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Visscher, K.S.J.

Department of Theoretical Philosophy

On Entropic and Weak-force induced Microscopic Temporal Asymmetries

The asymmetry of time is a problem of enduring philosophical controversy. On the one hand, there are metaphysical traditions denying an ontological separation between past and future. On the other hand, there are those who aim to characterise our pretheoretical intuitions of temporal asymmetry in terms of physical principles, often using the second law of thermodynamics.

In my thesis, I examine the arguments of Empiricist Hans Reichenbach as a representative of the second option, and those of Huw Price as a contemporary example of the first program.

Although the vast majority of physical laws are in fact time-reversal invariant (they work in both temporal directions identically), there is a remarkable exception to this rule within the framework of 20th century particle physics. This exception seems to be largely ignored by philosophers on both sides of the controversy. The thesis aims to clarify the philosophical role to be attributed to this exception. I conclude that the phenomena associated with the counterexample can indeed be construed to constitute an ontological temporal asymmetry, though its true physical origin remains clouded in mystery.

Last modified:15 June 2015 11.45 a.m.