Tim William Eric Maudlin (born April 23, 1958) is an American philosopher of science who has done influential work on the metaphysical foundations of physics and logic.
Education and career
Maudlin graduated from Sidwell Friends School, Washington, D.C. Later he studied physics and philosophy at Yale University, and history and philosophy of science at the University of Pittsburgh, where he received his Ph.D. in 1986. He taught for more than two decades at Rutgers University, before joining the Department of Philosophy at New York University in 2010.
Maudlin has also been a visiting professor at Harvard University and Carnegie Mellon University. He is a member of the "Foundational Questions Institute", of the Académie Internationale de Philosophie des Sciences and has received a Guggenheim Fellowship. He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2015.
Tim Maudlin is married to Vishnya Maudlin; they have two children: Clio and Maxwell.
In his first book, Quantum Non-Locality and Relativity (1994), Maudlin explains Bell's Theorem and the tension between violations of Bell's inequality and relativity.
In Truth and Paradox: Solving the Riddles (2004), the author presents a new resolution to the "Liar Paradox" (for example, enclosing the sentence: "This sentence is false") and other semantic paradoxes that requires a modification of classical logic.
In The Metaphysics Within Physics (2007) the central idea is that «metaphysics, in so far as it is concerned with the natural world, can do no better than to reflect on physics».
Metaphysics is ontology. Ontology is the most generic study of what exists. Evidence for what exists, at least in the physical world, is provided solely by empirical research. Hence the proper object of most metaphysics is the careful analysis of our best scientific theories (and especially of fundamental physical theories) with the goal of determining what they imply about the constitution of the physical world.
Maudlin delves into fundamental topics of cosmology arguing that laws of nature ought to be taken as primitive, that is not reduced to something else, and in favor of the thesis that the passage and direction of time are fundamental. This theory essentially defines a clear direction of the arrow of time and underlies therefore an asymmetric time, contradicting the quantum mechanics idea of time's symmetry and other theories that deny the existence of time, as championed by physicist Julian Barbour.
I believe that it is a fundamental, irreducible fact about the spatio-temporal structure of the world that time passes. [...] The passage of time is an intrinsic asymmetry in the temporal structure of the world, an asymmetry that has no spatial counterpart.[...] Still, going from Mars to Earth is not the same as going from Earth to Mars. The difference, if you will, is how these sequences of states are oriented with respect to the passage of time. [...] The belief that time passes, in this sense, has no bearing on the question of the 'reality' of the past or of the future. I believe that the past is real: there are facts about what happened in the past that are independent of the present state of the world and independent of all knowledge or beliefs about the past. I similarly believe that there is (i.e. will be) a single unique future. I know what it would be to believe that the past is unreal (i.e. nothing ever happened, everything was just created ex nihilo) and to believe that the future is unreal (i.e. all will end, I will not exist tomorrow, I have no future). I do not believe these things, and would act very differently if I did. Insofar as belief in the reality of the past and the future constitutes a belief in a 'block universe', I believe in a block universe. But I also believe that time passes, and see no contradiction or tension between these views.
Moreover he defends the superiority of his view over rival proposals of David Lewis and Bas Van Fraassen, among others. Lewis analyzed natural laws as those generalizations that figure in all theoretical systematizations of empirical truths that best combine strength and simplicity. Maudlin objects that this analysis rides roughshod over the intuition that some such generalizations could fail to be laws in worlds that we should follow scientists in deeming physically possible. Van Fraassen argued that laws of nature are of no philosophical significance, and may be eliminated in favor of models in a satisfactory analysis of science. Maudlin counters that this deprives one of the resources to say how cutting down its class of models can enhance a theory's explanatory power, a phenomenon that is readily accounted for when one takes a theory's model class as well as its explanatory power to derive from its constituent laws» (Richard Healey, University of Arizona).
In his book Philosophy of Physics: Space and Time (2012) the author explains the philosophical issues of relativity to a lay audience.
In New Foundations for Physical Geometry (2014) he proposes a new mathematics of physical space called the theory of linear structures. Maudlin's subject is specifically empirical spacetime which he believes a kind of linearization describes better than abstract topological open sets.