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In asking this question many people seemed to think I was talking about time before the big bang. While there are similarities, this is not what I mean.

In quantum mechanics it has been found that time has a minimum duration; that is, Planck’s constant of time

t_P = 5,391,247 x 10^(-44) sec,

and is the time taken for a photon travelling at the speed of light to traverse a distance equal to one Planck length.

To get from point A to point B takes a finite amount of time. But classically ([Zeno][1], etc), that interval may be divided into infinitely.

But time is discrete [QM][2].

If time is discrete, then there must be a classical value that can be smaller than the minimum. This is what I mean by "beyond time".

What exists beyond this limit? What exists at finer measurements than time's minimum? What is beyond time?

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  • Please note that the editor of StackExchange Philosophy cannot process TEX-code. Please compile and copy the value of the Planck-time into the editor.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 21:42
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    Your question is possibly meaningless. Your use of the word 'beyond' might assume properties of time that you have no evidence for. In what sense do you mean 'beyond'? Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 21:47
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    It is a misconception that nothing can be smaller than the Planck length. It is just an order of magnitude where quantum effects are important. physicsforums.com/insights/hand-wavy-discussion-planck-length
    – D. Halsey
    Commented Dec 12, 2023 at 23:52
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    Some idealistic philosophies eg Vedanta take the deep sleep state, the only state where existence is separated from consciousness, as beyond time
    – Rushi
    Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 2:38
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    @JuliusH. To be frank, I'm pushing towards a specific answer, that I have developed but am not confident in proposing, because it is a new and half-formulated idea. In short, it relates to the sense of fluidity that we almost certainly "feel" in life, which I have related the limit of infinite accuracy in the duration of the "moment" we live inside, to consciousness itself. Perhaps I am disingenuous, but while most answers here are helpful, we are mainly saying we don't know. This website does not seem meet for expressing ones own theories, but I wanted to see where philosophy is with this. Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 20:15

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OP: metaphysically, there must be a classical continuation of time beneath this limit.

Indeed, not just metaphysically. Planck's constant is the smallest possible change of energy. As regards Planck length which is derived from it, from Wikipedia:

The Planck length does not have any precise physical significance, and it is a common misconception that it is the inherent pixel size of the universe.

Presumably that also applies to time.

In the International System of Units (SI) time is defined according to the caesium standard:

The official definition of the second was first given by the BIPM at the 13th General Conference on Weights and Measures in 1967 as: "The second is the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom."

This form of time is tied to local spacetime conditions, e.g. gravity, which if greater would slow down the caesium resonance, relative to a distant observer.

Newton proposed an absolute form of time: Wikipedia:

According to Newton, absolute time exists independently of any perceiver and progresses at a consistent pace throughout the universe.

Einstein said this was unobservable, e.g. Nature, 1937, although physicists have since tried to prove its existence: Einstein, Relativity and Absolute Simultaneity, 2010. The example from Van Flandern of synchronised GPS satellites is the most simple illustration, but the concept may be inapplicable to gravitational singularities in black holes where current physics is incalculable. Indeed conventional time itself is not calculable in the plasma of the Big Bang where there are no resonating atoms. So my first reply to "could there beyond time be consciousness? What is beyond time?" The origin and nature of the Big Bang is mystery.

Heidegger's concept of time is altogether different. He is proceeding from a phenomenological basis of subjectivity, as that I of which one can be certain. His 'authentic temporality' is the time proper to the self and its constitution. Dasein is temporal, it holds past [memory], present and projected future and, inasmuch as it is one's life, exists from birth to death. Dasein has authentic time as part of its constitution. I.e. from from Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics, §34. Taft translation. (Alternate Churchill translation here.), original here: p. 189 (with my comments "*")

Time is only pure intuition to the extent that it prepares the look of succession from out of itself ... This pure intuition activates itself with the intuited which was formed in it, i.e., which was formed without the aid of experience. According to its essence, time is pure affection of itself [as in something which affects itself]*. ...

As pure self-affection, time is not an acting [external]* affection that strikes a self which is at hand. Instead, as pure it forms the essence of something like self-activating. However if it belongs to the essence of the finite subject to be able to be activated as a self, then time as pure self-activation forms the essential structure of subjectivity.

Individuals thus actualised can then go on to observe the passing of the days and eventually devise the caesium standard: as ordinary, or 'inauthentic', time. The circular argument is that Dasein must depend on ordinary time, but in the ordo cognoscendi certain experience comes first, then measurements can follow. Heidegger accepts a certain co-arising but nevertheless, authentic time and ordinary time are not considered to be the same. Being, whatever it is, as the basis of experiential existence, takes a back seat as soon as the mind starts observing thoughts and things and beings in authentic time. In my second reply to "could there beyond time be consciousness? What is beyond time?" Before authentic time and the motion of the mind there is that which enables Dasein to be, and that is loosely called by Heidegger, Being. Being is also a mystery.

Pre-conceptual apprehension, to the extent that it is possible would be a form of consciousness beyond authentic time. As Kant referred to it "intuition without thought [gedankenlose Anschauung]", e.g. Kant, Non-Conceptual Content (Dennis Schulting), p.85:

‘intuition without thought [gedankenlose Anschauung]’ would be possible, but it would ‘never [be] cognition, ’ ... ‘One can intuit something without thinking something thereby or thereunder. / All cognitions come to us through thinking, i.e., through concepts; they are not intuitions.’

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  • This is the most coherent and helpful answer here @ChrisDegnen. I was hoping for a perhaps more phenomenological treatment, yet having attempted to amend the question to suit those with concerns, I realised that the answer to my question is not "consciousness" or "being", but that we simply do not know. Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 10:58
  • Phenomenologically, before (or beyond) time, is before deterministic thought. It's all very Zen. Can one apprehend without conceptualisation? Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 22:17
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Related Questions

Finite and infinite temporal duration

https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/711124/does-classical-simple-harmonic-motion-violate-thermodynamics

https://physics.stackexchange.com/questions/707059/relativity-of-simultaneity-in-special-relativity

Time is defined as the inverse of frequency. Every simple harmonic oscillator (SHO) has a discrete frequency specified as a ratio to the frequency of some other SHO. The ratio is computed using the assumption of continuous variables (CV) and we can count fractions and multiples of SHO using CV. So I think we can imagine continuous time (CT) even when it appears there is a natural limit on the highest frequency SHO which would specify the minimum time-base oscillator.

The word eternal has two meanings. Something that persists independent of the passage of time or something that transcends the conception of the passage of time. There is the concept of more than one event happening NOW which is no more specious than the concept of simultaneous events in physics or common-sense perceptions. If we get rid of the concept of NOW, or the eternal-moment, as a specious or wrong concept, then I think one must reject the thought experiments concerning simultaneous events in the discussion of physics. I say the human observer takes itself as eternal in the moment then we imagine the non-existence of human observers and the persistence of nature as if it operates according to our models. This is all mental gymnastics. We assume the models of nature or reality in our mind persist independent of the existence of our mind. We map the attributes in our minds to events and call it nature or attributes of reality.

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Yes, there are things beyond time. It takes time to go from point A to point B in space. The speed is defined as (change in distance)/(change in time). Therefore change in time can be defined as (change in distance)/ (speed). If speed is infinite then change occurs in zero time. Events in zero time are beyond time. This is observed in the case of quantum entanglement. When two electrons are entangled then the information of the collapse of wave function is “transmitted” instantaneously ,no matter how distant the two electrons are. If one electron is measured as up spin then instantaneously other electron is measured with down spin, no matter how many distance apart they are. We can say information of collapse of wave function of one electron is “transmitted “ to other electron in no time. We say, “transmission“ of information of collapse of wave function didn’t take any time.

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  • Power (the rate of performing work) becomes infinite (God Almighty) in the context of a creation event or if we perceive the transfer of finite heat or energy that occurs in zero time! My model for God, Reality, and the Universe is that resonance and power transfer are for all practical human purposes eternal - with no beginning or end in our limited conception of time. If one insists that biology generates psychological experience of God or not-God I argue that this arises because we cannot make a crisp distinction between a moral (human) and non-moral (natural, non-human) source of cause. Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 17:40
  • There are three ways to look at it. There are those who are followers of God. There are those who say God does not exist. And there are those who are against God. It is the synthesis of the above 3 factors which lead to the success or failure of defining what is moral, immoral or non-moral. Good morality takes you to heaven sometimes. Bad morality takes you to hell sometimes. Non-moral acts are just like cause and effect. I used the word sometimes to acknowledge the fact that sometimes Devil can drag good souls to hell. Commented Dec 13, 2023 at 20:24
  • God-as-Creator would be considered to be the ultimate source of our moral sentiments and judgments. But then also Nature-as-Creator would also be considered to be the non-moral source of our moral sentiments and judgments. Baruch Spinoza describes affect (emotion) as a feeling of desire, pleasure, or pain accompanied by an idea of its cause. Heaven is intense persistent pleasure. Hell is intense persistent pain with no ability to identify and eliminate its cause. Emotions arise in the scriptural context indicated by heaven, earth, the heavens and the earth, and this world. Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 1:25
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By trying to measure the "unmeasurable" you end up with numbers. By using numbers you do not measure reality; you just make (your representation of) reality conform to your measurement. Beyond time, is that, that you cannot "account for" what will (be)come. In other words, you measure that, which has a meaning to you; that, which you do not know the meaning of, you cannot measure.

Planck's constant is the frontier of our materialistic view of reality; it's the edge of a meaningful representation of reality; it's the limit of our mathematical understanding of reality; it's as far as we can get in measuring things.

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The Planck limits are set by the typical wavefunction range. We can see separate particles in the current universe. In the very early universe, everything was squashed in a lot tighter. Going back in time, there is a point beyond which every possible wavefunction overlaps with every other possible wavefunction, and talking of particles becomes meaningless.

The Big Bang is often described as the whole universe coming from a dimensionless point. This is not proven, and there are some arguments against. We can say is the universe seems to have come from a very small smudge of time and space given by the Planck dimensions. It's a bit like saying all the matter in a Black Hole goes to a dimensionless point. We can't prove that. There are problems with what happens to the information in the particles that get sucked in. Does everything go to zero entropy? There may be some other physical process that stops the implosion when all the forces we know about have been overcome. But the coming from, and the going to a point is a handy model until something better comes along.

Causality is easier to violate. All the time virtual particles - such as electrons and positrons - appear and disappear. We only get to know they were there if an energetic particle such as a 1 MeV gamma ray knocks them apart before they can recombine. Or we can measure things such as the Casmir force. I am not suggesting that the whole universe popping into existence is the same thing because this is happening within our universe. But this may be the sort of thing that universes do.

This is work in progress. The Higgs Boson exists, but the expansion phase of the universe still needs some explaining. The error of time seems to point in the direction of increasing disorder, but the physical equations are time-symmetric.

Heidegger could have been a bit clearer too.

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According to Relativity an external observer will see time stop for something at the edge of a blackhole, hovering forever at the Event Horizon. So, what use is intuition? It couldn't tell us that, we can barely make sense of it (the Holographic Principle helped), and we are sure we don't have a quantum-gravity for behaviour of space & time at small distances.

To put the Planck Scale into perspective, it's around as small compared to us, as we are to the entire universe.

And the biggest part of understanding Quantum Mechanics is, how would you know? What signals can come from such a tiny region? If a system can be completely isolated, it behaves as a quantum superposition. We have a Decoherence Limit mainly because of thermal photons escaping that spread information and act as measurements. Being massless photons are generally the smallest possible unit of information that can escape, but they are gigantic compared to the Plank Scale unless they have energy of the scale of the Big Bang. We can only infer indirect knowledge of the smallest scales, from high energy events.

What leading theorist Nima Arkani-Hamed calls dramatically 'The Doom Of Spacetime' is a set of reasons to think spacetime is not fundamental. Approaches like Loop Quantum Gravity are testing out pictures of time as emergent. Bryce DeWitt of the Wheeler–DeWitt equation which is the furthest confirmed physics has got towards quantum-gravity, said:

"Other times are just special cases of other universes."

It's like time results from a kind of Markov-chain of specific measurements coming from the soup of possibilities.

In summary, we don't know, but intuition is a terrible guide. Choose physics instead.

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  • What is beyond time? Each instant of time! The concept of an instant of time is both intuitive and formalized in our mathematical models. Choose physics means nothing if you don't understand the intutions and concepts as applied in The Calculus. If you understand the assumptions in The Calculus you begin to comprehend that each instant of time is timeless or beyond time! Ancient and modern math has the concept of a continuous variable composed of points and discrete values assigned to points on the continuum. Does the universe make time in discrete (quantum) increments or not? Commented Dec 14, 2023 at 19:09
  • @SystemTheory: We don't know, because we don't have a quantum-gravity theory. But, if as seems likely time is emergent rather than fundamental, the answer could well be that the question is meaningless. The quantum world is generally about the flow of information, Noether's theorem identifies dimensions with symmetries under continuous transformation. I'd suggest the symmetry of time is conservation of information, which is a continuous pattern, but it is observed through quantum events which are discrete.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Dec 15, 2023 at 17:28

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