Conversation In Thin Air Continues
“I read somewhere,” said Noel, “that in the world of space-time nothing changes; that all that has been and all that will be just ‘is.’ Like in a crystal ball, everything in space-time is just there, in Parmenidean stillness.”
“You’ve got to stop reading those ‘new age’ books, Noel,” responded Tony. “Nothing is quite that simple.”
“I absolutely agree,” said Noel, “it’s never simple, and that’s exactly the point. In Minkowski’s ‘absolute world,’ time, as a becoming, is abandoned. We have not learned how to express time as a becoming, either linguistically or mathematically. The temporal process that psychologically constitutes our inner sense of consciousness, in Minkowski’s ‘absolute world,’ gets represented in the absolute rigidity of a mathematical formula. It becomes time as a state of being. That kind of time, as H.G. Wells pointed out a long time ago, sees a person only as ‘slices of time,’ like pictures in a photo album. The time that gets represented in a photo album lacks the flowing, wheeling, qualitative determinations that constitute our inner sense of time. Without that kind of time there wouldn’t be any photographs at all because there wouldn’t be anybody to take the pictures. In space-time the ‘now’ embraces the ‘whole life,’ but totally left out of that picture is time as a becoming. Cassirer comes to the rescue here.
“According to Cassirer, the time where ‘the whole precedes the parts,’ where ‘organic unities’ are formed, that time constitutes personal experience–our inner sense of becoming. In that time we become from one moment to the next our future. In that time, the continuity of our becoming signifies living flux, which is given to our consciousness only as flux, a transitional flux within which arises the meaning of symbolism. Whether we take mathematical time to be the t-coordinate of an undifferentiated continuum or the ‘absolute now’ of Minkowski’s space-time, for Cassirer, either way, it’s still only a conceptual symbolic form, a symbolic form that is produced by our personal time, our time of becoming.”