Physics’ silence on time

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In this paper I argue that physics is, always was, and probably always will be voiceless with respect to tense and passage, and that, therefore, if, as I believe, tense and passage are the essence of time, physics’ contribution to our understanding of time can only be limited. The argument, in a nutshell, is that if "physics has no possibility of expression for the Now", to quote Einstein, then it cannot add anything to the study of tense and passage, and specifically, cannot add anything to the debate between deniers and affirmers of the existence or reality of tense and passage. Since relativity theory did not equip physics with a new language with which to speak of tense and passage, I draw the further conclusion that relativity theory has not generated the revolution to our conception of time that is attributed to it. In the last section I discuss the motivations behind the continued but misguided attempts to integrate tense into a relativistic setting, and assess the manners in which relativity theory has nevertheless enhanced, albeit indirectly, our understanding of tense and passage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-469
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal for Philosophy of Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements - the authors are grateful to the regretted F. Gourbière for his expertise in statistical analysis. the technical assistance of P. Salar is gratefully acknowledged. this work was financially supported by the Centre technique interprofes-sionnel des oléagineux métropolitains (CetIoM) and by the Région Languedoc-Roussillon.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature.


  • Bergson
  • Block universe
  • Einstein
  • Passage
  • Relativity theory
  • Tense
  • Time


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