The Instigator
Kleptin
Pro (for)
Winning
37 Points
The Contender
brittwaller
Con (against)
Losing
30 Points

Time is just a concept, and cannot exist by itself.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/16/2008 Category: Science
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 9,013 times Debate No: 2703
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (24)
Votes (12)

 

Kleptin

Pro

After reading my opponent's debate on time, I feel that I must clarify, for myself, what my opinion is. Knowing that he can cite several philosophers and scientists on this topic and that I have little to no outside information on this topic, I know that even if there is a fatal flaw in my reasoning, it will be dealt with efficiently.

That having been said, I believe that the concept of time is simply a necessary measure developed to describe the phenomenon of change.

The concept of change, I believe, is just a result of human thinking. Upon forming beliefs on how things are, what they are, what they do, and what they should do, we define change. Thus, we see time as a necessary 4th dimension and do not question its existence.

In that case, the concept of time, like the concept of change, would be an arbitrary, artificial concept that cannot exist without human bias.
brittwaller

Con

"What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know."
-- St. Augustine, Confessiones

First, let me thank Kleptin for posting this debate. You are one of the better debaters on this site in my estimation, and I look forward to a challenging, intellectually stimulating debate on the topic. I'll try to live up to the standard you set for me in your first paragraph.
Second, my apologies for not posting sooner, but I was a little swamped. Sorry it took so much... time:)

I will be arguing the Con position fully and directly; namely, that 1)time is not just a concept and 2)that time not only can, but indeed must, exist independently of human (or other) perception.

"...[T]he concept of time is simply a necessary measure developed to describe the phenomenon of change."

-Time, like space, is a necessary and a priori condition of existence. In the above quote, even you say that time is a necessary measure. Necessary = "absolutely essential; indispensable" (The American Heritage Dictionary, Third Ed.) So your words end up meaning that time, even if it were just a concept that we used to describe change, must exist. I will say that we do measure time in terms of change, and that our conceived increments of measurement (hours, minutes, etc) are rather arbitrary, but that time still does exist externally of us. I won't say that what is called "time" isn't a somewhat fuzzy area of our understanding, though.

"The concept of change, I believe, is just a result of human thinking. Upon forming beliefs on how things are, what they are, what they do, and what they should do, we define change. Thus, we see time as a necessary 4th dimension and do not question its existence."

-All concepts are the result of human thinking. We conceptualize the three spatial dimensions and give them the name "space" because we perceive them directly at all times; why and how is the concept of time any different? It has different properties than the spatial dimensions to be certain, but this does not invalidate the idea of time as a dimension in any way. Space and time complement each other, one could say.
I do understand what you meant by "we see time," but for the sake of being technical, and for the purpose of understanding my position, I would say that we "see" the spatial dimensions and that we more or less sense the temporal dimension internally.
Could you expand on the second sentence in that paragraph, please?

"In that case, the concept of time, like the concept of change, would be an arbitrary, artificial concept that cannot exist without human bias."

-There is human bias in everything we do because all experience is subjective. However, there would continue to be both time and change even if humans, or any other form of being, did not exist to sense it and make their arbitrary divisions and measurements. It might be likened to the old (and perhaps trite) philosophical question, "Does a tree make a noise if it falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it?" Similarly, humans weren't always around to perceive time and change, but things changed nonetheless, and the clock was running, so to speak. I would also like to add that the passing of time is "felt" by all life, not humans exclusively. It is only homo sapiens that gave the process its name, after all of the evolutionary changes that had to take place for us to have the capacities (especially language) to do so.
Change is not an illusion, and it takes time to change, therefore time exists.

If I mistook your meaning on any of the above points, please let me know. To be continued...

Back to you, Kleptin.
Debate Round No. 1
Kleptin

Pro

"Time, like space, is a necessary and a priori condition of existence. In the above quote, even you say that time is a necessary measure. Necessary = "absolutely essential; indispensable" (The American Heritage Dictionary, Third Ed.) So your words end up meaning that time, even if it were just a concept that we used to describe change, must exist. I will say that we do measure time in terms of change, and that our conceived increments of measurement (hours, minutes, etc) are rather arbitrary, but that time still does exist externally of us. I won't say that what is called "time" isn't a somewhat fuzzy area of our understanding, though."

Indeed it is a necessary measurement, and your definition of "necessary" is accurate. However, the term "necessary" can apply to the existence of many things, not existence in general. I can argue that the eye is necessary to see, but the act of seeing is not in and of itself necessary. I can argue that "time" as a concept is necessary for the development of human understanding of physical laws, but this does not automatically imply that time must exist in order for the universe to exist. Thus, whether or not the CONCEPT of time is necessary has nothing to do with whether TIME IN AND OF ITSELF exists.

"The concept of change, I believe, is just a result of human thinking. Upon forming beliefs on how things are, what they are, what they do, and what they should do, we define change. Thus, we see time as a necessary 4th dimension and do not question its existence."

"All concepts are the result of human thinking. We conceptualize the three spatial dimensions and give them the name "space" because we perceive them directly at all times; why and how is the concept of time any different? It has different properties than the spatial dimensions to be certain, but this does not invalidate the idea of time as a dimension in any way. Space and time complement each other, one could say."

Yes, but are these three dimensions actually three separate dimensions? Or is the separation of space in general into length, width, and depth purely due to flaws in our observation? If all motion ceased, things would both exist and exist in a particular place. However, there would be no measure of time. Thus, our concepts of mass and space are on a different level from our concept of time. We draw the concepts of mass and space directly from our senses. Our concept of time must go through several assumptions first, namely, associating motion with change.

"I do understand what you meant by "we see time," but for the sake of being technical, and for the purpose of understanding my position, I would say that we "see" the spatial dimensions and that we more or less sense the temporal dimension internally.
Could you expand on the second sentence in that paragraph, please?"

Yes, as it is just a more in depth explanation of my reasoning in the explanation preceding this one.

Bacteria and other single celled organisms do not have free will. Their actions are monitored purely by chemical response. More importantly, bacteria and other single celled organisms cannot sense time and I attribute this to not being able to form opinions on how things should be and comparing it to how things are. This is the basis for the concept of motion and translating it into change. It is also the basis for the concept of time. However, bacteria are able to sense mass and space, as they are made up of matter and interact with matter accordingly.

Humans sense time in this way: First, they recognize mass and space inherently. They then begin to make assumptions and allow their bias to take over. They see a difference between a moving object and a stationary object, even though objectively, all things are moving. An infant seeing a mobile rotate in a stationary room would be able to form opinions on motion and change. Mobiles can stop moving, and when mommy pushes it, it moves again. The concept of time is derived from these human traits of combining these assumptions. More in the next response.

"There is human bias in everything we do because all experience is subjective. However, there would continue to be both time and change even if humans, or any other form of being, did not exist to sense it and make their arbitrary divisions and measurements. It might be likened to the old (and perhaps trite) philosophical question, "Does a tree make a noise if it falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it?""

This goes with your below point about arbitrary naming. The word "sound" is actually referring to air being vibrated from the force of the mass of the tree interacting with the mass of the earth. If there were no humans or other animals around with the correct instrument (ears) to interpret that vibration of air, it does not make a "sound" as we know it. Rather, it makes a "sound" in the sense that a precise physical reaction has taken place. More in the next response, your argument flows very well.

"Similarly, humans weren't always around to perceive time and change, but things changed nonetheless, and the clock was running, so to speak. I would also like to add that the passing of time is "felt" by all life, not humans exclusively. It is only homo sapiens that gave the process its name, after all of the evolutionary changes that had to take place for us to have the capacities (especially language) to do so.

Change is not an illusion, and it takes time to change, therefore time exists."

I have also struggled with this point before. The way I reason it is this: If all motion in the universe ceased, then began again, would we be able to tell how much time passed?

My answer would be, no. Anything we use to tell time operates exclusively with space and mass and completely relies on comparison to other things. If all motion were to stop (every atom in the universe ceases motion, every subatomic particle) then there would be no objective measure of time. We would not be able to use the movement of the stars (which would stop too). Our "biological clocks" would not keep running because the chemical reactions that allow it to run would have halted. Neurotransmitters would have halted between neurons at the synapse. It would be completely impossible to say how long motion stopped for.

In essence, when all motion or change stops, time effectively stops.

So no, time is not a basis for motion or for change. There is nothing objectively supporting the existence of time. This is why I conclude time to be nothing but a concept.
brittwaller

Con

As usual, your response packs quite a punch, Kleptin.

"Indeed it is a necessary measurement, and your definition of "necessary" is accurate. However, the term "necessary" can apply to the existence of many things, not existence in general... I can argue that "time" as a concept is necessary for the development of human understanding of physical laws, but this does not automatically imply that time must exist in order for the universe to exist. Thus, whether or not the CONCEPT of time is necessary has nothing to do with whether TIME IN AND OF ITSELF exists."

-I should have been clearer in my wording and meaning here. I was not saying that the concept of time is necessary regardless of the existence of actual time (although it is), but instead that it is actually "time in and of itself" that leads us to the concept of time. While playing around with syntax and trying to turn "necessary" against you, I believe I did not succeed in making the point I was trying to make. That is, that the existence of time is a necessary, as opposed to a contingent, truth - it is true of physical necessity that time exists, and would continue to exist independently of perception, in our observed spectrum of reality.

This is related to your point that "In essence, when all motion or change stops, time effectively stops." The points in your paragraph preceding this sentence were all correct; it is the conclusion that is incorrect: If we follow the logic completely through, the conclusion would be that "In essence, when all motion or change stops, *existence* effectively stops, because there is nothing that exists that is not constantly in motion, and it is physically inconceivable that this should happen." If ALL motion did cease, life would automatically be blanked out instantly, but it is simply a fact that atomic and sub-atomic particles do not cease motion. So if the cessation of motion is ruled out by physical law, this argument becomes invalid (although theoretically very interesting.) In our universe, nothing cannot not be in constant motion and still "be" in any recognizable sense.

"...[B]ut are these three dimensions actually three separate dimensions? Or is the separation of space in general into length, width, and depth purely due to flaws in our observation?"

-Yes and no, respectively. Again, I will be arguing from the position of physical realism. While the names "dimension," "length," "width," and "depth" are obviously conventions of language, it seems self-evident that these ideas, in their most abstract form, derive from actual reality. Throw perception out the door completely: all objects that exist will still have orientation on three spatial axes (x, y, z) and one temporal (t).

"Thus, our concepts of mass and space are on a different level from our concept of time. We draw the concepts of mass and space directly from our senses. Our concept of time must go through several assumptions first, namely, associating motion with change."

-I have to disagree here and say that although we sense space and time differently, we still perceive them both directly - as I said, space is sensed externally and time is sensed internally (think of your inner monologue.)

"Bacteria and other single celled organisms do not have free will. Their actions are monitored purely by chemical response. More importantly, bacteria and other single celled organisms cannot sense time and I attribute this to not being able to form opinions on how things should be and comparing it to how things are."

-You got me here. I should have said, "I would also like to add that the passing of time is "felt" by all [intelligent] life, not humans exclusively." My mistake on that for certain. However, I would hasten to add that bacteria (and other single-celled organisms) also cannot really "sense" space, either, as they have no sense-organs, or any kind of organ for that matter. Just as they don't (and can't) know that they are in time, they don't know that they are in space. They do not sense space, but they do interact with space (and necessarily time) as you suggested.

"Humans sense time in this way: First, they recognize mass and space inherently. They then begin to make assumptions and allow their bias to take over. They see a difference between a moving object and a stationary object, even though objectively, all things are moving. An infant seeing a mobile rotate in a stationary room would be able to form opinions on motion and change. Mobiles can stop moving, and when mommy pushes it, it moves again. The concept of time is derived from these human traits of combining these assumptions."

-You say that humans recognize mass and space inherently and then use the example of an infant and a mobile. I argue that humans also recognize time inherently, as everything you described takes place on the four axes x, y, z, and t. To speak of one without the other is nonsense.

"... [I]t makes a "sound" in the sense that a precise physical reaction has taken place."

-Exactly. The reaction takes place with or without observers.

I covered the rest earlier on. To end this round, I will say that indeed there *may be* nothing objectively supporting the existence of time *except physical necessity* and thus I conclude that time is not only real but also a fundamental component of reality itself.
Debate Round No. 2
Kleptin

Pro

"the conclusion would be that "In essence, when all motion or change stops, *existence* effectively stops, because there is nothing that exists that is not constantly in motion, and it is physically inconceivable that this should happen." If ALL motion did cease, life would automatically be blanked out instantly, but it is simply a fact that atomic and sub-atomic particles do not cease motion. So if the cessation of motion is ruled out by physical law, this argument becomes invalid (although theoretically very interesting.) In our universe, nothing cannot not be in constant motion and still "be" in any recognizable sense."

That's actually untrue. If we cease the motion of one thing, it would essentially "blink out of existence" (as we perceive it) since mass is kept together by the constant sub-atomic vibration, and since we would have no way of perceiving it. However, it does not mean that it won't still exist. Something at absolute zero would simply be a form of matter we cannot detect or raw energy, one of the two.

It would then exist in a different way when motion is restored because other things move and affect it while it is in its stationary state.

HOWEVER

I am talking about motion stopping in the *entire* universe at once. In that case, when motion regains, the bonds will reform precisely as they were before (since the electrons would be in the same position) and nothing would interact in that instance because motion was stopped universally. Mass and space would still exist and would be the same way they were before.

"Throw perception out the door completely: all objects that exist will still have orientation on three spatial axes (x, y, z) and one temporal (t)."

Why separate it into 3? All objects that exist exist in space. The relationship that an object has to its surrounding is arbitrary and artificial.

"have to disagree here and say that although we sense space and time differently, we still perceive them both directly - as I said, space is sensed externally and time is sensed internally"

I don't disagree with you there. However, the fact that we sense time internally is what makes me suspicious. Space and matter are sensed externally, and as a matter of fact, so is motion because motion operates only with mass. Times is the only one of these "fundamental realities" that we cannot interact with externally.

"They do not sense space, but they do interact with space (and necessarily time) as you suggested."

This was just a tag-along point to the one above. Single celled organisms may not sense, but they interact. They can be observed interacting with matter and space, but not with time. The single celled organism operating as a mechanism need not use time for its existence. For it, there is no concept of past and there is no concept of future. There are examples where they develop resistance, but this is not due to memory. This is due to it containing new genetic material to synthesize proteins. Hence, there is nothing to validate the existence of time if only these single celled organisms exist on earth. Only mass and space.

"You say that humans recognize mass and space inherently and then use the example of an infant and a mobile. I argue that humans also recognize time inherently, as everything you described takes place on the four axes x, y, z, and t. To speak of one without the other is nonsense"

No no, I've already established that the concept of time is necessary for humans to understand things. But understanding things has nothing to do with existence and is not inherently necessary given the scope of the entire universe. Thus, the definition that all things take place in time is just as arbitrary as saying that everything has length, width and height. Everything *is* and exists in space. It's only for our own personal clarification that we separate existence of mass into three different dimensions.

I want to know why time exists inherently and why it should exist in and of itself. In a universe without humans.

""-Exactly. The reaction takes place with or without observers."

Because it interacts with matter. Time is not sound, and there is nothing in your reply to indicate that time can exist in and of itself. This argument only shows that matter can, which we have both established as true. Hence, this argument does not contribute to either of our positions.

"I covered the rest earlier on. To end this round, I will say that indeed there *may be* nothing objectively supporting the existence of time *except physical necessity* and thus I conclude that time is not only real but also a fundamental component of reality itself."

In that case, I need only ask what this physical necessity is. Simply saying that a universe without time is inconceivable will not work, as I have already mentioned the significance of the amount of bias we have. Also, it may not be inconceivable as per the point above because we were talking about motion, not about change or time. The significance of the difference between MOTION and CHANGE is the deciding factor here.

Even if I concede the point that the universe cannot exist without motion, it does not show that CHANGE or TIME is a physical necessity.
brittwaller

Con

"That's actually untrue. If we cease the motion of one thing, it would essentially "blink out of existence" (as we perceive it) since mass is kept together by the constant sub-atomic vibration, and since we would have no way of perceiving it. However, it does not mean that it won't still exist. Something at absolute zero would simply be a form of matter we cannot detect or raw energy, one of the two."

-Let's examine the actual idea of stopping all motion. That in itself is a physical impossibility: even at absolute zero (which getting to in the first place is not possible per the Laws of Thermodynamics), not ALL motion stops. Quantum mechanical motion is still retained.
( http://en.wikipedia.org... )

Even if some heretofore unforeseen event did by chance happen to cause the temperature of the universe to instantly and completely drop to absolute zero, there would be no restoration of any motion as entropy is at 0 - the universe is in a state of equilibrium - and there is no energy transference to be found to "ignite" a recovery from this state, even if this state could be reached, which it can't. Stopping motion is out of the question to begin with, except as a theoretical brainteaser of sorts.

"I am talking about motion stopping in the *entire* universe at once. In that case, when motion regains, the bonds will reform precisely as they were before (since the electrons would be in the same position) and nothing would interact in that instance because motion was stopped universally. Mass and space would still exist and would be the same way they were before."

-Although this possibility has been ruled out, as I see no other way of even approaching zero motion except by the rapid drop of temperature to absolute zero: *if* it did happen, I argue that the bonds of matter would not form back in the same way as they previously existed because all matter would crystallize instantaneously on their way to absolute zero, which reduced entropy to zero. After matter were crystallized, if motion were to begin again out of the blue (which it wouldn't), entropy could only increase from that point onward, again due to the Laws of Thermodynamics, meaning that nothing would be the same as it were before the drop to 0 K.

Throughout this whole *theoretical* process, which we have no reason to expect, and less than that to recover from, the properties of space and time would remain unaffected. In Round 2 your question was, "If all motion in the universe ceased, then began again, would we be able to tell how much time passed?"

You answered in the negative and added, "Anything we use to tell time operates exclusively with space and mass and completely relies on comparison to other things. If all motion were to stop... then there would be no objective measure of time." You were correct in that that would be no objective *measure* of time (there would be no measure of anything, really), but that is the point: just because we are not there to measure time does not mean that time itself would not, or does not, exist, thus the relevance of my analogy about the tree in the woods.

"Why separate it into 3? All objects that exist exist in space. The relationship that an object has to its surrounding is arbitrary and artificial."

-The relationship is perhaps arbitrary, but not artificial: the relationship exists, unless you deny the existence of space as well, which you do not do.

"I don't disagree with you there. However, the fact that we sense time internally is what makes me suspicious. Space and matter are sensed externally, and as a matter of fact, so is motion because motion operates only with mass. Times is the only one of these "fundamental realities" that we cannot interact with externally. "

-Motion does not operate only with mass - by definition motion involves time and space: motion (countable and uncountable; plural motions)

(uncountable) A state of progression from one place to another.
(countable) A change of position with respect to time.
(physics) A change from one place to another.
(Wiktionary)

That "time is the only one of these "fundamental realities" that we cannot interact with externally" does not automatically invalidate its existence. Space and time have different properties, and our ability to interact with them differs, that's all.

"... Hence, there is nothing to validate the existence of time if only these single celled organisms exist on earth. Only mass and space."

-By the same token, there is nothing to invalidate the existence of time if only single-celled organisms existed on earth.

"In that case, I need only ask what this physical necessity is."

-The physical necessity is that *time* is required, right along with space, for either *change* or *motion* to have any meaning; whether we humans had named time "time" or not, the process of becoming that takes place in every instance of existence would happen anyway, and these are the most fundamental parts in the framework of reality itself.

I have shown at the very least that time can exist by itself, invalidating that it cannot. It is also more than a mere concept, I argue, but a part of the framework of reality itself, existing with or without - completely independent of and indifferent to - the experience of any being, human or otherwise.
Debate Round No. 3
24 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by PapaHemp 6 years ago
PapaHemp
Take a second. Divide that second into a billionth of a second. Take that billionth of a second, and divide that billionth of a second, into a billionth of a billionth of a second. Take that billionth of a billionth of a second, and divide that into a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second. Take that billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second, and divide that into a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second. Continue to do this....forever....and you will never get to the moment. It's because time really doesn't exist. It's a concept. A tool that we've created. The best definition of time, if someone needs to have one, is how long it takes to get from point "A" to point "B." This can be measured on a physical clock, but it is still not proof that time exists. Even Einstein had a problem with it, when he came up with his "theory"of relativity. What is time really? Does is really exist? NO.....IT DOES NOT!!! IT IS A CONCEPT!!
Posted by Kleptin 7 years ago
Kleptin
Not much, mostly semantic arguments.

I did have one good one with L_M, I really tried to give it my all @.@ that was exhausting.
Posted by brittwaller 7 years ago
brittwaller
Gotcha, thanks for the link. Any good debates for you while I was unplugged?
Posted by Kleptin 7 years ago
Kleptin
@brittwaller

Nope, see following :/

http://www.debate.org...
Posted by brittwaller 7 years ago
brittwaller
lol Evidently I had a fan with multiple accounts a LONG time ago. Still, this is the best debate I've had here, and my favourite.
Posted by brittwaller 9 years ago
brittwaller
lol I'm not ALL bad, I swear. Only 75%...
Posted by Kleptin 9 years ago
Kleptin
"@ CP: I try not to play trump cards until the last round:)"

You evil, evil, EVIL man!
Posted by brittwaller 9 years ago
brittwaller
@ CP: I try not to play trump cards until the last round:)
Posted by brittwaller 9 years ago
brittwaller
That's definitely a compliment:) Also, great new avatar, Kleptin. Do I see a family resemblance? lol
Posted by CP 9 years ago
CP
Good debate.

I was surprised that the idea of motion was not utilized as a counter-point earlier. If it can be agreed that motion is described in terms of velocity (and/or acceleration), then the point would necessarily have to be conceded that time exists, as it is a fundamental property of both velocity & acceleration.
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