# ST AUGUSTINE ASKS: HOW THICK IS THE PRESENT?

Philosophy deals with so many difficult questions, many of them fraught with paradoxes. It's easy to think "There must be an answer. Perhaps I can figure it out." That's the hook that draws you in.

Here's an example of one coming from a very unlikely source: St. Augustine in his Confessions, Book 11. While he is mostly associated with religion, he seems to have been the first to ask a question that puzzles not just philosophers but physicists even today. The question is...

How long is the present?

A piece of paper exists because it has a thickness. If it had no thickness at all, it couldn't exist. So any piece of paper, no matter how thin, has SOME thickness even if it's the thickness of a single molecule.

The past no longer exists and the future doesn't exist yet, so the present, logically, must have some duration in order to exist at all. How long is the present?

Think about that for a while. If you're the least bit obsessive, it will bother you.

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### Replies to This Discussion

Vonnegut's definition of death: "becoming stuck in time."

"Hmmm, writing all that doesn't make me feel any smarter, yet..."

No, but it does make you seem smarter, which is the goal of all Internet conversations.*

*See how much smarter I appear after typing all that BS. :)

How long is the present?

What if this question is like asking what love sounds like? If we take time to be a fourth dimension, the present is a point.

But points don't exist in reality. They are a mathematical abstraction.

Zeno's Paradox strongly implies (to me) that it's impossible in reality to pinpoint the smallest period of time, just as it's impossible to comprehensively describe infinity, without "outside" context... or at least not without a newly defined dimension for larger context.

Maybe a fifth dimension. Or 11th?

Whoops, and I just now realized matt's use of the word "point" needn't be taken so mathematically literally, in our context. Any "point" in time just requires context to be properly defined and understood. How long is a "moment" of time?

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