The Block Universe: A Philosophical Investigation in Four Dimensions

Dissertation, Ku Leuven (2020)
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Abstract

The aim of this doctoral dissertation is to closely explore the nature of Einstein’s block universe and to tease out its implications for the nature of time and human freedom. Four questions, in particular, are central to this dissertation, and set out the four dimensions of this philosophical investigation: (1) Does the block universe view of time follow inevitably from the theory of special relativity? (2) Is there room for the passage of time in the block universe? (3) Can we distinguish past from future in the block universe? (4) Is there room for human freedom in the block universe? Although the answer of most philosophers would be yes, triple no, my own answer, controversially, is no, triple yes. I thereby challenge the status quo with respect to each of these metaphysical questions, and argue that none of these questions can be answered from looking at physics alone. Physics may constrain our metaphysics, but it certainly does not settle it. What is needed in order to answer these questions, are additional metaphysical assumptions that fall outside the scope of modern physics. My primary goal in this dissertation, therefore, is not to settle the debates on the nature of time and human freedom, but to clarify them by expliciting the metaphysical assumptions that are otherwise left implicit.

Author's Profile

Pieter Thyssen
Université Catholique de Louvain

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