Tempo al Tempo, a dialogue between physics and philosophy


Il Litorale

8 October 2021

Tempo al tempo 
Three talks on the nature of time, through physics and philosophy

A young physicist and three philosophers meet and discuss the mysteries of time, a concept that encompasses our daily lives but remains hidden and unexplained. The discussions, which are both dialogic and informative, are open to all and will be held in the Quartiere Maghetti at Il Litorale USI, organiser of the initiative in collaboration with the ISFI Institute of Philosophy Studies Lugano.

Among the most used English words, after a long list of articles and prepositions, pronouns and conjunctions, the first noun finally appears in fiftieth place: "time". We organise it, we invest it, we lose it, we pay for it and make ourselves pay for it, we even kill it, in the melancholic certainty that in the end it will kill us.

And yet, on a subject that so obsessively affects our daily lives, we can truly say that we know more than St Augustine when he wrote: "What, then, is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I have to explain it to those who ask me, I do not know".

The answer is yes, of course we know a great deal more. We know that time moves faster at high altitudes than at the seaside, or that we age more slowly aboard a high-speed train, or that our future already exists for someone else. From Newton to the most modern theories of quantum gravity, passing through the genius of Einstein and his relativity, the physical concept of time has evolved, maturing together with the interpretations that great philosophy has been able to give it.

These fundamental topics that have interested the most brilliant minds of the last century also inspire the series of three discussions "Tempo al Tempo" that Il Litorale USI is organising in collaboration with the Institute of Philosophy Studies (ISFI Lugano).

The productive understanding between physics and philosophy will be proposed on three Friday evenings (29 October, 19 November and 3 December) at 6 p.m. at Il Litorale in the Quartiere Maghetti when Cesare Alfieri, the young physicist who proposed the initiative, will discuss each time with distinguished philosophers in the field. With Damiano Costa, a USI lecturer, he will discuss the existence of time and eternity; with Emiliano Boccardi, a professor at the Universidade Federa de Bahia (Brazil), he will discuss why it seems that time flows inexorably in a single direction; and with Claudio Calosi, a professor at the University of Geneva, he will discuss the paradoxes with which relativity confuses us.

The whole initiative will be open and dialogic: the topics will be narrated rather than explained, presented in a popular but never inaccurate manner, and discussed with the audience. Anyone, with or without previous knowledge of physics and philosophy, will be able to take an active part and draw inspiration from them. Refreshments will be offered after the dicussions, which will be spoken in Italian.


  • October 29 - A time to be born and a time to die

Birth and death prompt us to question time. What do we know for sure about it? Perhaps that it passes by. Perhaps that the present is a boundary between two great abysses of nothingness: a past that is no more, a future that is not yet. But will not even these apparent certainties prove to be mere illusions?

With Damiano Costa, deputy director of the Institute of Philosophy Studies (ISFI, Lugano), lecturer and coordinator of the Master in Philosophy at USI


  • November 19 - A time to throw stones and a time to pick them up

When you throw a stone, its trajectory runs in time from the moment of throwing to the moment of landing. It never goes in reverse. Why does time seem to have a very precise direction? What distinguishes the past from the future? Let us travel along the line of time using philosophy and physics.

With Emiliano Boccardi, Professor at the Department of Philosophy, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil


  • December 3 - A time to be silent and a time to talk

Many of our intuitions about time are challenged by Einstein's Theory of Relativity. Let's put some false myths to rest and talk about what this theory really implies about the nature of time: from the idea of the present to the existence of past and future.

With Claudio Calosi, Assistant professor at the University of Geneva and lecturer at USI


For organisational reasons, please register by e-mail: [email protected]