Philosophic Noodling (was Re: Internet Health)

Levi Pearson levipearson at
Wed Oct 6 10:08:56 MDT 2010

On Wed, Oct 6, 2010 at 7:35 AM, Michael Torrie <torriem at> wrote:
> On 10/06/2010 12:26 AM, Levi Pearson wrote:
>> Did I say it was a spatial dimension?  No.  I said it was as real as
>> the spatial dimensions, which clearly implies that it is not itself a
>> spatial dimension.
> Just as long as no one goes around calling it the "fourth dimension"
> which it clearly is not.

It clearly is the fourth dimension of the equations governing
spacetime.  My point that followed this bit was explaining that the
word "dimension", at least in a sophisticated discussion of physics,
does not imply that we are discussing spatial attributes.  I agree
with you that the spatial attributes are fundamentally different from
time, but all four of them are integral parts of the spacetime
equations, which describe almost every physical phenomenon we can
measure to a very high degree of accuracy.  Time is indeed the fourth
dimension of spacetime, it's just a different *kind* of dimension than
the spatial ones.

>> I did mention that some philosophers have denied the "reality" of
>> time, but some of them also put distance in the same category of
>> mental construct as time.  Physical quantities like length and mass
>> are as prone to relativistic effects as time is, so it's hard to
>> single out time as particularly "unreal" in that respect.
> Yes you did.  But I wanted to point out that Science also questions the
> "reality" of time.

Science questions just about everything, which is the whole point of
science.  What we get from science is not so much a bunch of facts
about the way things "really" are, but instead a bunch of models that
describe how things observably behave.  When you ask whether something
is "real" or not in the sense we've been discussing, you have moved
beyond what science can tell you and into philosophy, which tries to
answer the "why" questions to the "what" and "how" that we get from
scientific models.  It isn't physics, it's metaphysics.  But
scientists like to engage in metaphysics as well as physics, because
it's fun to speculate about the "real" nature of the universe. :)


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