Graduation Year

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Philosophy

Major Professor

Eric Winsber

Keywords

Asymmetry, Cosmology, Inflation, Time

Abstract

This project is about the asymmetry of time. The main source of discontent for physicists and philosophers alike is that even though in every physical theory we developed and/or discovered for explaining how the universe functions, the laws are time reversal invariant; there seems to be a very genuine asymmetry between the past and the future. The aim of this project is to examine several attempts to solve this friction between the laws of physics and the asymmetry and provide a new proposal that makes use of modern cosmology. In the recent history of physics and in contemporary philosophy of science there have been several attempts to explain the asymmetry of time and reconcile this asymmetry with time reversal invariant physical laws. David Albert developed one of the most recent attempts at solving the problem in Time and Chance (2000). Albert claims that there is a conclusive solution to the problem of asymmetry of time: namely, combining the laws of mechanics with several novel concepts that he introduces, the most important of which is what he calls "the past hypothesis". Eric Winsberg developed another modern attempt to solve the problem of the asymmetry of time. Winsberg combines Hans Reichenbach's branch systems proposal with a "framework" view of laws to solve the problem. Although this version of the branch systems proposal overcomes several problems associated with Reichenbach's original construction of the proposal, certain aspects of it are still open to critique.

Following a brief introduction, my chapters include 1) a history of the problem of the asymmetry of time, in which I provide a historical overview of the issues particularly discussed by Boltzmann and his interlocutors, 2) a detailed evaluation of David Albert's account of the asymmetry of time, where he argues that we can solve all the problems if we use a combination of laws of physics and the past hypothesis, 3) a detailed overview of Eric Winsberg's account that depends a specific way of looking at the laws of physics--the framework view, and 4) my account, which attempts to solve the problem of the asymmetry of time, making extensive use of the developments on modern cosmology, specifically regarding the inflationary mechanism.

I claim that if we take into account recent developments in modern cosmology and proposals for laws for initial conditions, then we cannot maintain the metaphysical status of the past hypothesis in Albert's project. Specifically, I argue that in order for a theory to make use of initial conditions of the universe, it has to include a set of laws from modern cosmology pertaining to that initial condition. I defend the position that inflation can supply the source of asymmetry when supported by the aggregate view of laws, which I introduce in the last chapter. The explanation of the asymmetry of time requires the use of dynamical equations from modern cosmology that would produce the boundary conditions. The boundary condition produced in this way would fill in for the source of the asymmetry of time. Consequently, I argue that the explanation of the asymmetry of time is encoded in the laws of modern cosmology.

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