Subject: Re: a simple question
Date: Tue, 29 Sep 1998 16:37:01 EDT
From: "chad hadsell"
I was always under the impression that time is not so concrete in its existence as, say, CFC's are. I've always viewed time as a perception thing. Thus, when one says "wow, time really flew by this week!" it actually did, for that person. Time is an arbitrary measurement of progress created by the human mind. Therefore i guess a better question than my previous one would be if time travel is even possible. Can you travel through something that exists only in your mind? If you can, it seems that it would only affect you, no? I have read a great deal of sci-fi based on the concept of time travel, and though it makes for very interesting plots, when it comes down to the root of things, i don't believe that you can travel backward or forward in time. All you can do it reverse progress. It would be akin to "unbaking" a cake. Of course, travel to the future is absolutley rediculous. The very act of traveling to the future changes the *future*. Next time you "go back to" the same "time" in the future, it would be different. Every action that occurs right now changes how progress occurs, and therefore also changes what is commonly called the future. I guess the key to the whole thing here is that only the "now" exists. There is no such thing as the future yet, and when it occurs, it instantly becomes the now. There is no longer such a thing as the past, as it no longer is the now. Some may say that this is a limited perception of things. But when you really start to think about it, i don't believe it is any more limited than the notion that, since we can move through space it must follow that we can move through time in the same manner. Time is niether linear nore "spacial" but rather exists at a single point. it is not the 4th dimension, but rather the 0th. Does this make any sense to you? its hard to talk about this concept with such limited terms as language provides. tell me your thoughts on this.
Your "simple question" has become much more complicated. Now we are beginning to examine the concrete and the abstract, the objective and the subjective--many concepts which are difficult even for graduate philosphy majors. But let me tackle what I can.
First, I want to distinguish three ideas about time. There is the reality of time, the measurement of that reality, and the subjective experience of it. To explain what I mean, I'm going to have to talk about distance.
There is a grocery store not far from my house; it is just about a mile from here; it could also be said to be about 2 kilometers from here. Now, I don't know for certain the exact distance--but there is an exact distance. But the significant thing here is that the distance is a real and fixed thing, whether or not it has ever been measured, and whether or not any of us know that distance. Even if the concept of distance was unknown to us--say, if we were dogs or wolves--there would be a real distance between my house and the store.
The measurement of that distance is an abstraction. We've invented units of distance, and we use those units to define space. Thus I can tell you that the distance to the store is about a mile, and you know what that means--you can think of two places which are about a mile apart, and so know how far I am from the store by that comparison. But the unit--the mile--is not the reality; it is the measurement of the reality, defined by the symbols we call language. Yet the unit is very valuable, because it gives us a way to determine the distance objectively, that is, to give the distance a value which is not affected by anything other than the real distance between the two points.
But if I walk to the store with $50 in my pocket, and spend it on groceries, and then I carry those groceries home, I would tell you that the distance from my house to the store is not as far as the distance from the store to my house. Similarly, if I drive to the store, it doesn't seem nearly as far from home as it does when I walk. My perception of distance is extremely subjective; if I'm not counting paces, or using measuring devices of some sort, it is very difficult for me to know how far things are from each other in any objective way.
Now, if time is a dimension, then it would be logical to assume that it is similar to the other dimensions. Thus we have our subjective perception of time--it may seem to move faster or slower, in the same way that two points may seem farther apart or nearer together. Yet we have invented units by which to measure it--seconds, minutes,