Word of the day: indexical

I’ve been reading a short, but fascinating, book titled “Seven Brief Lessons On Physics”. In the process, I came across a word which was new to me: indexical.

I have learned that, in linguistics and in philosophy of language, an indexical behaviour or utterance points to (or indicates) some state of affairs. For example, ‘I’ refers to whoever is speaking; ‘now’ refers to the time at which that word is uttered; and ‘here’ refers to the place of utterance.

However, in modern science, a term like ‘now’ is highly problematic. Carlo Rovelli, the author of “Seven Brief Lessons On Physics”, writes: “Physicists and philosophers have come to the conclusion that that the idea of a present that is common to the whole universe is an illusion and that the universal ‘flow’ of time is a generalisation that doesn’t work”.

He adds: “Time sits at the centre of the tangle of problems raised by the intersection of gravity, quantum mechanics and thermodynamics”.

Something for you to think about this weekend – if you have the time …


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