Quaker Universalist Voice

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What is Time?

Time’s Arrows: Scientific Attitudes Toward Time by Richard Morris - A Book Review

In R. Morris, Time’s Arrows: Scientific Attitudes Toward Time (1984), the book’s conclusion is that there has not been much new in scientific attitudes toward time in the last half century.  The mystery of time stays about the same.  Time continues -  big, pervasive, and important to human understanding. Time has a history in human thought, with practical consequences for how people live their lives.

Basically, this book is a well-explained history of human ideas about the nature of time.  These historic time ideas include linear time, cyclic time, circular time, natural time, abstract time, finite time, and infinite time, and the metaphors used to describe human understanding of time.  Does time move? Does time move and flow at a certain rate?  Is time stoppable?  Is time reversible? Does time have a beginning?  Does time have an end? Is time independent of events? Does time have a location?  Does time change speed? At the end of the book, the author offers a perspective of informed awe and clearer questions, suggesting that time will disappear as the expanding universe disappears in space. Space and time go hand in hand.

The book does not equitably address ideas about time within the human tradition in Africa and Asia.

This book is a good resource for Quaker teaching of Quaker youth.

Quakers: There is no reference to Quakers in this book. Christianity plays a significant part in the story of the development of ideas of time in western Europe. 

Quakers implicitly teach youth about time in the ideas of progress and the value of service and practice, but Quakers seldom address time explicitly.  The role of time in current Quaker writings is limited to rejecting ideas of an imminent end of time, an idea more common in evangelical Christianity.


  • What is the consequence of clock time for our lives?
  • Is there a particular Quaker perspective regarding the integration of space and time in space/time?
  • How do our current views of time affect our view of time after death?


Time’s Arrows: Scientific Attitudes Toward Time, Richard Morris (Simon and Schuster, 1984)

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