Special Challenge 769
The Grammar of Spacetime
In Fred Russell’s A Very Brief Meditation on Space and Time, the essay concludes, in part:
“The idea that in absolute as opposed to conceptualized terms we exist in ourselves without reference to anything outside us and also exist in an eternal present [...] may indeed be the most satisfactory way of talking about space and time.”
Does the essay fall into the trap of solipsism, which is an extreme but logical conclusion to George Berkeley’s idealism based on esse est percipi —‘to be is to be perceived’? If not, how does the essay avoid what seems to be an exercise in circular reasoning?
A Bewildering Stories motto: “Everything we perceive comes to us from the past. Everything we do goes into the future.” What does the motto imply about the present? Does the essay seem to agree with the motto or does it discount the very concepts of past and future?
We speak of verbs as having present, past and future tenses, for the sake of convenience. However, no Indo-European language has a true future tense. The Romance languages have evolved what is commonly accepted as one, but its historical roots are in the present. It’s actually a contraction of a late Latin construction: infinitive + the present tense of the auxiliary verb habere. English does something similar to Latin by using the present tense of the modal auxiliary verb “will” + the modal infinitive.
While English verbs can take many different forms, they actually have only two tenses: the present and non-present. Does the structure of language itself seem to differ from or confirm the article’s conclusion? Does grammar reflect or shape our worldview?
What is a Bewildering Stories Challenge?