Alternate theories about the nature of time? (Philosophical)

I have been focusing more on “living in the moment” lately, and something that I started pondering last night is if there are any schools of thought out there that suggest that time is an entity independent of space, and that does not exist in a linear cause-and-effect fashion, but is merely perceived by humans in such a way. My visualization of this concept was that, instead my life proceeding like points on a line, I was imagining every moment of my life arranged on a table top and that I randomly went from one to another in a non-linear fashion.

I know that sounds pretty loopy (as most of my pre-sleep musings are :slight_smile: ), but I’m pretty sure I didn’t imagine this idea of time out of whole cloth, and that others have postulated this before. However, I am not sure how to start searching for this, and would love to hear a discussion about theories of time from fellow Dopers.

In the spirit of answering a question, albeit not quite the question you’re asking, here has been no shortage of philosophers throughout history who postulated that causality, at least, was not independent of human consciousness - the most prominent of these would be Immanuel Kant.

Julian Barbour’s ideas might be of interest.

There are a few metaphysics of time, that I’m aware of. Here’s an explanation of the A and B theory.
Also, here’s a good explanation of the block universe concept.

In that scenario, those points are still separated by space so you’d need to get from one moment to any other moment in a linear fashion. To have instant access to all our moments, wouldn’t they need to be compressed into a singularity of sorts where space, and thus time, doesn’t exist? (In which case, either nothing can happen, or everything happens at once…I think.:confused:)

There’s the “just a coincidence” theory of time. There is no such thing as cause and effect; things simply appear to happen in sequence by happenstance. The light bulb goes on, for no reason we can know, right after I turn the switch on; this deceives me into thinking the closing of the switch “caused” the light to go on.

The point of this interpretation isn’t so much that it’s insanely absurd (which, however, it most certainly is) but that it cannot be falsified. There is no possible experimental test you can perform that will conclusively demonstrate the existence of rules of cause and effect.

(Alexei Panshin has a bit of fun with this in his science-fiction novel “Star Well.”)

There’s a general principle known as ‘event symmetry’ which sorta seems like what you’re saying: basically, the idea is that space-time should be invariant under arbitrary exchanges of space-time points (‘events’). Consider what happens if two moments of your time were exchanged, one from your future, and one from your past: you wouldn’t notice anything, even though the ‘future’ moment now occurred before the ‘past’ moment. So there’s no absolute ordering to time in this sense.

There’s also the idea that time is really just due to quantum correlations: the more correlations, the higher the entropy, the later the moment in time. The thing is that this imposes a future direction onto time: a moment towards the past has lower correlations, so in order to get there, these correlations need to decrease. But, effectively, these correlations encode the memory of events; thus, if those decrease, we can built no memories of the process. So we only ever experience correlations increasing, and thus, time proceeding towards the future, even if it doesn’t.

The ‘block universe’ seems like a good one, but I think it can be (and has been) extended further.
From that link;

Andrew Thomas, who wrote that page, suggests that the ‘branching multiverse’ theory is inconsistent with the ‘block universe’ concept. I do not think this is necessarily the case.

Instead of imagining a relatively simple 4D (3 spacial dimensions+time) block universe as described by Thomas, it is possible to imagine a 5D universe, where every branching possibility creates a new pathway; this is not a 4 dimensional solid, but a 5 dimensional manifold. In all other respects the idea is the same- it is possible to identify locations within this five-dimensional, branching structure that correspond not only with the future and the past, but also with different versions of the future and the past- versions where (for instance) Jim Lovell landed on the Moon, or King Edward VIII negotiated with the German Reich.

The concept of a five-dimensional branching structure of time is described briefly by Iain M Banks in one of his recent SF novels, but I can’t quite recall which one.

(In another branch of the timeline of course there exists a version of me that can recall it all perfectly).

Time does not exist. It is an invention by man.

“A Universe from Nothing” lecture by Lawrence Krauss. If you’d like to know about the fate of our universe, watch this.

The infinite universe, with all its multiverses (past, present and future) means that every possible event that could happen has happened an infinite number of times already and will continue to happen forever (or longer).

So if your free will does something bad this time around, no sweat. There are an infinite number of times you got it right.

But that might lead to levels of infinity, of which three are known: The set of rational numbers from 0 to 1, the set of irrational numbers from 0 to 1, and the set of curves from 0 to 1.

Go now, and sin again - and don’t worry, be happy.

I have several theories about time, I am quite sure we have the concept of time wrong, but I’m not so sure how, so it is worth exploring. This is one such exploration I came to by looking at patterns, and also the fairly advanced technology of the people of long ago that don’t exactly fit historical models:

For us we can only be certain of time in our lifetime, what came before us we are taught by others who have been taught, but no one knows for sure. Our view of time comes from the mercy of God, and His willingness to show us what life would be like if He didn’t help. It also shows the repeating pattern in history in differing lights. In short our understanding of history is wrong and each empire (world power) lasts perhaps 70 years or so as a world power. This goes for the modern day American empire (aka world power) as well as the old Egyptian, Roman, and whatever else was the world power at the time.

Each one was basically comparable to our modern living, each one had TV’s cellphones, computers etc. Each empire builds itself up in a pyramid power structure fashion to a point where the ones at the lowest level, who bear the most weight, finally cry out to God, God removes them and the empire collapses, then another empire rises. Rince and repeat.

So why do we see our progress in history and show that the old empires lasted for 100’s or 1000’s of years or so. It is for us to see what it would be like without the mercy of God, how harsh it would be for us to a point that we wonder if humanity would survive at all. But it also shows the harsh reality of what is hidden under the surface today, that slavery that still exists today as it did back then, it’s just hidden, God does not allow us to see ourselves as slaves though many are - a slave who just thinks he is a worker going to work everyday may have a better outlook on life then a slave who knows he is a slave.

Our ability to tell time is distorted, but also we have a ability to age things in our mind and items age/transfigure to a more ‘primitive state’, what was once new, after several years have passed now we remember it as old and antiquated and we age it in our minds so we have the illusion of progress. Devices such as the antikythera mechanism were possible iphones of the day, just aged/transfigured to give the illusion of progress, and to set the device properly in the time period as God wants us to understand it for our learning. Right now the return to alcohol powered and electric cars is a echo of the past when cars ran on those fuels before gasoline took over, repeating the pattern. Will gasoline retake the center-stage for another 70 year run of the Chinese (or whatever) empire? A fuel that you just pump out of the ground like water is hard to compete with in terms of price.

This is self-contradictory. If it has been invented, then of course time exists!

Actually, there’s as many infinities as you like (and more): whenever you have some set, its powerset will be of greater cardinality.

There’s a couple of problems with your theory, Vonnegut.

There’s a thing in physics called “entropy”. It only goes in one direction. e.g. you can’t un-smash a glass. The implication is that time only travels in one direction.

Another problem is what is this table that you scattered the moments of your life on? I’m looking at the world of 6/18/2012 2:34pm right now. Is there someplace in the universe that the world of 6/18/2012 2:33pm went? And why can’t I go there? I just have to sit here like a jerk waiting for 6/18/2012 2:35pm like everyone else.

Just because some elements have greater entropy than other elements, and that the elements have coordinate relationships with each other such that those with higher entropy seem to appear as though following a cause and effect relationship doesn’t invalidate the alternative model.

6/18/2012 2:33pm didn’t go anywhere its still right where it was on the table. The time moment 6/18/2012 2:34pm is also there on the table as is the moment 6/18/2012 2:35pm. But the 2:34 location happens have a memory connection that corresponds to the 2:33 location, and not one that corresponds to the 2:35pm, but that doesn’t mean necessarily that reality is such that 2:33, 2:34, and 2:35 can’t exist simultaneously (or perhaps “equivalently” would be a better non-time based word.)

The problem is that our language and thought patterns are so hooked up to the model of linear time (which works really well as a model in the same way that Newtonian mechanics worked well in the 17th century) that its hard to think outside such a model.

Have you been reading old Dilberts?