14 March 2013

Being v. Becoming, Pt. 8: Where Are We Now?

First of all, I'd like to apologize. This series has gotten a little out of hand. I mean, five long posts on stodgy old A.N. Whitehead's philosophy? Gimme a break. And that little snit I had yesterday? I'm over it. Hope you are too.

Now that's out of the way, I want to take stock. And I promise to keep it short and non-technical—relatively so. So, where are we?

I've been tracing the "adventure of an idea" through history: the history of the idea of flux, or becoming, as the foundation for understanding everything. An archaeology of knowledge, to borrow a term from Michel Foucault. And interestingly, it's come full circle: from a provocative, almost poetic formulation in the fragments of Heraclitus, to its resurrection in the logic and methodologies of Hegel and Marx, to it systematic analysis and presentation in Whitehead's later work. Taking a last-minute detour (because I'm a fiction writer) by applying the general notions of prehension and concrescence to propose a specific theory of fiction.

That's not really a circle, though; it's more like a helix. And that proves instuctive.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, if a metaphysics is to work, it has to account for both rocks and creativity. It can't, like most scientistic, substance-based schemas, bracket inconvenient facts like Life and Consciousness and Thought. Process philosophy claims to give us a unifying paradigm for both inner and outer experience.

So, where are we?

In the early 20th Century, Hermann Minkowski proposed that space and time should not be considered as separate entities, but rather as a four dimensional unity: spacetime. Movement through spacetime could be represented by "world lines".
"...a world line of an object (approximated as a point in space, e.g., a particle or observer) is the sequence of spacetime events corresponding to the history of the object. A world line is a special type of curve in spacetime. ... A world line is a time-like curve in spacetime. Each point of a world line is an event that can be labeled with the time and the spatial position of the object at that time. 
For example, the orbit of the Earth in space is approximately a circle, a three-dimensional (closed) curve in space: the Earth returns every year to the same point in space. However, it arrives there at a different (later) time. The world line of the Earth is helical in spacetime (a curve in a four-dimensional space) and does not return to the same point."
World Line of an Orbital Body
The point being: even if you sit still for a year while the earth revolves around the sun, you don't return to the same place in spacetime.

But, even more, you aren't really sitting still. You only have the illusion of sitting still. The rotational speed of the earth at the equator is over 1,000 mph. It slackens as you approach the poles, but that's beside the point. This rotating rock is travelling around the sun at over 66,000 mph. The sun itself is moving (and taking us earthlings with it) at about 43,000 mph. But even that is relative because the sun and its solar system is orbiting the black hole at the galactic center of the Milky Way at something like 490,000 mph. It's mind boggling. But there's more: the Milky Way and its attendant "local group" cluster is speeding away from the big bang at something like 1.3 million mph.

Vector me that, mathletes!

So, not only are you a verb (or, better, an adverb), you are a time traveller (or, better, a spacetime traveller).

 Changing views of spacetime along the world line of a rapidly accelerating observer. In this animation, the dashed line is the spacetime trajectory ("world line") of a particle. The balls are placed at regular intervals ofproper time along the world line. The solid diagonal lines are the light cones for the observer's current event, and intersect at that event. The small dots are other arbitrary events in the spacetime. For the observer's current instantaneous inertial frame of reference, the vertical direction indicates the time and the horizontal direction indicates distance.
Given that, the question 'where are we now?' seems a silly one.

1 comment:

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Given that, the question 'where are we now?' seems a silly one.

Yeah, because we're all fooked.