A Study of Time in Modern Physics

Dissertation, (2011)
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This thesis is a study of the notion of time in modern physics, consisting of two parts. Part I takes seriously the doctrine that modern physics should be treated as the primary guide to the nature of time. To this end, it offers an analysis of the various conceptions of time that emerge in the context of various physical theories and, furthermore, an analysis of the relation between these conceptions of time and the more orthodox philosophical views on the nature of time. In Part II I explore the interpretation of nonrelativistic quantum mechanics in light of the suggestion that an overly Newtonian conception of time might be contributing to some of the difficulties that we face in interpreting the quantum mechanical formalism. In particular, I argue in favour of introducing backwards-in-time causal influences as part of an alternative conception of time that is consistent with the picture of reality that arises in the context of the quantum formalism. Moreover, I demonstrate that this conception of time can already be found in a particular formulation of classical mechanics. One might see that one of the central themes of Part II originates from a failure to heed properly the doctrine of Part I: study into the nature of time should be guided by modern physics and thus we should be careful not to insert a preconceived Newtonian conception of time unwittingly into our interpretation of the quantum mechanical formalism. Thus, whereas Part I is intended as a demonstration of methodology with respect to the study of time, Part II in a sense explores a confusion that can be seen as arising in the absence of this methodology.
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