Direction of Time

pp 137-155

Time in Modern Philosophy of Physics—A Survey

  • Holger LyreAffiliated withPhilosophy Department, University of Magdeburg Email author 

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The topos of time ranges among the most puzzling and intriguing topics in our philosophical tradition—a seemingly endless source of deep and unsolved questions: What is time? What is temporal becoming? And how are we to spell out all this without using temporal notions in the first place? These questions are puzzling also in the sense that in our everyday life we seem to be quite familiar with the phenomenon of time. In a famous quote from the Confessions, Saint Augustine points out this discrepancy in the following way: “What is time? If nobody asks me, I know; but if I were desirous to explain it to one that should ask me, plainly I know not.” Nevertheless, 20th century physics has seen much progress not in finally answering these questions, but in providing us with some new perspectives and perhaps also some deeper insights into the nature of time from a scientific point of view. This article is accordingly devoted to give an overview on the several aspects of the notion of time—and in particular the directedness of time—in modern physics. (A similar version has been published online as: Time in philosophy of physics: the central issues. Phys. Phil., ISSN: 1863-7388, 2008, ID: 012, http://​physphil.​tu-dortmund.​de.)


Time Temporality Endurantism Perdurantism Zeno’s paradox Arrows of time Conventionality of simultaneity Hole argument Parmenides Heraclit McTaggart H-theorem Second law Maxwell’s demon Entropy Information Measurement problem Ignorance interpretation Theory underdetermination Bohmian mechanicstransactional interpretation