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Cosmic inflation and the past hypothesis

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Abstract

The past hypothesis is that the entropy of the universe was very low in the distant past. It is put forward to explain the entropic arrow of time but it has been suggested (e.g. [Penrose, R. (1989a). The emperor’s new mind. London:Vintage Books; Penrose, R. (1989b). Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 571, 249–264; Price, H. (1995). In S. F. Savitt (Ed.), Times’s arrows today. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Price, H. (1996). Time’s arrow and Archimedes’ point. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Price, H. (2004). In C. Hitchcock (Ed.), Contemporary debates in philosophy of science. Oxford: Blackwell]) that it is itself in need of explanation. It has also been suggested that cosmic inflation could provide the explanation, but Price (2004) raises a serious objection to this suggestion, which has otherwise received very little attention in the philosophical literature. Price points out that the standard inflationary explanation involves a double standard: although the evolution of the universe described by the inflationary model seems natural from the standard temporal perspective it looks highly unnatural from the reversed temporal perspective. The main purpose of this paper is to propose a novel form of the inflationary explanation that avoids this objection. It is argued that the inflationary model would not involve a double standard (but would still explain the past hypothesis) if we construct the model with a global “boundary” condition instead of a conventional boundary condition: if we assume that the universe is as generic as possible overall, rather than as generic as possible at some given point (e.g. the Big Bang) as is assumed in the standard inflationary model. This novel form of the inflationary explanation is then compared with Price’s 1996 preferred explanation, a version of the so-called “Weyl hypothesis”.

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Correspondence to Peter Mark Ainsworth.

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Ainsworth, P.M. Cosmic inflation and the past hypothesis. Synthese 162, 157–165 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-007-9179-4

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Keywords

  • Arrow of time
  • Entropy
  • Inflation
  • Past hypothesis