Proteus Paradoxes and Metaphors of Time in Early Universe(s)

ERC-2017-STG – ERC Starting Grant n. 758145

Proteus studies main strategies devised by Western philosophy in representing time in cosmology. It aims at modifying current metaphysics and its relationship with cosmology in the light of recent scientific debates in quantum gravity and quantum cosmology, thereby boosting a new research field in history and philosophy of cosmology.

Principal investigator
Dr Silvia De Bianchi

Host institution
Autonomous University of Barcelona

Start date: 1 September 2018
End date: 31 August 2023

Project description

The project is based on two hypotheses:

1) The history of philosophy reveals a guideline that can be traced back to Plato and that characterizes physical and metaphysical approaches to the question of the beginning of the universe in terms of a tension between fundamentality and non-fundamentality of time;

2) There is a conceptual problematic assumption in Western culture and it consists in shaping the problem of the origin of the world as a problem of thinking about the very same conditions of possibility of the origin of a process that is not in time.

The project spells out the conceptual roots of current representations of time in quantum gravity and quantum cosmology and highlights the conceptual break that they provide with respect to philosophical concepts of time portrayed in previous systems.

Proteus explores in detail the notions of time and the paradoxes emerging in the philosophy and cosmology of Plato and Kant and identifies the fundamental characters of emergent time in current quantum gravity theories.

In identifying these fundamental features, Proteus produces conceptual innovation in metaphysics in such a way that philosophical investigation is complementary to the development of current theories.

Research team

The research team includes members from different backgrounds (philosophy, mathematics and physics) and promotes the application of a new methodology emphasizing the relevance of the history of philosophy and the actual interaction between philosophers and scientists.

Silvia De Bianchi

Principal Investigator

Ramón y Cajal Fellow
Department of Philosophy & Centre for the History of Science (CEHIC)
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Daniel Vázquez


Postdoc in Ancient Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
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Viktor Ilievski


Postdoc in Ancient Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
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Federico Viglione

PhD student

PhD student in Philosophy
Department of Philosophy
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Maria Laura Duarte

Research Assistant

Department of Philosophy
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Advisory Board

Francesco Fronterotta

Historian Of Ancient Philosophy

Associate Professor
Department of Philosophy, Sapienza University of Rome
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Daniele Oriti

Theoretical Physicist

Senior researcher
Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics, Albert Einstein Institute
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Michele Alessandrelli

Historian Of Ancient Philosophy

Istituto per il Lessico Intellettuale Europeo e Storia delle Idee, CNR
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Upcoming Events

17-18 September 2019

Kant on the Foundations of Mathematics and Cosmology. What Legacy for German Idealism and Beyond?

Organizers: Silvia De Bianchi, Federico Viglione

Sala d'Actes (Department of Philosophy, Campus UAB)

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 758145.