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The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him. - Leo Tolstoy

Definition and Nature of Time
Updated: 01/07/2021

WARNING: If you enjoy "time travel" movies or TV programs, do NOT read the rest of this article!

First of all, lets make sure that we understand the difference between the words "time" and "eternity", because they are not the same. The definition of eternity may be somewhat difficult to elaborate, but the definition of time as we use the word should be very simple, clear and straightforward.

Since "time" is included in, and affects, not only our everyday lives but also many physics equations and chemical recipes or formulations, a proper definition of "time" is of the utmost importance. It is helpful to realize that the chemical reactions in the vessel are not really effected by some mysterious thing called time but by the number of contacts or collisions that take place in the soup of atoms and/or molecules. This gives us a big, fat clue for what the factor "T" or time really stands or means.

This aspect of reality that we call "time" is integral to the currently accepted physical paradigm called "relativity", and almost everyone uses the term "space-time" continuum. We will challenge that on a fundamental level of logic.

Albert Einstein was a gentle mathematical mystic who published three important papers in 1905, one on Brownian motion, one on the Photoelectric effect, and one on his theory of relativity. Here is some of what H.C. Dudley has to say about these papers:

"These two theoretical papers are the reason for Einstein's receiving the richly deserved Nobel Prize in 1921, although many historians of science have led our students to believe that it was the much more publicized Theory of Relativity that earned for him this coveted honor.  For this reason it is here emphasized that the papers on Brownian movement and the photoelectric effect, based on directly observable phenomena, are just as valid now as when written 70 years ago.  Also it is of utmost importance to note that these theoretical developments required little or no use of the metaphysical mathematics and philosophical assumptions which were becoming so popular in Western Europe at that time." - Dudley, H.C., "The Personal Tragedy of Albert Einstein", KRONOS I-4 Winter 1976

Dudley further remarks about the third paper that is so related to our subject of the nature of time:

"In contrast to the theoretical methods which he had utilized in treating Brownian movement and the photoelectric effect, Einstein in developing Relativity allowed himself to become an integral part, in fact a leading disciple, of the "school" which made use of metaphysical mathematics.  This group assumed time to be an independent variable, combinable with three coordinates of space (Minkowski's space-time).  He assumed as true the following unproved attributes of the physical world:

A. That there exists no "ether," no generalized subquantic medium by which absolute motion could be determined.

B.  That mass and energy are interconvert able (E=mc')

C.  Reversibility of time

With these unsupported hypotheses A and C, Einstein flew in the face of the majority opinion then held by professional scientists, and particularly experimentalists.  He embarked on a course that brought eventual disillusionment." - Dudley, H.C., "The Personal Tragedy of Albert Einstein", KRONOS I-4 Winter 1976

And here is a foundational metaphysical principle and keen insight by A. Stander:

"And yet Einstein did not destroy the Absolute.  There is always an Absolute in science.  In the nineteenth century it was the ether, but when the ether fell to pieces and disintegrated, there was no Absolute left at all–a condition intolerable to scientists, although they don't know it.  Einstein made space and time relative, but in order to do this he had to take something else, which was the velocity of light, and make it absolute.  The velocity of light occupies an extraordinary place in modern physics.  It is lese majeste to make any criticism of the velocity of light. It is a sacred cow within a sacred cow, and it is just about the Absolutest Absolute in the history of human thought.  There is a textbook on physics which openly says, "Relativity is now accepted as a faith." This statement, although utterly astounding in what purports to be a science, is unfortunately only too true." - A. Stander, Science Is a Sacred Cow (New York: E.P. Dutton, Everyman Edition, 1958),

All statements we ordinarily make about time seem to
imply that time is something which we know it is not,
and make assumptions about it which we know to be
- R. G. Collingwood, "Some Perplexities about
Time: With an Attempted Solution" Proceedings of the
Aristotelian Society
26 (1925-1926): 138.

Nature and Definition

Premise 1: Eternity may be a somewhat mystical overarching reality outside of the physical universe but Time is NOT , nor is Time a THING that ANYBODY can do ANYTHING to. In other words, it cannot be reified.

Premise 2: The universe doesn't exist in time, but time exists in the universe.

Premise 3: The proper general definition of time is: The sequence of events in the material universe. For a more specific definition for the purpose of physical equations and chemical formulas we can add: The events are individual micro events on the particle or sub-particle level.

Think about it this way. Generally, when we heat a chemical reaction, it happens faster. Do we think that the heat is evaporating or destroying time? No! Obviously the heat is just increasing the rate of molecular collision or interaction events.

Leibniz objected to any conception of time which is exterior to the objects that are normally said to be “in” time (time as an exterior framework, a dimension), but he infused his thinking with confusion about the eternality of God, entelechy, and a chronology of "nows".

The notable philosopher Immanuel Kant, considered by some to be the center of modern philosophy, insists that he has given a rigorous and conclusive proof for the proposition that the universe had a beginning in time, and other philosophers have characterized the proof as certain. He also insists that he has given a rigorous and conclusive proof for the proposition that the universe did not have a beginning in time, and other philosophers have characterized the proof as certain.. Of course, this is a straightforward violation of the Law of Contradiction, a concept held to be inviolate. He seems to suggest not that both of these proofs are true but that they are both false.

This assertion of Kant's is a violation of another time-honored concept, the Law of the Excluded Middle, which has it that two contradictory propositions cannot both be false, nor can these two be true. If two contradictory propositions can both be considered to be false, then they can both be considered as true. "And yet Kant accepts the conclusion that they are both false, and rejects the conclusion that they are both true.[*]

What is going on here? What is the problem? The following treatise on what time really is gives the explanation, but I will relate first what the eminent philosopher G.E. Moore has to say about Kant's assertions,

"Now suppose we say that, instead of proving these two propositions, what his proofs really prove (if they prove anything at all) is the following two hypothetical propositions. Namely (1) If the world exists in time at all, then it must have had a beginning, and (2) If the world exists in time at all, then it can have had no beginning...For if we say that what Kant proved is merely these two hypotheticals, then he has not proved that these two contradictory propositions are both of them true. For these two hypotheticals do not contradict one another."[**]

Of course, what is being said is that the premise or "IF" statement in both of the above are false, Bottom line? The universe doesn't exist in time, but time exists in the universe.

Back in the summer of 2000 the chief astronomer and director of the US Naval Observatory, the late Tom van Flandern, and I were over in Italy to give presentations at the annual University of Milano-Bergamo symposium. Both of us were staying up in Bergamo, about an hour’s train ride to Milano. One morning we sat together on the train to Milano and talked about time. He is the thinker that really kick-started me to deal philosophically with this subject.

He said that he thinks about it along these lines. He asked me to imagine there was nothing except empty space with just a faucet in it. The faucet drips. The faucet drips again. He asked me how much time there was between the drips, and I immediately saw and we agreed that the question was unanswerable. There was nothing that we could say.

Then he asked me to visualize a second dripping faucet, one that drips 60 times for every time the first faucet drips. Now, what can we say? Well, we can now remark about the ratio being 60:1 on a regular basis. And then we add a third faucet that drips 60 times for every time the second faucet drips. Now we can remark not only about the mathematical ratios, but we can now talk about cycles within cycles and regularity in their relationships.

The experience of reality, of life content, and of meaning is based on events

The above seems to be so obvious that it is trite or questionable to mention it. However, there are three TYPES of events, 1) those that we relate to as quantitative where they are triggered or created by the physical, mechanical cycles that have been set in motion and that have no further impact or meaning in and of themselves, and 2) those that we relate to as qualitative where they are not cyclical but have some "good or bad" impact on the quality of our life, and 3) those that are qualitative but also purposeful in that these events are triggered by some level of volition.

Time and Duration are based on cyclical, quantitative discrete events

The question was asked above, "How much time is there between two events?" We simply cannot say without counting the number of quantitative cycles that we are using as a background or matrix, a woven fabric canvass if you will upon which we can “paint”our experience. In other words, the number of "times" a clock ticks or the number of seasons, moon or solar cycles. In our language we often use the word time to be synonymous with the word event, as in "Plates of food were spilled three "times" during the party," or "The batter came to the plate four times during the game."

Consider the words "eventual" and "eventually". Don't these words with the root "event" mean further downstream in time, in the sequence of future events?

The Arrow of Time is based on Sequence

Humans and the higher orders of animals have an innate ability to determine sequence. That in itself is a wonder, and is one of the foundations of intelligence, the ability to apprehend reality. We can distinguish sequence as long as the "interval" between is large enough to be discernable. Sequence, an intangible, is more fundamental than time.

So, humans experience time as a directional series of sequential events, the smallest–of which we are generally only subconsciously aware–being that of our heartbeat, essentially equivalent to a second. Seconds to minutes to hours to days to weeks to months to years to decades to centuries to millennia, all mechanically determined cyclical series of events. Events or series of events distinguishable from one another and in sequence provide for the reality of our experience, including our experience of what we call time. We use uniform cyclical, non-relevant events (such as the ticking of a clock, or the vibration of an atom, or the rotations or revolutions of the solar system) that mark out small increments of duration to help us better keep track of the sequence of more important, relevant events that affect our lives.

Put very straightly, without physical events to demarcate experience in a sequence there would be no such thing as time. And these are five important aspects for the basis of a COMMON concept or standard of time tracking:

1. It must be externally imposed upon the corpus of individuals
2. It must be corporately experienced
3. It must be countable instead of measurable
4. It must be uniform to a useful degree
5. It must be tracked and recorded in some fashion.

One aspect of time should be emphasized and further elucidated:

There are two kinds of quantity, continuous or measurable, and discrete or countable.  - R. G. Collingwood

This is an important distinction elucidated by Collingwood. Time is NOT MEASURED against an artificial standard, like the platinum bar in France for the meter, but the events are COUNTED for time. This absolute "standard" is built into our minds, and there is nothing arbitrary or artificial about it because it is based on adding the unit one for each item. Counts are either right or wrong–if done properly OR CORRECTLY they are absolutely right, and if done improperly they are wrong. In contrast, measurements are always approximations, and if precision is an issue, they are done several times and statistical analysis is applied using the mathematical technique of standard deviation. If there are a few marbles in a bag, and we want to know exactly how many, we count them; we do not apply some artificial standard and then "measure" them.

There is little or no point in counting events unless they are essentially uniform. If an event is not effectively identical to another, it is in a class by itself–no need to count the number because it is 1.

We should all know in this discussion that the ancient accounts of “creation” are not descriptions of the beginning creation of the physical universe, but are “accounts” of the creation of a new world environment, a new “cosmic” order, or new age, the age of timekeeping. In the somewhat recoverable history of Man, the “beginning of time” was inaugurated for humans on earth by the cycles of the crescent on the face of the planet Saturn, and some of the very words associated with time–chronology, chronological, chronometer, synchronous, etc.–came from the name of that planet, Chronos. Evidently, before the polar column was formed and the regular cycles of morning and evening started appearing on the “face of the deep”, humans were not exposed to any significant, identifiable, celestial chronometer or regular cycle that provided the underlying “time” fabric of background events. With these cycles of morning and evening events and intervals being externally imposed and corporately experienced, counted and kept track of, they provided the background upon which were appended in human consciousness the sequence of the more meaningful events of life. Thus was a new “time” consciousness initiated in the earthly population.

After the breakup and the attendant catastrophic disruption of the comparatively benevolent or benign environment, the brighter and dimmer part of the cycle was turned into blackest night, which contrasted with  a too-bright day, an almost ultimate visual, cyclical contrast. Also, at that point in history, life turned into more of an ordeal to survive in contrast to a more carefree experience. Thus the “tyranny of time”, the pressure of survival productivity was imposed on the earthly human race.

Sequence is inviolate to our most fundamental concept of reality, experience and logic. In other words, sequence is absolute and unassailable; it can never be altered or reversed. If it could be, then the universe, the "order" of things, would be truly unstable and chaotic. Is not the very word “order” a synonym for sequence? There never could be even any meaning because it could always be undone by changing the sequence of events. Sequence is one of those non-material realities that even applies to non-material events such as thoughts or imaginings.

Vibration and oscillation pervade our physical universe, and every reversal of direction in an oscillation, every “wiggle” of every polarity of every particle, every Brownian Motion collision and all the other particle interaction events form a background fabric of time indicators that happen in sequence. In the Electric Universe paradigm, every particle electrically “knows” about every other in a connected universe. So, every event has some affect upon all the others, if only a “vanishingly small” and irrelevant one. Thus when “t” as a symbol of time is used in a scientific equation or chemical formula, it doesn’t stand for some mysterious, indefinable aspect of reality, but it represents the multitude of background events being demarcated by that period or duration that have some effect upon the phenomenon symbolized by the equation or formula.

Existence precedes time

Further thoughts. Existence is not based on time, but time is based on existence and events in the physical universe. IMO, we need to learn to think and talk more carefully about these fundamental issues. Examples of nonsensical questions might be, “Was there ever a time when there was nothing?” or “Was there ever a time before the physical universe existed?” or “What happens when time runs out?” or “If there was a beginning, what existed or happened before the beginning?” And we COULD be more careful in our terminology, and an example is that a minute is not a time but is a duration.

So, to repeat, time is an aspect of or an adjunct to the physical universe based on physical events. Simply put, no material universe, no time! But that does not mean that time can be reified, because “time” is not a thing in and of itself. Time is not something that can be slowed down or speeded up nor can it be reversed. If synchronized clocks or metronomes get out of sync, “one must look at which mechanisms or processes can cause that”. Also, dimensions are not something that can be reified in order to be compressed or stretched. The theories of “Relativity” are thoroughly confused on these points.

Time Travel

The essence of all perceived reality is contrast or difference, change, discontinuity, limits and irreversibility.  Our senses essentially only convey information about differences or contrasts.  Despite what mind-imbalanced science speculators and popularizers say about Time, human beings relate to Time as a series of sequential events.  The most fundamental aspect of the reality that I live in (or any other that I might want to live in) is the irreversibility of Time or sequential events.

It is true that one of the fundamental assumptions that Einstein made in formulating his Theory of Relativity was that Time was reversible, but despite his popularity and press exposure during that period, he became more and more uncomfortable with his theory as "time" went on.  Contrary to popular opinion, the famous Michaelson-Morley experiment, having supported Relativity, did not demonstrate that Relativity was correct but just did not falsify it.  My understanding is that Chaos Science demonstrates there is a direction or arrow of Time.

The concept of time travel based on reversibility of Time is one of the most vacuous of ideas that have been given such exposure, and is suitable only for people that cannot think critically, those that can be talked into accepting that 2 + 2 = 5 for large enough values of 2. Having said that, there are some paradigms of reality, such as the Holographic Universe paradigm, that conceptually would allow our minds to revisit the implicate realm or "holographic record" of the past and view it and/or experience it but not change it, just as we don't change a movie by watching it.

We talk of three aggregations of time: the past, the present, and the future. The past is that part of the sequence of events that have already happened, and the present is that small interval for us personally between one awareness and the next, and the future has not been created yet. So, there CANNOT be any melding or confusion between these references.

But Albert Einstein made one telling comment before he died in 1955:

"For us believing physicists the distinction between past, present, and future is only an illusion, even if a stubborn one." as reported by Snow, C.B., 1991, Dreams of the Future, Aquaria Press.

 "Believing" physicists? Yes. Critical thinking physicists? NO! Einstein showed his mystical lunacy with this remark.

The above conceptual presentation is NOT "rocket science". It is way past "time" that we become more intellectually responsible and less confused in our thinking!

[*] Moore, G.E., Some Main Problems in Philosophy, Collier Books, New York City, NY, p. 183.
[**] Moore, G.E., Some Main Problems in Philosophy, Collier Books, New York City, NY, p. 184.

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