Time Before Time

Stumbled across this interesting (and short) essay by Rüdiger Vaas, “Time before Time: How to Avoid the Antinomy of the Beginning and Eternity of the World” (.PDF):

Immanuel Kant (1781/1787), in his Critique of Pure Reason, argued that it is possible to prove both that the world has a beginning and that it is eternal (First Antinomy of Pure Reason, A426f/B454f). As Kant believed he could overcome this “self-contradiction of reason” (“Widerspruch der Vernunft mit ihr selbst”, A740) by the help of what he called “transcendental idealism”, the question whether the cosmos exists forever or not has almost vanished in philosophical discussions. This is somewhat surprising, because Kant’s argument is quite problematic (cf., e.g., Heimsoeth 1960, Wilkerson 1976, Smith 1985, Wike 1982, Schmucker 1990, Falkenburg 2000). In the twentieth century, however, the question became once again vital in the context of natural science, culminating in the controversy between Big Bang and Steady State models in modern physical cosmology (Kragh 1996).

In recent years, it has reappeared in the framework of quantum cosmology (Vaas 2001b & 2002a), where, on the one hand, there are Instanton models that assume an absolute beginning of time (Vilenkin 1982 & 1984, Hawking & Hartle 1983, Hawking & Turok 1998), while other scenarios suppose that the Big Bang of our universe was only a transition from an earlier state (Linde 1983 & 1994, Blome & Priester 1991, Khoury et al. 2001, Steinhardt & Turok 2002), and that there are perhaps infinitely many such events.

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