Nature and Definition of Time
First of all, lets make sure that we understand the difference between the words "time" and "eternity", because they are not the same. The definition of eternity may be somewhat difficult to elaborate, but the definition of time can be very simple and clear.
Since "time" is included in, and affects, not only our everyday lives but also many physics equations and chemical recipes or formulations, a proper definition of "time is of the utmost importance. It is helpful to realize that the chemical reactions in the vessel are not really effected by some mysterious thing called time but by the number of contacts or collisions that take place in the soup of atoms and/or molecules. This gives us a big, fat clue for what the factor "T" or time really stands or means.
This aspect that we call "time" is integral to the currently accepted physical paradigm called "relativity", and almost everyone uses the term "space-time" continuity, and we will challenge that on a fundamental level of logic.
Premise 1: Eternity may be a somewhat mystical overarching reality outside of the physical universe but Time is NOT , nor is Time a THING that ANYBODY can do ANYTHING to. IOW, it cannot be reified.
Premise 2: The universe doesn't exist in time, but time exists in the universe.
Premise 3: The proper definition of time is the sequence of events in the material universe.
The notable philosopher Immanuel Kant, considered by some to be the center of modern philsophy, insists that he has given a rigorous and conclusive proof for the proposition that the universe had a beginning in time, and other philosophers have characterised the proof as certain. He also insists that he has given a rigorous and conclusive proof for the proposition that the universe did not have a beginning in time, and other philosophers have characterised the proof as certain.. Of course, this is a straightforward violation of the Law of Contradiction, a concept held to be inviolate. He seems to suggest not that both of these proofs are true but that they are both false.
This assertion of Kant's is a violation of another time-honored concept, the Law of the Excluded Middle, which has it that two contradictory propositions cannot both be false, nor can these two be true. If two contradictory propositions can both be considered to be false, then they can both be considered as true. "And yet Kant accepts the conclusion that they are both false, and rejects the conclusion that they are both true.*
What is going on here? What is the problem? The following treatise on what time really is gives the explanation, but I will relate first what the eminent philosopher G.E. Moore has to say about Kant's assertions,
Of course, what is being said is that the premise or "IF" statement in both of the above are false, Bottom line? The universe doesn't exist in time, but time exists in the universe.
Back in the summer of 2000 the chief astronomer and director of the US Naval Observatory, the late Tom van Flandern, and I were over in Italy to give presentations at the annual University of Milano-Bergamo symposium. Both of us were staying up in Bergamo, about an hour’s train ride to Milano. One morning we sat together on the train to Milano and talked about time. He is the thinker that really kick-started me to deal philosophically with this subject.
He said that he thinks about it along these lines. He asked me to imagine there was nothing except empty space with just a faucet in it. The faucet drips. The faucet drips again. He asked me how much time there was between the drips, and I saw and we agreed that the question was unanswerable. There was nothing that we could say.
Then he asked me to visualize a second dripping faucet, one that drips 60 times for every time the first faucet drips. Now, what can we say? Well, we can remark about the ratio being 60:1 on a regular basis. And we add a third faucet that drips 60 times for every time the second faucet drips. Now we can remark not only about the mathematical ratios, but we can now talk about cycles within cycles and regularity in their relationships.
The experience of reality, of life content and of meaning is based on events
The above seems to be so obvious that it is questionable to mention it. However, there are three types of events, 1) those that we relate to as quantitative where they are triggered or created by the physical, mechanical cycles that have been set in motion and that have no further impact or meaning in and of themselves, and 2) those that we relate to as qualitative where they are not cyclical but have some "good or bad" impact on the quality of life, and 3) those that are qualitative but also purposeful in that these events are triggered by some level of volition.
Time and Duration are based on cyclical, quantitative events
The question was asked above, "How much time is there between two events?" We simply cannot say without counting the number of quantitative cycles that we are using as a background or matrix, a woven fabric canvass if you will upon which we can “paint”our experience. In other words, the number of "times" a clock ticks or the number of seasons, moon or solar cycles. In our language we often use the word time to be synonymous with the word event, as in "Plates of food were spilled three "times" during the party," or "The batter came to the plate four times during the game."
Consider the words "eventual" and "eventually". Don't these words mean further downstream in time, in the sequence of future events?
The Arrow of Time is based on Sequence
So, humans experience time as a directional series of sequential events, the smallest−of which we are generally only subconsciously aware−being that of our heartbeat, essentially equivalent to a second. Seconds to minutes to hours to days to weeks to months to years to decades to centuries to millennia, all mechanically determined cyclical series of events. Events or series of events distinguishable from one another and in sequence provide for the reality of our experience, including our experience of what we call time. We use uniform cyclical, non-relevant events (such as the ticking of a clock, or the vibration of an atom, or the rotations or revolutions of the solar system) that mark out small increments of duration to help us better keep track of the sequence of more important, relevant events that affect our lives.
Put very straightly, without physical events to demarcate experience in a sequence there would be no such thing as time. And this is important: the basis for a common concept or standard of time tracking must be externally imposed and corporately experienced, counted and kept track of.
One other aspect of time should be noted. Time is not MEASURED against an artificial standard, like the platinum bar in France for the meter, but the events are COUNTED for time. The "standard" is built into our minds, and there is nothing arbitrary or artificial about it because it is based on adding the unit one for each item. Counts are either right or wrong−if done properly OR CORRECTLY they are absolutely right, and if done improperly they are wrong. Measurements are always approximations, and if precision is an issue, they are done several times and statistical analysis is applied using the mathematical technique of standard deviation. If there are a few marbles in a bag, and we want to know how many, we count them; we do not apply some artifical standard and then "measure" them.
There is little or no point in counting events unless they are essentially uniform. If an event is not effectively identical to another, it is in a class by itself—no need to count the number because it is 1.
We should all know in this discussion that the ancient accounts of “creation” are not descriptions of the creation of the physical universe, but are “accounts” of the creation of a new world environment, “cosmic” order, or new age, the age of timekeeping. The “beginning of time” was inaugurated by the cycles of the crescent on the face of the planet Saturn, and some of the very words associated with time—chronology, chronometer, etc.—came from the name of that planet, Chronos. Evidently, before the polar column was formed and the regular cycles of morning and evening started appearing on the “face of the deep”, humans were not exposed to any identifiable celestial chronometer or regular cycle that provided the underlying “time” fabric of background events. These events/intervals were externally imposed and could be corporately experienced, counted and kept track of, and provided the background upon which were appended in human consciousness the sequence of the more meaningful events of life. Thus was a new “time” consciousness initiated in the earthly population.
After the breakup and the attendant catastrophic disruption of the comparatively benevolent or benign environment, the brighter and dimmer part of the day was turned into blackest night and a too-bright day, an almost ultimate visual, cyclical contrast. At that point in time, life turned into more of an ordeal to survive. Thus the “tyranny of time”, the pressure of survival productivity was imposed on the human race.
Sequence is inviolate to our most fundamental concept of reality, experience and logic. IOW, sequence can never be altered or reversed. If it could be, then the universe, the "order" of things, would be truly unstable and chaotic. The very word “order” is a synonym for sequence. There never could be any meaning because it could always be undone by changing the sequence of events. Sequence is one of those non-material realities that even applies to non-material events such as thoughts or imaginings.
Vibration and oscillation pervade our physical universe, and every reversal of direction in an oscillation, every “wiggle” of every polarity of every particle, every Brownian Motion collision and all the other events form a background fabric of time indicators in sequence. In the Electric Universe paradigm, every particle electrically “knows” about every other in a connected universe. So, every event has some affect upon all the others, if only a “vanishingly small” and irrelevant one. Thus when “t” as a symbol of time is used in a scientific equation or chemical formula, it doesn’t stand for some mysterious, indefinable aspect of reality, but it represents the multitude of background events being demarcated by that period that have some effect upon the phenomenon.
Further thoughts. Existence is not based on time, but time is based on existence and events in the physical universe. IMO, we need to learn to think and talk more carefully about these fundamental issues. Examples of nonsensical questions might be, “Was there ever a time when there was nothing?” or “Was there ever a time before the physical universe existed?” or “What happens when time runs out?” or “If there was a beginning, what existed or happened before the beginning?”
So, to repeat, time is an aspect of or an adjunct to the physical universe based on physical events. Simply put, no material universe, no time! But that does not mean that time can be reified, because “time” is not a thing in and of itself. Time is not something that can be slowed down or speeded up nor can it be reversed. If synchronized clocks or metronomes get out of sync, “one must look at which mechanisms or processes can cause that”. Also, dimensions are not something that can be reified in order to be compressed or stretched. The theories of “Relativity” are thoroughly confused on these points.
* Moore, G.E., Some Main Problems in Philosophy, Collier
Books, New York City, NY, p. 183.