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Paradoxes and Metaphors of Time in Early Universe(s)

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PROTEUS (Paradoxes and Metaphors of Time in Early Universe(s))

Reporting period: 2020-03-01 to 2021-03-31

Proteus studies main strategies devised by Western philosophy in representing time in cosmology. It aims at modifying current metaphysics and its relationship with cosmology in the light of recent scientific debates in quantum gravity and quantum cosmology, thereby boosting a new research field in history and philosophy of cosmology. The project is based on two hypotheses: 1) The history of philosophy reveals a guideline that can be traced back to Plato and that characterizes physical and metaphysical approaches to the question of the beginning of the universe in terms of a tension between fundamentality and non-fundamentality of time; 2) There is a conceptual problematic assumption in Western culture and it consists in shaping the problem of the origin of the world as a problem of thinking about the very same conditions of possibility of the origin of a process that is not in time. The project spells out the conceptual roots of current representations of time in quantum gravity and quantum cosmology and highlights the conceptual break that they provide with respect to philosophical concepts of time portrayed in previous systems. Proteus explores in detail the notions of time and the paradoxes emerging in the philosophy and cosmology of Plato and Kant and identifies the fundamental characters of emergent time in current quantum gravity theories. In identifying these fundamental features, Proteus produces conceptual innovation in metaphysics in such a way that philosophical investigation is complementary to the development of current theories.
The project has been developed and implemented according to the proposed plan, Personnel has been hired respecting the profiles described in the proposal thereby including historians of philosophy, philosophers of physics and theoretical physicists giving rise to an innovative composition of the research team thereby making of PROTEUS a unique research environment. Objective I (months 1-24) has been reached regarding Research Questions 1-6 and 7-11. It aimed at showing the characters of the notions of time and the paradoxes emerging in the philosophy and cosmology of Plato and Kant. On these topics two conferences were organized in 2019 at the UAB: 'Time and Cosmogony in Plato and the Platonic Tradition' and 'Kant on the Foundations of Mathematics and Cosmology. What Legacy for German Idealism and Beyond?', which gave rise to two relevant publications. The group already started working on Objective II (months 25-40) consisting in identifying the fundamental characters of emergent time in current theories of cosmology and quantum gravity and underlining their breaking features with the conceptions of Plato and Kant. The group already accomplished the translation of Schelling’s Timaeus in Italian and started the Catalan translation so that there will be one more output to be added to the original plan that only included the Catalan translation of Schelling’s text.Conferences and invited talks, as well as research seminars have been organized by the group and the dissemination activities have been implemented by taking part in tens of conferences abroad. Among the most relevant are included the 13th Ancient Science Conference (London 2019), the “Symposium Platonicum XII” (Paris 2019), the MLM Graduate Conference at Durham University (2019).
The creation of the digital archive “Timaeus and Its Legacy” (TASK C) already started and selected texts (Kant’s Critique of Judgment, Plato’s Timaeus and Schelling’s Timaeus) have been digitalized.
PROTEUS conceptually links Plato’s Timaeus, Kant’s antinomies and current investigations on quantum gravity and quantum cosmology aiming at producing conceptual innovation in metaphysics. Scholars in ancient and early modern philosophy can lack of expertise in theoretical physics and theoretical physicists can lack of expertise in methodologies characterizing the history of philosophy. The team successfully organized seminars in which different background intersect and raised innovative questions and debate. Videos of the seminars are available online at PROTEUS website and YouTube Channel, so that the public can be aware of such results.
PROTEUS explores a process that has been neglected so far. It identifies new central objects of enquiry produced in current quantum cosmology and quantum gravity (e.g. phase transitions, emergent space and emergent time) and assesses how they are able to produce a ground-breaking view with respect to previous models in portraying the conditions of possibility to think of a process that is not in time. This will be done not only with respect to the resulting notion of time, but also to the paradoxes associated with our representation of the early universe and by considering the history of philosophy as fundamental to reach this goal. The PI's research, in particular, focused on the notion of instantaneity in Plato's Parmenides and found that a more complex undesrtanding of non-temporality is needed in current foundations of physics, if one wants to avoid circularity or paradoxes in some Quantum Gravity approaches. PROTEUS will show whether the problem of thinking about a process whose origin is not in time depends on the particular object of cosmology, namely on a specific object that is a unique exemplar, cannot be reproduced in the lab and cannot be uniquely characterized only relying on observations; or whether it is rather a problem that emerges in other fields as well, and therefore to be ascribed to specific mathematical methods used in scientific modelling and practices.
(1) The research team is a leader group in applying new research methods pursued by the actual interaction set up with historians of philosophy and physicists.
(2) PROTEUS portrays the relationship between cosmology and philosophy by showing how the latter is necessarily complementary to the former, as emerges in the publications of the group. This in turn encourages the creation of a research field to test a methodology integrating the history and philosophy of cosmology thereby also contributing to approaches currently discussed in Europe and US concerning the mutual relationship that history and philosophy of science can have.
(3) PROTEUS accomplishes a conceptual innovation of metaphysics that should be understood as complementary to physics offering a wider range of the concept(s) of reality to be analyzed. The impact in philosophy will be characterized by the elaboration of new concepts that will be able to account for what is contingent and necessary at the same time, without using fallacious arguments, such as those appealing to the anthropic principles. This will ensure an impact also in the field of theoretical physics.
(4) PROTEUS ensures high impact on the two subfields of the history of philosophy of workspaces I and II, namely Plato and Kant studies, by offering a systematic interpretation of Plato’s and Kant’s works according to the hypothesis advanced by the project. The first Catalan edition of Schelling’s Timaeus will also ensure impact in studies of German Idealism. At this stage, the research team also produced the Italian translation of this work that will be published by the end of the project.
(5) PROTEUS strengthens a global perspective of the research community of different backgrounds, by creating a global forum and digital archive on 'Timaeus and its legacy'.
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