∆"The End ofTime", J.Barbour.

"The End of Time" By J.Barbour.

‘Timelessness’ (motion-only) is not ‘Platonia’,

  “The end of Time” is different from almost every book I have read on 'Time' because like 'ABH Timelessness', it too is very seriously suggesting that Time may not exist. So I approached the book with trepidation, worried that I was just repeating the work of someone else, and not independently saying anything new.

The author, Julian Barbour is a well respected and qualified physicist and as the title suggests ‘The end of Time’, is also about the possibility that time does not exist, and as such is only an illusion.

(To be precise I think there can be no "illusions", only misunderstandings or over interpretations, and "Time" is such a misunderstanding). 

While I also hold the view that time does not exist, I do not think the argument need be over complicated, or that 'motion' too may not exist. Therefore Mr Barbour and I are saying significantly different things, and reaching different conclusions.

The book “The end of Time” is very well written and explained, and very detailed. (Detailed and complex to the point where my following assessment of the essence of the theory in the book should be taken very loosely, and you should check out the authors site for an accurate outline of his position, http://www.platonia.com/books.html ).

As I understand it, part of the essence of the book’s position (and where I disagree with it), is the concept that in a sense all possible configurations, of every single minute part of the universe, may all constantly exist in an infinite and static, infinitely dimensional, 'terrain' of all possible 'now's, referred to as Plationa. And, we wrongly suspect motion exists as our lives follow one particular path through this static landscape of all possible configurations of the universe.

To me, the very complexity of this level of theory is a warning sign that it may not be following the principle of Occam's razor (that the simplest explanation that fits all observed fact has a higher chance of possibly being correct).  In other words, the idea that 'it seems to us we are constantly in a 'now' filled with moving things... because we are moving along one particular path through an infinite, 'static' landscape of all possible configurations of every bit of matter in the universe', and 'that in a sense all moments of a thing called time therefore always constantly exist' - seem far more complicated than the idea that perhaps 'it looks like we are in one constant now filled with moving stuff... because... there is just now... filled with moving stuff'.

Within the concept of Plationa is the idea that all possible 'pasts' and all possible 'futures' always constantly exist, in a vast landscape of all possible 'nows'. For me the problem with this is that surely, we need an extremely good reason, to even suspect that things, or places such as 'the past' or 'the future' exist, before we build complex theories to explain why they exist but can't be seen. And I couldn't find any explanation in 'The End of Time' that addressed and disproved the possibility that perhaps there simply is a constantly changing now. And that we wrongly assume there is a thing called time, because we wrongly take static or changing parts of our minds as being proof there is a 'past', or reason to assume there is a 'future'.

An example of where I think the Plationia approach may merge inconsistent observations, and thus try to resolve problems that may not exist, can be summed up from this line in the End of time, (‘Platonia’), website.  http://www.platonia.com/ideas.html,


"Motion and the apparent passage of time may be nothing but very well founded illusions."

My first issue here is that I think in this suggestion there may be an invalid merging of concepts. That is, 2 important possibilities wrongly tarred with the same brush – which may be the first step in a long path of confusion and complexity.

It may well be that ‘the apparent passage of time’ is a well founded illusion (or misunderstanding), but I see no reason why ‘motion’ need not simply be.

 - To be very precise, (which I think is essentially for anyone hoping to see through the misunderstandings leading to the idea that ‘time’ may exist),  I would first say, strictly speaking’ the ‘apparent passage of time’ may be a ‘misunderstanding as opposed to an illusion. In the same way that strictly speaking, at a ‘magic’ show, we do indeed see exactly what we see, and there are no actual ‘illusions’, however most of us may ‘misunderstand’ what we see.

So, I would suggest, the universe does not present us with an ‘illusion’ such that it wrongly looks like a thing called time is passing. Rather it seems to me to clearly, constantly, and only, present us with ‘a vast amount of matter that is constantly moving and changing and interacting with itself’.

This is all that seems exist, and that seems to be happening. And this is what the universe directly shows us. In my opinion, nowhere does the universe show us something, that in an illusionary way, appears to be a thing called ‘the past’ or a thing called ‘the future’.

We may look at parts of our minds and ‘call’ them memories, and then say they are proof of "the past". Or we may form patterns, or simulations in our minds, and say they are thoughts, or ideas about ‘the future’ – but if we choose to do that, we are just looking at parts of our minds, and ‘misunderstanding’ or ‘misinterpreting’ matter that is just here, 'now' (to use a probably redundant word), moving and changing.

 Secondly – I see no reason to suspect that ‘motion’ does not exist, or that motion may be an illusion. For us to start suspecting that things are not just how they simply and directly appear to be (i.e. existing and moving’) surely we should first have a very good initial reason.

That is to say, we all seem to see that most objects when released seem fall to the ground and stay there unless moved. So for me to start arguing that gravity does not exist in anyway, or that gravity is not an attractive, but a repulsive force, i.e to suggest that things really fly upwards and we wrongly assume the opposite, I would first need a very good reason to suspect this – in order to justify any complicated theory explaining 'why despite simple straight forward appearances, everything was not just as it seemed'.

I suspect that Mr Barbour is lead to consider that motion may not exist, and just be a ‘well founded illusion’, because of the way he considers what it must mean if “time does not exist”. Because if we (imo wrongly) assume 'time is needed for motion', then this may seem to leave us with the problem ‘if time does not exist, then how can things move?’.

Turtles on turtles ?

(If the Earth does not rest on Turtles, do we have to explain what it does rest on?)

But, in my opinion this ‘how can things move without time?’ is a false problem stemming from a false assumption.

i.e we start by falsely assuming that extra to the matter and motion we all observe within and around us, a thing called time also exists, and 'Time passes' as things move and change.

Then we suspect that this time thing does not exist, but we assume this means things then can’t just move, so we need to explain how they ‘wrongly’ ‘appear’ to move when they can’t be moving.... Hence, rather than just seeing there may be a mistake in assuming this extra thing called time exists, the author is forced to also explain away something i.e. ‘motion’ that simply does exist.

From my position, it seems that matter and motion, simply exist.

How can I say, or prove, that ‘motion’ simply does exist? Well I can’t, and, neither do I have to for matter and motion to probably exist.

In the same way I can’t explain the apparent existence of the entire universe, gravity, electromagnetism, or human and animal intelligence. But if I were to claim to the scientific community that entire universe, gravity, electromagnetism, or human and animal intelligence probably don’t exist ...and give my reason as  “because... I, Matthew Marsden personally can’t explain how they can”, then the scientific community would probably not take this as a piece of reasoning to be seriously considered.

The error here may be that assuming that if ‘time’ does not exist, then motion may be an illusion is perhaps similar to initially assuming that the earth is supported on an infinite pile of giant turtles. Then while pondering that the turtle theory may not be correct, assuming that this must imply that something else must be holding the Earth up, or the earth must be falling... (but we must not be able to detect it)... because there are no turtles, or anything else, to support it.

So,  not fully seeing that the initial error may have been in initially wrongly assuming the Earth "must be on something". And this may be like not seeing that the only error with the apparent 'Time' problem may be in initially, wrongly, assuming something like it must exist.

The spiral of self supporting logic (or 'illogic') may be halted if we start by assuming that perhaps it may be the case that we just live in a universe full of moving and interacting matter. Then we consider that if there was just matter and motion, then as we walk around the world, with various sensations hitting our senses, (images hitting our eyes etc), some of the contents of our minds would be constantly changed, forming what we may call ‘memories’.

Then we consider that while these changed parts of our minds maybe very fascinating and useful, there is no reason to assume that these internal physical patterns, prove that extra to matter and motion, there is ALSO another thing called ‘the temporal past’ that exists, or needs to be explained or understood.

We can also consider that at first glance, if we misunderstand what the changing contents of our minds do and do not prove, we may mislead ourselves into concluding a thing called ‘the temporal past’ does exist, and then from misleading ourselves into assuming ‘the past’ exists, we may mislead ourselves into assuming a thing called ‘time’ must exist, and be the thing that creates, or adds to ‘the past’.

From here, because we see motion, and assume ‘time’, we assume that this thing called ‘time’ must be very closely related to ‘motion’ – or if this time thing does not exist then this motion thing must be an illusion.

But all we ever see is matter and motion, and this is enough to explain all that we observe, and enough to explain why we may mistakenly assume a thing called time needs to be explained... or even explained away.

So, in my opinion, it is not that time does not exist, and thus motion is an illusion, it is simply that time does not exist, and we misunderstand what ‘the changing contents of our minds’ actually do prove, and do not prove.

 See also >>> https://sites.google.com/site/abriefhistoryoftimelessness/home/timeless-youtube-videos

 >>> back to 11 Thoughts on Time Specific books.