Does time exist?

Gary asked:

Does Time exist? I am reading several works by Craig Callender on the question of time. I am comparing them to scientific assumptions about space/time and find many assumptions made that do not hold up under Nisha Shah definition description of Truth. (ref: Philosophical Review Oct 2003. I try to view the subject from a 3rd person position of argument looking for dialogue vs debate. I have no formal training in the area of philosophy, and have only 2 years of college work.Callender’s work is The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time.

Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz

There is a story I’ve told many times in my classes. It’s a true story, so you may as well hear it too.

When Galileo was studying the law of free fall, he laid down a plank on the banks of Arno River to give himself a sloping path for cannon balls. Then he rolled dozens of them down the plank, big ones and little ones, and timed their acceleration.

How did he time them? He had no clock!

He solved this problem by filling a keg with water. The keg had a tap, and under it he put an empty water urn.

Then he placed one boy at the top of the plank, another at the bottom. The first cried ‘run!’ when he let go of a cannon ball, the second boy cried ‘stop!’ when the ball arrived at the bottom. On the ‘run’ command, Galileo opened the tap, on the ‘stop’ command he closed it.

The outcome was that the urn always had a measurable quantity of water in it. Since the volume of water corresponds to the time it took for the balls to run a certain distance, you obtain the result:

Time = x amount of water = x distance.

So you can now choose between water and distance as a correlate of time.

But water and distance being correlates, carries an intriguing implication.

If you pursue your research further along this line, you will discover, without fail, that all ways of ascertaining the ‘whatness’ of Time involve studying its correlates. Without those correlates Time cannot be studied.

Eg. the speed of light is correlated to time in a circular way: the speed is the distance travelled by light in 1 second in a vacuum. Therefore 1 second is the time required by light to cover that distance.

Or: 1 second is defined as 900 billion oscillations of a Caesium atom. How do we know? Because it takes a caesium atom 900 billion oscillations to mark out 1 second.

So time, if it exists, is hiding itself well.

But I think it is safe to conclude that time is nothing other than its correlates.

‘In itself’ time does not exist. If there were no correlates, we could not speak of time, we would not have the word in the dictionary.

But we have it in the dictionary because its correlates can always be compared to each other. So: Time is the result of a comparison between two or more correlates. Time by itself is not a possible conception. Hence Time does not exist independently. And this has to be the final answer.

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