NIAS Wednesday Discussion - Dr Tarun Menon will speak on “The Real Problem of the Arrow of Time”

NIAS Wednesday Discussion



Topic:              The Real Problem of the Arrow of Time


Speaker:          Tarun Menon

Assistant Professor, School of Humanities, NIAS


Chairperson:   Debosree Banerjee

Assistant Professor, School of Social Sciences, NIAS


Date:               22 September 2021 


Time:              4.00 PM 


Meeting Link: Click here to join the meeting

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Abstract: It is an obvious fact of our experience that time has a direction -- or, more precisely, that many processes are directed in time. Ice melts at room temperature but water doesn't spontaneously freeze; a dropped glass shatters but the shards don't come back together to reconstitute the glass; we form memories of past events but never of future events. Since the 19th century, however, physicists and philosophers have argued that there is a problem with explaining this arrow of time -- the fundamental laws of physics are symmetric in time and so cannot account for asymmetric behaviour. I argue that the way this problem has traditionally been framed is misconceived, and as a result the proposed solutions are unsatisfactory. The real problem of the arrow of time is that the arrow cannot be characterized without appealing to an agent's selective perception of its environment. The central question to be answered is not "How can symmetric laws give rise to an arrow of time?" It is "Why do agents perceive their surrounding as temporally asymmetric?" In this talk, I defend this re-framing of the problem and discuss its implications for our understanding of time.


About the speaker:  Tarun Menon is Assistant Professor in the School of Humanities of National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bengaluru.  Prior to this, he was Assistant Professor in the School of Habitat Studies of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.


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For further info, please contact Prof Anindya Sinha [] or Shri K S Rama Krishna [], Coordinators of the NIAS Wednesday Discussion Meetings. 


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Wednesday, September 22, 2021