Category Archives: Pure Philosophy

The Time Traveller’s Instantaneous Cube

I offer for consideration a very interesting dialogue from the opening of H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine (Pocket Books, 2004, page 5).  The protagonist begins:

“You know of course that a mathematical line, a line of thickness nil, has no real existence.  They taught you that?  Neither has a mathematical plane.  These things are mere abstractions.”

            “That’s all right,” said the Psychologist.

            “Nor having only length, breadth, and thickness, can a cube have a real existence.”

            “There I object,” said Filby.  “Of course a solid body may exist.  All real things —”

            “So most people think.  But wait a moment.  Can an instantaneous cube exist?”

            “Don’t follow,” said Filby.

            Can a cube that does not last for any time at all, have a real existence?”

            Filby became pensive.

            “Clearly,” the Time Traveller proceeded, “any real body must have extension in four directions, it must have Length, Breadth, Thickness, and —Duration.”

The dialogue points to what is, in my experience, a much overlooked idea: that there is an interesting constraint applied to time by the first three spatial dimensions.  When we look around, we don’t see triangles, we see things that look like triangles.  This is the sort of thinking that led Plato to the idea of universal forms and the allegory of the Cave.  The dialogue points out an interesting question: Supposing that one can obtain, say, a platonic solid, what if it exists only for an instant —that is, no duration at all?  I don’t see this question come up often in the more academic forums; maybe it does and I am just missing it.  Continue reading

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Filed under History of Science, Literature, Philosophy, Philosophy of Physics, Philosophy of Science, Physics, Pure Philosophy

Ontology in the Holographic Cave

I wrote “Ontology in the Holographic Cave” while I was studying at Harvard University.  My goal was to challenge the thinking of Dr. Justin Jungé and Dr. Rosa Cao (both formerly post docs under Daniel Dennett), both of whom are materialists, at least to some extent.  My intention was to sway their opinions toward Transcendental Idealism, however so slightly.  The challenge was unique because of all of the necessary prerequisites, before even entering into the rationale of the argument.  As it was, I had spent nine weeks odiously applying —tongue in cheek— Occasionalism arguments to Hume’s problem of necessary causal connection, through Reichenbach’s work on causality (as in The Direction of Time), just for the sake of illustrating the limits of science that’s embedded in material empiricism.  I think that I amused Dr. Jungé, anyway.  Continue reading

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Filed under Kantian Philosophy, Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Science, Pure Philosophy, Uncategorized