How can logic itself prove that point doesn’t exist

How can logic itself prove that point doesn’t exist
23 April 2024 J.W.H

Matyas Moravec: Modern physics suggests that point could also be an illusion. For example, Einstein's theory of relativity suggests that the universe is a static, four-dimensional block that comprises all of space and time without delay – with no special “now.”

What is the longer term to 1 observer is the past to a different. This implies that time doesn’t flow from the past to the longer term as we experience it.

However, this conflicts with the best way time is known in other areas of physics, equivalent to quantum mechanics. So is time an illusion or not? One approach to discover can be to attempt to prove that point is unreal, using logic alone.

In 1908, English philosopher J. M. E. McTaggart published an article through which he argued that we will discover the unreality of time only through logical considering.

Imagine that somebody gave you a box of cards, each of which represents an event. One card describes the 12 months 2024, one other the death of Queen Victoria, and one other a solar eclipse in 2026. The cards have been mixed up. You are told to rearrange these cards in a way that reflects time. How would you do it?

The first way is to make use of what McTaggart calls the “B series”. You select one card and place it on the ground. Then you’re taking one other one out of the box and compare it with the one already on the ground. If it’s earlier, you place it on the left. If later, you’ll place it on the precise side.

For example, Queen Victoria's death falls to the left of the 2026 solar eclipse. The 12 months 2024 falls to the left of the solar eclipse of 2026, but to the precise of the death of Queen Victoria. You repeat this until you’ve a line of cards, any two of that are related by an earlier-later relationship.

When you sit there and have a look at the finished arrangement, you realize that something is missing. The card line is static. Once the cards are placed of their place, their order doesn’t change. But as McTaggart insists, you’ll be able to't have time without change.

Time is ultimately a measure of change, even in accordance with physics. It is usually identified with a rise in disorder – entropy – in a closed system. Have some hot coffee. As it cools, entropy increases. Based on the temperature, you’ll be able to roughly determine how long a cup of coffee has been sitting there. Any time-measuring device, equivalent to a clock, relies on changes (beats).

Remember that your original task was to rearrange the cards in a way that reflected time. But it ended up being something that doesn't change. It can be strange to say that point doesn’t change. The B series is subsequently unable to capture time.

However, there may be an alternative choice. You can start over and take a look at to rearrange the cards using what McTaggart calls the “A series.” You create three neat piles – on the left are all of the cards that describe past events, equivalent to the death of Queen Victoria. In the center are events happening in the current, e.g. 2024. On the precise are people who will happen in the longer term, e.g. a solar eclipse in 2026.

Unlike the B series, this technique will not be static. As time passes, you could move cards from the precise (future) pile to the center (current) pile, and people from the (current) middle pile to the left (past) pile, where they continue to be without end. So there are clearly changes happening here. Does this mean that series A describes time?

According to McTaggart, the A series is round. Your hand moving cards from the left pile to the center pile after which to the precise pile is a process that’s already happening over time.

To find a way to make this arrangement, that you must be on time. But time is precisely what you're attempting to capture. In other words, to explain time, you could have already got time. This is circularity, and circularity violates logic.

Let's summarize. The B series system cannot describe time because nothing changes in it. And changes are crucial due to time. That's why the B series doesn't work. The A series is changing, but unfortunately it’s round. So that doesn't work either. Since neither of those works is feasible, McTaggart concludes that point can’t be real.

Time travel

One hundred years later

More than a century later, philosophers are still trying to find an answer. Some, called “A theorists”, attempt to define the A series in a way that will not be circular.

Others, called “B theorists”, accept that the B series describes reality and argue that McTaggart was fallacious to demand a change to the series. Perhaps the whole lot related to time is only a sequence of events.

There are also “C theorists” who go further and say that the cardboard line doesn't even have an “earlier to later” direction.

The 12 months 2024 falls between the death of Queen Victoria and the solar eclipse of 2026. But the proven fact that we're used to eager about Queen Victoria's death before the 2026 solar eclipse, moderately than the opposite way around, is maybe simply a matter of habit. It's like numbering the boards on a fence: you’ll be able to start at any end. The fence itself has no direction.

I'm not yet convinced that either of them is correct, perhaps there are completely alternative ways of eager about time. Ultimately, time will tell.

And no matter who is correct, what’s remarkable is that McTaggart was capable of justify his argument with none scientific findings, but only by considering logically concerning the problem.

Matyas Moravec, Gifford Postdoctoral Fellow in Philosophy, University of St Andrews

This article has been republished from Conversation under Creative Commons license. Read original article.

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