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Is The Concept Of Time Real Philosophy Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

What is time? Time is what clocks measure. We use our concept of time to place events in sequence one after the other, to compare how long an event lasts, and to tell when an event occurs. These are the three key features of time.  Scholars have been struggling with this question since ancient times, and none have been able to satisfactorily describe it. All humans know what time is, but everyone finds it hard to describe it without actually say the word ‘time’.

When we talk about time we talk either about conventional time or psychological time. The conventional time is measured by physical clocks. When we ask someone for the time it is this physical time which we refer to.  However there is also a more psychological kind of time, as when we refer to the phrases such as “time flew by” or “that seemed like forever”. These expressions make us realize that sometimes the subjective passage of time is faster or slower than the objective passage of time that clocks measure. These two types of time may seem distinct as far as the rate of passage of time is concerned. Our approach into time does not presuppose that objective time is more real than subjective time, or vice versa. Instead it is to recognize both aspects of time, and then see what inquiry reveals about them.

After attempting to describe time, these scholars started to have doubts on whether time is real or not. In the 5th century BC, in his work ‘On Truth’, Antiphon the Sophist, stated that: “Time is not a reality, but a concept or a measure.” Parmenides went further, explaining that time, motion, and change were illusions, leading to the paradoxes of his follower Zeno. Time as illusion is also a common theme in Buddhist thought, and some modern philosophers have carried on with this theme. For instance, John McTaggart in ‘The Unreality of Time’ argues that time is unreal. But if ‘time’ is not the name of an object, then how can it be real? Some say that time is not real since it cannot be perceived. However neither ‘pain’ can be perceived and it is not the name of an object either, but everyone seems to agree that pain is real.

One of the two philosophies of ‘time’ came from two famous philosophers, which are Immanuel Kant and Gottfried Leibniz. Both philosophers believed that time is nothing more than a concept. For these ‘unrealists’ time is not real and thus it cannot really be measured. These are only two of the many other philosophers who considered time and also space to be simply a priori constructs of the mind, which are made so that humans can make use of their senses and experiences.

The second philosophy, which is a type of ‘realism’, states that time is real as space and matter. Sir Isaac Newton, the well known natural philosopher, thought that time was independent of the observer, since it passes consistently without considering what is happening in the world. Newton held that time can only be perceived through mathematics. Time is an essential concept in Newton’s gravitational theories. In fact, time and space are the foundations of Newtonian physics, which are also known as ‘classical physics’. Classical physics explains precisely the motion of objects in the real world by referring to their mass, velocity, speed, trajectory, acceleration, distance traveled and so on.

Newtonian physics was the predominant physics until the 20th century, when Albert Einstein introduced a much more accurate way to explain motion. Newtonian physics considered spatial dimensions as variable, and time as constant. In contrary Einstein’s theories of relativity showed that time and space were not constant, but relative to the motion of the observer. Thus, while Newton separated time and space as being absolute and separate of each other, Einstein’s spacetime combined time and space into a single unity. He explained “spacetime” as a single continuum which all things are part of and which all things move in.

Einstein’s major contribution in the theory of relativity was the recognition that the speed of light in a vacuum is constant and an absolute physical boundary for motion. This theory does not affect a person day to day life since we travel at a much slower speed than light speed. This theory however states that objects which travel near light speed will move much slower and seem to shorten in length from the point of view of the observer on earth. Here Einstein also introduced his famous equation, E = mc2, which presents the equivalence of mass and energy.

Physicists usually divide this Theory of Relativity into two individual theories. These are the theory of special relativity and the theory of general relativity. Both theories, which were developed by the well-known physicist Albert Einstein, turned over Newton’s classic mechanics. Albert Einstein’s Special and General Relativity relate to the Empirical truth that the laws of Nature, and thus the velocity of light, are always measured to be the same for all observers irrespective of their motion relative to one another.

The Special Theory of Relativity, basically deals with the question of whether rest and motion are relative or absolute, and with the consequences of Einstein’s conjecture that they are relative. This theory has a broad range of consequences,[4] including counter-intuitive ones such as length contraction, time dilation and relativity of simultaneity. Together with other laws of physics, the two postulates of special relativity predict the equivalence of matter and energy, as expressed in the  formula E = mc2, where c is the speed of light in a vacuum.[5][6]  Special relativity shows that c is an essential feature of the way space and time are joined together as spacetime.

The theory is termed “special” because it applies the principle of relativity only to the special case of inertial reference frames. The second theory, which is the General Theory of Relativity, was developed a few years after the special theory. This theory, which explains how gravity works, shows that time is related, to matter and space, and thus the dimensions of time, space, and matter represent what we would call a continuum. They must come into being exactly at the same instant. Time alone cannot exist without the presence of matter and space. Thus this proves that the uncaused first cause must exist outside of the four dimensions of space and time, which must possess eternal, personal, and intelligent qualities in order to possess the capabilities of intentionally space, matter , and time itself into being.

In addition the nature of time and space require a Creator, since infinity and eternity must necessarily exist from a logical perspective. The existence of time implies eternity, while the existence of space implies infinity. Thus even the concepts of infinity and eternity require a Creator because they find their very state of being in God.

One of the most recent theories of time was introduced by Peter Lynds, who is interested in physics, mainly in time, mechanics and Zeno’s paradoxes.  In his article “Time and Classical and Quantum Mechanics: Indeterminacy vs. Discontinuity” he tried to prove that thinking of time and motion in measured segments, is a wrong idea. Although Lynds is no professional scientist, he is very passionately interested in physics and also a huge follower of Einstein’s work. Lynds’ theory, has developed various argumentations amongst academics, some even said that his theory is a hoax and that Lynds doesn’t actually exist.

Lynds rejects Einstein’s theories concerning the existence of time. He believes that some of Einstein’s theories are useless, while other theories need some modification in order to resolve some of the contradictions.

Lynds started to explain time by describing the beginning of the world. In fact he starts by stating that in the beginning there was no time and only darkness. Time has no use in empty space, thus this shows clearly that without objects-in-motion there is nothing to measure the passing time. Time is relative to mass and energy. As Lynds says:

“If there is no mass-energy, there is no space-time;” both are fixed and enmeshed. Because of this, time also has no direction or flow, as we conceive it subjectively; “it is the relative order of events that is important.” This is what led Lynds to claim that there is “no precise static instant in time underlying a dynamical physical process.”

The Greek philosopher and mathematician Zeno introduced this famous paradox which involved halving the distance between starting and end-points in time and space. The paradox involves a person moving from point A to point B. Zeno believed that for this person to move from point A, say a bed, to point B, say the door, one must first reach half the distance between A and B, but before that, one must first reach half of that distance. And before that, you must first reach half of that distance and so on ad infinitum. Thus the person will never reach the door. Zeno’s paradox was introduced for scientific purposes but of course this doesn’t happen in the real world.

In order to prove Zeno’s paradox wrong, one could take a photograph of the car while travelling on the road, the photograph would only be an interval related to the speed of the camera, maybe a thirtieth of a second. It doesn’t matter how much you reduce the time interval, it will always still be an interval, rather than an instant. If there are no measured instants then there is no infinity paradox, which demonstrates that there is no actual time measurement.

Lynds’ theory brings us back to human perceptions of time and why the brain needs to have a concept of time. As far as we know, we are finite beings in an infinite universe, and in order to understand the universe we need to be able to measure the events and objects which construct the universe. In order to deal with this problem one must be able to control the physical environment by allocating and referring to time in ‘instants’. However it seems that we need to change the way in which we approach, observe and evaluate the universe’s dimensions before we have any hope of understanding any of the universe’s mysteries.

In the 5th century BC, in his work On Truth, Antiphon the Sophist, stated that: “Time is not a reality, but a concept or a measure.” Parmenides went further, explaining that time, motion, and change were illusions, leading to the paradoxes of his follower Zeno. Time as illusion is also a common theme in Buddhist thought, and some modern philosophers have carried on with this theme. For instance, John McTaggart in the work ‘The Unreality of Time’ (1908) argues that time is unreal.

Thus from all the information which we can gather from various philosophers, scientists or mathematicians, we still cannot conclude whether time exists or not. As said before clocks or time play a major role in the life of every being on earth. From the moment we are born till we die, time is continuously there. There is no stopping time, since it moves forward and forward. The majority of human beings believe in time, in fact we are all obsessed with time, for instance, with our schedules.

The trouble with human beings may be that we tend to think of time as mechanical and mathematical, but do not consider that it may not exist at all. But then there will still rest the question on how will things be measured. In this case we will never know if a year passed or the actual time of the day. Time, as we know it, is man-made, and if this is the case, then time itself does not exist. However if when one thinks about clock, one will notice that, time is defined by what clocks measure. Time is actually defined by the number of clicks on the clocks.

Time is a creation of our imagination and does not exist as an apple, rock, or metal exists. Time has never been seen, only the effects of what we call time, has been seen on our bodies, on other people and on objects around us, but never time itself. If proof is needed to prove time, one can say that time is man-made and does not exist.

Since time does not exist we represent what in our believe time should look like. However this idea that time is fictitious and does not exist is rejected by many scientists. However, scientists must believe that , everything changes, humans, animal, plants and even the landscape changes over the years, but time is never changing, since time does not exist.


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