Relativity and the Problem of Space (Part 4)


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


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”.

Objective concept of time comes from the actual sequence of changes in material dimensions. We needn’t get into a discussion about whether the observed sequence of changes is also the actual sequence of changes. That is a whole another subject. As far as physics is concerned there is parallax of time between two different locations because of the finite speed of light. This parallax of time can be figured out easily.

Objective is that which is perceived directly through physical perceptions. Abstraction of physical events is also objective as long as that abstraction is continuous, harmonious and consistent with the physical perception of those events. The presence of assumptions that introduce discontinuity, disharmony and inconsistency in physical perceptions renders their abstraction subjective.

Einstein’s assumption that there can be unbounded “empty space” cannot be objective because when matter is absent, the dimensions are absent too and there can be no space.

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 sceptical 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 localised not only in time, but also in space.

An event may appear to be localized in time and space but it is continuous, harmonious and consistent with rest of the space and time. This is evident with the phenomena of light that fills the whole space with the vibrations proceeding from that event. 

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.

Physical perceptions and their abstractions are what they are. Our psychological experiences needn’t be any different if we maintain continuity, harmony and consistency in observation and do not introduce assumptions.

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.

Empirically, we are part of the phenomena that we are perceiving. Objectivity is determined by continuity, harmony and consistency between the phenomena observed and the observer.


Earlier notes by Vinaire:

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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