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The Concept of What Is Time and How to Better Understand It

What Is Time ?

Let’s first figure out what is time ? Time is an observed phenomenon, which helps people to sense and record the changes in their environment and the universe. The literal definition is difficult. Time has been called an illusion, dimension, flowing continuum, and a term of separation among events that happen in the same physical location.

Time can put the events from the past, through the present and into the future in the right order. It is also often referred to as the fourth dimension.

Time has always been a subject of study in philosophy, religion, and science. Students are often asked to write different projects about their understanding of time. When writing an opinion essay on the topic students have to express their thoughts on the concept and present previous studies of the issue.

There are two opposing viewpoints on what is time that divide many eminent philosophers.

  • One side of the philosophers believes that time is the part of the fundamental structure of the universe – a dimension that is independent of events, where the events happen in sequence. Isaak Newton belonged to this group of scientists, as he believed time was continuous and it flows at an unchanging rate everywhere in the universe. This point of view is often referred to as Newtonian time.
  • The other side of scientists believes that time doesn’t refer to any container, through which the objects and events move, but instead it is a part of a fundamental intellectual structure, within which people sequence and compare events. Immanuel Kant and Gottfried Leibniz supported this point of view. They believed that time is neither a thing, nor an event, and thus it can’t be measured, nor can it be travelled.

Time Doesn’t Exist

Zeno, Spinoza, Plato, Hegel, and McTaggart gave a radical answer to the question «What Is Time ?» They claimed it doesn’t exist. McTaggart believed that he had a convincing argument for why a single event is a future event, a present, and a past event, and because of these contrary properties, the concept of time is self-contradictory. In the 20th century, philosopher F.H.Bradley said that time, like space, has most evidently proved not to be real, but a contradictory appearance.

Gödel gave his own explanation of what is time – he claimed for the unreality of time as Einstein’s equations cause physically possible universes, where all events precede themselves. He believed, it was not possible for time, so the theory of relativity was definitely not about time.

In the late 20th century, Julian Barbour claimed that there are individual moments, but they are not ordered. There is only a heap of moments. The moments exist, but the time connecting them doesn’t.

Time Does Exist

Other philosophers in their answers to «What is time ?» believed it does exist. However, they could not give an exact definition to time. They didn’t know whether it is a human-made analogy, or Platonic idea, or an emergent feature of physical changes. All these questions can become a great subject for some university projects, like thesis, diploma, or dissertation. If you need help in finding the answers on how to make a thesis or a diploma, use our service, where there are a lot of articles on the issue.

Let’s have a look to the answers that have been given throughout history to the question of «What is time ?»

Aristotle claimed that time is the measure of change. He emphasized that time is not change itself, because changes can be faster or slower, but not time. Aristotle supported what is now referred to as the relational theory. Besides, he said that time is not discrete or atomistic, but continuous. As for its size, there is no minimum, because every line is divided ad infinitum. Thus, it is the same with time.

In the 17th century, Isaac Barrow rejected Aristotle’s connection between time and change. His answer to what is time was something that exists independently of change or motion and that existed even before God created the matter of the universe.

In the 18th century, Immanuel Kant said time and space are forms that the mind projects on the external things-in-themselves. He claimed our mind structures perceptions so that space always has a Euclidean geometry, and time has the structure of the mathematical line.

In the early 20th century, Alfred North Whitehead gave his definition to «What is time ?» He claimed it to be the form of becoming a cryptic, but interesting philosophical claim.


  • Linear and circular time.
    Ancient cultures (Hopi, Mayan, Incan, Ancient Greeks, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, etc.) have a concept of a wheel of time. They understand the concept of what is time as quantic and cyclical, consisting of repeating ages that occur with every being of the Universe between birth and extinction.

The Islamic and Judeo-Christian view considers time to be linear, beginning with the act of creation by God. The traditional Christian view sees time ending in the teleological sense with the eschatological end of the present order of things.

  • Time in Greek Mythology.
    The Greek language has two notions for time, Chronos and Kairos. Chronos refers to numeric time. Kairos, which literally means «the right moment» relates to metaphysical (divine) time. In theology, Kairos is qualitative. Chronos is identified as Personification of time in Greek mythology. He is usually portrayed as an old, wise man with a long beard.
  • Time in Kabbalah.
    Kabbalists in their arguments on what is time believe that time is a paradox and an illusion. They claim that both the past and the future are recognized to be simultaneously present.

When writing a compare and contrast essay, you can study the differences of time perceptions in various religions, by providing facts and information from the studies done on the issue.

Physical Definition of What is Time

In the special theory of relativity, Einstein gave his explanation to what is time by postulating the finiteness and constancy of the speed of light for all observers. He demonstrated that this statement, together with a reasonable definition for what it means for two events to be simultaneous, requires that distances emerge compressed and time intervals emerge lengthened for events connected with objects in motion to an inertial observer.

The theory of special relativity finds a convenient form in Minkowski space time (a mathematical structure that connects three dimensions of space with a single dimension of time). In this form, distances in space can be measured by how long it takes light to travel that distance. Two events in Minkowski space time are separated by an invariant interval, which can be light-like, space-like, or time-like. Events with a time-like separation can’t be simultaneous in any frame of reference, because there should be a temporal component for them to separate. Events with a space-like separation can be simultaneous in some frame of reference, and there is no reference frame, where they don’t have a spatial separation.

Time and the Big Bang Theory

When writing essay on time and the Big Bang theory, you can support it with interesting powerpoint presentation that will help you keep the audience interested.

Stephen Hawking particularly has addressed a connection between the Big Bang and time. In A Brief History of Time, Hawking says that even if time didn’t start with the Big Bang and there was another timeframe before the Big Bang, information from those events won’t be accessible to us, and nothing that occurred then would have any effect upon the present timeframe. Hawking stated that time began with the Big Bang, but the questions about what happened before the Big Bang do not matter. This formulation of what is time was repeatedly criticized, especially by Mortimer J. Adler.

Scientists came to an agreement describing events that happened 10-35 seconds after the Big Bang, but generally agree that descriptions on what happened before the Big Bang are pure speculation.

Time Travel

Most philosophers and scientists agree that there is good evidence that human time travel has happened. Let’s first clarify the term «time travel». By this term we understand the physical time travel, not the psychological one, or time travel in dreaming of being at a different time.

Relativity theory implies that the clocks of two people not taking the journey might disagree but still be correct, so there is no unique time external to the time traveler.

The physical possibility of human time travel to the future is accepted, but the travel to the past is considered controversial, and the time travel that changes the past or the future is considered impossible.

You should keep in mind that if a certain kind of time travel is possible it doesn’t mean it is possible physically as well. The understanding of the physical possibilities of time travel comes from Einstein’s theory of relativity. The theory permits two types of future time travel – either by moving at high speed or by taking advantage of the presence of an intense gravitational field. As for the time travel at high speed, we can say that any motion gives time travel (relative to the clocks of those who don’t travel). This makes every bicycle a time machine. If you move at a very high speed, the time travel becomes more noticeable. You can travel very fast and then return to the Earth and find that you’ve been gone for 200 years as measured by the clocks of people on the Earth. While your personal clock measured that you’ve been away for 10 years. It is possible to participate in that future.

Using high speed it is possible to travel into the future only if judged by the clocks of those not travelling with you. It is not possible to use high speed in order to visit the future after your death.

The second type of time travel uses the gravitational field. If you live in the apartment on the first floor, you age slower than your neighbor who lives on the top floor of the same building, because the gravitational field strength is less on the top floor than on the first floor. If you lived near the supermassive black hole, the difference would be much more significant. If you leave the Earth and fly close to the black hole in the spaceship, when you return to the Earth you will see that you look as young as your grandchildren, although you will be much older than them, as judged by their clocks.

The time travel to the past is not allowed by the Einstein’s special theory of relativity or by Newton’s physics. However, it is allowed by the general theory of relativity. In 1949, Kurt Gö;del surprised Einstein by discovering that in some unique worlds that comply the general relativity equations you can continually travel in your personal time but eventually get into your own past.

When we speak about time travel to the past, we talk about our own past. Unfortunately, almost all philosophers and scientists say that even if you do travel to the past, you will not do anything that has not already been done, or there would be a contradiction. In fact, if you go back, you would already have been there. For this reason, if you go back into the past and try to kill your grandfather before he was conceived, you would fail no matter how hard you try. You will fail, because you already have failed. For this reason, people will never be able to use the time machine to go back to a time before the time machine was invented.

If you need more information about the concept of what is time, use our service, where you will find a lot of various projects completed on this subject. Also, there is a database of authors who can implement your educational projects, as well as offer you essay editingservices.

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