Relativity and the Problem of Space (Part 4)



NOTE: Einstein’s statements are in italics. My understanding follows in bold.

“What do we mean by rendering objective the concept of time? Let us consider an example. A person A (‘I’) has the experience ‘it is lightning’. At the same time the person A also experiences such a behaviour of the person B as brings the behaviour of B into relation with his own experience ‘it is lightning’. Thus it comes about that A associates with B the experience ‘it is lightning’. For the person A the idea arises that other persons also participate in the experience ‘it is lightning’. ‘It is lightning’ is now no longer interpreted as an exclusively personal experience, but as an experience of other persons (or eventually only as a ‘potential experience’). In this way arises the interpretation that ‘it is lightning’, which originally entered into the consciousness as an ‘experience’, is now also interpreted as an (objective) ‘event’. It is just the sum total of all events that we mean when we speak of the ‘real external world’.

“We have seen that we feel ourselves impelled to ascribe a temporal arrangement to our experiences, somewhat as follows. If b is later than a, and c later than b then c is also later than a (‘sequence of experiences’). Now what is the position in this respect with the ‘events’ which we have associated with the experiences? At first sight it seems obvious to assume that a temporal arrangement of events exists which agrees with the temporal arrangement of the experiences. In general and unconsciously this was done, until skeptical doubts made themselves felt.  In order to arrive at the idea of an objective world, an additional constructive concept still is necessary: the event is localized not only in time, but also in space.

“In the previous paragraphs we have attempted to describe how the concepts space, time and event can be put psychologically into relation with experiences. Considered logically, they are free creations of the human intelligence, tools of thought, which are to serve the purpose of bringing experiences into relation with each other, so that in this way they can be better surveyed. The attempt to become conscious of the empirical sources of these fundamental concepts should show to what extent we are actually bound to these concepts. In this way we become aware of our freedom, of which, in case of necessity, it is always a difficult matter to make sensible use.” ~ Albert Einstein


An experience becomes “objective” to the degree it moves beyond personal experience and becomes a widely shared experience. But all that one needs to do to move beyond personal experience is to get rid of personal filters – bias, prejudice, fixed idea, assumption and blind faith. As these filters are removed one’s experience becomes “objective”.

The “real external world” is the sum total of all events. The experience of the sequence of events determines the experience of time. However, the sequence of events may be experienced differently at different locations because of the finite speed at which light travels. In order to arrive at the idea of an objective world one must experience the events in both space and time together.

Objectivity requires that a logical consistency must be maintained among conceptual relationships, while ensuring continuity among physical relationships. Subjectivity is introduced when assumptions are made that violate the requirement of continuity and consistency.

Previous: Relativity and the Problem of Space (Part 3)
Next:  Relativity and the Problem of Space (Part 5)


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