Julian Barbour, author of The End Of Time, is a moron. His so-called configuration space has been around for generations; it's a mathematical space, a phase space in physics -- abstractions. Fundamental to his thinking is the notion of NOW. All the possible configurations among all the particles and forces that go to make up this universe -- singular, non-parallel -- just happen, empty of our usual notion of change: events occurring in some sequence activated by motion.
But if true, how does he get from one NOW to the next? And what set of configurations forming that next NOW make sense and make it a possibility, let alone a necessity? Discontinuous static slabs of NOWS stacked on top of one another, sliced thin, yet not thin enough to freeze motion, process, without which we'd have no universe. There has to be a connection. Time is the energy of motion, and motion is the energy of time.
Contingency plays a part in all this. Would a future contingency open up -- perceivable on some level -- if events were constricted to the configuration space of NOW? Is there no pressure put forth onto a future possibility by the reality of a moving present? On the flip side, can NOW be construed as a mere stepping stone from a past slab to a future one?
Time, backed by motion, gives direction. According to Barbour, we live in a directionless universe, randomly actualizing configurations, no backwards, no forwards -- anything goes. But the universe has an asymmetric proclivity built-in, a gradient potential of space itself, the fourth dimension of space being time. An initial vibration goes off in a direction, rates of change and the how of it, an equal partner, set the parameters, establish the internal structure, making it conducive to life. Life is not an accident, and without infinitesimal changes of direction just so, our universe would not be a life-verse.
Time is the Life gradient. A space dimension turned on edge. And without time, there are no NOWS. Asymmetry leans into a set of possibles, into a future; we lean with it, making choices. We can't make choices or entertain the idea of free will or self without time sequencing its ragged steps through the course of our lives.
If NOW is all there is, then we owe no allegiance to relationships co-developed and refined -- a friendship -- cultured by the vicissitudes of life. We can suspend all such ties to friends and loved ones for the sake of the moment, the moment being all there is. From Barbour's naive and self-serving point of view, relationships occur only in the present. But, a static slice is not a relationship -- a whole unto itself -- there must be one and other. Outside of pure geometry, static relationship is an oxymoron.
Love The One You're With was a popular song in my youth, and, I must say, I took advantage of its message, its selfish philosophy, convinced as I was that the present NOW was not only all there is but all that needs attention. Relationships created soley in the enveloped space of the present drew their existence and meaning from nothing, from the air, as a celebration of life. Detached from anything that had gone before, I was free to play the callous fool.
Yeah, I know about that philosophy. No need to stand up for anything except your own personal sense of freedom to act and be in the here and now. It's very deceptive, sounding as it does like a healthy, life-oriented way to be. But there are catches to it, severe consequences to following it. Total impulse and self-indulgence are allowed, complete self-absorption. Why not? You can configure the bejesus out of anyone you can persuade into agreeing with you. And if others don't see that the present is all there is, then that's their tough ignorance. Their morality happens only inside their heads, and as such, can be dismissed as mere present fabrication of thought and nothing more. That's what I believed and fashioned a philosophy of freedom around.
If there is only NOW, there is no past to feel obligated to, no other person to consider, no feelings of others that need be worried about, no history you need own up to. It happened; it's over; and NOW is all we have to concern ourselves with.
Of course we always live in the present, we can't help but do so. But ties that bind and give meaning to our lives are continuations along linear trajectories, whether this linear time exists soley in our minds or in physical reality. NOW is not all there is when it comes to life; life cannot be artificially segmented into nice neat horizontal slices.
But, I digress.
Newtonian time is absolute, a stream running in the background against which the play of events unfolds according to physical laws of mechanics. Einsteinian time is relative, relative rates of change depending on local circumstances pertaining to acceleration and gravity. Static time -- configuration spaces of eternal NOWS -- cannot be. A universe devoid of movement, motion, is inconceivable.
Timeless comes at death -- the true end of time.