragement. The study was funded by Australian Research Council with Grant Nos. DP110100486, FT170100262, DP11010048.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, The Centre for TimeThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyThe University of SydneySydneyAustralia

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