Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
How This Ends

"How small a fraction of all the measureless infinity of time is allotted to each one of us; an instant, and it vanishes into eternity. How puny, too, is your portion of all the world's substance; how insignificant your share of all the world's soul; on how minute a speck of the whole earth do you creep."
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
"We are thrown away
 In the house you made
 I don't pretend
 I know how this ends
 And I'll never say that everything's alright
 That when we're gone we'll sleep with satellites"
- Blue Stahli, "Throw Away"
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On Tue, 6 Oct 2009 15:20:21 -0400, "Noel Munson" wrote:
>
> Stephen Hawking is stepping down as the Chair of Cambridge
> mathematics department.  He reached the age limit.
>
> While I’m a fan of his celebrity and ideas, I’ve been bugged
> by a response he gave to an interview question.
>
> The question was: “What came before the Big Bang?”
>
> He felt the question was meaningless, he compared the
> nonsense inherent in the question by asking another,
> which was: "What lies north of the North Pole?"
>
> I thought as the only philosopher I know, you may have a
> better ability to articulate why I’m bothered by the
> mechanical “does not compute” exploding robot head nature
> of his response.
>
> BTW, I think the answer to the North Pole question should
> be “The rest of the Universe.”
>
> Noel Munson


Congratulations to him on living long enough for that.

I think the nature of his response perhaps relates to the Kantian notion that both space and, particularly, time are "categories" through which humans filter experience. I.e. "before" is a concept that might or might not have applicability. I may or may not have the right end of the stick here, but if time couldn't really be said to exist before the Big Bang, then asking what came before is - while not quite meaningless - a bit like following an axis where it doesn't go. "North" is a concept that only applies on the surface of the Earth. If you exit that frame of reference, "north" becomes meaningless. I wonder if perhaps Professor Hawking was saying that "before" the Big Bang, we are not "in time" - in the same way that if you are not on the surface of the Earth, you are not "in" the system of cardinal directions - so asking what came "before" is no more meaningful than asking which way is north from deep space.

I think a validation of Hawking's answer was probably not what you were looking for. Nonetheless, that's my take on it - or at least what springs to mind.

Finally, even if time as an absolute, or physical, phenomenon existed before the Big Bang - how real is "time" when nothing is happening, and no consciousness exists to mark it?

Finally finally, I go back to Kant, who insists that time really is - not quite subjective - but neither is it an objective aspect of reality. We know from general relativity that time is, at the very least, a malleable concept. And my own intuition is that we understand time - or, "temporality" as I tend loftily to call it - very, very poorly as yet.

Michael


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about
close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

You can reach him on .

THE MANUSCRIPT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
PANDORA'S SISTERS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
DON'T SHOOT ME IN THE ASS, AND OTHER STORIES by Michael Stephen Fuchs
D-BOYS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
COUNTER-ASSAULT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book One - Fortress Britain, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Two - Mogadishu of the Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Genesis, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Three - Three Parts Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Four - Maximum Violence, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Five - EXODUS, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Six - The Horizon, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs

ARISEN, Book Seven - Death of Empires, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eight - Empire of the Dead by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : NEMESIS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Nine - Cataclysm by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Ten - The Flood by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eleven - Deathmatch by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Twelve - Carnage by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Thirteen - The Siege by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Fourteen - Endgame by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Fickisms
ARISEN : Odyssey
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