Posts Tagged ‘First Cause’

The flow of time precedes causality

April 26, 2018

All origins, all beginnings presuppose the existence of a flow of time. Our imagination, our language and our thought are incapable of conceiving the non-existence of a beginning. We cannot conceive of anything in the world where a non-beginning is not also a non-existence. If it exists it must have had a beginning. There is no branch of science or field of study or area of thought which is not based on causality. We perceive the world around us through the eyes of causality. We perceive what is and look for what caused what is. We do not question that what is must have had a cause. We do not question either that what will be, will be caused by and follow what is. But causality pre-supposes the existence of a flow of time.

But there is no philosophy or theology or science which can explain

  1. what time is, and
  2. what causes time to flow

One could say that it is the existence of the flow of time which brings about causality. Causality is itself caused by time.

“Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause. (It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God). That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because, in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything like the vitality it used to have; but, apart from that, you can see that the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity. I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: ‘My father taught me that the question, “Who made me?” cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question, “Who made God?” ’ That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, ‘How about the tortoise?’ the Indian said, ‘Suppose we change the subject.’ The argument is really no better than that. There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause.”  Bertrand Russel – 1927

Time, or space-time nowadays, is sometimes considered as a river. The analogy with fluid flow does not help greatly and only raises further questions. Fluids flow (over time and space) as a causal consequence of forces and energies which are not in balance and which seek balance. Fluids flow from a higher pressure to a lower (in a gas pipeline), from a higher level of potential energy to a lower (in a river) or by being physically forced from one location to another (in a pump or a compressor). In the fluid analogy it is particles of the the fluid which are transported over space and time.

If the flow of time is a river then what exactly is being transported? What then is the imbalance, and in what property or state which causes the transportation of the magical thing called time? Rather than addressing the First Cause, perhaps we should be addressing the First Questions.

What is time? and Why does it flow?

The existence of time precedes beginnings. The flow of time precedes causality. The problem of course is that without time, beginning and precede are undefined.



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