Friends (only) Lecture: Arrows of Time, Causation, and Entropy

Start Date
End Date
Arrows of Time, Causation, and Entropy
Dr Luke Fenton-Glynn, UCL Temporal and causal relations appear to be asymmetric. 'Event e occurred earlier than event f' is normally taken to imply that 'f did not occur earlier than e' and 'event e was a cause of event f' is normally taken to imply that 'f was not a cause of e'. These two asymmetries seem to coincide: causes always or almost always occur earlier than their effects. This has led many to believe that the two asymmetries are related. Can one explain the direction of causation in terms of the direction of time? Or is it the other way round? Does either explanation tie in with some physical asymmetry of the universe? But Newtonian mechanics, for example, is clearly time-reversible. Does the solution therefore lie in the macrophysical theory of thermodynamics, which does entail important asymmetries? Dr Fenton-Glynn will explore some of the latest work in the philosophy of science that attempts to connect up the causal and temporal arrows to the thermodynamic arrow of entropy increase. In particular, he will explore the idea that these asymmetries are grounded – not in any fundamental physical laws – but rather in a special low-entropy state that our universe happened to initially be in. Luke Fenton-Glynn is a lecturer in philosophy at University College London. Before joining UCL, he held positions at Caltech, Munich, and Konstanz. His main research interests lie in the metaphysics of science. Most of his work to date has been on causation, laws of nature, and probability, and on the relationship between these three things. The lecture will be followed by a wine reception in the RAS Library.