Philosophy too has no conclusion on ‘What is Time’. Philosophy often manages conjecture about Time’s nature where there is no empirical evidence to back this conjecture up (Plato, Newton and the absolutism and substantivalism views). Or conjecture is often about the impacts of or perceptions of time, rather than the nature of time itself.
Aristotle made a direct link between Time and Change. ‘Time is not a kind of change, but that it is dependent on change’ (Ursula Coope Time for Aristotle, 2006) . No one can deny that change is empirically evidenced, objective reality, we see it all around us. Aristotle was on to something.
And Leibniz viewed that ‘space and time are not so much things in which bodies are located and move as systems of relations holding between things’ (Mcdonough, Leibniz’s Philosophy of Physics, Stanford, 2019)
Although Leibniz doesn’t specifically tell us what time and space are such that he can make this assertion (a common theme with time and space – to use the word in the context of attempting to explain it, but basing assertions on it anyway).
But he also claims, ‘space and time themselves must be considered abstractions or idealizations with respect to those relations’. (Mcdonough, Leibniz’s Philosophy of Physics, Stanford, 2019). So at least he isn’t demanding acknowledgment of a tangible entity whose existence is without empirical evidence.
McTaggert doesn’t believe in the reality of time. His diagnosis is more about perception of time than a desire to pursue the nature of time. The A and B series proposes temporal relationships, and intricate diagnosis of these relationships, but doesn’t actually get close to a true explanation of the nature of time. It does interplay between time and change though, and is a distinction between types of event series. The relationship between change (events) and time is underpinned.
Frankly, I find it hard to bother with some ‘philosophical’ views or theories e.g., Presentism, Externalism and Growing Block Theory. Where is the empirical evidence? So what?
Despite the good start by Aristotle (if only he had understood dimensions and mass nouns), Philosophy does seem to have got lost in time.
If not Science nor Philosophy, where to turn?
If neither science nor philosophy can actually put their finger on “What is Time?” then it is back to basics.
What evidence do we have? We have a vague illusive sense of something ‘flowing’; illusive and indeterminate. But look closely; all we observe to indicate ‘time passing’ is change happening.
With no evidence to suggest time has a separate existence ,i.e. is a tangible ‘thing’, time is then just a word, a badly defined one at that. Until we have agreed what the word’s definition is, we can’t speculate about its nature nor make assertions about what it can or can’t do.
We are left with nothing more than a simple word and its various uses. “What is time?” is first and foremost a semantic problem. We must define the word precisely – what do we collectively mean by the word time?
Here we define the two core, dictionary derived meanings of time. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, from these definitions, and a little logical analysis, time is wholly explainable; simply and succinctly. It shows that time is abstract, and change is the objective reality.