Since Meillassoux’s so-called “arche-fossil” argument against correlationism is so popular with the kids (even though it’s not as essential to the argument of the book itself), I’ve always wondered what sort of philosophical response can one give to the following questions:
1) When did the Big Bang take place?
No, I’m not looking for “14 billion years ago” answer. If time is absolute (Newton), then it is a container that can exist even without any objects in it. Since this is the most popular vision of time, let’s think about it. Ok, we can take 14 billion as a number and count back to the Big Bang (and let’s assume we all agree that space and time were created with the Big Bang, as the theory states). When did the Big Bang take place? At 0 hours, 0 minutes, 0 seconds? Why stop at 0 seconds? Why not get even closer to the moment and say 0 miliseconds and so on… infinitely, of course, because time is (logically) infinitely divisible. Can we think the beginning of time? The very first point of time emerging out of timelessness? No, we cannot! (Try and imagine time before time). I’m not concerned with the details of the physical theory here, I’m concerned with the philosophical explanation of the world before space and time, or of anything before space and time for that matter. Newton, of course, believed in the world being created by God (and so did Leibniz), so it might not have been a real question, but what about all these recent “absolute time” neo-Newtonians claiming that since Kantian theory is incoherent, it must be false and therefore time is not a form of our sensibility, but must be a) a substance, or b) feature of objects.
2) Where did the Big Bang take place?
Leibniz’s sly argument against Newton was the silly but important question – why was universe created here and not a couple of meters over to the right side of the current spot? Before space and time, there was nothing. How can appearance of absolute space and absolute time be explained? Again, philosophically speaking, how are any measurements of space possible without the arbitrary zero of the Cartesian coordinates (what was the philosophical significance of those coordinates). Is space infinite? Have we somehow solved Zeno’s paradoxes (yes, the one with a dude throwing a spear, look it up)? Have I missed it somehow?
For those, by the way, who think that Kant was absolutely clueless vis-a-vis Meillasoux’s ancestral statements, I have a surprise for you (I’m sure someone already mentioned it while dealing with Meillassoux’s “original” argument):
R 4077 (1769): “Space and time precede things; that is entirely natural. Both, namely, are subjective conditions, under which alone objects can be given to the senses. Taken objectively, this would be absurd. Hence the difficulty about the location of the world and time before the world. Yet in absolute time no location is determined without actual things, hence absolute time cannot yield any ground for the explanation of the phaenomenorum. [17:406]*
Not only was Kant aware of the difficulty of thinking the “time before the world” 12 years before CPR, it was part of the discussion between “absolute” and “relative” time camps.
I found Meillassoux’s book to be extremely interesting and well-argued, but I’m slowly growing tired of his philosophical epigones running around and claiming to have debunked Kant’s argument on space/time with a couple of witty remarks and a whole lot of speculative nonsense.
These are thoughts from my head and straight onto this page – anyone interested in helping me think them?
See also, R 4756 (17:699): “Is there an empty time before the world and in the world, i.e., are two different states separated by a time that is not filled through a continuous series of alterations[?] The instant in time can be filled,
but in such a way that no time-series is indicated.”