“I propose that time and its passage are fundamental and real and the hopes and beliefs about timeless truths and timeless realms are mythology.”
In “Time Reborn - From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe” by Lee Smolin
Impermanence, Buddhist style?
Buddhism seems to acknowledge the play of opposites I've referred to elsewhere.
Recognising the yin-yang nature of the universe, in order to claim there is constant 'flux' (fluidity, rather than change; a subtle difference) - or for argument's sake, change - Buddhists balance that by asserting a 'greater' reality - the one, eternal, stable, whole (a supposed 'deeper' reality).
Contradiction and paradox is near the heart of evidenced, reasoned contemplation?
As for Aristotle:
time is a measurement of change is a measurement of time.
Change makes time possible, and vice-versa.
In principle, it seems that time persists, even in conditions of perfect stillness.
Yet any attempt to conceive a temporal progression, absent all change, seems to lead us into perplexing self-contradictions: any attempt to imagine how such unchanging time-flow could be measured, requires changing. It seems that time must be more than change; yet remove change, and time vanishes! But if time is just a means to measure change, then in principle, it should permit the possibility of a world where change is cyclical. Yet our understanding seems to limit time to a linear, one way progression.
Or does it?
Would a world where each day began the same as the previous one be conceivable? A world where, during 24 hours, everything that ever happens and could happen takes place? Alternatively, could a world be conceived of, in which everything changes every moment? Where NOTHING is the same from one moment to the next? How could time possibly apply to a world where there was nothing stable to measure change by?
Smolin talks of life lived in the moment: of time being a succession of moments.
But who, seriously, experiences life like that? To me, here, typing away, the present seems to persist. There's a smoothness, a constancy, and an openness about it. Smolin also claims that we must reconcile relativity theory and quantum mechanics - the micro and the macro - into one unifying theory. But, when asked why - perhaps we must live with fact that they are, and always will be, irreconcilable? - he flounders. It seems this is simply a matter of faith for him! Yet, he also claims that the world physics says is 'real', is merely a mathematically modelled one. And that these models, rather than existing in some sense 'outside' our spatiotemporal world of experience actually emerges from it; We should realise that, attempting to apply (as, he claims, physicists do) abstract mathematical models - designed to describe local, experimentally conditioned phenomena - to reality as a whole, is erroneous. Cosmology needs different concepts than quantum physics uses on the micro, mathematically modelled scale.
Everywhere and anywhere, our existence always pre-supposes our existence.
To assert it in the sense you do is, as I've said elsewhere, an obvious (sic) truism.
When lots of things are happening, and we are fully engaged, time may seem to 'fly by'.
When bugger all things are happening, and we are disengaged, time may seem to drag.
When young and active, time seems to pass so slowly.
When old and inactive, time seems to pass so quickly
As Einstein showed, time is relative - to an observer; to speed; to distance. The effects of change may seem temporal, insofar as we see them in a linear sense, from our past to our future.
Yet, what is the present?
On reflection, it seems that there's only the past - which, as past, no longer exists; and the future, which is yet to exist.
The present, where things supposedly 'exist', are 'real', right now.
If time must exist, then how can there ever be a present?
And, if there's no present, how can anything, let alone time, exist?
In spatiotemporal terms, if Smolin's take on the 'metaphysics' or 'cosmology' of current physics is reasonably accurate, it's more like a link - or a line - between (point) A and (point) B. (Insofar as we conceive it as a 'journey', that's down to our woefully limited intellectual/instinctive/sensible abilities: we are stuck as things within space-time, rather than observers outside it, able to see the greater reality: what's real (sic). What you imagine to be the signs of a journey through time, taking its toll (e.g. ageing) are 'really' more like signposts on a route. Or the sights along the way, when you go from Cornwall to London, say.
To us spacetime trapped beings, it’s a one-way journey. But from 'outside' spacetime, that temporal transformation is neither back or forward. It just IS. Fully formed. Mapped out. 'Change' is a concept arising out of our limited conceptual capacity to comprehend the 'big picture'. We put our faith in seemingly obvious, common sense views; yet so often, over time, science has exposed their erroneousness (It seemed so obvious that a smaller, lighter object would fall slower than a big heavy one; yet science proved this wrong).
Kant realised time was imposed on experience by minds; physics has seemingly 'proven' this (Einstein onward) through evidenced reasoning. (Though, of course, a comparatively few theoretical physicists - like Smolin - resist this 'consensus'). Of course, what you think physicists mean when they deny time, and what they really (sic) mean, may well differ.
It may be useful to substitute (best) "explain" for "exist".
Assuming 'time' fails to explain what common-sense assumes it does about reality, as far as physics is concerned. So, physics, post-Einstein, replaced it with 'space-time'. Time, like length, width and depth, is an idealised, mathematical dimension; something we conceptually construct to measure stuff. Of course, I'm playing devil’s advocate above; assuming for sake of argument that Smolin is correct, and that most theoretical physicists have rejected time's 'existence'.
Hence, everything is true and false; real and unreal.
Which lead me to a choice: if everything is isn't; and vice versa.
Then attempting to think anything is impossible; as one must always be looking to negate anything Smolin asserted.
And, if you manage to do that, then you have then to try to re-assert it.
Anyway, I saw relativity (or relativeness) as a possible way out of this.
'Everything that is true is false' smacks of absolutism.
But if all is true and all is false, perhaps that can be seen as:
Everything is partially true and partially false; to varying, and probably changing, degrees.
What we are doing, for the most part, may be distinguishing what seems (relatively) more true from what seems (relatively) more false.
IE: what we say is true, is really more true than false.
Relatively speaking. (Absolutely speaking, it's still as false as it is true).
But, 'cos I'm still a sucker for this philosophy shit, I thought it might be interesting to try to see everything in positive terms.
After all, when we deny something, we say sod-all about what is.
'He's not guilty. your honour."
"So who is? Somebody did it!"
If 'time' is not 'real'; what is it? What does it refer to?
As long as any word has any meaning; as long as it's utterance makes some sense to someone, then it exists as something more than merely an empty word.
I'd like answers.
But I've been compelled to ask questions from an early age.
"That kid won't let up. He's always asking why!"
Somewhere along the line, that seemed to change from "why" to "what".
Sod all, really.
But, 'unreally', everything imaginable, and more.
Seeing the world as made up by minds; as the work of imaginations; It sure helps trying to understand how so many people seem to believe such silly stuff.
From astrology, thru theologies, UFOs, conspiracy theories, ad infinitum.
Everything is made up; but some of it makes more (evidenced reasoned) sense than others.
What alternative to science does Smolin offer?
Merely an alternative scientism.
Theoretical physicists, in the absence of experimental support for their theories, have understandably come to increasingly rely on mathematical models, on which to base their speculation on the possible nature of the universe. Smolin's response is an appeal to 'everyday intuition'; but that 'intuition', in his hands, maybe more akin to an earlier, pre-post (or even simply) modern, metaphysical ideology. He says he seeks to re-align physics with making falsifiable hypotheses; yet how is what he seems to offer any more open to such testability?
"Is time emergent or fundamental?"
That's more akin to "the disagreement" that "could hardly be more fundamental".
And what about space?
Smolin seems to accept that space is "unreal" (is emergent).
If given a choice between space or time, people would be more likely to 'intuitively' assume space existed, than time.
Smolin, in the simplified, distorted sense in which his speculation about a fundamental conception of time is presented here, would be proposing a pretty bog-standard and old-hat metaphysical realism (the universal 'time' has objective/absolute 'existence').
Dressing this up as "everyday intuition' hardly does him any favours; it's more-like a kiss of death. (Science typically progresses by defying intuition).
Check yourself before you wet yourself!
If it's 'outside' time (actually, that's 'outside' spacetime), it can hardly precede or succeed), can it?!
Such a theory, should it ever emerge, would unite quantum field theory with general relativity. Insofar as 'time' is 'unreal', how could it concern itself with a 'history', when history presupposes time?
Smoliin claims to have captured something of the essence of physics; minus the maths. If this is any indication, then it's also minus any sense, common or otherwise. If Smolin is right - if he's being read right - then physics' study of the natural (material) world has lead it to largely posit ideal objects - mathematical models and speculative concepts derived from them - as if they are the constituents at that make up the material world's essence? Black holes, dark matter, electromagnetic fields, etc. are theoretical constructs - ideas - that are inferred and imagined, based on understandings of observed 'material' phenomena.
How is it inconsistently to be skeptical of something unless and until there is some necessary data? Necessary and sufficient would be nice but I'm enough of a realist and a seasoned experimentalist to know that is asking a lot. Just some at least indicative data. All I've had thrown at me is 'Theory' meaning hypotheses. A theory without data is just waffle. Darwin knew that, which is why “On The Origin of Species” is packed with data. He also spent years doing scientific grunt work to establish himself. His systematics of the barnacles is still the seminal work on the subject. Added to, amended by genetics but still sound, referred to science. He was the first to demonstrate what good worms did to soil. Some people think all he did was think up a nice theory then sit back. Darwin was a data man. Evolution came upon him in contact with the data just as it did with Wallace in the Indies. The Wallace line denoting the divide between Asian animals and plants and Australian animals and plants still exists, still carries his name.
AS HEINLEIN WOULD SAY. AGAIN, SHOW ME THE DATA!
Bottom-Line: Sadly, drink is consuming me - even now, I'm pissing blood, I should be drinking water, and here I am with a glass of booze. Like the smoker, putting a cig into a hole in his throat, as he approaches lung-cancer death? Nietzsche helped me 'realise' that everything true is false; Derrida, that everything false is (therefore) true.
NB: After the wonderful “The Trouble with Physics”, Smolin fell on his face with this one…