The paradox of time’s passage in modern physics

The paradox of time’s passage in modern physics

Avshalom Elitzur writes:

It is perhaps the most fundamental ingredient of our experience that reality is constantly changing: Every moment, in its turn, seems to bring new events that did not exist before and that will vanish later. Every event, therefore, has three temporal properties that come one after another: i) before the event takes place it is a potential future event, subject in principle to interference; then, ii) when it actually happens, it is a fleeting present, and finally, iii) after its occurrence, it is a given, unchangeable past. In everyday language, there is a temporal property –– the Now – that continuously moves from one moment to the next, from every event to the following one. Conversely, we may view time itself as passing relative to us, its passage being experienced as the change of the future into present and then into past. Reality, then, seems to be subject to an incessant Becoming.

Trivial statements, one might say, not worth our time. Well, welcome to an ancient realm of paradoxes. Elementary logic proves that these statements are not trivial – they are simply wrong. Any statement like “time flows/passes/moves” is bound to produce gross inconsistencies. For the very concept of movement is based upon that of time; saying that an object “moves” amounts to saying, “it is in one position at one moment and in another position at the next.” But how can such a statement be made on time itself?

To see the absurdity of granting it motion, just ask yourself what is this motion’s velocity! The same contradiction besets the statement “we move in time.” To say so, one must regard time as a sort of “space” in which we move, thereby necessitating another time. Neither shall we avoid absurdities by saying “the future changes into present and then into past.” If “change” denotes different states at different moments, how can the moment itself change its designation from future to past? Would such occurrences not require another time within which the passage or change of time itself occurs? [Continue reading…]

Comments are closed.