Einstein’s development of the theory of Special Relativity changed the way we think of temporal concepts generally and of simultaneity specifically. One central debate revolves around the conventionality or otherwise of simultaneity and temporal order (Reichenbach, Malament). Another important debate is on the reality of becoming in Special Relativity (Rietdijk, Putnam, Stein). The concepts of length, rigid body, passage of time and others have been challenged and reconsidered, with many radical claims being made along the way.
The course begins with Einstein’s 1905 first Relativity paper: we shall study in relative detail the kinematics part of this paper, deriving the relativity of simultaneity, time dilation, length contraction, the Twins Paradox, and more. We continue with the philosophical debates mentioned above, emphasising the relations of causal and temporal concepts. We then apply our conclusions and methodology to other philosophical debates: on the possibility of an effect preceding its cause, the possibility of time travel, and more.