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ACE2366 Philosophy of Time (Evening, UCC on-campus delivery only) is a Course

ACE2366 Philosophy of Time (Evening, UCC on-campus delivery only)

Starts Feb 2, 2023

€220 Enrol

Full course description


Course Overview 

This course introduces the most important topics in the philosophy of time. We investigate topics such as:

1. Clock time and the calendar

Where do our modern concepts of time come from (e.g., seconds, minutes, hours)? We explore the history and philosophy of the modern idea of universal time. We also investigate how the time a clock shows us relates to real time. Clocks can speed up, slow down, and stop – but can time itself do this?

2. Experiencing time

A common saying is time speeds up as we get older. But does it? If it does, what explains it? Can we slow it down?We also dig into the philosophy of psychological time: the illusions of time and the hidden time in everyday life.

3. The reality of the past and future

What is present exists - but what about what is past (mere history?) and future (a mystery)? We investigate philosophical arguments for why the past and future are real, especially from modern physics - but also from simply looking out the window.

4. The ethics of time

We’ve no moral obligations towards people who do not exist, like Sherlock Holmes and elves. But we do care about past and future people, people that some philosophers say do not exist. We honour our ancestors’ wishes; we try to protect the world for our descendants. Yet, even if we do care about them, aren’t present people more important? Especially people in the deep past and future, such as hundreds or even thousands of years: why care about such ancestors and descendants so far off in time?

5. The beginning and end of time Can time begin or end?

Some religions seem to require it – a day of creation, a day of judgment. The Big Bang of modern physics seems to need it too. But does it make sense to say time can have beginning or an end? Surely, for things to begin and end they must do it in time. So, how can time itself?

6. Deep time

The deep time of the universe is about events that are long gone (such as the solar system’s creation) and in the unimaginably distant future (such as the sun becoming a red giant). We describe the diversity of cultural concepts around deep time, e.g., medieval Christianity’s 6,000 years; physics’ 13 billion years; Hinduism’s trillions of years. We ask what impact thinking about deep time can have on our sense of ourselves in the world – in the importance of our lives and the value of what we do.

7. Time travel

Do you time travel if, like Rip Van Winkle, you fall asleep for a long time (if so, then do frozen peas time travel?)? Anyway, who cares? As far as anyone knows, time travel is a mere fiction. Yet, perennially, many people expect and even hope it to be invented some day. We explore why time travel can be so impactful, especially around nostalgia and regret. We also examine physical arguments for time travel.


Course Schedule

This course will take place for Thursday evenings for 8-weeks, 2 Febuary to 23 March 2023, 7-9pm

Location- Western Gateway Building, UCC. Room G02

Closing date for applications: Monday, 23 January 2023 


Breakdown of lectures per week and what will be covered:

Week 1 - Introduction and uutline of the course. A brief history of the modern 24-hour clock. Alternative measures in history. Why is a second called a second? Why did people rebel against adopting universal time? What is time? Time is not just what we see on clocks. So, what does time really need? If there was no change at all, could there still be time?

Week 2 - Experiencing time · A brief overview of the experience of time: memory, anticipation, seeing motion, and boredom · The idea that time speeds up as we get older. What evidence there is for it, and what explains it. How you might slow down your experience of time · Illusions of time: the ‘oddball’ effect, feeling like you are moving on a stopped train (and feeling like you are stopped on a moving planet); time at the movies; the hidden time in seeing distant stars.

Week 3 – The reality of the past and future. What does it mean to be real? Are elves real? Are dinosaurs real? Are future colonies on Mars real?  Philosophical arguments for and against the reality of the past and future: common sense, evidence of the past, cause and effect, and experience. Physical arguments for the reality of the past and future: the twin paradox argument from relative physics.

Week 4 - The ethics of time. Moral obligations towards fictional people: should we do anything for the Hobbits? (No – that doesn’t even make sense!). Moral obligations towards past and future people. Should we do anything for our ancestors that we never met or descendants that we will never meet? Honouring ancestors’ wishes. Protecting the world for people long after we are gone. The importance of the present over the past and future. The importance of near times over far-off times, past and future.

Week 5- The beginning and end of time. Arguments for the beginning and the end of time – from religion and physics. Arguments against the beginning and end of time: any beginning and end needs a time to happen.

Week 6 - Deep time. The concept of deep time. The need for deep time in physics and religion. How our ideas of deep time impact our sense of ourselves.

Week 7 - Time travel. The idea of time travel. Time travel in fiction. Physical arguments for time travel. Reasons for caring about time travel. Time travel and emotion

Week 8: Conclusion. Summary of topics. Connecting it all together. Where to go from here.


Course Lecturer 

Dr Sean Enda Power is a philosopher, with a PhD from the University of Leeds. His specialty is the philosophy of time, a subject he has learned brings in almost everything else. Amongst other work, he is the author of the books An Introduction to the Philosophy of Time, The Philosophy of Time and Perceptual Experience, and co- editor of The Illusions of Time. He has been an Irish Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow at University College Cork (UCC) and a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Time, Sydney. Along with teaching in UCC, he taught philosophy in Trinity College Dublin, University of Sydney, and University of Leeds, as well as being a guest lecturer at National University Galway, University College Dublin, and University of Aalborg. He has also many public talks and articles, at public galleries and libraries, including at the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) and in the Irish Times. He lives in Cork with his wife, Mona, and their many plants. His hobbies include baking, pottery, and hiking the hills of Cork and his home county Waterford.


Entry Requirements

Applicants must be at least 18 years old at course commencement.


Short courses are not assessed. Students will receive a UCC Certificate of Attendance upon completion.

Contact Details for Further Information