Time in Cosmology

In A. Bardon & H. Dyke (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Time. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 201-219 (2013)
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This essay aims to provide a self-contained introduction to time in relativistic cosmology that clarifies both how questions about the nature of time should be posed in this setting and the extent to which they have been or can be answered empirically. The first section below recounts the loss of Newtonian absolute time with the advent of special and general relativity, and the partial recovery of absolute time in the form of cosmic time in some cosmological models. Section II considers the beginning and end of time in a broader class of models in which there is not an analog of Newtonian absolute time. As we will see, reasonable physical assumptions imply that the universe is finite to the past, and Section III turns to consideration of the “beginning” itself. We critically review conventional wisdom that a “singularity” reveals flaws in general relativity and briefly assess ways of avoiding the singularity.

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Chris Smeenk
University of Western Ontario


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