Stephen Barker


Einstein's Time Flow


Many theorists think Einstein’s special relativity (SR) implies the metaphysically static, block universe of eternalism, viz., Minkowski space-time M, in which there is no real temporal passage. So SR implies passage is an illusion. I dispute this contention. Somewhat radically, I argue that taking SR metaphysically seriously does not imply eternalism at all. Rather, it implies a view of reality in which time literally flows, where that flow is motion. After dealing with puzzles with the standard interpretation of Minkowski diagrams as space-time diagrams, I unearth the core insight in Einstein’s 1905 paper as the idea that light propagation has the metaphysical role of fixing distances in physical space and relative durations of processes (time). I argue that given this role, we cannot, metaphysically speaking, treat motion as a time-function. Rather, we should treat motion as a fundamental quantity or aspect of reality and comprises a basic, directional flow or progression of an object through a space, which is non-locative and non-extensive. Common motion is through 3-dimensional spaces, but in its most general form motion is through higher-dimensional space. That means we should not treat the 4D-manifold M as a space-time manifold, but rather as a space-space manifold of a deep motion that does not presuppose a higher-dimension in any sense. Time is derived from this deep motion through M. Using this model, I explain the role of light in fixing relativist spatial and temporal facts, and provide a new interpretation of Minkowski invariance. SR implies time flows.

Date / Time / Place

June 22nd / 11:30 / Aula magna