Touching The Limits Of Knowledge

Cosmology and our View of the World


The Nature of Time
Lead: Sean Every, Connor Horigan, Dan Widrew


Summary by Joshua Jones:


The Nature of Time

Time is something that everybody knows goes on and on. A simple child can understand the progression of time from morning, noon, to night. When asked, what is time, then the nature of time must be known and understood to give a suitable answer. St. Augustine said, “What is time?” “If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain what it is to him who asks me, I do not.” Knowing time requires that nobody asks. When somebody does ask, then a true definition cannot be found to suit all understandings of the nature of time.

The goal of the class discussion was to probe the concept “time”, in hope of gaining an understanding of the mountainous goal of finding a definition for “time”. Splitting into small groups provided a variety of thoughts on time that still leave questions to be answered. Time was said by one group to be a form of inner sense. Well is it real or something we experience? I believe time to be real, for in our minds we have memories which are ordered chronologically. If time was not real then each memory would be remembered to happen right before now with no order, and we know this is not the case. Time was also discussed to be a connection between moments and presence; this is a succession of moments theory. In relation, time is simply change. If this was true then no change would mean no time. The argument on this is deep and involves the idea that if there is no change then time would still go on; and it is impossible to have absolutely no change even at absolute zero, therefore time always exists. If we assume that there is no change anywhere, then if time depended on change there would be no time moving forward. The contrary could be true, that without change time would still charge forward. Thus time would have a deeper meaning than just being change.

A couple views of time have developed from the questions and arguments above. The static view of time says there is only past and future. The past is known and the future has infinite branching possibilities. It is thought that all moments in time are equally real. The dynamic view of time believes we always live in the now and there is no future. Time is then a progression of moments where the future doesn’t exist until you get there. Time in each view is always going forward because if you reverse the arrow of time it would look the same as before or become ridiculous, depending on the angle one takes on the subject. If the arrow of time is reversed then would we be traveling in the past and the original future would become memories? Frankly I would not know if I was coming our going, or if time was going forward or in reverse. It is impossible to predict the future, but if we know our past and the arrow is turned around, does this mean our memories could erase? These are truly complicated questions, and still cause opposing views in the class. What if people could take themselves out of the “arrow” and jump back in at the past then it would be possible, but to do this is far from the reaches of science today.

A few facts were agreed upon in the class. Time can not be measured absolutely; it only can be measured relative to a reference point. “When we measure time, we measure length of time. There is no flow of time to be measured.” (Moebius) There is no flow of time, in the aspect that there is no rate at which it rolls on and on. For some strange reason it just goes forward. The human population tries to control the world, in many ways, through physics and other sciences, in what we know as technology. We have no control over time and this proves to be a complicating factor in our ability to understand it. “I can move a chair over there, but I can’t move it into next Thursday.” (Davis)