Bernard Williams feels that too great a distinction has been made in recent philosophy between the concerns of the philosopher and those of the physicist. There are too many ways, he says, in which... each discipline supplements each other and in ths discussion with astrophysicist Dennis Sciama he explores how problems related to the nature of time can be jointly faced. Sciama argues that many of the seeming paradoxes concerning time, which result from some solutions to Einstein's equations of relativity, are not necessarily illogical. The abandonment of the ideas of simultaneity and irreversibility still leave the physicist with a useful concept of time. Whether this altered concept is acceptable to philosophers is the main point of the discussion.
Metadata describing this Open University video programme
Module code and title: A303, Problems of philosophy
Item code: A303; 10
First transmission date: 05-09-1973
Published: 1973
Rights Statement:
Restrictions on use:
Duration: 00:24:15
+ Show more...
Producer: Richard Callanan
Contributors: Dennis Sciama; Bernard Williams; Susan Wilson
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Astrophysics; Einstein's equations of relativity
Footage description: Susan Wilson introduces the programme and its subject. She begins the discussion by posing the question of whether there is, and of what sort it is, the relation between physics and philosophy. Williams replies describing his understanding of the relationship between physics and philosophy. He makes the point that modern discoveries often contradict logical and common sense notions of time for instance. Sciama quotes the clock; paradox in relativity theory. Williams enquires whether there are not some logical principles of the concept 'time' upon which philosophy can insist. Sciama in his reply uses examples from the theory of relativity. Williams asks Sciama what the present physical view is of the notion of time going in one direction. Sciama replies using an example that time in our experience is irreversible but that it is not intrinsic or inherent in the notion of time that there be this irreversibility. The point is discussed, Williams attempting to reach a point on which or from which a definition of time might be reacted. The discussion continues with Sciaraa taking up Williams' point of the concept of before and after. He uses examples from Einstein's theory of general relativity. He introduces the idea of time in a loop rather than a straight line. Williams argues that such a concept is logically impossible. Susan Wilson confirms that Sciama accepts the law of non contradiction but yet can accept the notion of time in a loop. He explains it by stressing concentration on a stretch of the loop during which before and after exist as workable concepts but globally over the whole circuit of the loop. Williams replies to the effect that this phenomenon (existing only in model form) should not perhaps be called time. Sciama is of the opinion that sufficient similarities between it and the ordinary conception of time exist for the same term to be used. Susan Wilson brings the discussion to a close.
Master spool number: 6HT/70915
Production number: 00525_3026
Videofinder number: 607
Available to public: yes