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Beginning in May 2022, the Rotman Institute of Philosophy will be hosting a monthly ‘Dangerous Ideas Seminar’! This seminar is an open forum for scientists and philosophers to share their latest “dangerous idea,” with their fellow colleagues. These events are a venue to openly challenge long-held views in science and philosophy, by inspiring lively and collegial debates across disciplines. We want to encourage an informal atmosphere, where colleagues can present their case for a “dangerous idea,” and share the importance of their work with a broader audience. It is also meant to be a “fun” and educational experience for everyone involved.

What is the purpose of these seminars?

The main purpose of these seminars is to facilitate lively discussion between colleagues, and promote a cross-pollination of ideas across disciplines. We want these to be fun exchanges between fellow thinkers, different from formal “conference”-style presentations. It is a chance for presenters to share what they believe are the most interesting, disruptive, and important ideas of their field with a broader audience. Hopefully, some of these “crazy” ideas may inspire a new avenue in your own research.

Who can attend the Dangerous Ideas seminars?

All members of the Rotman Institute are welcome to attend these events. Individuals outside of Rotman are also welcome – even encouraged – to attend. This includes undergraduate students, graduate students, post-docs, and professors/faculty members from other departments.

What is the format for Dangerous Ideas seminars?

Speakers are asked to prepare a 20-minute presentation for the seminar group, accessible for non-experts who are unfamiliar with your field. After the talk, there will be a 40-minute discussion period, where the floor will be open for comments, questions, and debate. A brief reception will follow afterwards, with refreshments provided.

To ensure inclusivity and a chance for everyone to speak, these discussions will be semi-moderated. To promote an informal atmosphere, these discussions will not be recorded. Audience members are encouraged to express their thoughts freely, no matter how “ridiculous” or “silly” they may seem – we are all here to learn from one another, and explore.

If you’re interested in speaking at an upcoming Dangerous Ideas seminar, please reach out to us at rotman.institute@uwo.ca for more information.

Is the direction of time entirely perspectival?

Thursday, May 19, 2022
1:00 – 2:00 pm

All time oriented phenomena supervene on an entropy gradient.  The very notion of entropy requires a distinction between micro and macro accounts of phenomena, between heat and work. This distinction is determined by the coupling defined by an arbitrary partition of the world.  Does all this imply that that time orientation is fully perspectival? Does any microhistory of a sufficiently complex system admit couplings defining opposite time arrows?

What makes this topic dangerous?

The idea is ‘dangerous’ because it undermines any worldview (and there are many of these) that assumes that the past is intrinsically different from the future.

To learn more about this topic, please also see:

Carlo Rovelli: “Is Time’s Arrow Perspectival?” in “The Philosophy of Cosmology”,  Khalil Chamcham, Joseph Silk, John Barrow, Simon Saunders editors; Cambridge University Press, 2016. http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/11443/, arXiv:1505.01125.


Carlo RovelliCarlo Rovelli

Professeur de classe exceptionnelle, Department of Physics, Aix-Marseille University;

Distinguished Visiting Fellow, Rotman Institute of Philosophy;

Adjunct Professor, Department of Philosophy, Western University;

Distinguished Visiting Research Chair, Perimeter Institute

Image credit: Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash

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