Regarding space and time, Eternalism is the philosophical belief that suggests all forms of time, such as past, present, and future, exist equally within our dimension of existence. The philosophy of Eternalism deals with the ontology of time and is viewed as a physical place. Different times throughout history and the future exist all at once, which means there is no actual objective flow of time. If someone could travel through time, they could do so by walking into a different room.
Eternalism is sometimes referred to as block time or non-presentism. It has been theorized as the fourth dimension, where fourth-dimensional entities can travel into three-dimensional blocks of time. For example, from the big bang to the end of time exist on the same spectrum of time. One of the best illustrations of Eternalism is the film Interstellar (spoiler alert ahead).
Toward the end of the movie, when Matthew McConaughey’s character Cooper goes through a wormhole and finds himself in the fourth-dimensional wall. He can see blocks of different moments in time simultaneously. Cooper could freely travel over to any block of time that he wanted. Eternalism is the same concept theoretically, but there are many different theories surrounding Eternalism that need to be addressed.
The Origins of Eternalism
Eternalism is known as the philosophy of time. Since the dawn of humanity, we have been obsessed with the concept of time. Since time is one of those things we can never gain or increase, it is one of the most precious commodities we can possess. We are all here on earth for a limited time. Some people have more time than others, and there is nothing anyone can do about that. It is a cruel fact of life, but we must recognize it for our own good.
Time has been a hotly debated topic in philosophy, and every philosopher, from Socrates to Kant, has recognized its importance. Eternalism evolved from a mere topic of debate to specialized theories that deserve further research and discussion. Philosophers started questioning the true nature of time during the Age of Enlightenment in the 17th and 18th centuries. Philosophers questioned whether time was a human construct that only applied to us or if there was something real and absolute to the nature of time.
The Theories of Eternalism
Something about the now is fascinated with the future and the past. We are always concerned about how the future will shape and why the past occurred the way it did. It is a natural way of thinking.
As we pass through the moment in time, every second that was our future becomes the present and passes behind us out of our grasp forever. Throughout our time, theories have been formulated to understand the concept of time better.
The philosopher that took the concept of time and studied it was the idealist metaphysician John McTaggart Ellis Also known as J.M.E. McTaggart. He took the concept of time and formulated two very important theories that are debated today.
Below are the two most popular:
- Theory-A describes past, present, and future as tensed terms, supporting Presentism
- Theory-B describes before and after events in untensed terms, supporting Eternalism
A-theory is a term used in philosophy to refer to the idea of time is always changing, and that time appears to us in temporal positions that J.M.E. McTaggart first proposed in his 1908 work The Unreality of Time. McTaggart’s theory has been expanded upon by other philosophers such as A.N. Prior and D. Lewis. A-theory is contrasted with B-theory, which states that time is a subjective human construct with no objective reality.
There are two main components to A-theory: the idea of the temporal passage and the A-series. The idea of the temporal passage is the belief that time passes or moves forward linearly. This is the intuitive way most people experience time and is what A-theorists claim is the objective reality of time.
On the other hand, the A-series is a series of temporal moments ordered linearly (past, present, future). A-theorists believe that these two concepts are intimately connected and that one cannot exist without the other.
B-theorists have criticized A-theory for its reliance on the idea of temporal passage, which many philosophers argue is simply an illusion created by our brains. A-theory also faces problems explaining how events can be both past and future simultaneously and how causality can work if time does not flow linearly.
However, A-theorists have countered these criticisms by arguing that B-theory cannot explain certain phenomena, such as the feeling of the passage of time, and that A-theory provides a more accurate description of reality.
Overall, A-theory believes that time is an absolute and objective reality that flows linearly. B-theorists have criticized this theory, but A-theorists argue that it provides a more accurate description of reality.
B-theory is a theory of time that holds that there is no objective passage of time. B-theory is often contrasted with A-theory, which holds that there is an objective passage of time. B-theory is often used to support the idea of Eternalism, which is the belief that all moments in time are equally real.
B-theory does not require that one believes in an objective passage of time, so it does not commit one to the belief that time is infinite. However, B-theory does entail that time is everlasting. However, there is no such thing as a beginning or an end to time.
Several arguments have been put forward in support of the B-theory. One argument is based on the observation that our time experience is subjective. We do not experience time passing objectively; instead, our experience of time is relative to our perspective.
This means that there can be no objective passage of time. Another argument for B-theory is based on the fact that there are many ways of measuring time. Which often conflict with one another. For example, according to the Gregorian calendar, a year is 365 days long. However, it is 365.24 days long, according to the astronomical reckoning of a year. This shows that there is no single, objective way of measuring time and that time is subjective to the individual.
B-theory has been criticized on several grounds. One criticism is that B-theory does not explain our experience of time passing. How can we explain our subjective experience of time passing if there is no objective passage?
Another criticism is that B-theory leads to some counterintuitive consequences. For example, B-theory implies that there is no such thing as the present moment. The present moment is an illusion created by our subjective experience of time. B-theory does not fit well with our collective understanding of time.
Despite these criticisms, B-theory remains a widespread view among philosophers. B-theory has the advantage of being able to explain our experience of time passing while avoiding the counterintuitive consequences that afflict A-theory. For these reasons, B-theory is likely to remain a prominent view in the philosophy of time.
The philosophy of Time
Time is a complicated matter. Whether an individual sides with Theory-A or Theory-B regarding the explanation of time, there is no true concise answer for a time. Time is subjective to everyone that has ever lived. However, it’s objectively measured in unexplainable ways. Even when it is explained, it gets muddy very quickly. The explanation usually uncovers more questions than answers.
Whether time is real or not, one thing is for sure: time is natural to every individual, regardless of our beliefs. We all have an internal clock that is ticking closer and closer to our end. We are always worried in the present time about what we could have done differently in the past. Alternatively, how will we plan? Very rarely do we live in the present.
Living in the present can help us reduce stress and anxiety. The philosophy of time is a crucial matter to understand. Science and philosophy have a long way to go to pinpoint exactly what it is and if it is accurate. Nevertheless, it offers a great deal of discussion. It allows us to imagine what time is and what it can do. Until we get there, enjoy the time and make it meaningful.