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What are space and time?

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My posted topic on Kant's argument about space and time, as well as my reading of his Critique of Pure Reason has intrigued me. I am curious as to whether or not we can say that space and time are entities in reality, or that they are relations between objects that we measure, or that we must agree with Kant and say that space and time exist in the mind only.

I am currently inclined to say that space and time are measurements between objects in reality, thus being another example of a third alternative to intrinsicism (space and time exist as entities which our mind passively receives) vs. subjectivism (space and time are created by our minds).

What do you all think?

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think this is a question best left for science, since any a priori speculation on the part of philosophers is likely to look fairly primitive and silly in 300 years time once more empirical evidence concerning space and time has been discovered. I doubt any philosophers 200 years ago could have anticipated the new perspectives which relativity/QM has given us on the notion of space/time, and its unlikely that we today could predict what those in the future will know.

How we perceive space/time (as opposed to what space/time actually 'are') would probably be a psychological question rather than a philosophical one, and again might be best left to science.

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The question is similar to: imagine an x-y graph on the floor, and put chairs and tables at certain points. Intrinsicism: the x and y axes exist as physical entities in and of themselves, immaterial of whether they affect anything or not. Subjectivism: the x and y axes are simply things the mind made up - and are perfectly valid as such, though it is immaterial whether they affect anything or not. Couldn't there be a third alternative - what do you all think?

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I disagree with Poohat. The nature of space and time will not change whether further discoveries about them are made or not.

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Changes give rise to the concept of Time. You measure some changes in relation to other changes. The change, which is chosen as a standard to measure other changes, should be permanently cyclical and constant among other things.

The world is 3 dimensional. Even as a baby I implicitly knew that. So any element that exists in this world must occupy space, that is, have some length in each of the 3 dimensions.

Both Time and Space are abstractions. Looking for time is akin to looking around for "boyishness"; you aren't going to find it as a concrete, but you can find many examples of it. But like you can spot a Boy, you can also spot a change, both as concretes... you form the abstractions in your mind.

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I disagree with Poohat. The nature of space and time will not change whether further discoveries about them are made or not.

Obviously the nature of space and time will probably not change, but our knowledge regarding them (and hence our ability to talk about them) probably will. There's no reason to believe the sun has changed significantly since 200BC, but we would still find philosphers from this era to be very silly when they talk about it being pulled across the sky by chariots of fire. It is certainly possible that we may discover thing that will majorly change our conception of time and space; for instance special relativity seems to suggest that there is no such thing as 'absolute time', which would probably have been dismissed as lunacy 200 years ago.

The world is 3 dimensional.

Highly debateable statement given modern science, and even if it were to turn out to be true, it certainly isnt self-evident. This is the kind of thing I'm talking about.

Even the phrase "space and time" may turn out to be misleading, since it treats the 2 as being distinct entities which is by no means obvious (if even true).

Couldn't there be a third alternative - what do you all think?

3) The x and y axes are defined relative to objects A and B based on certain properties of the reference frames they (A,B) exist within, and it makes no sense to talk about the axes 'existing' objectively, or using them while referring to objects in a different frame.

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Thank you poohat, for revealing that you are a through and through Skeptic.

Here is the sum of your entire argument:

'Others were wrong and you could be wrong. Why? Because you are all human. And humans are not omniscient. You do not know all the facts. And since new facts could invalidate old concepts, nothing you say can be considered valid. Therefore your arguments must be dismissed out of hand.'

Elsewhere, you have stated that you agree with "the majority of Objectivism on some level". If this is the case, given the above foundation, I would suggest your agreements are made on subjectivist grounds. You seem to have read *some* objectivist materials. However, as evidenced above, your grasp of the metaphysical and epistemological base of those materials is very incomplete (specifically, but not limited to, the concept of knowledge and its validation). If you are truly interested in understanding objectivism, I suggest reading Dr. Peikoff's "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand". It provides a logical explanation of those two branches of philosophy, along with a refutation of the major arguments against them (including the one you have made).

Until such a time as you have read that book, I do not know what *rational* use this forum can serve you. It is not capable of instructing you on those topics. It can only state you are wrong and give you a hint how to correct your errors. It cannot teach you a whole epistemology or metaphysics.

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'Others were wrong and you could be wrong. Why? Because you are all human. And humans are not omniscient. You do not know all the facts. And since new facts could invalidate old concepts, nothing you say can be considered valid. Therefore your arguments must be dismissed out of hand.'

No, my statement was "the nature of space and time is a question for science, not philosophy. Empirical evidence coupled with human reason shall be the ultimate arbiter of our knowledge, not baseless a priori speculation. Our current conceptions are based on the evidence we have so far uncovered, but this does not prevent them being revised in the future as new facts of reality are discovered (as they are likely to be, given the present state of modern science)". Nowhere did in my post did I advocate a sceptical viewpoint above and beyond that which is required for the rational practice of science.

Your interpretation of my post is fallacious, and I'm not sure if I simply phrased it badly causing you to misinterpret, or if youre deliberately creating a strawman. I suspect the former.

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Sorry to intrude but I have to start somewhere. I've read your replies so far to this topic and I admit I don't share the level of education most of you seem to have. The best way to solve a problem is to discuss, therefore I thought I may as well introduce my own opinions and views to see if I can help the group effort.

Space and Time

Space is infinate so lets scale it down so that we can understand it a little easier. Take the common cube. It is 5 cm high, 5 cm wide, and 5 cm deep. Our happy simple little cube now represents space, pretty fantastic isn't it. We percieve space as 3 dimensional, that is its Hight, Width, and Depth. Maths being maths likes to give them letters, lets say A, B, C. But what happens when you throw in a D? Our cube is a little bit more interesting now, because we've thrown in Time. What I believe this to mean is that the cube we percieve can now be seen as it has been and will be. Thats not the best explanation is it. One very good analogy which i like best is the snapshot. Imagine taking a photograph of our happy little cube every five seconds for a few minutes. You can then take those pictures and spread them accross a table, you can then see the cube as it was at the beginning and at the end of those few minutes you measured. Its much easier to think of the cube as being: 5 cm High, 5 cm Wide, 5 cm Deep, and 5 minutes... confused? We measure the dimensions using forms of measurement. The fourth dimension is basically, over how much time you measured the other three dimensions. In space-time all four known dimensions are infinate, unless confined to measuring an object. Thats why I chose our happy little cube.

Thats just how I understand space-time. If anyone else has any basic understandings of what they think, post them. I'd like to hear what everyone else thinks, and I have read your posts so far. Just thought I'd help bring the discussion back from objectivism and onto the origional subject.

Leon

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Actually I think the misunderstanding lies in you confusing my views regarding knowledge in one area with my views regarding knowledge in general.

I did not claim that _all_ human knowledge was somehow 'precarious' and likely to be invalidated tomorrow, simply our knowledge relating to the structure of space and time. My reasoning for this is that are our views on these subjects have been transformed _massively_ over the last 120 years, and all current indicators appear to point to our current theories being either significantly incomplete or flat out wrong. Science still does not have a definite notion of what space/time/spacetime 'is', and as far as I'm aware, there is significant amounts of research ongoing in these areas. We do not (afaik, though I'm not a physicist) currently have any real knowledge about the metaphysical structure of space/time/spacetime, hence my statement that our views are likely to be transformed massively over the next X hundred years. This is not 'extreme scepticism'.

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Perhaps Poohat's original post was, essentially: integrate first - don't derive - specifically here the concepts relating to spacetime. However, the nature of spacetime belongs to the field of study which underlies physics: metaphysics, a branch of philosophy. Certainly, metaphysics cannot be derived in a vacuum; it must be based on observation and abstraction.

A little off topic for here, but necessary all the same. What exactly do the terms epistemology, meta-epistemology, psycho-epistemology, and related terms mean, and what are the differences between them? What are the fundamental Objectivist principles regarding each?

The original subject of this thread is, in fact, Objectivism - specifically, what it considers to be the nature of space and time. Group effort is largely a foreign concept here. The best way to solve a problem is not to discuss, but to inquire (see previous off-topic paragraph). Infinite is spelled as I spell it here. I prefer to write spacetime without the dash, as here; it leaves the reader with more of the impression of their inseparability. It would be hard to measure things without forms of measurement.

The geometry of our universe is a pseudo-Riemannian manifold having 3,1 dimensions: two sets of dimensions where within each set the axes rotate spherically around each other and where between sets the axes rotate hyperbolically into each other. The first set of three dimensions is spatial and the second set of one dimension is temporal.

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poo

I am not yet going to address your claim that I have established a straw man. Instead I would like to ask you some questions. I shall begin with one fundamental to any conversation on the topic.

Do you have a definition for 'space' and 'time'? If yes, please define them. If no, then please explain why you do not have one for each.

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  • 1 month later...

While I don't know if time is exists as an entity, I do know that I depend upon it a lot. How can one live without time. I believe that it is a measurement that we utilize to it's fullest extent. I see people dying after some odd years. If we didn't have time, how could we say how old one is? How could we determine lifespans without the measurement of time? I know that I need a certain amount of time to do things. How can we make appointments without time? How can we be on time for those appointment in question. Wheather or not time is a measurement or an entity, no one can deny that it plays an important role in all of our lives.

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Let's say you have a star that is just about to supernova. Then it actually does supernova. Between those two happenings, time has passed, regardless of whether man is there to measure it.

The measurement of time is an invention of man. Time itself exists regardless of it's measurement, in the same way that space exists regardless of man's presence to measure distance.

I'm not very good @ giving clear explanations of my thoughts, so any help in this area is welcome.

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dondigitalia -

All measurement is the invention of man - not arbitrary, but objective.

Time, as all features of a geometry, signifies only relationships between existents. It is not an independent entity in its own right.

Relationships between entities or their characteristics are not dependent on the observer; they are objective metaphysical existents.

RationalEgoistSG -

Physics.

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Time, as all features of a geometry, signifies only relationships between existents. It is not an independent entity in its own right.
Feldblum, here you seem to be arguing that space and time do not exist. Distance in space, and distance in time are relationships between objects. However, space and time as such, exist independent of other objects to occupy them.

Relationships between entities or their characteristics are not dependent on the observer; they are objective metaphysical existents.

Here you seem to be agreeing with my above statment.

Please explain what you actually mean.

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Spacetime cannot properly be called an entity or an independent existent. It characterizes existence - ie, all that exists. To explain: point to a time. "What?! - the notion is absurd!" you say. It is.

That characterization comes in the form of relationships between entities. For example: this object is ten feet away from that; this event came after that. But notice how all of our spatial and temporal reference points are selected without regard for any form of absolute or "central authority" point in space or time, but with regard for a point that we select as the needs of concept-formation and -retention dictate.

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Similarly it is impossible to point to a number or color; what each of these exhibit are non-physical attributes we apply to physical phenomenon based on real qualities we can perceive, ie there is really a certain amount of mass which defines me, but the way you will perceive it is as a weight, the attraction between my mass and the earth's.

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Correct. Both things you refer to are not concrete physical entities, and neither is location. However, number is a concept, an abstraction, a mental entity; while color is an attribute or quality of an entity. It is my contention that location - both spatial and temporal - is not an attribute but a relationship between two or more entities.

Further question - is the concept "now" a metaphysical one or an epistemological one? How about the concept "here"? Are the two concepts related? - and if so, how?

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Here and Now would both seem to be epistemological concepts, when I say that now is a certain time or here is a certain place I am asserting that I am only dealing with one aspect of identities, the only one which can be perceived in relation to the knowledge I've gained of other identities, and not the fullness of their metaphysical existence. Essentially both time and place allow us to conceptualize that though we "see" only a representation of an identity, that identity still exists as a whole in reality.

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Feldblum, location is not an entitiy, space is. Location is the identificaiton of where an object exists; space is the area in which it may exist. Location in time is the indentification of where, in time, an object exists; time is the area in which it may exist.

Space and time exist seperate from objects, else there would be nowhere for objects to exist.

Space and time are implied in the concept of existance.

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