The Lord of Space and Time


Thomas F. Torrance, "The Lord of Space and Time," in Space, Time and Resurrection (Edinburgh: Handsel Press, 1976), 159-193; #1976-331j


Torrance, Thomas F. "The Lord of Space and Time." In Space, Time and Resurrection, 159-193. Edinburgh: Handsel Press, 1976; #1976-331j

Publisher (click to see more)

“Perhaps the first point to note is the basic change in the concept of reality. This has to do with the transition from the earlier concept of reality, which since the days of Galileo and Newton was identified with what is causally necessary and quantifiable, the world of ‘real, mathematical time and space’, as Newton called it, in contrast to ‘the apparent and relative time and space’ of our ordinary experience, to a new concept of reality in which that kind of dichotomy is transcended and in which structure and matter, or the theoretical and empirical components of knowledge, are inseparably one. The older view of reality was one in which its analysed particulars (atoms, particles, etc.) were conceived of as being externally and invariably connected in terms of causes... Such a view, however, began to shatter itself against the actual ‘fact’ of the electro-magnetic field which could not be explained in such a mechanistic way, and since the emergence of relativity theory has had to give way to a profounder and more differential view of reality in which energy and matter, intelligible structure and material content, exist in mutual interaction and interdetermination. This is a dynamic view of the world as a continuous integrated manifold of fields of force in which relations between bodies are just as ontologically real as the bodies themselves, for it is in their interrelations and transformations that things are found to be what and as and when they are. They are to be investigated and understood not by reference to a uniformity of causal patterns abstracted from the actual fields of force in which they exist, but in accordance with their immanent relatedness in the universe and in terms of their own inherent dynamic order.  In such a universe in which form and being and movement are inseparably fused together, things and events are to be explained and interpreted in terms of their ontological reasons, that is by penetrating into what they are in themselves in their interior relations in which they exhibit an intrinsic intelligibility independent of our perceiving and conceiving of them, and thereby discriminate themselves from our scientific constructs and formulations about them. The effect of all this is very far-reaching. It emancipates us from the narrow-minded and cramped way of thinking in which we impose our own abstract patterns upon the universe and rule out of court all possibilities which transgress the prescriptive conditions we have laid down for what is conceivable or real. At the same time it gives rise to a powerful ontology in which the fatal gap between empirical and theoretical concepts is transcended, and in which being is found to be essentially open, requiring open concepts and open structures of thought for its understanding.” (pp. 184-185)