Time and Space

Time and Space: Second Edition

Barry Dainton
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 2
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  • Book Info
    Time and Space
    Book Description:

    Surveying both historical debates and modern physics, Barry Dainton evaluates the central arguments in a clear and unintimidating way that keeps conceptual issues comprehensible to students with little scientific or mathematical training and makes the philosophy of space and time accessible to anyone trying to come to grips with the complexities of this challenging subject. With over 100 original line illustrations and a full glossary of terms, Time and Space keeps the requirements of students firmly in sight and will continue to serve as the ideal textbook for philosophy of time and space courses.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-9484-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. Preface to the second edition
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Preface to the first edition
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. 1 Preliminaries
    (pp. 1-12)

    By way of setting the stage, this opening chapter introduces some of the most important metaphysical issues concerning time and space. Although many of the questions that can be asked about time can also be asked about space, and vice versa, time raises distinctive issues all of its own, and I will be devoting special attention to these. Some of the distinctive issues concerning space are discussed in Chapter 9.

    Do space and time exist? This is an obvious question, and one that is frequently addressed, but it can mean different things. Since philosophers raise the question of whether the...

  6. 2 McTaggart on time’s unreality
    (pp. 13-26)

    In an attempt to get us to take seriously the idea that reality might be very different from how it seems, Descartes introduced an all-powerful demon. This demon, we are to suppose, is causing us to hallucinate, to have experiences that do not correspond to anything real. The experiences in question are the perceptual experiences that we are having at the moment and those we remember having in the past: the experiences that we unthinkingly take to be revealing the world to us. The point of this scenario is to lead us to appreciate that our experience does not guarantee...

  7. 3 The Block universe
    (pp. 27-43)

    Many contemporary philosophers are convinced that McTaggart was essentially correct: our world is a block-like four-dimensional ensemble, lacking a moving present, wherein all times and events are equally real. But few (if any) of these philosophers follow McTaggart by holding that time is unreal. According to these contemporary Block- or B-theorists, what we call “time” is simply that dimension which exists in addition to the three of space and in virtue of which the properties of things can change; a thing “changes” by having different properties at different locations in this additional dimension. Since not everything happens at once and...

  8. 4 Asymmetries within time
    (pp. 44-62)

    A French nursery rhyme runs “L’eau est comme le temps: il coule, il coule, il coule.” If time really did flow, then, like a flowing river, it would also have a direction. But if the B-theory is true, time is not going anywhere: there is no moving “now”, no slippage into the past, no crystallization from mere possibility into present actuality. Every time and every event is equally real. But why does time seem to have a direction if it doesn’t? The B-theorist’s explanation will take this general form: time does not flow or pass, but there are nonetheless asymmetries...

  9. 5 Tensed time
    (pp. 63-67)

    In §1.6 I noted that we should not assume that the eternal–dynamic dispute maps neatly onto the tenseless–tensed dispute. The latter revolves around the sorts of concepts that are needed to describe the world in a metaphysically adequate way, whereas the former concerns the reality or otherwise of temporal passage. The B-theory we have just been considering combines two claims:

    The world is a four-dimensional ensemble, and all times and events are equally real and coexist.

    The world can be fully described in tenseless terms.

    In Chapter 6 I will be looking at ways of taking issue with...

  10. 6 Dynamic time
    (pp. 68-102)

    InScientific Thought, after a clear statement of the problems posed by supposing that there are transitory tensed properties, Broad proposes a very different dynamic theory of time. Focusing on his current state, he says that this:

    is just the last thin slice that has joined up to my life-history. When it ceases to be present and becomes past this does not mean that it has changed its relations to anything to which it was related when it was present. … When an event, which was present, becomes past, it does not change or lose any of the relations which...

  11. 7 Time and consciousness
    (pp. 103-120)

    In this chapter I redeem a pledge made in §3.2 and take a closer look at our experience of time. I will not be concerned with what we believe and feel about time and its passing at different stages of our lives; my focus will be on the character of our experience from moment to moment within our streams of consciousness. My approach will be phenomenological: the task is the tightly circumscribed one of trying to formulate adescriptionof our short-term experience of time that is clear, accurate and intelligible. Other interesting problems, such as how our brains manage...

  12. 8 Time travel
    (pp. 121-144)

    Space offers something that time does not: unconstrained freedom of movement. Up, down, north, south, east, west, and all points in between, not only are we able to move in all spatial directions, but we are free to move back and forth as we wish, and at different speeds. Time is miserly in comparison. As it is by nature one dimensional, it would be churlish to condemn it for offering us only two directions, but the additional constraints it places on us can seem unnecessarily severe. Although we might be said to “travel” into the future simply by persisting, we...

  13. 9 Conceptions of void
    (pp. 145-163)

    As I mentioned at the outset, there are various metaphysical issues connected with space: structure at the very small and very large scales, dimensionality, uniqueness, topology and geometry. But, as with time, I am going to concentrate on a single central topic: is thesubstantivalview of space correct, or is therelationalview correct? Is space an object in its own right, in addition to the material bodies that occupy it, or does it consist of a network of relations between material bodies?

    This question is quite unlike that of the passage of time. We could make a good...

  14. 10 Space: the classical debate
    (pp. 164-181)

    Over the next three chapters we will be examining the debates concerning motion and space in the context of classical Newtonian mechanics. Newton himself will be playing the role of arch-substantivalist and Leibniz the arch-relationist, with Galileo and Descartes fitting uneasily between the two. As far asourspace is concerned, this debate has in some respects been rendered redundant by subsequent developments, since Newton’s physics has been replaced by Einstein’s, but the earlier debate is well worth studying. Not only does it provide useful preparation – recent developments can only be fully understood against the backdrop of the positions...

  15. 11 Absolute motion
    (pp. 182-193)

    Newton deploys two basic arguments against relationism. The best known is theargument from inertial effects: the notorious bucket argument. The second is theargument for real inertial motion. Both are connected with Newton’s first law of motion, namely that any object will continue to move at a constant velocity (or remain at rest) unless acted on by a force. Before proceeding it will help to review some of the relevant terminology.

    As we have already seen, Newton’s first law is often called the “law of inertia”.Inertial motionis motion in the absence of impinging forces: a moving body...

  16. 12 Motion in spacetime
    (pp. 194-212)

    Newton may be ahead on points, but his account is still blighted by a serious problem. To account for inertial effects Newton recognized absolute acceleration; having recognized absolute acceleration he also had to recognize absolute velocity (change of which constitutes absolute acceleration), despite the fact that absolute velocity has no physical consequences. In positing absolute velocities, Newtonians expose themselves to the claim that their theory gives rise to empirically indistinguishable states of affairs. Which of the infinite number of possible universes that can be generated by Leibniz’s kinematic shift do we inhabit? Which corresponds to the actual world? If Newton’s...

  17. 13 Curved space
    (pp. 213-232)

    We may have pursued the classical debate on space and motion a good way beyond its original boundaries, but there are further modifications to the classical worldview of a still more fundamental kind that we have yet to explore. Viewing motion as a process unfolding in spacetime does not require or involve the abandonment of the classical conception of space as a three-dimensional Euclidean structure, and the various spacetimes we have considered thus far retained this conception of space: there are no spatial distances over time in neo-Newtonian worlds, but the spaces-at-times that remain are entirely Euclidean. The spacetime perspective...

  18. 14 Tangible space
    (pp. 233-244)

    Now that we have a reasonable grasp of the distinction between flat and curved spaces we can turn to our main business, and consider the significance of the distinction for the reality of space. That the distinctiondoesimpact on the debate between substantivalists and relationists has been forcefully argued by Nerlich, on various occasions (1979, 1991, 1994b: §1.7). I will start by looking at some of the ways that spatial curvature can manifest itself in discernible ways, and them move on to consider the use that Nerlich makes of these manifestations.

    Leibniz’s various anti-substantivalist arguments all rely on the...

  19. 15 Spatial anti-realism
    (pp. 245-266)

    While the conceptions of the large-scale composition of the physical universe offered by substantivalists and relationists are undeniably very different, there is also a sense in which they do not differ at all: both camps accept that we inhabit a spatial world. The disagreement is limited to the question of how space (or spacetime) should be characterized. Despite their differences, substantivalists and relationists both count as spatialrealists. In this chapter we will be examining a purely metaphysical argument for spatialanti-realism; the claim that our universe is not in fact spatial, despite appearances that suggest the contrary. The claim...

  20. 16 Zeno and the continuum I
    (pp. 267-288)

    Motion can easily seem the most unproblematic of phenomena. That thingsdomove seems beyond question: as I watch a car moving along the street, or my hand waving in front of my face, I am literallyseeingobjects in motion, or so it seems natural to say. Even if, as some would hold (see Chapter 7) it is not strictly speaking correct to say that motion is directly perceived, there is no denying that motion is a ubiquitous feature of everyday life. From a more theoretical standpoint, at least in the context of the simpler and more familiar models...

  21. 17 Zeno and the continuum II
    (pp. 289-312)

    Imagine an arrow in flight. At every instant during its flight, the arrow is at some specific location, occupying a volume of space that corresponds exactly to the arrow’s own size. Since instants are durationless, and motion takes time, the arrow is not in motion at (or during) these instants. Yet the arrow’s entire flight is composedofthese instants, and nothing but these instants. If the arrow is not in motion at any of the instants that jointly make up its flight, it is not in motion at all.

    This is Zeno’s “Arrow” paradox.¹ The reasoning obviously generalizes –...

  22. 18 Special relativity
    (pp. 313-327)

    Our investigations up to this point have not been in vain – they have certainly led us to a deeper understanding of the complexities of the issues we are concerned with – but they have also been inconclusive. Very different accounts of the large-scale structure of time seem both metaphysically viable and compatible with the character of our everyday experience. Space has proved an equally stubborn topic. Substantivalism may be ahead on points in certain respects, but there have been few clear-cut victories. But for those looking for definite answers all is not yet lost. We have yet to consider...

  23. 19 Relativity and reality
    (pp. 328-342)

    We turn now from the physics of STR to its metaphysical interpretation. I want to focus on some influential lines of argument that attempt to draw very significant conclusions about the nature of time from the distinctive spacetime geometry of STR. These arguments takes as their target all those dynamic models of time according to which there is an ontological asymmetry between past, present and future. As we have seen, there are several such models. Presentists of all persuasions are agreed that the past and the future are unreal; the Growing Block theory of Broad and Tooley is more liberal,...

  24. 20 General relativity
    (pp. 343-367)

    In this chapter several threads of our inquiry thus far come together. Our topic is Einstein’sgeneraltheory of relativity (GTR), the product of ten years’ arduous labour, which followed the completion of STR in 1905. During this intervening period Einstein wrote “never in my life have I tormented myself anything like this … Compared to this problem the original relativity theory [STR] is child’s play”.¹ The metaphysical implications of this elegant and intriguing theory are of interest in their own right, for it remains our best account of our universe’s large-scale spatiotemporal structure. But it is of interest for...

  25. 21 Spacetime metaphysics
    (pp. 368-386)

    Newtonian space is both substantival and absolute: able to exist in the absence of matter, possessed of an immutable Euclidean geometry, it is entirely unaffected by the presence and distribution of matter within it. The spacetime of GTR is very different; its geometry is variable, and affected by the presence and activities of material things. GTR’S spacetime is certainly notabsolute, but is itsubstantival? Einstein certainly came to think it was. In his 1920 Leyden lecture “Ether and the theory of relativity” he remarked that the theory “has, I think, finally disposed of the view that space is physically...

  26. 22 Strings
    (pp. 387-406)

    We have now encountered a number of ways in which contemporary physics threatens common-sense views of space and time. With STR comes the intermingling of space and time and the abandonment of absolute simultaneity; with GTR comes curved spacetime; there are interpretations of quantum theory that posit backward causation, multiple universes and instantaneous action-at-a-distance. Mention has also briefly been made of an attempt to integrate these two theories. We saw in §3.8 that canonical quantum gravity theory has significant and potentially disturbing implications for time, even if one interpretation of what these are is empirically suspect (see §6.9 and §7.8)....

  27. Notes
    (pp. 407-426)
  28. Glossary
    (pp. 427-440)
  29. Web resources
    (pp. 441-442)
  30. Bibliography
    (pp. 443-454)
  31. Index
    (pp. 455-464)