Time, between philosophy and physics

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Institutional Communication Service

28 June 2024

The famous theory of relativity has revolutionised our view of reality, including one of its most crucial aspects: time. How does the view of time change in light of relativity? And what is the impact of this change on our everyday lives? Damiano Costa, vice-director of the Institute for Philosophical Studies of the Faculty of Theology affiliated with USI, discussed these and other questions in an interview with Ivo Silvestro for laRegione.

Time recently took centre stage as the ninth annual conference of the International Association for the Philosophy of Time (IAPT) was held in Lugano from 24 to 28 June. The conference involved 150 participants, including 50 speakers, and was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) through a Starting Grant directed by Professor Damiano Costa and an Ambition Grant directed by Dr. Cristian Mariani.

As Damiano Costa explains, the contemporary philosophical debate on time is dominated by two major theories: presentism and eternalism. For the former, "there is only the present, which ends up being like a skinny blade between two great nothings: the past, which is no more, and the future, which is not yet." The second, on the other hand, follows the theory of relativity, denying that there is "an objective distinction between past, present and future."

Pondering the nature of time can yield more immediate and concrete results than one might expect. The professor, beginning with a quote from Einstein, reflects on how the concept of eternalism can transform our existence by relativising the importance of the phenomenon of death.

However, embracing the full implications of the theory of relativity is challenging because they often conflict with our conventional understanding of the world. Will we ever truly comprehend these implications? And if so, is it only a matter of time?

The full interview published in laRegione, by Ivo Silvestro, is available here (Italian only).

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