The Nature of Physical Theory: A Study in Theory of Knowledge

By Victor F. Lenzen | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE THEORY OF TIME

1. THE CONCEPT OF TIME
THE concept of time is a fundamental concept of physics. Thus physical processes are said to take place in time; in particular, motion may be described as change of position in space with time. Physical bodies have the characteristic that they persist in time.Among the historical statements concerning time one finds the following.
Time passes. Time is the quality of passage.
Leibniz described time as the order of succession of phenomena.
According to Kant time is an a priori form of intuition.

In the present discussion I shall base the theory of time upon the concept of event; an event is a brief physical process. Events are distinguished by the fact that they stand in the relations of simultaneity or succession. I describe time as the totality of possibilities of relative temporal position of events. Like space, time is a manifold, but a one-dimensional manifold: this means that in the analytical description of the temporal position of events only one number is necessary to specify the position of the event relative to some origin and unit of time.

With regard to temporal position one may hold either an absolute theory or a relational theory. I shall adopt the relational theory and thus our definition agrees with the view of Leibniz that time is the order of succession of phenomena. The boundary events of a process are related as earlier and later, and the process as a whole may be thought of as possessing the quality of passage. Thus a process has duration

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