Modern physics seems to agree that both time and space are not really fundamental - they are emergent properties. This is articulated well in the IEP article on time.

However, it seems that much of modern philosophical work still depends on the classical view of these things - as fundamental. As an example, I recently asked a question generally related to this. As the user Conifold says, "Accounts of resurrection typically assume classical view of time." Why are, even modern, ideas in fields like these still "stuck" on the idea of a fundamental time and space? While this is just one specific example, it seems that much of the philosophical literature presupposes the classical view of time (as well as the classical view of space), except of course work in the philosophy of time.

So, why have advancements in physics, which show that much of our intuitions about reality are often wrong, not had much of an effect on philosophy in general?

  • 1
    Philosophy is not stuck. This gripe was started in recent times by Stephen Hawking. There are many philosophers and many books by philosophers in the library on this subject, in the philosophy section. As you point out yourself IEP has this article.
    – Gordon
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 21:14
  • @Gordon My question is not so much that; of course there is some work on these subjects. But, it seems that these subjects do not have much of an effect on other problems in philosophy, even in modern work on these problems.
    – user40443
    Commented Jul 26, 2019 at 21:35
  • I found this article from Philosophy Now, Hawking Contra Philospphy philosophynow.org/issues/82/Hawking_contra_Philosophy But I would say it is that philosophy is a "big tent" and that is a good thing. I don't think any group of philosophers has ever been on "one page" with their thinking. And philosophy is an historical enterprise and a more general enterprise. It just doesn't "update" instantly. A philosopher may know that e.g. Kant was wrong on some things, but still think it helpful and fruitful to study Kant, etc.
    – Gordon
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 2:11
  • @Gordon If I was a philosopher, and I saw all the others getting on the same page, I would promptly try to find a new page. :)
    – christo183
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 8:51
  • I have no idea why physics is so widely ignored. Much of modern philosophy assumes a Newtonian universe. If I were paranoid I'd suggest it's because the unreality of space-time is basic to the Perennial philosophy or mysticism. . This is the 'Land of Woo' and here be dragons. ,
    – user20253
    Commented Jul 27, 2019 at 11:19

1 Answer 1


I'm not a professional in this field, but will offer my perspectives on this.

The parts of physics where our intuitions about reality as you put it furnish the wrong answers occur in circumstances so far removed from ordinary human experience that as far as the overall program of philosophy is concerned, they don't matter. This means that recent advances in those fields of physics furnish no opportunity to advance the philosophy program in any meaningful way.

For example, for speeds that are a significant fraction of the speed of light, the relationship between an object's mass and its momentum are significantly altered in a nonintuitive way (at least for a non-physicist) but since humans have no way to travel that fast in our everyday lives, we never experience those effects as part of our reality.

Similarly, for objects the size of an atomic nucleus, newtonian mechanics stops furnishing an accurate representation of the behavior of those objects and gives way to quantum mechanics, which is nonintuitive (even to physicists!). But since objects that small do not play any direct role in our everyday lives, to the extent that philosophy concerns itself with humans and how they interact with their environment and with other humans, quantum mechanics does not need to be taken into account by philosophy.

I am aware of the things that Bohr and Heisenberg wrote about this but I hold more to the views of Weinberg and Feynman. Others may choose as they wish.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .