Top critical review
12 people found this helpful
Not the place to begin with philosophy of space and time.
on 26 March 2008
Since about 1991, Palle Yourgrau has been making something of a career out of grossly over-stating the philosophical importance of Gödel's work on time, and specifically Gödel's argument that the success of general relativity has established the non-existence of time. In case you don't know the field, take it from me: this is a very poor specimen of philosophical writing about time and Gödel's view of time has not made converts or commanded wide acceptance. (My take, for what it's worth, is that Gödel's epoch-making discoveries in mathematical logic have led some of his followers to take his general philosophical views with a seriousness that they often just don't deserve.) Granted, in 1949 Gödel discovered solutions to Einstein's field-equations which describe possible worlds where time no longer seems to posses a unique direction. However, saying that this then establishes the unreality of time in our world - a world profoundly different from those studied in Gödel's models - is a very different claim. This volume is the third attempt that Yourgrau has made at producing essentially the same defence of Gödel's account of time and once again, he simply doesn't make his case. For a scientifically and philosophically well-informed introduction to what philosophy and science might have to say about time, try Barry Dainton's 'Time and Space' (Acumen, 2002). For a detailed response to earlier versions of Yourgrau's claims, see (e.g.) John Earman's 'Bangs, Crunches, Whimpers and Shrieks: Singularities and Acausalities in Relativistic Spacetimes', (Oxford University Press, 1995). If you're new to the philosophy of time, or philosophy in general, please don't make the mistake of just dismissing or patronising the whole subject on the strength of a few books like Yourgrau's - there are better books and better-informed books out there.