"I can recommend this controversial and brilliantly written book for any philosopher who is interested in the problems of time and causality, not as sterile a priori categories, but as subjects for empirical research. I can equally recommend it for physicists, not as a technical monograph in temporal physics, but as a remarkably clear exposition of the problems and a sketch for their solution. Lastly, I can recommend it for those who are neither philosophers nor physicists, but who are interested in the subject, and for whom the challenge of a dense and provocative volume is not daunting."
A very thoughtful and generous review.
"In his professed aim, Price has succeeded admirably. His presentation is clear, imaginative and wide-ranging. Though he does not spend much time defending the atemporal view directly, and is therefore unlikely to win any converts, he has provided us with an intriguing diary of a journey into largely uncharted territory, allowing us to see for ourselves the benefits and pitfalls of adopting a tenseless, directionless view of time. He has thus done the atemporal view a tremendous service and anyone interested in the philosophy or physics of time will find this important book worth reading."
A nice review, with a very clear account of the book.
"Time's Arrow is a block-buster. It takes the reader by the scruff of his neck and shakes up some old established concepts."
" Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point is the best philosophy of science book to come out of Australia in a very long time. ... Nicely priced and beautifully produced, [it] deserves the attention of anyone interested in philosophy of science, philosophy of physics, or contemporary metaphysics."
" You need not be a philosopher or a physicist to get a lot from this unique and thought-provoking book."
"Time's Arrow is an exceptionally readable and entertaining book. Intended for readers without physics or philosophy backgrounds, it successfully proves that a book can be both popular and philosophically sophisticated. ... Time's Arrow is also a highly original and important contribution to the philosophy and physics of time. It is path-breaking in many areas, since it covers topics rarely treated by philosophers and offers novel solutions to many problems."
A detailed and very thoughtful review article.
"[A] tough read, but a rewarding one. The Average Busy Practising Physicist will want to re-read most of it many times, with profit from every attempt. It's that sort of book. ... Highly recommended."
"[T]he book is a tour de force. Price addresses some of the most difficult issues in physics and philosophy, and offers highly original solutions. Yet the book is written in a style which assumes no previous knowledge, and will be accessible to any reader who is prepared to think hard."
"Time's Arrow should take its place alongside Reichenbach's The Direction of Time  as one of the finest books in the philosophy of time. It is timely and provocative, and will be required reading for anyone thinking about time's arrow."
This review is for a review symposium. My contribution to the symposium includes a reply to Callender's review.
"Despite many shortcomings and much arrogance, the book is worthy of attention."
Lebowitz's main objection involves a defence of the principle I call "µInnocence" -- roughly, the principle that interacting microscopic systems are not correlated in a lawlike way, before they first interact. The defence rests on the suggestion that µInnocence amounts to nothing more than the intuitively plausible principle that all possible initial microstates are equally likely, other things being equal. Lebowitz says: "Price's failure to deal with this makes his argument about the merits of backward causation as a viable explanation of our world unconvincing".
But the defence doesn't work. In this context 'possible' means 'permitted by the relevant physical laws'. So if there were a law imposing pre-interactive correlations -- in other words, if µInnocence failed -- then all possible choices of initial microstate would be such as to lead to the correlations concerned, and no special choice of initial conditions would be needed.
To put it another way, assuming that a special choice of initial conditions would be needed for pre-interactive correlations just amounts to assuming that µInnocence holds. So the objection begs the question. I make this point in section 3 of my paper 'Time Symmetry in Microphysics' (in which µInnocence is called µIndependence).
"[T]his is a thought-provoking book, written in an accessible and non-technical style. It will be welcomed by both philosophers and physicists, and will spark further interest in this most fascinating subject of science."
This is a thoughtful review, very favourable about the "classical" parts of the book -- for example, about my criticisms of double standards in cosmology -- but, as Kiefer says, "very sceptical about its 'quantum' parts." Kiefer says that because the "quantum theory of isolated systems is time-symmetric", he doesn't think that advanced action, "in the sense envisaged by Price, can reintroduce a classical picture of the world." However, I quite agree that as it stands, the quantum theory of isolated systems is time-symmetric. My argument is that a little-recognised and unjustified time-asymmetric assumption about the nature of hidden variable theories has prevented people from seeing that QM may be interpreted in quasi-classical terms (e.g., without non-locality). Thus the asymmetry I call attention to isn't in QM itself, but in most people's assumptions about what a hidden variable interpretation of QM would have to be like.
"Huw Price's book is a significant contribution, remarkable for its scope. ... [T]his is an interesting book, written with great clarity and conviction."
Prigogine's review is more favourable than I expected. His views about time are very different from mine, and I have argued both in the book and elsewhere that he and his 'Brussels School' are confused about a number of the central issues. (See my response below to Peter Coveney's review in New Scientist, for example.) Prigogine's review mentions a number of points on which he disagrees with me, but concludes with this fair-minded remark: "Anyway, the merit of Price's book is that it formulates the problem clearly, even if one disagrees with the solution proposed."
Prigogine's main objection is that in rejecting the idea of a flow of time, my view makes time unreal. Instead, he thinks we should look for "the dynamical roots of irreversible processes", applying the Brussels School's methods to unstable systems. However, this idea seems to me to confuse directionality and flow. Even if irreversible dynamics were to reveal a difference between past and future, this would not show that there is any objective flow from one to the other. (By way of analogy, imagine a picture composed of thousands of arrow-shaped pixels, all pointed in the same direction: this microscopic asymmetry does not make the picture move.)
"Price ... is keen to uncover errors of reasoning that have infested many recent analyses of the origins of the arrow of time in physical problems, for example attempts to distinguish initial and final states of closed universes using quantum cosmological boundary conditions, attempts to do the same using inflation, and fallacies in the use of the Wheeler-Feyman absorber theory. In these aims he succeeds with great clarity. His arguments are accessible to physicist and philosopher alike. ... [He] has done physicists a great service in laying out so clearly and critically the nature of the various time-asymmetry problems of physics."
Barrow has some reservations about my discussion of the cosmological arrow of time. Here's a brief response.
"Price is a philosopher with a real grasp of fundamental physics. He offers an original slant on some profound issues, where our understanding has advanced little since the time of St. Augustine."
"It is by looking at the places where there is a mismatch between what common sense tells us and what science tells us that some of the most intriguing discoveries about the universe have been made, and that is just what the philosopher Huw Price does in this splendidly provocative book. ... He has taken a subject understood by a few experts and thrown open the door to the masses. ... Enjoy it as a feast for the imagination."
"Philosophical density aside, Price's writing is remarkably clear and engaging. ... Price makes an impressive case for the reality of advanced action. And Price's passion for his cause can be infectious."
I liked this one. It's actually a double review, as Woodward also discusses David Lindley's Where Does the Weirdness Go? (Basic Books, 1996). It's an interesting comparison, and Woodward has a science historian's sense of the issues at stake. He likes both books: "[T]hese excellent books ... are both well worth reading."
Coveney says that Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point is an interesting addition to the literature on time-asymmetry, but calls it "idiosyncratic and restrictive", because in his view it doesn't pay enough attention to the work of the Brussels School on irreversibility. For my views on this topic see my review of Coveney's book (from Nature, 1990), my paper 'Chaos theory and the difference between past and future', or this letter, published in New Scientist on 17 August, 1996.
Discussions in net newsgroups
noodles for a week so that I could afford your book so I thought I
might let you know it was worth every two minute bowl."
didn't mention that I was haphazardly flipping through "Time's
Arrow" at around a chapter-a-day when it first hit our bookstore.
... I'm afraid I lack the intellectual integrity of your
noodle-eating Queensland admirer."
recommend the book ... . Even my rebbe picked up a copy."
"I am not
very diplomatic but I become incensed when persons such as you
publish such nonsense."
Last updated: 12 May, 1998.