Foundations of Physics

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 607–617 | Cite as

Relativity and the status of becoming

  • Milič Čapek


The merging of space and time proposed by Minkowski in 1908 is still sometimes misinterpreted as a sort of four-dimensional hyperspace of which time is the fourth dimension, analogous to the other, spatial dimensions. An inevitable consequence of this view is that the future events somehow exist prior to, and independently of, human awareness and that what we call “becoming” is “merely a coming into our awareness” (A. Grünbaum). However, an attentive inspection of the space-time diagram and of Minkowski's formula for the constancy of the world interval shows that the events contained in the absolute future of any frame of reference areintrinsically unobservable not only within this system, but also by any other conceivable observer: consequently, there is no reason to postulate their existence.


Spatial Dimension Future Event Inevitable Consequence Human Awareness Fourth Dimension 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    D. Williams, “The Myth of Passage,” inJ. Philos. 48, 457 (1951); reprinted inThe Philosophy of Time, ed. by Richard Gale (Anchor Books, New York, 1967), pp. 98–116.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    D. Park, “The Myth of Passage of Time,” inThe Study of Time, ed. by J. T. Fraser, F. C. Haber, and G. H. Muller (Springer Verlag, Berlin, 1972), pp. 110–121.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    W. Quine,Word and Object (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1967), p. 160.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    A. Grünbaum,Philosophical Problems of Space and Time (Knopf, New York, 1963), pp. 321–329.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    H. Putnam,J. Philos. 64, 240 (1967), esp. p. 246.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    E. Meyerson,La déduction relativiste (Paris, 1925), pp. 99–100; M. Čapek, “Einstein and Meyerson on the Status of Becoming in Relativity,” inActes du XIe Congres International d'Histoire des Sciences (Varsovie, 167), I, pp. 131–139.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    M. Čapek, “The Myth of Frozen passage,” inBoston Studies in the Philosophy of Science, II (Humanities Press, New York, 1965), pp. 441–463, esp. pp. 446–448.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    C. W. Rietdijk,Phil. Sci. 1968, 23, 341.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    H. Reichenbach,The Philosophy of Space and Time (Dover, New York, 1956), p. 149. (Cf. p. 175 of the original German edition,Die Philosophie der Raum-Zeit-Lehre, Berlin, 1928.)Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    P. Langevin, “Le temps, l'espace et la causalité dans la physique moderne,” inBull. de la société française de philosophie, séance du 19 octobre 1911.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    A. Einstein, “Autobiographical Notes,” inAlbert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, ed. by P. A. Schilpp (Library of Living Philosophers, Vol. VII, Evanston, 1949), p. 61.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    M. Čapek,Philosophical Impact of Contemporary Physics, 2nd paperback ed. (Van Nostrand, 1969), Appendix II.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    H. Stein,J. Philos. 65, 15 (1968).Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    A. A. Robb,The Absolute Relations of Space and Time (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1921), pp. 7, 12–13.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    H. Bergmann,Der Kampf um das Kausalgesetz in der jungsten Physik (Braunschweig, 1929), p. 15.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    H. Margenau,J. Philos. 64, 714 (1967).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Milič Čapek
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyYale UniversityNew Haven

Personalised recommendations