In reading about the theories of time, they do not seem to link time to the physicality of events.

All events are locked into change of physical objects, in relation to location. One can describe the death of a president like Kennedy, but it is locked into its location no matter the linguistic labels one puts on it.

The event recedes in time as we move forward. In relativity, time duration changes for each individual relative to their velocity, but the experience of events stays the same in terms of location.

So I wonder how B-theorists can claim time is not absolute, given the physicality of events and existence. Without time, movement cannot take place, as there is no distinction from being in one location or another. Without time there is no velocity or acceleration, no change, just eternal stasis.

Abstraction. In the world of ideas it is always possible to abstract things to the point where they do not reflect the world we live in. So I look for connection to ideas, that help give me insight to existence.

We all though carry faith positions, assumptions about the world and biases against certain points of view that would effect us radically if we shifted. Time and its passing is a clear reality to our existence, cause and effect, the order of events in the physical world. So any position that tries to overthrow this, needs to have something very substantial to move it.

It is this I am looking for. But maybe this is an impossible task. But then I would ask, does this not suggest, things are actually as they appear to be.

I watched a video where Simultaneity was explained. In summary the idea is 3 events happen. A light beam is sent from A to B and from B to A. 1. Leave A, 2. Arrive at B, 3. Arrive back at A. The proposition is viewing this transaction from another participant event 2 can happen before event 1. But this means the light beam going from 1 to 2 travels back through time, which is impossible. So I do not see how this model works or is correct, because the events are linked by the travelling light beam, and light cannot travel back through time.

It seems to me, that simultaneity implies events can appear to an observer to change order, but they do not actually. It is an implied view of a present moment experienced across the universe. So B-theory is a proposition, but must exist to serve a purpose rather than the A-theory which matches our known universe. Wonder if this is a theist non-theist debate?

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    After a quick read-through of the Wikipedia-article on B-theory of Time, it appears that relativity — that you reference — actually supports and speaks for the B-theory of Time. You seem to invoke it as an argument against it. Maybe you should try to reconcile that particular point and then you will have your answer.
    – MichaelK
    May 9, 2018 at 13:05
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    shrugs If you are looking on a lecture on B-Theory of Time simply because you have not delved deep enough into the foundation of the theory, I do believe this is not the forum for it.
    – MichaelK
    May 9, 2018 at 13:19
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    I am asking a simple question. A event in time is linked to a physical change, which cannot be moved. Claiming that there is some answer in a lecture is not an answer. A present event can never be the same as a past event, because of the physical contexts in which they occur. One can invent a framework or universe where this could happen, but this is not our reality, which philosophy is attempting to describe. The great thing about ideas, the simpler they are the more profound an impact they have.
    – PeterJens
    May 9, 2018 at 13:38
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    That is not a simple question. B-Theorists have their arguments for their claim. Your question is "I don't understand their arguments.... so how can they claim it?". So you are asking us to (re-)lecture you on The B-Theory of Time.
    – MichaelK
    May 9, 2018 at 13:59
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    What exactly is "the argument"? One can define velocities and accelerations in B-theory just as one can define slopes and curvatures for static curves. "Time and its passing is a clear reality to our existence", yes, and so are illusions and hallucinations. It is not clear from the post what you think the difference between A and B theories is, indeed one of the current positions is that there is none, except in verbiage.
    – Conifold
    May 9, 2018 at 22:48

2 Answers 2


"I wonder how B-theorists can claim time is not absolute, given the physicality of events and existence.

The claim is that physicality and existence are not absolute. This claim must accompany the claim that time is not absolute if either is to be coherent. Then we have to start thinking in terms of Manifest/unManifest rather than Existence/nonExistence.

"Without time, movement cannot take place, as there is no distinction from being in one location or another. Without time there is no velocity or acceleration, no change, just eternal stasis."

Exactly! Here we have Parmenides unchanging reality. If time is not absolute then neither is change or motion. Hence doctrines that deny the true reality of time must agree with the Buddhist or Perennial proposition that nothing really exists or ever really happens.

This is not a denial of the evidence of our sense but an explanation for it. We know that our usual idea of time is paradoxical, (cf McTaggert, Weyl, Zeno et al), and the reason would be that it is a mistake to reify it. It ceases to be paradoxical when we cease to reify it.

Time and space must be reduced for a fundamental theory so in metaphysics we have no choice but to say goodbye to time and space. Kant saw this and many others. The view is considered 'mystical' since it is endorsed by the mystics. If we could prove the metaphysical existence of time we could falsify the Perennial philosophy. As it is we cannot make sense of time when we reify it, which is surely telling.


The most prominent B-theorist of time was Stephen Hawking, no small mind. A quick read of his work will reveal his treatment of these various objections. I suppose it would be a simple matter simply to re-define "motion" according to "the true meaning" of time: just another dimension, like length, width, and height.

Another B-theorist was the protagonist of "Slaughterhouse Five" by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. But I think that character was actually crazy.

  • The most prominent B-theorist of time was Stephen Hawking This strikes me as an odd-claim. The A-theory and B-theory were proposed by McTaggart, 19th century oxford Hegelian. They are largely just terms used in philosophy. Can you provide references where Stephen Hawking calls himself a B-theorist about time?
    – virmaior
    May 9, 2018 at 23:48
  • I can't provide a reference where Hawking specifically describes himself as a B-theorist. However, in the 1991 documentary about his life to date, A Brief History of Time, Hawking discusses the possibility that the universe had no beginning, no moment of creation. "If one goes back in time one comes to the big bang singularity where the laws of physics breaks down but there is another direction in which time can go which avoids the singularity this is called the imaginary direction of time. In imaginary time there may not be any singularities which form the beginning or the end to time."
    – DJohnson
    May 10, 2018 at 13:37

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