Philosophy of Space and Time: A Short Introduction

First of all, I’d like to  apologise for my absence. With classes beginning and being on vacation, I haven’t had much time to do a post. While things may be slow for  bit, I promise to keep writing for you all!

So let’s get into some philosophy, shall we?

Ah, Space and time, a personal favorite of mine that goes back to when I was a boy. This topic relates to that of the very fabric of reality. Space and Time is often a topic of astrophysics and quantum mechanics, but surely you can’t have either of these without the wonders of philosophy! Now, there is a million things I can go over in this and I will only pick and choose the most philosophical and fun, because the aim of this blog is to get you intrested about philosophy — Oh, trust me, this is a fun one. So, lets take a look at some ideas.

Space and time? or Space-time.

Are space and time two different things? Well, according to Einstien, they aren’t. Everyone’s heard of old Albert Eintstien, but not many people know what he did beyond e=mc2. The theory of general relativity, Einstiens most awesome discovery (at least as far as I’m concerned 🙂 ) states that gravity is actually a geometric property of space and time. This theory unifies space and time as one thing known as the fabric of space-time.

How did he do it? First he realized that light is always traveling at the same speed regardless of the preceiever, that is an undoubtable fact. Then, he  chose certain stars behind the sun in space (from earth), and after several tries took pictures of them from the glowing edge of a solar eclipse. What did this do exactly? Well, if his theory was correct then gravity would actually warp the angle of the starlight through spacetime, and the gravity of the sun would allow us to see stars that were actually behind the sun (represented by the picture above). If this is true then light which always travels at the same speed in a straight line would not only bend space but time as well, causing the light to take a fraction more time to reach us — a bent ray of light vs. straight ray. This would be represented as the stars behind the sun moving from their actual place in space to a different point. After years of trying to capture the images of the stars around an eclipse, failed attempts, and help from all over the world the theory was a success.

Presentism  and Eternalism

Allow me to explain the easier to understand of these two, first. Presentism is the theory that everything happens as it happens. That is to say that events occur one after another and there is not other reality then the one we are experiencing now. The future has yet to happen and what’s happened is past. So, time is happening and we can’t turn back the clock or turn it forward. Simple right? I’m sure most of you would agree with this statement.

Now, for anyone who knows of the Talfamadorians from the classic Kurt Vonnegut book, Slaughter House 5 or knows of the troubled metaphysical mind of Dr. Manhattan from the graphic novel Watchmen, then you will understand this one easily. Eternalism is the idea that Time is a dimension of reality and that all things past, present and future simply just are. So right now World War I is occurring, man is discovering fire, and the turn of the 34th century is arriving. As Dr. Manhattan explained it, and I’m paraphrasing. ‘Time is a infinitely-faceted diamond. In each facet lies a different moment in time all of which are happening as we speak. They have happened, are happening and always will happen’

Realism and Anti-realism

This overlaps a little with a post I wrote on metaphysics. Realism is the term given to those who believe that space-time is independent of our minds. You can relate this to materialism which I’ve spoken of before (physical objects exist outside the mind).

Anti-realism on the other hand is, well, the opposite. This describes a theory similar to idealism (objects and matter are products of the mind.) Anti-realists deny the fact of space-time as an existing thing and that the truth of our mathematical ways are only present in our ability to prove them.

Conclusion

There are so many thing going on with this topic that it would be impossible to cover all in one sitting. Hopefully what I’ve said here today has given you a little bit of an idea of what this field is about. I would love to be able to explain things like M-theory and the idea of parallel universes, but frankly I don’t have the quantum physics background to fully explain it to you all! Thanks again for reading and even though these posts may be more spaced out from now on I will try to write as much as I can in my spare time. Until then, my friends, Keep on thinking!

Posted in Philosophy.

One Comment

  1. I feel that Time and Space are this: percieving the view and space of atoms and smaller. and from there out to the endless expanse of the universe. There is a presence of matter that is endless with space between. Then at various levels in the perception of quantities of matter attain different structure and appearances. Where this completes is unknown. But time is only a characteristic of the complete whole of the universe and is constantly changing in the appearance of what we see as one direction, but is a progression and completion of infinite capacity as is the quantity of matter.

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