A New Perspective on Time and Physical Laws

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 73 (4):849-877 (2022)
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Craig Callender claims that ‘time is the great informer’, meaning that the directions in which our ‘best’ physical theories inform are temporal. This is intended to be a metaphysical claim, and as such expresses a relationship between the physical world and information-gathering systems such as ourselves. This article gives two counterexamples to this claim, illustrating the fact that time and informative strength doubly dissociate, so the claim cannot be about physical theories in general. The first is a case where physical theories inform in directions that we have no reason to regard as temporal. The second is a case where our best physical theories fail to inform in directions that we have independent (pre-theoretic) reasons to regard as temporal. Taking these two cases into account suggests that the connection Callender makes between time and informativeness is perspectival. The second case demonstrates that although scientists often seek information in temporal directions, the behaviour of the physical world can present serious difficulties for finding it. In response, this article proposes a perspectival reading of Callender’s claim, according to which the connection between time and informative strength has more to do with the aims and objectives of science than the workings of the physical world.



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