Journal Article

Time Reversal in Classical Electromagnetism

Frank Arntzenius and Hilary Greaves

in The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

Published on behalf of British Society for the Philosophy of Science

Volume 60, issue 3, pages 557-584
Published in print September 2009 | ISSN: 0007-0882
Published online June 2009 | e-ISSN: 1464-3537 | DOI:
Time Reversal in Classical Electromagnetism

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Richard Feynman has claimed that anti-particles are nothing but particles ‘propagating backwards in time’; that time reversing a particle state always turns it into the corresponding anti-particle state. According to standard quantum field theory textbooks this is not so: time reversal does not turn particles into anti-particles. Feynman's view is interesting because, in particular, it suggests a non-standard, and possibly illuminating, interpretation of the CPT theorem. This paper explores a classical analog of Feynman's view, in the context of the recent debate between David Albert and David Malament over time reversal in classical electromagnetism.


Time Reversal and the Direction of Time

Classical Electromagnetism: The Story So Far 3.1

The standard textbook view


Albert's proposal


Malament's proposal


Albert revisited

The ‘Feynman’ Proposal

Structuralism: A Third Way? 5.1

Structures: the debate recast


Relational structures


Malament and Feynman structures as conventional representors of a relational reality

Conclusions and Open Questions

Journal Article.  9775 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Science ; Science and Mathematics

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