The Hare and the Tortoise: The race is not to Speedy (VII). How we think of time affects strategy.
“The Hare was much amused at the idea of running a race with the tortoise”.The Hare and the Tortoise. An Aesop Fable.
Have a beautiful weekend. I hope you are aware that it is not a waste of time for you to read about the different conceptual views of time according the contemporary philosophers. Why? Because all what we do in life that requires decision making (in your private life, personally, professionally, spiritually, politically-socially, etc) happens because you believe that have time. And your view about time affects every single aspect of your corporate strategy. The fact that we are living an imbalanced present, that will have consequences on the next generations, comes from the views of time that we have adopted during the last century.
Today we will cover the first six views of the philosophers of time, and next tuesday we will continue with the remaining ones. Einstein theory of time will have to wait until next week. Don’t despair, we will arrive there. For the time being, we need to at least know there have been discussions of the nature of time at the philosophy level. I have tried to give you examples, using the reference of the whales. Why? Whales are in danger of extinction. And I am painting a whale’s composition celebration (see it above). It is still a work in progress oeuvre, but I would like to share where it stands by now. So let’s begin:
What is it? For fatalists, the nature of time is based in the typical argument of understanding time by the following premises
- Humans make propositions about everything that might happen in the future
- Every proposition is true or false
- Then if the propositions are true (based on evidence) these predict correctly what will happen in the future
- If there is now a set of true propositions that correctly predict everything that will happen in the future,
- Then given the latter idea, whatever will happen in the future is already unavoidable
Main issues with this philosophy of time: The fatalist argument premises about time do not allow the power that any change in the present can alter the future, and it is possible to change predictions, because the truth can change over time, and in the present, and so on the results in the future.
Example: The whales’ extinction. In present times, there is an urgent call from the ocean life specialists, about whales in imminent risk of extinction. This is the present true proposition based on evidence. There is a list of more than 350 experts that predict their disappearance in less than 25 years (as an unavoidable fact), if we don’t make a change now in the present. For fatalists, the loss of many whales species is unavoidable.
TWO. Reductionism vs Platonism with Respect to Time
Reductionism is also known as relationism.
What is it? The reductionism or relationism with respect to time is the notion that time is not independent of the events (changes of things) that occur in time. Aristotle and Leibniz are the main representatives of this doctrine. This perspective implies that physical time necessarily depend on change. If time exists, then change exists. The meaning of the word change is used in the sense of ordinary change: for example, someone or an object changing its priorities over time.
Main issues: the relationism claimed that space is nothing but the order of co-existing things. And time is an order of successions of changes of things (events)… but Leibniz theory couldn`t counter the arguments of Newton’s absolute theory.
Example: Let’s consider the life of a female beluga whale. In cetaceans, maternal care is long lasting. Calves and juveniles stay close to their mothers´ sides for a long time, even if they are able to feed themselves. Belugas remain with their mothers for three years, sometimes longer. During this period, mom and calf develop a strong bond which is essential for the progeny`s survival. When the offspring leaves the mom, that is a huge change. For relationism, the time that passed by, between the birth of the beluga, and the independence of the calf from the mother (which is 3 years) exists because it is a succession of consecutive events that is linked to the notion of mom-kiddy belugas together in the ocean. Time (3 years) can be measured because of the fact of living approximation between the mom beluga and the calf.
Platonism or Sustantivalism with Respect to Time.
What is it? This is also called absolutism, and it happens when we think that time is independent of the events that occur. It is the thesis that space and time exist always and everywhere independently of physical material and its events. This theory implies there can be empty time (Space and time exist always and everywhere regardless of what else exists). This perspective was defended by Plato, Isaac Barrow and particularly by Newton. Basically the substantival theory of time believed that time exists necessarily whether things run or stand still, whether we sleep o wake. Time always flows, no matter the space
Main Issues: Since Newton, physicists believed in time without change. Without the need or reference to anything external. Nevertheless, Einstein (1919) wrote in the New York Times that time cannot exist at all if there were no contents, namely, no sun, no Earth and other celestial bodies. The space for Einstein was clearly defined and he rebuked Newton absolutism time theory.
Example of absolutism of time: Regardless of what the whales’ do or eat or travel during their migration voyages, time always passes by and drifts them apart.
Three. the topology of Time
What is it? Topology is the understanding of the shape (size, geometry, structure) of something. So what is the shape of time? Nowadays is natural to think that time can be represented by a single straight continuous line, with a beginning and an end. But for Aristotle, time is a line without a beginning and cannot have an end.
Main Issues: If time has a beginning why do we think that time started at the moment in which we can measure the evidence for it? Or is it that the universe occurred after an infinitely long period of empty time? Why to represent time as a single line? Why not as a multiple time branches streams or a closed loop or a Fibonacci figure or a discontinuous line?
Example: Anytime that we draw a timeline or we say a roadmap measured in a X axis as a line, we are understanding time with the topology of a single straight continuous line that has a beginning and an end. As the Humpback whale travel routes. “Humpback whales also migrate far – one humpback was sighted off the Antarctic Peninsula in April 1986 and then re-sighted off Colombia in August 1986, which means it traveled over 5,100 miles”. Another case was registered between August 1999 (Brazil) to September 2001 (Madagascar), in which a humpback female travel was at least 9,800 kilometers apart.
FOURTH. McTaggart`s Argument
What is it? McTaggart argued in 1908 that there is in fact no such thing as time, and that the appearance of a temporal order to the world is a mere appearance. McTaggart believed he had a convincing argument for why a single event can acquire the properties of being a future event, a present event, and also a past event, and that since these are contrary properties, our concept of time is inconsistent.
Main Issues: Mc Taggart has been recalled every time that a debate about metaphysics definition of time series and the nature of change come to place. Nevertheless, this is a work in progress theory that has been retaken by the A series / B series theorists of time.
Example: Positions in time can be ordered according to their possession of properties. And we can define a point in time A, as being present at the exact moment that we acknowledge it. And we can also define a time B, that is dependent of time A. For example, the Sei Whale has two natural predators; killer whales and, sadly, humans. The biggest threat, has been us, humans. During the whaling era of the 19th and early 20th centuries, it is estimated that over 300,000 Sei Whales were killed for their meat and oil. When we say “it is estimated”, this is an A time event view. We are defining it today in present tense. And we link A to a B series event that happened between 100 to 200 years ago. The point B is located in the 19th century, or defined as of 221 years ago with respect to point A that is today. The present moment A is essentially defined today. Meanwhile point B is fixed to A. The B moment without A does not involve genuine change for McTaggart.
FIFTH. The A-Theory and the B-Theory of time
What is it? A-series of events are conceived as events ordered by which are present, which are past and which are future. Meanwhile B-series are events ordered by which come before and which come after terms. This A/B distinction has stuck around as a way of classifying theories of change with respect to time.
Main Issues: The A/B theorists still are working in how to arrive to a unique view interpretation. The A-Theorists are not decided yet if there is a spacetime manifold, or if only present events are real, or if only present and past events are real, or if objects themselves change or if only entire independent regions of spacetime change. In addition, A-theorists emphasize that we seem to perceive time as a flow of time (past to future direction of time) as in physics, the law of thermodynamics, the quantum mechanics imply a strong past to future direction of time.
On the other hand, B-Theorists emphasize how special relativity eliminates the past/present/future distinction from physical models of space and time. It is weird to think of change in tenseless terms, but that is how it works from this point of view.
The philosophers of the A Theory and the B Theory are Paul, Mellor, Sider, Smith, Williams, Sullivan, Zwart, Le Poivedin, McBeath, Emery, Markosian, Maudlin, Skow, Zimmerman, etc.
Example: According to the International Whaling Commission it is a fact that in the Southern Hemisphere, the population of blue whales in 1998 was around 2,300. For the A theorists this event is past (it happened in 1998). For B Theorists, this event is tenseless, it will remain true ‘eternally’, because the fact that the whales population was reduced from 200,000-300,000 whales pre-hunting, to 2,300 of them, in a tenseless sense, in the Southern Hemisphere in the year 1998 was true yesterday, is true now and will be true in the future.
SIXTH. Presentism, Eternalism and the Growing Block Theory.
What is it? Presentism states that it is true that only present objects exist. Only temporally present things, or objects that fill a space, or living people do exist. Once a person’s body cease to be present, or dies; then it goes out of existence according to presentism. The Taj Mahal exists because it is still there, present in our present. Eternalism is an opposite to presentism. This is a view in which non-present objects or living species still exist, they are not currently present. For example, Socrates, or the Twin Towers in Manhattan. The Growing Block Theory, is the view in which we think of accumulating or aggregating stuff or things that are added to the past, on to the leading “present edge”.
Main Issues: It is hard to see non present things, people or objects as non-existent; in addition, if we dismiss non-present stuff, we can’t talk about comparisons between past and present. Finally, Presentists can´t handle the evidence of the past that is measured in the vestiges that exist in the present.
Example: When we talk about the Sei Whales process of extinction, that passed from 300,000 to around a max of 65,000 in less than 200 years, for presentists it is impossible to even talk or compare about what happened in the 19th-20th century, because past doesn’t exist. What matters to presentists is that now according to the latest estimates, the Sei Whale population worldwide is about 65,000 individuals (approximate amount of Sei Whales, for the IWC this amount is unknown). And that’s it. For eternalists, no Sei Whale was killed, because they will continue living for eternity.
SEVEN. Three Dimensions and Four Dimensions of Time.
To be continued… Enjoy your weekend.
Bibliography utilized to get some ideas when writing today.
Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY. Nevertheless, the majority of the pictures, images, or videos shown on this blog are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.
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