As kind of a chicken or the egg question, does motion come before time?

Doesn’t motion allow time to exist and no motion negate time from existing?

If everything in the universe were completely frozen permanently, never capable of changing in anyway, wouldn’t that obviously mean that time no longer exists?

Someone told me they are two sides of the same coin. But isn’t time simply a measure of things that are moving or changing (motion). Therefore, there is no concept of time without motion correct?

I originally asked this on physics exchange but they considered it a duplicate but I didn’t really get my answer as I looked through the other posts. If someone already has the answer in another post please direct me to it before closing this. Thanks in advance.

Time has been studied by philosophers since ancient times. Platonism, reductionism, and fatalism are examples of these philosophies. In the 19th century JME McTaggart wrote The Unreality of Time. Modern views of time or spacetime are influenced by quantum physics. The current theories are eternalism ,presentism, and the growing block universe. The latter was developed by Broad, and is continued by Tooley and Forrest.

  • Please explain the philosophical significance of your question. Include references to philosophy of time.
    – Meanach
    Nov 25, 2023 at 13:38
  • @Meanach I don’t actually know much information that other philosophers realized about time aside from a few of Einstein’s discoveries. Honestly I’m coming from a musical background, wanting to understand what sound is better, so I’m trying to form an understanding of wether motion or time comes first. E.g, 440hz is 440 cycles per second. This implies that time (in this case seconds) is simply a measure of movement (440 cycles). There are faster and slower movements of sound (220hz, 880hz) and of course, other forms of motion. I wanted to confirm that I am correct so far, and others thoughts.
    – Lecifer
    Nov 25, 2023 at 15:44
  • @Meanach wanting to understand sound better*. I understand that this is both a physics and philosophical question.
    – Lecifer
    Nov 25, 2023 at 15:58
  • 1
    You understand that sound is a mental phenomenon, as is colour and taste, and it does not happen outside of the mind. Curry can not taste Curry, etc Is this what your getting at?
    – 8Mad0Manc8
    Nov 25, 2023 at 16:15
  • 1
    I have edited your question to clarify.
    – Meanach
    Nov 25, 2023 at 16:18

5 Answers 5

  1. The concept of change presupposes the concept of time because change is defined by comparing the state at two different points in time.

    Because you ponder whether the relation of time and change is a chicken or the egg question: Concerning the opposite direction I have no answer from philosophy.

  2. From the viewpoint of Special Relativity time is a derived concept: Time is one component of spacetime and result from splitting the 4 dimensions of spacetime into 4=3+1. The splitting is not canonical.

    Time is a physical quantity which is measured by clocks. But as a basic fact there is no time in the reference system of a photon: The clock does not “click”. Hence the photon cannot use the concept of time to register any change.

  3. I do not know the reason why your question was rejected from physics exchange. There are questions about the proper time of a photon, see proper time for light particle.

  • Does the specific presuppose the abstract? I don't think so. Existence before essence.
    – CriglCragl
    Dec 2, 2023 at 1:15

Your question doesn't have a meaningful answer, because it pre-supposes something that is physically impossible. In effect, what you are asking is what would be the implications for time if we ignore all of the relevant aspects of physics concerning time. My response is that if you consider an entirely imaginary scenario in which the laws of physics do not apply, then there is no way to invoke the laws of physics to provide an answer.

According to mainstream physics of the sort taught in universities (ie ignoring cutting edge speculations) time can best be modelled as a component of four-dimensional spacetime, through which objects move even if they are stationary in space. The reason why you experience gravity, according to that model, is that your are moving on a world-line through curved spacetime. You cannot 'freeze' away gravity, so time remains an essential ingredient in the model just as space does.


If you are talking about physical versus psychological time, the relation between time, motion, and change comes up again and again. In modern physics, of course, we have v = x/t which rewritten is t = x/v. That means, according to physicists, to have time one must have have distances and objects that move. How the mind constructs time is covered by Dennett in his Consciousness Explained. Time by modern physicists is also understood to be relative to the observer and dilates. Now, is time a product of motion or is motion a product of time? This is where physics becomes metaphysical, and one's presuppositions matter.

Here are some related questions that are highly similar:


In physics, in a world with maximum entropy, there's no way to distinguish which way in time is forwards and which way in time is backwards. Atoms and molecules are in motion, but their motion is completely random, and if you reverse the randomness, it still looks completely random. So stillness is not necessary for timelessness.

Of course, you couldn't exist in that world to see it. If you had a God's-eye view into the world, you could see atoms and molecules moving, but you'd have nothing to measure it against. A clock must have low entropy - it must be ordered, predictable, not random.

Entropy always increases, and we don't know why the universe started in a state of low entropy. Forwards in time is the direction that increases entropy - the direction that points away from the beginning of the universe.


See The Science of Timekeeping Application Note 1289 - Hewlett Packard.


Resonant systems (clocks) are the means to specify and measure time. Music is resonance that we hear as sound. So when we specify the frequency of sound we mean it has a numerical ratio to some other resonant system. That is all it means!

Time is primarily psychological - we derive the concept of time and timekeeping technology primarily from our experience of cycles of day and night. Also we associate time with aging and death although the awareness with which we observe time, aging, and death is timeless for the time-being. The awareness that I have at the core of every observation since birth has not changed over time! The experiences available in my personal memory have changed over time!

We count the cycles of day and night and call those memories the tally of days. We divide each day into smaller units associated with the Sun-earth dynamic (motion) and we call those movements "seconds". Then we abstract the idea of seconds and use any resonant or cyclic system to define or redefine the second with more accuracy and precision over time!

In physics everything is a ratio with applied units. Galileo specified elapsed time as so many swings of a pendulum or a volume of water in water clock. Galileo's father found the ratio of string tension to musical pitch using a system of weights:


People think that time is a property of Nature or Reality whereas eternity or timelessness is also a property of Nature or Reality. The concept of an event in physics is based on the exchange of a photon over a distance between two timeless or eternal observers. The matter-energy of the universe is neither created nor destroyed over time and therefore resonance, time, and matter-energy have timeless or eternal properties.

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