The Enigma Of The Universe ► 1 ►What is the Universe? ► (B) Space And Time

Posted: 02.09.2014

As we have already seen, the universe includes all the realities which exist. Here, we shall confine ourselves only to the discussion of two important constituents of the universe viz. space and time. The problems which arise from the fact that elements (objects) perceived by our senses have position in space and time, are amongst the most perplexing riddles for the philosophers as well as the scientists.

First, we shall break down the riddle in a series of question and discuss the answers given by various philosophers and scientists:

  1. Are space and time ultimately real or merely phenomenon?
  2. Are they (i) infinite, (ii) divisible, (iii) continuous, (iv) homogenous?
  3. Are they relative or absolute?
  4. Are they one or many?
  5. Are they simply modifications of matter, or ideas of consciousness, or some independent entities?

In order to understand space and time, let us see how they have been defined in the "Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy":

Space

The classical questions included: is space real, or is it some kind of mental construct, or artefact of our ways of perceiving and thinking. Is it 'substantival' or purely 'relational'? According to substantivalism, space is an objective thing comprised of points or regions at which, or in which, things are located. Opposed to this is relationalism, according to which the only thing that is real about space are the spatial (and temporal) relations between physical objects. There is also an issue whether the measures of space and time are objective, or whether an element of convention enters into them.

Time

Is time well thought of as flowing? if so, does it flow from future to past with us stuck like boats in the middle of the river, or does it flow from past to future, bearing us with it? And might it flow faster or slower? These questions seem hard (or absurd) enough to encourage us to reject the metaphor of time's flow. But if we do not think of time as flowing, how do we conceive of its passage? What distinguishes the present from the past and future, or is there no objective distinction? What gives time its direction - what accounts for the asymmetry between past and future? Can we make sense of timeless existence, or can we only make sense of existence in time? Is time infinitely divisible, or might it have a granular structure, with there being a smallest quantum or chunk of time? Other perplexing problems include the question of whether time may have a beginning, and whether there can be eventless time.

Share this page on: