Article

The Possibility of Discrete Time

Jean Paul Van Bendegem

in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time

Published in print April 2011 | ISBN: 9780199298204
Published online September 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199298204.003.0007

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

The Possibility of Discrete Time

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This chapter examines the possibility of discrete time. At first sight, the answer seems trivial, but actually, it raises a number of interesting questions, both philosophical and scientific. First, the chapter explains what interpretations of discrete time are not considered. Then, it addresses two key philosophical problems: if there are such things as chronons, smallest “bits” of time, do they have extensions and can a distance function, that is, a duration, be defined on them? Second, the chapter discusses the relation between discrete time and discrete space, showing that the former implies the latter. Thus, with applications in mind, both time and space are to be seen as discrete. This leads, third, to the hardest problem of all: whether discrete time is applicable in physical theories.

Keywords: discrete time; chronons; distance function; discrete space; physical theory

Article.  9834 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Science ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic

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