03/02/2022 – Emily Thomas: From Unreal to Real Time: British Metaphysics 1870s-1920s


Around the turn of the twentieth century, British metaphysics of time saw two major changes. First, from the 1870s to 1900s, philosophers became convinced time was unreal. Philosophers en masse denied the reality of time, from F. H. Bradley to J. M. E. McTaggart. Second, from the 1890s onwards, philosophers began to embrace time, developing newfangled theories. The early theories of Victoria Welby, F. C. S. Schiller, Bertrand Russell, and Samuel Alexander, conceived time to be static. The later theories of C. D. Broad, Arthur Eddington, Susan Stebbing, R. G. Collingwood, and many others, conceived time to be dynamic. This broad-brush, big ideas paper asks, Why did these two changes occur? It explores the role of biological evolution, the spatialisation of time, and temporal psychology; and asks how the ongoing debates between static and dynamic theories got started.

Biographical information:

Emily Thomas is Associate Professor in Philosophy at Durham University. Prior to this she obtained a PhD from the University of Cambridge, and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Groningen. She has published widely on the history of metaphysics, especially space and time. She is the author of the scholarly monograph Absolute Time: Rifts in Early Modern British Metaphysics (2018, Oxford University Press) and the popular book The Meaning of Travel: Philosophers Abroad (Oxford University Press, 2020). Thomas’ work has been funded by the NWO, the AHRC, and the British Academy, and in 2020 she won a Leverhulme Prize for excellence in research. 

Meeting information:

  • Thursday the 3rd of February, at 15:00 CET (Paris time), at this Zoom link

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