Tallis in Wonderland

Draining the River and Quivering the Arrow

Raymond Tallis against the ‘flow’ and ‘direction’ of time.

Readers with long memories may recall previous articles in which I have argued that placing time on a par with the three dimensions of space as the ‘Fourth Dimension’ misrepresents it, howsoever useful this proves for predicting and manipulating the material world. The idea of time as a dimension analogous to space is particularly tenacious because temporal relations are universally represented as lines (in space). For example, time is the x axis on graphs portraying the unfolding of physical processes; and histories are presented as ‘time-lines’.

The dimension metaphor is so powerful that it can live alongside other quasi-spatial images of time, even though these additional images are at odds with time being thought of as a dimension. Time, we are told, flows; or, if it does not actually flow, is unidirectional – pointing one way rather than another.

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