Time is the measure of motion.
Nothing more, nothing less.
If Newton tried to change that fact, he failed. If Einstein tried to change that fact, he failed. If Quantum Theory tries to change that fact, it fails. If Heidegger tried to change this fact, he failed. If Kant tried to change this fact, he failed.
But instead of delving into the intricacies of the theories and thinkers above, let us do something almost universally ignored when considering time: consult common sense, and build upon this foundation using our God-given gift of reason; which, when it draws conclusions from the foundation of common sense, is not subject to the various conjectures made within science or philosophy.
So let us begin.
When one reads the first line of this article, a few protestations may come to his mind:
“Hold on! We measure time! How, then, can time itself be a mere measure? My watch measures time! My phone measures the time. Atomic clocks really measure time.”
No. None of those things measure time.
Your watch counts the vibrations of a quartz crystal exposed to a voltage.
Your phone simply reads out a signal it receives from the nearest cell tower.
“Atomic clocks,” which give a nation’s “official time,” merely count the number of oscillations exhibited by a Cesium-133 atom when exposed to radiation (and they advance one second about every 9 billion oscillations)…..
But you cannot ever measure time because there is nothing there to measure.
You can measure inches, because there really is such a thing as spatial distance to measure.
You can measure kilograms, because there really is such a thing as mass to more or less directly gauge.
You can measure temperature, because there really is heat existing in things.
But there is no actual reality called “time” that you can put any device (neither any actual device nor even any theoretically possible device) up against to measure it.
Now, bear in mind that my point is not merely something so banal as “time is not a literal substance.” Everyone, I think, knows that. However, heat and distance are not literal substances either, but they are actual realities. Time, however, does not even amount to that; it is not an actual reality. It is a merely contingent reality; contingent upon the motion it is measuring. If there is no motion, there is no time.
Consider your car’s various instruments. Suppose your car has a compass, so that a display under your rearview mirror can tell you the direction you are facing. Suppose it has a thermometer, so that you can know the outside temperature. Suppose, next, that on a given day your car’s battery goes completely dead. You proceed to get a jump-start from a friend, and all is well. But what do you first notice? Likely the fact that your car’s clock is now wrong. But why on earth did this happen? Why can’t it just measure the time? Your car’s compass still works fine and accurately: it still just measures the magnetic field that exists in the space it inhabits, thus inferring the direction of north. It does not care how long your battery had been dead. Your car’s thermometer still works: it just measures the temperature of the ambient air and displays the reading. So why, again, cannot your clock just measure the time and conveniently display it for you to read?
You guessed it: Because there is nothing there to measure.
There are only two ways any clock can work: by measuring some motion that it has access to, or by having some external source indicate to it what it should say the time is.
Since, when your car’s battery is dead, there is no available voltage to allow for the quartz crystal in its clock to continue its own continuous voltage-induced vibration, it follows that there is no more motion existing within the car itself that can be measured.
There is no use protesting, “but why doesn’t my car just store, in its memory, the time at which it lost power, and keep track of how much time has passed since that point; and, once it regains power, add that amount of time onto the time at which it lost power? Those car makers really should have thought of this!”
One cannot so protest, because doing so simply directs us right back to the exact same paradox. It cannot “keep track of” how much time has passed since it lost power, since there is nothing there to keep track of. The only way it — or anything — can “keep track of time” is if it has access to some particular thing — some actually real particular thing — that is moving, and measure the motion of that thing.
A stopwatch and a watch are fundamentally identical things, though we tend to erroneously regard the latter as having some sort of grounding in reality that the former lacks by “merely counting seconds.”
Of course, your car also has a speedometer with which it measures its speed! And here, you might suppose you’ve again stumbled upon a refutation: “but motion itself — speed, or velocity — uses time within its own expression; for example, miles per hour. How, then, could you invert this reality and claim that it is actually motion which is more real, and time is just the measure of it!?”
But the response to this supposed refutation is simple: Measures of speed indeed include the measure of time — but those measures of time, themselves, are nothing but measures of motion. An hour is nothing but a one twenty-fourth part of a day. A day is nothing but the measure of the earth completing one rotation on its axis. When, therefore, you speak of an “hour,” you are doing nothing but measuring motion. And when you speak of your car travelling at, say, 60 miles per hour, all you are doing is comparing your car’s motion to the earth’s motion; all you are saying is that while the earth completed a rotation of 15 degrees (1/24th of a complete 360 degrees — “one hour”), your car managed to traverse 60 miles.
“But isn’t that all a bit arcane?” One might ask. “I mean, we don’t use sundials anymore to measure time. We’ve got atomic clocks now! A day isn’t even exactly 24 hours!”
The absurdity of statements like this reveal just how low modern education has sunk; and how obsessed it has become with technicalities, even when the inferences drawn from these technicalities blatantly contradict the realities that these technicalities rely on.
An hour is measured, defined, and rightly understood insofar as it is a certain fraction of a day; not vice versa. In other words, an hour is just a 24th of a day — nothing more; it has no reality apart from that understanding. A day, on the other hand, is what it is; it is a given in nature. Pretending that we can claim a day is not actually exactly 24 hours is logically analogous to pretending we can claim that one is not actually twice one-half… on the basis of the empirical observation that somebody once took what he thought to be two half glasses, poured them together, and it was not exactly a full glass.
It is worth considering that, in ages past, it would have been absurd to ask “what time does the sun rise?” The question would never have made any sense because sunrise is the time. Nowadays, rail transport, telegraph lines, and especially modern telecommunications have made the creation of “time zones” important, therefore we now do speak of the time of sunset/sunrise. There is nothing wrong with doing so, but we must understand how this is yet another factor that has contributed to the modern world’s delusion about that nature of time. Saying “What time does the sun rise?” inclines one to regard time itself as some sort of independent reality, existing apart from the motion of the heavenly bodies (and motion in general); when nothing could be further from the truth.
This delusion reaches a truly comical level when it comes to “Daylight Savings Time.” Some people actually seem to think that changing what their clock says actually has an effect on time itself or on daylight itself! I say this is comical because Daylight Savings Time is, quite literally, a joke. At least, that’s what I read somewhere (take it with a grain of salt!); i.e, that DST began with a joke that Benjamin Franklin made; something to the effect of “Perhaps this lazy Frenchman (he was on a trip to Paris) would get out of bed earlier if they just changed their clocks!”
Newton, however, — notwithstanding his genius — is perhaps the primary one we have to “thank” for the prevailing deluded modern view of time; namely, that it is some sort of mystical quasi-substance permeating the universe, as absolute and self-existing as God Himself. Good philosophy (both Christian and pre-Christian) never regarded time as being like that. Einstein, thankfully, blew that notion out of the water. But, like most mathematicians and scientists, he could not replace it with a meaningful theory, he could only nitpick some details.
On the matter of Einstein’s Relativity, I take issue with the thought experiment most people are exposed to first in High School physics. Presupposing certain tenets of relativity, it goes something like this:
“If you could travel near the speed of light, time would slow down for you! So, if you seemed to travel at close to this speed for 20 years, away from earth then back to earth, you’d have only aged a few hours, whereas everyone you knew would be 20 years older.”
The teacher then leans back in his chair, relishing the dumbfounded gasps of the students.
But what dumbfounds me is why this is considered so dumbfounding. (Even if it were true; which I do not believe we can pretend is absolutely settled.)
If your body was frozen to near absolute zero, maintained at that temperature for the course of 20 revolutions of the earth around the sun, then brought back up to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, you’d be left with the exact same phenomenon: you wouldn’t have aged at all, whereas you’d find the calendar advanced by 20 years (along with everyone else’s age). Time, quite literally, would have slowed down for you.
There is no use protesting that it is useless for me to say that because such a thing could never happen; since the former thought experiment is even more implausible. No one has ever, or will ever, come anywhere near the speed of light. On the other hand, we can make things quite cold.
In fact, we today have the tragic immoral case of frozen embryos; these human beings are quite literally frozen in time — because their motion if frozen, thus no time is passing for them — and we even have twisted situations where a mother gives birth to a child “much older” than herself; i.e., an embryo frozen before the mother who “adopted” the embryo existed.
Perhaps some day I will write a more careful treatise on this matter. For now, I just wanted to present a little bit of beginner-level common-sense philosophizing on time to help rid people of the notion that time is some sort of a reality independent of the motion it is in fact the mere measure of. Once we realize that time is a mere measure of something real, and is not itself real, we can finally be rid of these absurd notions related to “time travel.”