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It does seem to exist when one is late

“That time is either altogether nonexistent, or that it exists but hardly or obscurely, might be suspected from the following: One part of it has come to be but no longer exists; the other part will be but does not yet exist; and it is of these two parts that infinite time, or any time one might take, is composed.  But it is thought that what is composed of nonbeings cannot participate in substance.  In addition, if any thing with parts is to exist, then, when it exists, all or some of its parts must exist.  But, although time is divisible, some parts of it have been and others will be, and no part of it exists.  And as for a moment, it is no part of time, for a part measures the whole, and the whole must be composed of the parts, but it is thought that time is not composed of moments.” – Aristotle, Physics, Book IV (trans. Apostle and Gerson)

Published inAristotleThe Ancients

2 Comments

  1. My son and I are addicted to Through the Wormhole (aka Science for Dummies). One of the scientists interviewed about time said that it’s like a motion picture, with every infinitesimal particle of time strung together so that you see time appearing to move—but it doesn’t, really. Time is only single frozen moments played in sequence—a grand illusion.

    I love this idea. I’m not sure whether the math behind it holds up, and how would I know if it did, but it feels true.

    • Every infinitesimal fragment is in turn infinitesimally divisible. This was one of the problems the ancient Greeks, particularly Zeno and Aristotle, identified with regard to both space and time. They were intrigued by the possibility, or impossibility, of giving a logical explanation to movement. Aristotle, being a pragmatist, concluded that while it was possible to fall into the void of infinity, why bother? It was, as far as he was concerned, a passingly amusing topic that led almost literally to nowhere.

      What feels true for me I will offer for your consideration. We humans have a complex perception of a reality sufficient to us for our survival. We are embedded within this perception and no more can comprehend it without distortion than a flashlight can illuminate itself without distortion. Our perception of space and time is part of this reality within which we are embedded. Our mathematics point to far greater realms of complexity that we cannot comprehend outside of systems of mathematics that we can comprehend. One conception that our mathematics support is that space and time are the same thing; further, that time both does and does not pass, the same way that space both does and does not pass, for we and the reality in which we are embedded are passing through time and space continuously. There is nothing we know of in our perceived universe that does not move. Absolute zero, the complete absence of movement in space and therefore in time (for everything that moves in space moves in time), is so far no more than a theoretical extreme, as its presence would be, if you like, a crack in our universe. We can have difficulty comprehending the unity of space and time due to our perceptions of a reality which includes hunger, death, and shattered glass that does not reassemble, and is a reality so usefully categorized by Newton. I would venture that a scientist who compares time to a motion picture and refers to the infinitesimal is a scientist who is hampered by his basic training in Newtonian physics (hard bodies in empty space–we all get it in grade school) and by both an insufficient acquaintance with Zeno’s Paradoxes and with the meanings of words.

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