Philosophy



Is Time a Continuum of Instants?


Michael Dummett 

Abstract

Our model of time is the classical continuum of real numbers, and our model of other measurable quantities that change over time is that of functions defined on real numbers with real numbers as values. This model is not derived from reality or from our experience of it, but imposed on reality; and the fit is very imperfect. In classical mathematics, the value of a function for any real number as argument is independent of its value for any other argument: the analogue is Hume's doctrine that events are loose and separate. This makes continuity in the change of any quantity a contingent law of physica, rather than a conceptual necessity. The article explores alternatives to this classical model.