The concept of time in empiricist philosophy.

Fagan, Augustine. (1970) The concept of time in empiricist philosophy. Masters thesis, Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Abstract

The topic of the thesis is the attempt made by empiricist philosophers, notably Carnap and Reichenbach, to "reduce" time, or temporal order, to some physically observable feature of the universe such as causal chains or entropy increases in closed systems. This was not merely an attempt to find some physical counterpart to our subjective sense of time order but an attempt to eliminate completely any dependence, in the scientific context, on this subjective sense. The thesis examines the validity of this reduction and attempts to show why, both in the light of scientific evidence and in view of some more general philosophical or epistemological considerations, the empiricist attempt has failed. -- Reductionism, as explained in the first chapter, is basically the thesis that certain types of concepts, the higher-level concepts of scientific theory, subjective or allegedly a priori concepts, are all defineable in a language which is descriptive of observable physical features of the world. The causal theory of time, as explained and examined in the second and third chapter, is reductionist in as much as in this theory, the temporal order is explained and defined in terms of an independently ascertainable relation among physical events, the causal relation. I try to show that the definition is circular and suffers from certain other weaknesses due to the notion of causality assumed in the theory. The thermodynamical definition of time order in terms of entropy increases in observable closed systems is shown, in chapter four, to be paradoxical and based on some very questionable cosmological assumptions. In the fifth and concluding chapter I suggest an alternative to the reductionist conceptualization of science in which the relation of dependence or presupposition among scientific concepts and theories is no longer unidirectional and in which the relation between theoretical and observational language is much more complex and flexible.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/10472
Item ID: 10472
Additional Information: Bibliography : leaves 68-69.
Department(s): Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of > Philosophy
Date: 1970
Date Type: Submission
Library of Congress Subject Heading: Empiricism; Time.

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