By Natural Philosopher Mike Prestwood

Does time exist?

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Time < Philosophy of Mind < Philosophy

Does the passing of time exist?

Yes, but it might not be what you think it is. While measuring durations and coordinating events at specific points in spacetime (space and time) are straightforward, the concept of the passing of time is more complex. Time is the relative position and movement of objects, but it is not a universal metronome. There is no ticking clock governing the entire universe.

We perceive time as a linear progression, moving from the past to the present and into the future. However, Einstein’s theory of relativity reveals that time is relative, influenced by gravity and motion. Time can slow down or speed up depending on your frame of reference. In my “30 Philosophers” book, I used the example of two electric watches, one on a table and one on the floor, to illustrate this concept. We have confirmed that time passes slightly slower for the watch on the floor due to gravitational time dilation; it aged slower. Similarly, time ticks dramatically differently for someone on Earth compared to someone near a black hole.

And does time only move forward? Yes, the relative position and movement of objects move in what we call forward time. But does the passing of time exist? Well, maybe. That’s like asking if a rainbow exists. It’s a beautiful, subjective experience, a product of our perception and the universe’s quirks. To learn more, take the deep dive: The Nature of Time.

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June 16, 2024 Edition
Time Left: 
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Wisdom emerges from the consistent exploration of the intersections of philosophy, science, critical thinking, and history.


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