Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Giant Headache

I have been pondering the philosophy of time as of late, and it has caused me no end of trouble. There are some scientific insights that I find very difficult to deal with, others I find very easy to accept. There are many contradictory notions, and there are almost as many theories as their are scientists, or so it would seem. It takes a great skill with logic itself to grasp some of the notions, and to work out their implications. I do not envy either theoretical physicists who have to deal with the subject, nor philosophers of time.

Maverick Philosopher has a lot of posts on the subject. Most of them, if I am honest, I find enlightening but extremely difficult to the point of being painful. Looking at the mass of data, I come to the conclusion that the whole thing remains a great mystery, and any pronouncements about knowledge on the subject should be looked upon as extremely suspect. Certainly there are some issues that remain clear: time dilation, or Einstein's insight that position and speed affect the rate at which time flows for an object relative to other objects, seems true at least in most instances. It is also clear, however, that for quanta absolute time exists, and how those two things can both be true I have no idea.

Let me say that after some great internal struggle I'm willing to put a few things out there as absolutes: the future has to be in some sense open. Any theory of time must speak to our experience of freedom. I have to admit that worry about freedom can really cause some great spiritual upheaval for me. Much of my beliefs about meaning, and about God, depend on the idea that we have a real future in front of us that is not set in stone. Not only must I be free, but my freedom must be visited upon God. God must share in my experience of novelty. I do not believe in a God that knows the future. For such a foreknowledge of all that will happen, without any chance of it being any other way, robs the world of meaningfulness and meaning is what the real quest for the real God is all about, in my view.

Is it okay to put these kinds of limits on what must be true? It seems to me it is. Whitehead said that religion, science and metaphysics must never be closed off from one another. Certain experiences are just baseline, they are so palpable and so necessary to existence that abandoning them would be tantamount to mental suicide. You can say you believe they are true or not true, but you cannot live that way. Hypocrisy is the only other way out. My experience of a future open before me, and my experience of meaning, are as palpable and real as any physical sensory experience. Any philosophy or science of time must needs account for them, and not eliminate them.

I would posit the idea that the problem of consciousness and time are interconnected. We will never understand the one without understanding the other. They are two sides of the same coin. That would be the only other thing I can offer to the discussion.

Beyond those limits and ideas, I got nothin'. I have experienced the living God. I have touched the face of Christ. In those experiences I have touched the very ground of time. I have experienced time in a way I think few have, in my visions and dreams. Yet understanding it? Not yet.

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