List of Topics and Reading Assignments

Phil. 192D and LibA. 205

Spring Semester 2012

Prof. Dowden




During the course, you will learn that this is a picture of the human condition—of you and your life.





Week 1: Introduction to the Issues.

Topics: Overview of the philosophical issues involving space and time.

Reading: "Time Scale in Seconds" in SacCT.

Viewing: "Does Time Exist?" Through the Wormhole, season 2, the Science Channel; duration is one and a half minutes.

Reading: Chapter 1 in The Metaphysics of Time: A Dialogue by B. Dowden (hereafter called The Dialogue).

Reading: Pages 4-11 in Introducing Time by C. Callender.


Week 2: Measurement, Fate, Mind, and God.

Topics: The metric of space and of time; determinism and fatalism; space and time's relation to mind and to God.

Reading: Pages 12-21 and 28-29 of Callender.

Reading: "The Measure of All Things" by R. Le Poidevin.

Reading: Chapters 2 & 3 in The Dialogue.


Week 3: The Origin and Size of Space and Time.

Topics: The views of Aristotle, Aquinas, Newton, and Kant on the origin of space and time; the evidence for the Big Bang Theory; the implications of the Big Bang Theory. Answering the cosmic question "Why is there something rather than nothing?"


Big Bang

Viewing:How Did Matter Form in the Early Universe?" by Max Tegmark.

Viewing:How Far Does the Cosmos Go?” by Max Tegmark.

Reading: Pages 63-69 in chapter 5 of The Dialogue.

Reading: "Why Is There Something Rather than Nothing?" by E. Sober.

Reading: "Stop Asking Why There Is Anything" by Matzen.


Week 4: Absolute vs. Relational Space. Does Time Require Change?

Topics: Aristotle's theory of space; the relationist-absolutist debate between Leibniz and Newton; Kant's right hand and its incongruent counterpart; Shoemaker's thought experiment. Mach's Principle.

Reading: Pp 69-79 of chapter 5 in The Dialogue.

Reading: Does Time Require Change? (Relational vs. Substantival Theories), section 6 of "Time" in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.



Woman teaching geometry

Woman teaching geometry



Week 5: Einstein's Special Relativity.

Topics: The fourth dimension, space contraction, time dilation, relativity of simultaneity, the twins paradox.

Reading: "The Ether," by L. Mlodinow.

Reading: "Einstein's Proof of the Mixing of Space and Time," by Kip Thorne (handout).

Reading: Pages 38-41, 52-67 and 90-97 of Callender.

Reading: "The Conventionality of Simultaneity," by B. Dowden.


 Einstein and Godel

Einstein with Gödel, the logician


Week 6:
Einstein's General Relativity.

Topics: How space acts on matter and vice versa; topology; the geometry of space changes in time; intrinsic vs. extrinsic curvature; which aspects of space and time are matters of fact and which are matters of convention.

Reading: "The Twin Sisters: Philosophy and Geometry" by Wesley Salmon.

Reading: "In Space Do All Roads Lead to Home?" by J. Levin.

Reading: Pages 123-125 of Callender.

space cartoon


Week 7: Time Travel.

Topics: Travel to the future and travel to the past.

Reading: Chapter 4 in The Dialogue.

Reading: Pages 68-89, 98-117 of Callender.

Optional Reading: "The Paradoxes of Time Travel," by D. Lewis, American Philosophical Quarterly, 1976, pp. 145-152.

graphic of a wormhole



Weeks 8 & 9: Infinity and Zeno's Paradoxes.

Topics: Zeno's paradoxes of motion; Aristotle's distinction between actual and potential infinity; Cantor's set theory and infinites of different sizes; The microstructure of space and time.

Reading: "How to Count Infinities" by G. Gamow.

Reading: Chapter 9 in The Dialogue.

Reading: "Tasks, Super-Tasks and the Modern Eleatics" by J. Benacerraf, The Journal of Philosophy, 1962, pp. 765-784.

Zeno cartoon



Weeks 10 & 11: McTaggart, Time's Flow, and Presentism.

Topics: McTaggart's A-series and B-series; tensed time vs. tenseless time; the flow or passage of time; presentism; whether the block universe implies determinism or fatalism; enduring vs. perduring.

Reading: "Some Free Thinking about Time," by A. N. Prior.

Reading: "The Unreality of Time," section 3c of "J.M.E. McTaggart" in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

Reading: Chapters 6 and 7 in The Dialogue.

Reading: Pp. 32-37, 42-51, 66-67, and 109-113 of Callender.

Reading: "How Time Flies," by G. Schlesinger, Mind, 1982, pp. 501-523.

Reading: "Presentism and Properties" by J. Bigelow, Nous Supplement: Philosophical Perspectives, 1996, pp. 35-52.


clock photo



Week 12: Time's Arrow.

Topics: The entropy puzzle; multiple arrows of time; Nietzsche on eternal return; Poincaré on recurrence time; whether time's arrow can reverse its direction.

Reading: Pp. 127-132 and 133-165 of Callender.

Reading: Chapter 8 in The Dialogue.

Viewing: Loschmidt Paradox.


Week 13: Parallel Worlds and the Multiverse.

Topics: The many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics; multiple big bangs; the multiverse or landscape; the fine-tuning argument; anthropic principles.

many worlds picture


Reading: "The Many Worlds Interpretation Today" by Peter Byrne, 2008.

Viewing: "Is the Universe Fine-Tuned for Life and Mind?" by Leonard Susskind.

Reading: "Science's Alternative to an Intelligent Creator: the Multiverse Theory" by T. Folger in Discover, 2008.

Reading: "Does the Multiverse Really Exist?" by George Ellis, Scientific American, August 2011, pp. 38-43.


Week 14: Exotic Issues about Space and Time.

Topics: Artificial spacetime; Explaining the Hierarchy Problem as leakage; Dirac-Milne multiple times; non-orientable time; the Holographic Principle.

Viewing:Could Our Universe Be a Fake?" by David Chalmers.

Viewing:Could Our Universe Be a Fake?" by Marvin Minsky.

Viewing:How Vast is the Cosmos? Part 1" by Lawrence Krauss.

Reading: Pages 30-31, 118-122, and 131-132 of Callender.


 picture of Kaluza Klein space

How an extra dimension of space can curl


Week 15: Review


The above schedule of course topics may be changed somewhat as we progress through the semester, but this won't affect the due dates of the homeworks, essays and tests. 

Back to the course syllabus.


Updated: March 16, 2012