Saint Augustin and the question of Time

Hot topics in delusion and rationalization.
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JMA
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Saint Augustin and the question of Time

Post by JMA »

Hi,

I'm working at the moment (for an university exam) on the question of time in Saint Augustine's "Confessions".

I'm also reading today the first chapter of "Temps et récit" (angl. maybe something like "Time and Storytelling", I don't know the proper translation) from french philosoph Paul Ricoeur.

For Ricoeur, Augustine is kind of a skeptic about time, because he says mostly that he don't know what the time is.

And Augustine also underlying the question of the beeing of the time. Because the past is no more, the futur is not yet and the present is flowding away. So it seems that the time has no beeing. But we all know that the time exist, so it's a paradox...

:arrow: Well, I won't say more for now about this issue. I'm just creating this threads if someone have some deep thoughts about all that :roll: I would be glad to ear it.

See you,
Last edited by JMA on Sat Aug 28, 2004 5:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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iain
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Post by iain »

Augustine is in good company since no one knows what time is even today.

Questions such as why time seems to move forwards and whether time really moves or whether our perception of time is an illusion are being tackled increasingly by physicists; but don't expect any firm answers.

Stephen Hawking has some interesting ideas on the nature of time and Ian Stewart's book "Flatterland" has a good chapter that explains them well.

One interesting thing is that the prisoner paradox is OK. Suppose you are a prisoner locked in a cell. The door is unlocked from the outside and you are freed ... by yourself. On leaving the cell you travel back in time to free yourself, then get on with your life. Although this sounds a bit dodgy, it can be shown that it works OK in principle (as long as you have a tame wormhole and some exotic matter to do the time travelling, of course).
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Re: Saint Augustin and the question of Time

Post by whitefork »

JMA wrote:I'm also reading today the first chapter of "Temps et récit" (angl. maybe something like "Time and Storytelling", I don't know the proper translation) from french philosoph Paul Ricoeur.
"Time and Narrative" is how it's been published here in the US. Ricoeur is definitely worth reading. "Symbolism of Evil" was a good read once upon a time. (ontological density and all that). I have not unfortunately read Augustine in many years.
If it's good enough for Nelson, it's quite good enough for me.
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JMA
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Post by JMA »

Hi,

The first chapter of "Time and Narrative" (Ricoeur) is only about Augustine reflexion about time. Ricoeur underline that Augustine, and through him all reflexion about time, is aporetic. So the only way out his with narration, who bridge de gap between psychological time, historical time and cosmological time.

For Augustine, the past don't exist (because the past is no more), the futur don't exist (because the future is not yet) and the present don't have any duration.

So, he uses a psychological sollution (or phenomenological sollution if you want) for getting out of this paradox (because of course we know that the time exist): we should say the present of the past, the present of the present and the present of the futur.

What exist of time? The memory of the past, the attention of the present and the intention of the futur. The sollution is then in the soul. The soul, the spirit, is the site of the time...

See you,
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iain
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Post by iain »

JMA wrote:What exist of time? The memory of the past, the attention of the present and the intention of the futur. The sollution is then in the soul. The soul, the spirit, is the site of the time...
Of course there is another option (well, many more, but here's one).

I live in England. I wouldn't suggest that Belgium doesn't exist just because I'm not there right now. I wouldn't even suggest that other galaxies don't exist, even though it isn't possible that I'll ever be there at all.

Similarly, maybe we can say that the past and future both exist, but are merely places that I am not. Of course, we can't say "the past exists now" any more than it makes sense to say "Belgium exists in England" but that need not stop it existing; just not being the place that my perception currently tells me I'm in.
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JMA
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Post by JMA »

Hi, iain
iain wrote: Similarly, maybe we can say that the past and future both exist, but are merely places that I am not. Of course, we can't say "the past exists now" any more than it makes sense to say "Belgium exists in England" but that need not stop it existing; just not being the place that my perception currently tells me I'm in.
Interresting...

But I have a question:

If that was the case, shouldn't we have by now a TimeTravel Machine?

My point is: the fact that no genius can invent a machine who can travel through time is probably because the past don't exist anymore and because the futur don't exist yet.

So you can't travel throught time...

But if your spatial analogy was true, someone should have figure it out how to travel through time by now, isn't-it?

What do you think of that?

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uneasy
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Post by uneasy »

I always thought Roger Penrose's arrows of time were interesting.

http://www.ebicom.net/~rsf1/aot.htm

1. Subjective - We can't remember the future
2. Radiation - Non converging electromagnetic waves
3. Quantum - Heads and tails don't merge
4. Neutral Kaon - Disintegration rate rules out reversed time
5. Black Hole - No white holes
6. Universe - Collapsing universe would not reverse time
7. Entropy - Total entropy does not decrease

They are meant to show that time goes one direction. For example, radio waves do not converge on radio station towers, powering the electronics and causing the microphone to vibrate. Maxwell's equations for electromagnetics are reversable so theoretically this could happen, but it doesn't.
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iain
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Post by iain »

JMA wrote:If that was the case, shouldn't we have by now a TimeTravel Machine?

My point is: the fact that no genius can invent a machine who can travel through time is probably because the past don't exist anymore and because the futur don't exist yet.

So you can't travel throught time...

But if your spatial analogy was true, someone should have figure it out how to travel through time by now, isn't-it?

What do you think of that?
The time/space analogy only goes so far (and my suggestion was only one possibility, so I'm not going to argue for it like I believe it must be true). Time is a dimension and there are three (or more) spatial dimensions. They have some things in common; but clearly not everything and one of the differences appears to be that moving around it time other than in the way we do is a very tricky thing to achieve indeed - far more difficult that moving around in the spatial dimensions.

Time machines have been invented : Hawking has come up with a theoretical way to build a time machine using wormholes and exotic matter. Unfortunately, testing it is a few centuries beyond our current capabilities.

Also, a number of physics theories suggest that at the subatomic level certain particles do indeed travel backwards and forwards in time (I think Feynman's QED suggests this possibility, though I might be misremembering).

Anyway, right now it is far from clear that time travel is impossible - there are an awful lot of things that clever people are currently unable to do but it doesn't mean they can't be done. Even if time travel were impossible, it doesn't follow that because we can't get to the past, and can only reach the future in the normal way, they don't otherwise exist.