The Second Law of Thermodynamics and the Psychological Arrow of Time

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73 (1):85-107 (2022)
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Abstract

Can the second law of thermodynamics explain our mental experience of the direction of time? According to an influential approach, the past hypothesis of universal low entropy also explains how the psychological arrow comes about. We argue that although this approach has many attractive features, it cannot explain the psychological arrow after all. In particular, we show that the past hypothesis is neither necessary nor sufficient to explain the psychological arrow on the basis of current physics. We propose two necessary conditions on the workings of the brain that any account of the psychological arrow of time must satisfy. And we propose a new reductive physical account of the psychological arrow of time compatible with time-symmetric physics, according to which these two conditions are also sufficient. Our proposal has some radical implications, for example, that the psychological arrow of time is fundamental, whereas the temporal direction of entropy increase in the second law of thermodynamics and the past hypothesis is derived from it, rather than the other way around. 1Introduction2A Physical Account of the Psychological Arrow of Time3Necessary Conditions for the Psychological Arrow of Time4The Psychological Arrow of Time via the Second Law of Thermodynamics and the Past Hypothesis5Why the Past Hypothesis Is Insufficient for the Psychological Arrow of Time5.1Stage 1, Version 1: From the past hypothesis to the psychological arrow via typicality5.2Stage 1, Version 2: From the past hypothesis to the psychological arrow via dynamical or causal considerations5.3Stage 2: From entropy gradient in the brain to the psychological arrow of time6Why the Past Hypothesis Is Unnecessary for the Psychological Arrow of Time7A New Reductive Account of the Psychological Arrow of Time

Author Profiles

Meir Hemmo
University of Haifa
Orly Shenker
Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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