“These are all instances of time”: NZTA’s 8,500 speeding drivers & their philosophy of speeding

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) has a speeding problem. After an OIA by the NZ Herald, it has been reported that in nine months there have been 8,500 instances of speeding of at least 10km above the speed limit. Geoff Dangerfield, Chief Executive of NZTA, was asked for an explanation by Susie Ferguson on Morning Report, and in the course of the interview volunteered the insight that for the speeding drivers of the NZTA, “these are all instances of time.”

“These are all instances of time.”

Some may argue he was flustered and struggling to explain himself. That seems unlikely for a man paid the fifth largest state sector salary of over $620,000 a year. No, Geoff was offering an important and fascinating insight into the philosophy of speeding as it relates to time.

There are a plethora of answers to the question “what is time?,” but I only want to posit the answers that Geoff brilliantly referenced in his deceptively simple, pithy answer: “These are all instances of time.”

First and foremost Geoff is arguing against the Aristotelian relational theory of time in which all instances of time are part of a continuous relationship with reality which drives constant change. Geoff says, “No. Time is a series of instances, not a relational continuum.” This is a polemic against our current way of judging speeding; we are currently required to judge the speed and movement of a car against a continuum of time. Clearly flawed.

Secondly, Barrow’s substantival theory of time allow for instances of time to be independent of any changes, a substance in themselves. I think the foundation of Geoff’s argument is founded in a substantival theory. However, he also embrace the Kant’s statement that time is essentially our mind’s projection onto reality to make time have an Euclidean geometry, that is a mathematical logic that we can cope with. So each instance of time in which we would judge NZTA staff to be speeding in a car is really just a projection of our need for logic when observing multiple instances of time.

Finally, when Geoff says “these are all instances of time,” he is, with a breathtaking sweep of the great ontological questions of the modern age, musing about Whitehead’s contention that time is a form of becoming. As Geoff would say, by virtue of releasing the OIA to the NZ Herald, he and his staff initiated the creation of perceivable time. To put it simply, prior to us knowing about the time in which NZTA staff were speeding, there was no instances of time in which they were speeding.

We need more interviews like this on Morning Report. How often have we worried about the death of ontological public discourse? I salute NZTA and Geoff Dangerfield for boldly inserting philosophy and the great ontological questions into the public square. Philosophers used to be the rock stars of society; there was a day when Schopenhauer and Wittigenstein were a household names. If Geoff’s philosophical musings herald a new dawn for public intellectualism, then I thank his staff for speeding to provide this platform for him.


[Thanks to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy for the quick brush up on time]


2 thoughts on ““These are all instances of time”: NZTA’s 8,500 speeding drivers & their philosophy of speeding

  1. And thank you Graham for lifting our collective vision on the importance of philosophers to our present day society and also for sending me off to check my understanding of “substantival theory” and “ontological”.

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