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"
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.