2023 Visitors and Events
March, Al Wilson
Al Wilson is professor of philosophy at the Birmingham University. He works in metaphysics and the philosophy of physics, and has a book on the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics.
July, Jonathan Tallant
Jonathan Tallant is professor of philosophy at Nottingham University. He works in metaphysics on the nature of time and truth and has several books in both areas.
July, David Ingram
David Ingram is a lecturer at York University. He has published widely (including with Jonathan Tallant) defending presentism (a view about the nature of time) as well as working on truth and truth making.
July, Emily Thomas
Emily is an associate professor at Durham University.
She is an historian of philosophy, focusing on seventeenth to early twentieth century metaphysics. focussing on time and space.
July 2023 - July 2024 Brian Epstein
Brian is an associate professor at Tufts. He is interested in the philosophy of social science, metaphysics, and philosophy of language, focusing in particular on issues in the theory of reference and the ontology of social kinds.
July-December, Hannah Tierney
Hannah is a lecturer at UC Davis. She works primarily in ethics on issues related to blame and responsibility, but she also has some joint work with the Centre for Time on the rationality of time biases.
July-December, David Glick
David is a lecturer at UC Davis. He works on the foundations of quantum mechanics, and more broadly in the philosophy of science.
August-November, Natalja Deng
Natalja is an Associate Professor at Yonsei University in Korea. She has published widely on the nature of time and temporal experience, as well as laterally on certain forms of time bias.
December, Brad Skow
Brad Skow is Professor of Philosophy at MIT. He works in a range of areas, including on the nature of explanation, time, and more recently in aesthetics.
The centre frequently runs small, specialised workshops on various aspects of the nature of time and our experience thereof.
Sign up to receive email alerts here.
To see previous workshops we have run, visit our archive here.
From Metaphysics to Aesthetics Workshop
N 494, Main Quad, University of Sydney
From Metaphysics to Aesthetics Workshop
N 494, Dec 14, The University of Sydney
Mark Colyvan, Sydney
“Why mathematical explanation is not all in the head”
Abstract: A natural enough thought when it comes to intra-mathematical explanations (i.e. explanations of one mathematical fact in terms of more mathematics) is that these are in some sense pseudo-explanations. After all, explanation within mathematics operates rather differently from explanations in science and every-day life. For a start, mathematical explanations are not causal nor do they support the counterfactuals usually associated with explanation. When mathematicians offer an explanation of some mathematical fact, are they speaking figuratively? Or perhaps they have a more psychological notion of explanation in mind: one which has more to do with the expertise and knowledge base of a particular agent than anything objective in the mathematics. In this paper I will argue against this psychological reading of intra-mathematical explanation, thus clearing the way for a more objective account of mathematical explanation.
Sam Baron, ACU
Vertical Why-Questions and Explainable AI
Recent work in AI focuses on explainability: the idea that individuals should be able to understand why AI systems yield the outputs that they do. One approach to explainability aims to keep AI systems in a black box state. Explanations are then provided by focusing on counterfactual patterns of inputs and outputs. Drawing on Skow's discussion of vertical why-questions, I argue that any such perturbative input/output analysis falls short of providing explanatory understanding. I go on to consider whether the goals behind explainable AI can be met anyway.
10.45 – 11.55
Brad Skow, MIT
Title: Internal vs external: value, interpretation, humor, and style.
Abstract: Why-questions about stories, like “Why did Elizabeth and Mr Darcy fall in love?” have both internal readings, where answers must cite things that are true in the world of the story, and external readings, where answers may cite facts about the actual world: the desires of the author or the needs of the audience. When an internal question lacks a good answer, leaving the answer to the corresponding external question to pick up the slack, that’s a flaw in story. This principle is defended, and applications are made to interpretation, humor, and style.
Episodic Imagining, Temporal Experience, and Beliefs about Time
People differentially report both (a) believing that time robustly passes and (b) experiencing time as robustly passing. Some explanation of these differential reports is required whether one thinks that time does in fact robustly pass or (as I do) that it does not. In this paper we consider the connection (if any) between the ability to mentally time travel, and the extent to which people report that it seems to them in experience as though time robustly passes, and the extent to which they believe that time does robustly pass. We will present two new studies that probe this connection. According to the episodic vividness hypothesis, a greater capacity for vivid episodic imagining will be associated with a greater tendency to report both these aforementioned seemings and beliefs because greater episodic vividness will tend to produce greater emotional salience and this will tend to make it more likely that people report future events as approaching and past ones as receding. According to the mental time travel hypothesis, the more that people are able to vividly episodically imagine events the better their capacity for mental time travel, and the more people are able to mentally time travel the less they will tend to report either of the aforementioned seemings or beliefs, because that capacity will tend to diminish people’s sense of being stuck in time and unable to take alternative temporal perspectives. Our studies found evidence in favour of the episodic vividness hypothesis, and against the mental time travel hypothesis.
Sam Shpall, Sydney
N 494, Main Quad, University of Sydney
David Builes, Princeton
Center Indifference and Skepticism
Abstract: Many philosophers have been attracted to a restricted version of the principle of indifference in the case of self-locating belief. My first goal is to defend a more precise version of this principle. After responding to several existing criticisms of such a principle, I argue that existing formulations of the principle are crucially ambiguous, and I go on to defend a particular disambiguation of the principle. According to the disambiguation I defend, how one should apply this restricted principle of indifference sensitively depends on one's background metaphysical views about time and modality. My second goal is to apply this disambiguated principle to classical skeptical problems in epistemology. In particular, I will argue that Eternalism threatens to lead us to external world skepticism, and Modal Realism threatens to lead us to inductive skepticism.
10.00-11.00 Brian Epstein, Tufts
The Architecture of Legal Determination
1.00-2.00 Jonathan Tallant, Nottingham
Being and Doing.
2.00-3.00 Emily Thomas, Durham
From Unreal Time to Static-Dynamic Time: British Metaphysics 1880s-1920s
3.30-4.30 Helen Beebee, Leeds,
4.30-5.30 Dave Ingram, York
How to Build a Dynamical Theory of Time
Time, Space, and All the Rest
This workshop will take place in N494 in the Main Quad at the University of Sydney. A zoom link will be disseminated shortly.
Sam Baron, ACU
Dialetheism and the A-theory
According to dialetheism, there are some true contradictions. According to the A-theory, the passage of time is a mind-independent feature of reality. I argue that by appealing to dialetheism one can explain why time passes. I start by considering an existing dialethic account of passage developed by Priest. I show that Priest's approach does not provide the kind of passage that many A-theorists want. I then develop a new dialetheic account of passage that explains why the present moves. I compare my explanation of why the present moves with one provided by Skow and argue that the dialethic account is preferable because, unlike Skow's account, it does not presuppose that the spatial configuration of the universe is always changing.
Jessica Pohlmann, ACU
“A new modal account of existential dependence”
Modal accounts of existential dependence have become unpopular in contemporary metaphysics. Such accounts, it is argued, fail to accurately characterize existential dependence when applied to the non-contingent domain. Accordingly, many philosophers have opted for an hyperintensional account of existential dependence, one that employs the notion of essence. I argue, however, that existential dependence can indeed be characterised in modal terms. I develop a new modal account of existential dependence that combines Mackie’s ‘INUS’ framework for causation with situation theory, developed by Barwise and Perry. I show that this framework can support an asymmetric notion of existential dependence within the non-contingent domain.
Al Wilson, Birmingham
Naturalism: Modal and Spatiotemporal
Time and modality have classically been conceived as domains to be investigated a priori, drawing on either rational insight (perhaps in its contemporary guise, philosophical intuition) or transcendental reasoning. Even contemporary philosophers of physics fall back on a priori considerations when considering e.g. the range of possible spacetimes. Scientific investigation is given a minimal role in modal discovery, typically being restricted to identifying which of the a-priori-identified possibilities we inhabit. In this talk I offer an alternative, starting with a radically naturalistic account of the metaphysics of modality, and showing how it leads to a naturalistic modal epistemology for space and time.
Anthony Bigg, Sydney
The Open Future
Coincidence and the relationship between mereology and location.
Sometimes people that are not averse to a pluralist interpretation of cases of coincidence describe typical cases in which numerically distinct objects share the same location and sometimes these are described as sharing all of the same parts. One might wonder whether then if the standard cases of coincidence are like this then perhaps it is necessary and sufficient for some objects to be coincident that they are both mereological and locativly coincident. I will first explore the related idea that the definitions of locative coincidence and mereological coincidence are co-extensive and develop principles that necessitate this co-extension. However, what I will argue is that these principles that might initially seem plausible result in a far too restrictive relationship between location and mereology. There are many instances in which some distinct objects satisfy one but not the other definition and as a result, are disallowed by these principles. Furthermore, these very cases can be constructed in such a way that they seem just as plausibly cases of coincidence as do the standard cases that we started with (the ones where both definitions are satisfied). Thus, whatever intuitions one might have regarding the possibility of standard cases of coincidence, it seems no less plausible that these other cases where one but not the other definition applies are possible and are also cases of coincidence. Consequently, from the point of view of the pluralist regarding cases of coincidence, the idea that the definitions of mereological and locative coincidence are co-extensive is unmotivated.
Film and Philosophy: Dying on Screen October 16 @ 5.00
Using his acclaimed latest documentary Man on Earth as a case study, join celebrated Australian director Amiel Courtin-Wilson as he unpacks the unique and intimate process in making this film, as well as discussing the wider cultural and philosophical implications of representing death on screen. Profoundly affecting, Man on Earth captures the lead up to one man’s voluntary assisted death with extraordinary grace and candour, raising necessary questions as to how we choose to live, and how we experience time’s passage, as we approach our end.
A virtual Q&A with film Director Amiel Courtin-Wilson will follow the screening, with Philosophers Sam Shpall and Natalja Deng appearing in person.
You can watch the discussion with filmmaker Amiel Courtin-Wilson at this link.
Andersen Lecture: Love, Death and the Meaning of Life with Natalja Deng
October 17 @ 5.00
Einstein tried to console the parents of a close friend who had passed away by pointing out that according to the view of time provided by physics, the distinction between past, present, and future is nothing but a stubbornly persistent illusion. Meanwhile, some philosophers have argued that meaningfulness depends on life’s temporal finitude.
Can the physics or philosophy of time help us make sense of our own and other people’s mortality? Can the ways we create meaning in life inform our experience of time in turn? What is meaningfulness, anyway? Loving relationships and friendships are often said to be essential to it. But love is also quite puzzling from a philosophical perspective. Is it an emotion, or something else? Is it inherently irrational? And which kinds of things and entities are worthy of it in the first place.
You can watch and listen to the Andersen lecture at this link.
The Centre runs various conferences each year. Every year there is an international conference run as part of our membership of the International Association for he Philosophy of Time. Further details can be found here.
We are hoping to run a conference towards the end of this year on temporal ontology and time bias.
For details, please subscribe to the SydPhil mailing list.