How is time different from math? Is time a part of math?

For me time is like math rather than a "real" thing. Time is just a tool rather than a "fundamental thing".

I feel confident saying that an object like my computer exists outside of my brain, but I am not comfortable saying time exists outside of my mind. It is just like math which is a tool we use to understand the real world like information processing.

So with all I have said, I want to ask if I am wrong and if so why?

Edit: Some of you say that time is a dimension and is very real some mention spacetime but my point is that time ia just like a name we use to describe behaviour of what we see which are energy and matter interactions, time is like language a word we use to have a frame of reference in order to be more precise when we predict the future so animals don't see time they only see the interactions of stuff but we in order to measure those interactions more precisely have invented the concept of time. Well at least that is how I think, suggestions are always welcomed I am open minded. So im open to someone that gives me a good reason regarding that time is real like matter or energy rather than a concept we created.

  • "I want to ask if I am wrong and why." No fallacy commited - not wrong. At least until there is no physical proof of the opposite. You are not the first who believes the time just a tool, like math. McTaggart held somewhat like this position.
    – rus9384
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 23:39
  • How about color? Do you "feel comfortable" saying that it exists outside or is it also "like math"? This does not have to be either/or by the way, see secondary qualities, and level of comfort is a poor guide to deciding such things. The idea that time is our way of organizing experience, and that part of math (arithmetic) is derived from it, is famously associated with Kant, see SEP article.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 0:44
  • I made some edits. You are welcome to roll these back or further edit. You may see the edits by clicking on the "edited" link above my avatar. One reason to edit is to add more context to your question or a reference to strengthen it should you find any. For example, have you read someone who thought something similar to what you are asking? Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 0:47
  • @Conifold, how can you argue math (mathematical objects) is not secondary (or even primary) quality of something? Take numbers, for example. If there are 10 apples on the table, it is a primary quality of the collection of apples.
    – rus9384
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 1:17
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    @Mr.Kennedy, debatable, because relativity does not describe our universe completely.
    – rus9384
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 8:58

5 Answers 5


Any reconciliation between quantum field theory and general relativity is going to have to find a notion of time they can share, that is a notion of time (and space) that is quantised rather than continuous.

This video lays out the core issues: 'Timeless Explanation: A New Kind of Causality, Julian Barbour' https://youtu.be/1ogiQ2E6n0U We cannot expect there to be absolute space and time.

There are two main candidates. Loops quantum gravity with spin networks. And M theory with strings.

Mathematics is just abstraction, another way of saying language or thought. It is only as good as the abstractions are accurate. The universe always has the last word. So you ask, is time more fundamental than abstraction. Clearly no, because time is an abstraction. But, whatever the universe is and has, us more fundamental than both.

Could tge subjective experience of time be an artifact of consciousnesses need to order events, is a more interesting question.

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    Great answer I see time as an abstraction which is not more special than temperature and i find more "real, natural, coherent with reality" thinking in terms of a chemical reaction rather than time
    – Fuel
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 13:51

Time is a very perception-based thing. The human brain is taught that time flows by in certain time forms, but time is not something that was basely "defined" by humans.

Math is something static. It's man made and everything has a definitive answer, but time exists out of a definitive answer. Space and time will always exist. It is what makes up everything in existence. "Time" is just the word itself to describe the action of things happening. If time did not exist, neither would we. Without time we wouldn't be able to think, thus be.

Most likely like you put it:

Object like my computer

Doesn't exist, unless you would define spacetime and the idea of perception as an object. So I would say you are wrong to say math is like time. The time we have defined is not the realistic representation of time, but merely a way for us to track it in a certain way.

  • I made some edits which you may roll back or continue editing. You can see the versions by clicking on the "edited" link above. If you have references or quotes from them that would strengthen your answer and give the reader a place to go for more information. Welcome to this SE! Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 13:46
  • Thank you for the welcoming, I believe there is no need for rollbacks since you pretty much just formatted the text into a bit more readable format, I will look into some references and quotes thank you for the suggestion.
    – Veraen
    Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 6:21

Time is real as a dimension. You have length, breath and height as the mathematical dimensions. However, your dimensions keep changing from your birth till death. This means that for any person, place or thing to exist, at least an instant in the time frame is required. You can't say that the person existed with so and so dimensions for zero time period. At least an infinitisimal period of time is required for anything to exist. Practically and mathematically, time is real. Only its measurement changes with the frame of reference (movement towards or in opposite direction) or the frame of inertia (Earth, space or any other planet depending on the Gravity). Conclusion: Time is both, real and mathematical, but it is also variable and streatchable (based on frame of reference and Gravity).


Math, I believe, is more consistent than time. Time is defined by humans, and humans' choices of what to call a "day" can change with time and location. Even if everyone on the planet were to agree that one night-day cycle was to be called "a day", what happens if we were to be transplanted to another star system where the planet went around the sun every five minutes?

Math, on the other hand, stays the same wherever you are. One marble on Earth is the same as one marble on Tatooine.

  • That is exactly what i mean, at least now i know that im not the only one that thinks in that way, time is just a tool to make approximate calculations
    – Fuel
    Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 0:11
  • The passage of time and the calculations/definitions of it can be different. I'm quite tired currently, so I'm not going to go into depth now.
    – NoName
    Commented Jul 28, 2018 at 2:37
  • Mathematics also has different definitions. I've seen "natural numbers" to mean both positive integers and non-negative integers at different times. Math papers typically spend some space laying out the definitions in use. Also, the scientific unit of time (the second) is carefully defined in a way that makes it measurable anywhere. It could be measured on Earth, or Tatooine, or Arisia, or anywhere you like that has the appropriate lab equipment. Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 18:27

From 2+2=4 to Fermat's Last Theorem, mathematics has nothing to do with time. Physicists do mathematical calculations about time intervals, but there is nothing about time that is actually built into the mathematics that they use.

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