Junior Seminar:
Time, temporal parts, and relativity

Fall 2002

Professor: Adam Elga.
Meeting time: Wednesday 11:00-11:50
Meeting place: Room #133, 1879 Hall

Do claims about the future presently have truth values? Do objects have temporal parts? Is time travel possible? What does special relativity have to say about the previous questions? We will do some elementary relativity theory, but no physics background is required.

Grading: 70% final paper, 30% homework assignments and in-class presentations.

Note: there will be short written assignments due every week. These will be collected at the end of class and will not be returned (we'll talk about your answers in class).

The week before you are to be discussion leader (before class), you should send or give me one or two questions about the reading for your week.


Note: MBQ abbreviates "Metaphysics: the Big Questions", the required text for the course. Please purchase it right away from Micawber books.

ECR abbreviates "On electronic reserve". You can access the ereserves through the library's electronic reserve page. You'll need the course userid (phijsf02) and course password [supplied in class] to log in. You also may need to download some special software; see the help page for details.

  1. 9/25. Reality of the future and spacetime
    • Smart, "The space-time world". MBQ 9. Homework questions.
    • Special relativity warm-up questions. (Some warm-up excercises--some of them embarrassingly easy, but there is a method to my madness. Think of the ``paint the house'' scenes from The Karate Kid. You will need graph paper to complete the excercises.)
  2. 10/2. Eamon. Special relativity: relativity of simultaneity
    • Einstein, Albert, Chapters VII "The apparent incompatibility..." - IX "The relativity of simultaneity" , Relativity / Albert Einstein ; [translated by Robert W. Lawson]. QC173.55 .E384513 1995, Required,On Electronic Reserve.
    • Note: do your best with the Einstein reading above, but don't worry if not everything makes sense. If you were puzzled, please come in with some questions that pinpoint what puzzled you.
    • Special relativity warm-up questions 2.
    • Special relativity warm-up questions 3.
  3. 10/9. Dan. Presentism and special relativity
  4. 10/16. Effie. Passage
  5. 10/23. Dan. Three-dimensionalism
  6. 11/06. Todd. Change with temporal parts
    • Lewis, 'In defense of stages'. MBQ 22
    • Lewis, 'the problem of temporary intrinsics, MBQ 24
    • Lewis questions.
  7. 11/13. Effie. Change without temporal parts
  8. 11/20. Gilbert. Temporal parts and relativity
  9. 11/27. Todd. Against passage
  10. 12/4. Eamon and Dan Time travel: does it lead to paradox?
    • Heinlein, Robert A., All You Zombies , PS648.S3 A6, Required,On Electronic Reserve
    • Lewis, David, The Paradoxes of Time Travel , American Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 13, pp. 145-52, 6000.1229, Required, MBQ 17
    • Heinlein/Lewis questions.
  11. 12/11 Gilbert. Time travel: does it lead to unacceptable coincidences?

Adam Elga | adame@princeton.edu | Princeton University Last modified: Thu Nov 28 14:35:32 EST 2002