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LACUNAE, INTRINSIC METRICS, TEMPORAL ISOCHRONY AND CLOCKS One difference between the relationalist and the substantivalist is their attitudes toward the possibility of temporal lacunae , or gaps in time. We are asked to image that time could stop for a while, and then restart. It would be as if everything ceased to move or change for a time, and then started up again. There was a novel published a number of years ago called The Fermata , by Nicholson Baker, in which the protagonist was able to stop time around him, while he was free to move about. (Mostly, he used this talent to undress women.) Now, this is problematic, for a number of reasons. Since he was unaffected by the stoppage, did time really stop? Or did he just cause everyone else to simply freeze? Both would be difficult, to say the least. But let’s just imagine the stopping applying to everyone and everything. Is this still a coherent notion? There are, again, two ways of describing this. One, time stops for a while, and then restarts, and two, all physical processes stop for a while, time goes on, and then those process start up again. The first, I argue, is nonsensical. To see this, ask yourself, “how long would the lacuna last?” If time stopped, then no time would pass between the stop and the restart, so there would be no temporal gap, i.e., no lacuna. In the second case, what could possibly stop, and then restart all physical processes? There is a “first mover problem” here. What would cause the restart? And how would we avoid conservation of energy problems? Another novel that brings up a different slant on absolute time is Spin, by Robert Charles Wilson. It tells of an event in which unknown forces place the Earth in a “baggie”, blocking off all light and signals from beyond low Earth orbit, and “slowing down time” inside the baggie. For example, mere moments after this event, three Russian cosmonauts come through the baggie and crash land on earth, and tell a story of how they spent the three weeks figuring out what to do and how to do it. At another point, biological material is sent in a rocket to Mars, and in a few years on Earth, but after millions of years on Mars, humanoid creatures evolve, and an ambassador is sent back to Earth. Now, this is an odd thing for time to do. What sort of view of time would you have to have to make
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This note was uploaded on 02/14/2011 for the course PHIL 124c taught by Professor Humphrey during the Spring '11 term at UCSB.

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