Quantum gravity, timelessness, and the contents of thought

Philosophical Studies 176 (7):1807-1829 (2019)
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Abstract
A number of recent theories of quantum gravity lack a one-dimensional structure of ordered temporal instants. Instead, according to many of these views, our world is either best represented as a single three-dimensional object, or as a configuration space composed of such three-dimensional objects, none of which bear temporal relations to one another. Such theories will be empirically self-refuting unless they can accommodate the existence of conscious beings capable of representation. For if representation itself is impossible in a timeless world, then no being in such a world could entertain the thought that a timeless theory is true, let alone believe such a theory or rationally believe it. This paper investigates the options for understanding representation in a three-dimensional, timeless, world. Ultimately it concludes that the only viable option is one according to which representation is taken to be deeply non-naturalistic. Ironically then we are left with two seemingly very unattractive options. Either a very naturalistic motivation—taking seriously a live view in fundamental physics—leads us to a very non-naturalistic view of the mental, or else views in the philosophy of mind partly dictate what is an acceptable theory in physics.
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Archival date: 2018-03-03
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