Immanuel Kant on Time – A Theory from the Heart

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Immanuel Kant

Immanuel Kant suggested that the world must have a beginning in time – yet it could not have had a beginning. Image by AndreasToerl

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) lived in Könisberg in East Prussia, and, according to Bertrand Russell, he led an uneventful life despite the French Revolution and the Seven Years’ War, during part of which Russia occupied his country.  Kant was a proponent of the Rights of Man, and once said, (quoted by Russell)  “…there can be nothing more dreadful than that the action of a man should be subject to the will of another.”

In his great work, Critique of Pure Reason, which is a combination of rationalism and empiricism, Kant differentiates time and space in the following way.

1. Different times are not coexistent but successive.

 2. Different spaces are not successive but coexistent.

 What Does it Mean?

Understanding ‘a priori’ is essential in order to comprehend Kant’s rather difficult theory. A priori means something known to be true or false before you experience it. (A posteriori is the opposite, and means something whose truth you can only test through the medium of experience.)


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Unique Conception of Time

Kant believes that our knowledge cannot transcend experience, but that this knowledge, in part, may have a basis other than experience.

Time is not an empirical conception, in other words, a conception gained through experience. If it were we couldn’t conceive of a “before” and “after” as Kant explains in his Critique of Pure Reason. Time, therefore, exists a priori: as Kant said, “Phenomena can be annihilated in thought, but as a universal condition, time cannot.

Time: Phenomena, Experience, Intuition

Kant is saying is that we experience phenomena through experience, via our senses, ie. a posteriori, leading to understanding. Time itself is a necessary condition or foundation, on which all our intuitions are dependent. In other words, phenomena (or matter) may disappear, but time cannot.

Kant is very clear about this, when he says: “For neither coexistence nor succession would be perceived by us, if the representation of time did not exist as a foundation a priori. We cannot think of a phenomena as unconnected with time, but we can present to ourselves time void of phenomena.”

Kant believes that time, for us, is intuitive. We can only understand phenomena in its relationship to time but we can “…represent to ourselves time {that is} void of phenomena.” 

Time, concludes Kant, is a “pure form of the sensuous intuition.”  Different times are just parts of one and the same “time.” 

To the above, Kant adds the conception of change and motion. “…change of place, is possible only through and in the representation of time.”  Again, he is asserting that unless we have intuition a priori, we cannot comprehend the possibility of change. Therefore time is nothing other than the form of the internal sense.

Time: A Thing-in-Itself?

Time is not a thing-in-itself, because if it were a thing-in-itself, it would be real, but without presenting to us a real “object.”

Nor does time exist perfectly within things objectively. If time were in things “…we could not discern it or intuit it by means of a proposition a priori, ie. “outside of the world.”  In other words, if time were within things or phenomena, how would we be able to conceive of a “before” or an “after?”

“And precisely because our internal intuition presents to us no shape or form, we endeavour to supply this want by analogies and represent the course of time by a line progressing to infinity,” says Kant. This line to infinity implies a sense of only one dimension.

A sundial in France

Kant viewed the nature of time in a similar fashion to his understanding of the nature of space. Image by Greudin

Philosophical Contradictions: Kant’s Time Antinomy

In his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant “proved” in one of his four famous antinomies – the term means a philosophical contradiction – both that time had a beginning, and also, that it did not have a beginning but was infinite.

Kant made examples of these antinomies to prove that it can be futile to try to use reason to resolve specific, unanswerable, metaphysical questions.

Professor Raymond Tallis explains this paradox in the publication Philosophy Now.

Professor Tallis says:

“The world, Kant says, must have a beginning in time, otherwise an infinite amount of time – an “eternity” as Kant called it – would have already passed in this world – but no infinite series can be completed. On the other hand, the world can’t have had a beginning in time, because this would imply a period of empty time before the world came into being, and nothing (least of all, a whole world) can come into being in empty time, as there isn’t anything to distinguish one moment in empty time from another.”

As Tallis says, there would not be a reason why one moment in time should give birth to the world.

Kant’s Legacy

Although Kant’s contemporaries and his successors claim his theories contain a few inconsistencies, they generally consider him (quote from Jeremy Harwood, 100 Great Thinkers, 2010, Quercus, ) “…the most influential philosopher since Aristotle.” 

Kant founded an alternative system of philosophical thinking, in claiming that the existence of knowledge is a priori to the existence of the human mind, and this idea had great influence over his successors.

Bertrand Russell described Immanuel Kant as a philosopher who “appealed to the heart.”

Resources:

Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Pure Reason. (1781). Translated by J.M.D. Meiklejohn, Pennsylvania State University, Elecronic Edition. (2010-2013). Accessed October 6, 2013.

Russell, Bertrand. History of Western Philosophy. (2004). Routledge Classics.

Tallis, Raymond. Did Time Begin with a Bang? (2012). Philosophy Now, Issue 92, September/October, 2012. Accessed October 6, 2013.

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© Copyright 2013 Janet Cameron, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Past

Comments

  1. Arindam says

    It would be more accurate to say that Kant was a philosopher who appealed to the head, given the amount of concentration required to come to grips with ‘The Critique of Pure Reason’.

    Regarding the antinomies, one would do well to read the musings of the Chinese mystic-philosopher Chuang Tzu in this context.

    • Janet Cameron says

      Thanks you for your comments. I rather liked Russell’s remark about Kant’s appeal to the heart. To reconcile reason with empiricism is, I think, a mature stance. (For this reason David Hume is one of my favourite philosophers.) However, I empathise with your comment about tackling The Critique of Pure Reason.

      I shall put your mystic Chinese philosopher on my already-lengthy reading list. If only there was time to read all the great philosophers! Whatever anyone says about time, in human terms, it is far from infinite.

  2. says

    Kant is perhaps the most brilliantly
    reasoning modern philosopher, and the best
    example of brightest inference leading to
    nonsense when starting from false premises.
    He got dazzled by Newton’s model and,
    forgetting Cartesian doubt and Galilean
    Relativity, posited science as exact,
    necessary and universal, thus absolute.
    From that postulate he inferred:
    -Science is created by inductive inference.
    (which he called “synthetic statements”)
    -Only a priori inference is necessary and
    universal.
    -Thus science is necessarily based upon
    induction a priori.
    -Induction a priori requires subjective
    representations a priori (“categories” of
    pure reason) such as Space, Time, Quantity,
    Quality, Relation, Modality.
    -Reason is founded in these “categories”.
    Now, Kant banned idealistic noumena from
    cognition and reason, but, on the other
    hand, founded the reason in his
    “categories”, that are obviously idealistic
    unperceivable noumena. He never addressed,
    let alone solved this contradiction,
    which inspired the German Idealism, Fichte
    considering the Kantian system as
    essentially correct but needing
    “a more systematic formulation”.

    • says

      Addendum:
      Current rationality determined by Einstein sees time as the
      utmost foundation of the physical reality, structured as
      the “CD” polarity of two complementary poles:
      1) continuous, “intuitive” time, homomorphic with awareness
      and thus observing, but not observable.
      2) discrete “clock-time” of observable “clock” events which
      discretize the intuitive and measure the rate of its flow.
      The CD polarity underlies all physical phenomena observable
      only by their poles, one given in a particular experience.
      E.g. light is observed in an experiment either as the
      continuous pole – the EM field, or the discrete pole –
      the photons.

  3. Chandran Methil says

    There are two aspects of time. There is psychological time when one reminiscences about the past or projects ideas in the future. These have nothing to do with physical time,which,of course is basically the time taken by the earth to orbit the sun(365 days) and later subdivided into months,weeks,days minutes and seconds. We can’t afford to forget physical time as we miss catching the train or meet our girlfriend. Psychological time can be ignored if we act only at the present moment. I think Kant has complicated matters regarding Time.

  4. P kumar says

    Time is a false sense of human mind and has helped him make progress using tools around.bacteria from which life evolved have no time.plants have no time. There is no reason for time to move on or differ.time is a dream like perception

    • Chandran Methil says

      Our concept of Time depends on our solar system which is relative.Cosmic time is infinite and beyond human understanding. There is time because we have humans with intellect and a solar system which is finite.

  5. Mark O says

    Our concept of time is easily bound by our materia first, earth centered thinking.

    Near death experiences suggest that beyond physical limitations there is higher consciousness and also higher “time” which is not anymore bound or measured using material means as sun or moon – or atomic clocks.
    Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander in his book The Proof of Heaven discribes a glimpse into that level of existence.

    This higher world is very difficult to imagine a priori from the mindset of this material world.
    It seems that time is just a concept for the material exixtence.
    Probably Immanuel Kant tried to touch that beyond reality.

  6. Janet CameronJanet Cameron says

    Thanks for all these insightful comments and for taking the trouble to post them.. Plenty for me to think upon. Time is an extraordinarily difficult concept simply because we are “inside” it.

    I like Mark O’s idea of “higher time” and also intrigued at Metanomski’s term “subjective induction a priori.” I find the latter idea harder to get my head around than the concept of a higher time that is outside of our experience and very existence. “Subjective induction” and “a priori” – not sure how these two terms of reference relate to each other in this context.

    • says

      AXIOM AND DOGMA
      Since the First Scientific Revolution, rational theories have the
      structure of inferring networks. Their middle nodes or “Theorems”
      are deduced from upper neighbours (premises) and induced from
      lower nodes (conclusions). Top “Presumption” nodes having no
      premises cannot be deduced, and are arbitrarily taken as granted.
      Bottom nodes or “Outcomes” having no conclusions cannot be induced
      and their logical value (“truth”) may be set only extrinsically,
      by facts. Rational theories, aka “Models” comprise factually
      specifiable Outcomes supporting bottom-up induction, that allowing
      to verify and/or falsify their Presumptions and hence the Models
      themselves. Falsifiable Presumptions of deductive/inductive Models
      are called “Axioms”. Rational Models are by definition axiomatic,
      thus falsifiable. Falsifiability does not imply falsity. It’s a
      characteristic of rational Models open to eventual factual
      falsification. A not falsified Model is not deemed “true”, but
      “not yet falsified” and open to further verifications.
      Irrational theories aka “Creeds” lack factually specifiable
      Outcomes, ergo do not support induction and falsification.
      Their unfalsifiable Presumptions or “Dogma” are granted by virtue
      of arbitrary, unsubstantiated beliefs.
      Creeds are by definition solely deductive i.e. speculative and
      aprioristic. In the light of the above induction is by definition
      “a posteriori” and Kants “induction a priori” is a contradictio
      in adiecto.
      It’s a morbid paradox, that Kant dares speak about “reason”,
      after having betrayed the Enlightenment’s reason and triggered
      the irrationality of Fichte’s Great German Idealism, which became
      the N-zi ideology and founded the Holocaust.

  7. ABC Narayan says

    1. Different times are not coexistent but successive.

    2. Different spaces are not successive but coexistent.

    ABOVE IS A VERY TRUE AND A REAL OBSERVATION.

  8. says

    I have just left a comment. do I have to reply again?
    I said that I found your web page (on Kant) interesting. Please continue. thank you.

  9. Janet Cameron says

    Leda,

    Thanks, I’m glad you have found this interesting. However, it’s not actually “my” webpage. It’s an article written for the educational website Decoded Past, to which people have added their ideas and comments. Decoded Past publishes a good variety of history articles, but I write, mainly, under the category “Philosophy” (of course) which you can access by clicking on the menu on the home page.

    ABC Narayan, Yes, so it seems, time and space are inextricably entwined according to most of the great philosophers who have pondered this enormous metaphysical problem..

    I am so impressed with all the comments on this post, and have read them all very carefully. Your ideas are still going around in my head. There are a few conundrums I want to look at, for example, how we can work with that terrifying term “a priori.” I am reading some material on philosophical problems by Bertrand Russell, who is brilliant at explaining such complex concepts.

    Janet

  10. kikinni bossac says

    Apparently it is not an easy task translating complex German concepts into understandable English and the Norman Kemp Smith translation of Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason is regarded as the most successful.. I suggest you give that a try.

    Bringing the arguments into a modern context where Kant writes of a priori modes of knowledge (before Darwin), biologists would describe this as an inherited human trait carried genetically from one generation to the next. The importance of this division in biology between knowledge inherited and acquired through experience (a posteriosi) would seem to make Kant the ideal biologist’s philosopher. I suspect though that the seemingly unresolvable divisions between idealists & realists (genetic variation?) persist in this discipline also.

    The distinction between the thing in itself (noumena) versus the thing as is appears to us (phenomena) is similarly easy to grasp by biologists but is seemingly dismissed by physicists. We can only know an object in our environment after our minds have been modified in so many ways and we call the resulting object of this mental process phenomenon. At the empirical level the biologist can imagine that a bat’s philosophy based on its perception of the world might be quite different from a humans. The thing in itself is the original object before our minds were modified and is unknowable. The physicist on the other hand regards time and space and objects in space as things which exist in their own right apart from our mode of knowing them. This causes them to reach conclusions which have no philosophical foundation but they (Hawking et al ) explain this by complaining that philosophy has failed to keep up. The philosopher would argue that physicists have gone beyond what is philosophically possible and as long as they continue on this course they have no hope of arriving at a theory of all things.

    • Janet CameronJanet Cameron says

      Kikinni Bossac,

      Thanks for this most useful clarification. I would like to quote from your post for something I am writing at the moment, with your permission of course, and with due acknowledgement for your input. I don’t want to post my email address here, but if you would search me on Facebook and invite me to friend you, then maybe you’d be good enough to let me know if you’re happy with that, and how you would like to be cited..

      Janet

  11. says

    this world is physical whatever you know or say is physical so time is physial but it does not united with place it crosses it and everything is coming from prior and has a post sure there is a reason the logic says there is a begining sure it is physical in my holy book the begining is god water and smoke i cant say they came from nothing becouse the word nothing is rational to my knowlede .it likes the technology you must have data …..it likes me i was born in 1947 but i was genes before and before …. but this techno needs soul it is one god and it is physical becouse it makes a change like evry thing like time and like me i can not say my start only what it is written in my holy book that it is the earth mud and god soul and sure i believe in second life after death it is the same one thing to another thing for a reason and the end to renew it is the physical world and time

  12. says

    The antinomies that Kant talks about are part of the Scientific world too. What started evolving as new Physics with the advent of Neils Bohr and Einstein as a deviation from Newtonian classical Physics, has come of age with the evolution of quantum Physics and its mysique,
    When someone asked Einstein as to what is the last thing a man with phenomenal eye-sight will see at the end of the sky, Einstein replied that it will be the back of his own head. When tangible aspects of life display a paradoxical nature, is it any surprise that abstract matters do so?

    • Janet CameronJanet Cameron says

      No, it isn’t at all surprising. I think perhaps science rather than philosophy is more useful for attempting to unravel the mystery. The curving and bending of space-time which is, allegedly, the “fabric of the universe” seems to play a significant role in modern physics along with quantum theory. I am beginning to wonder if philosophising is any help at all.

      • Frank BeswickFrank Beswick says

        That you are wondering whether philosophizing is any help is itself a philosophical quest, and therefore implies that you can and should ask philosophical questions. Science rests on foundations, as all human intellectual endeavours do, and it is these that philosophy examines.

        One vital role for philosophy is to examine the thinking that people put into a scientific, historical or religious project.

      • Vasil Geshkovski says

        Science is the only answer,question is what kind of science(and scientific gadgeds )the number one
        Scientist,prior the author of the Kritik der Reinen Vernunf was applying?!

  13. Janet CameronJanet Cameron says

    Physicist Richard Feynman said:

    “Philosophy of Science is as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.”

  14. Janet CameronJanet Cameron says

    Frank, I think I do. This is not to denigrate philosophy, which I believe is vitally important, especially to examine how we should live, our morals and ethics, justice, quality of thought and reasoning. But – when we have to start thinking about the fabric of the universe, space-time stretching and bending, quantum theory (which has now turned much of our former thinking about physics on its head) well, that’s where I don’t feel we can, through philosophical reasoning, theorise about science.

    That doesn’t mean we can’t hazard a few guesses and even theories – thought is free and it’s fascinating to speculate, I hope and believe, one day we will know how and why we are here – but I think it will be through science, not philosophy.

    But I hope I am open-minded to say that perhaps I might be proved wrong. 🙂 Please disagree with me if you feel I have missed something.

    • Tibor Molnar says

      Science and Philosophy are inextricably linked. To paraphrase Einstein, “Science without Philosophy is lame, Philosophy without Science is blind.”
      Kant’s noumenal and phenomenal worlds are likewise inextricably linked – and we can explore the connection by employing Kant’s own synthetic a priori reasoning.
      Also known as ‘abductive inference’, this method of reasoning is essential to Science – in fact, Ernan McMullin called it “The Inference that Makes Science” (1992).
      By this way of reasoning, we find that while many ‘noumenal’ facts are indeed inaccessible to us phenomenally, there are at least some ‘noumenal’ facts that can be abductively inferred.
      For example, consider how the world that we ourselves inhabit (whatever it may be and whatever other properties it may have) appears to be a dynamic domain; and that the very act of observing the world as dynamic is itself a dynamic act. Now, by abductive inference, we may safely conclude – without fear of contradiction (for that, too, would be a dynamic act) – that the world is not only phenomenally dynamic, but actually, ‘noumenally’ so. To produce the illusion of dynamism, and for it to be possible for us even to imagine that it is so, the world must be dynamic noumenally – in, of, and for itself.
      Several other facts about the ‘noumenal’ domain can be inferred in just this way; which makes it not quite as inaccessible as Kant, and many contemporary philosophers, would have us believe.

  15. Frank BeswickFrank Beswick says

    Where the structure of the universe is concerned experimental methods are the way, but the role of philosophy is to work on the clarity and consistency of the concepts used in the scientific process. It also has the critically important role of looking at the whole reasoning process to see that it is being applied properly and whether there might be any developments in human reason that are applicable to science. I do think that there are issues about rationality that are not resolved yet.

  16. ziaad says

    Just something I came across the other day:

    Allah’s Messenger (Prophet Muhammad) (peace be upon him) relates to us that Allah says: “The son of Adam offends Me when he curses time, for I am time. In My hand is the affair. I alternate the night and the day.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (4826) and Sahîh Muslim (2246)]

  17. Blackholesun says

    Time exists to give a chronological order to the sequence of events. If it didn’t exists then everything would happen simultaneously at a speed of light. The amount of information generated would overwhelm our brain and we won’t be able to make any sense of anything.

  18. Paul de Nowina says

    It seems to be common knowledge that the hero in Marcel Proust +A la recherche du temps perdu is Time. Nothing could be less true. The time as dimension is completely absent from the novel. There is a purpose to it.

    I believe that Pierre Krivine, a French physicist, said that on the subatomic level, there no time. The clock is not running at all. This is this insight, pre/krivinian one, that make for the Proustian Narrator to kill his parents. He has for technical reasons, 2 dads and 2 mums, separated by time…. but not by space. Really complex. And very simple.

    For those interested in reading Proust, (do not read in English, because the translators unintentionally erased or modified those secret formulas that protect the text from casual readers.) you”ll find “A Dialogue” of D Hume in 1751 edition. Read it a few times. Kindly observe that not all editions of the Enquiry of the Principles of Morals contain that annex.

  19. says

    Paul de Nowina’s remarks are intriguing, although I’m having trouble linking them. I’m not familiar with Proust’s “La recherche…”, but am willing to agree that the Narrator relates events and memories and feelings, rather than telling a chronological history. In that sense, “time as a dimension” may well be “absent from the novel”. And Proust may have been influenced by Hume’s writings, for all I know.

    But I did not find references to any physicist named Krivine; that would be helpful. Generally events do seem to occur chronologically in sub-atomic physics (as in the macroscopic world). A neutron’s half-life, for example, is something around a dozen minutes; leave an isolated neutron alone too long and then you have an electron, proton and neutrino going off in different directions.

    Is there any evidence (outside La recherche…) that Proust was learned in physics, particularly quantum mechanics? Would such knowledge have influenced his style of writing? Or is the simpler theory that Proust was sharing a psychological point of view?

    Finally, I personally find a phrase such as “…secret formulas… from casual readers” to be a warning that one is reading a dense or obscure text too closely. It’s a bit like getting a “cold reading” from a “mind reader”, or checking a horoscope prediction, If the words are vague or difficult to interpret, then one tends to fit the words into one’s own beliefs. (Of course, perhaps I am simply insufficiently insightful).

  20. jaseem ahme says

    I discussed this Kantian antinomy as a graduate student, in 1980, with a mathematician colleague at Yale (i am an economist). He rejected it outright saying that Kant, and Karl Popper (where I had first read of the antinomy in Conjectures and Refutations) were using a simplistic notion of “infinite sets” and that probably neither of them had had the opportunity to look at the mathematical discoveries of people like Dedekind. To my mathematician friend, the discoveries of Dedekind suggested that this Kantian antimony as well as the Zeno paradox are of little intellectual interest. Any thoughts on this?

    • Janet Cameron says

      Jaseem Ahme,

      I suppose I would just say that we can be clever in hindsight. It would be dismiss the ancient atomists like Democritus, in the light of what we understand now, with our knowledge of DNA and Quantum Theory, etc. . Every step along the way is part of the history of our quest for knowledge. I hope I will never be intellectually bored by it.

  21. Ralf Paris says

    Univers requires 2 conditions to exist :
    – one is space, any being is a volume and a volume needs space
    -the other is time,any move from on point to any other point needs time.Even if there isn’t any move, you
    need time to stay at the same place.
    Therefore time and space are bijective this means to any point of space there is a corresponding time and
    to any time there is a corresponding space.
    Time without space and space without time have no meaning because you may have room to move but no
    time to move,and you may have time to move but no room to move.

    • Janet Cameron says

      Raif Paris,

      I like your post and the direct way you present your argument. I think that’s a straightforward case of how it all works, but the biggest questions for me are “why?” and “how did it come to be?”

  22. Shridhar Kedilaya says

    Probably concept of time is reately understood by ancient rishi philosophers of india ..time is infinite..kalaya thasmainamaha, or everythings falls with in a time schedule ; the universe it self ….and time( kala )also called yama the god of death…

  23. Janet Cameron says

    Thanks for that comment, Shridhar,. I admit I don’t know a great deal about ancient Indian philosophy – although I would like to understand more. So much to learn and so little time to do it in. 🙂

  24. says

    Therefore, this disproves the big bang theory? From what little I know, it was a particle smaller than a proton that exploded causing the big bang and thereby created time and space.

    True, this statement assumes an a priori existence of that particle. IMHO, such an assumption should therefore imply an existence of time too. But then the big bang theory yet states that time was born during the big bang. They might have explained the state of matter prior to the big bang, but I myself have not grasped it.

    Perhaps, this universe is a subset of another parent one but then again, that defeats the purpose of coining the word universe.

  25. says

    Time,gravity,space,matter,and consciousness- these five identities are intertwined with each other and form one ‘Eternal Entity’,which we comprehend as the universe.So according to this phenomenon,time is an everlasiting identity.As long as matter is there,which is obcviously a synonym or analogue of eternal motion,time is there.It can not be separated from matter and space.

  26. Janet Cameron says

    What about the Socratic paradox? “All I know is I know nothing.”

    The more I study and the more I tax my brain, the more I can empathise with what Socrates meant, as quoted by the wise Plato.

    I like the idea of an “Eternal Entity” although I find it had to grasp the concept of “everlasting,” when my whole existence revolves around beginnings and endings. Meanwhile, the scientists tell us our Universe is not forever and will eventually disappear into a black hole. I believe the theory is it will then explode and produce a whole new cluster of baby stars.

    Rebirth of a universe is a whole complicated business and it is also a new beginning. So what does “everlasting” really mean? What does “time” really mean, outside of our tiny existence?

  27. says

    I have difficulty accepting that the concept of time and space is apriori.

    A child learns,by bumping into things,where the space is and where the objects are.

    An infant has no concept of time,when born..It sleeps through the day,staying up at night,keeping it’s parents awake.It is only with training,that it is able to develop some time differentiation.

    All the divisions of time are sense-based.Season changes(Year),Sun Rise and Sunset(Day and Night),Lengthening of the shadows during the day(Time of the Day),Lunar Cycles(Months).

    The Past,the Present and the Future,we learn from experience.ThePast was when we were young,single and our parents were alive.The Present is,when we are married,have our own children and our parents are gone.Based on the Past,the Future is obvious.

    So long,as there is motion,we need the Time to determine the speed.So long as there are events,we need the Time to determine their duration and their chronological order.

    Whether a consruct,or a physical reality, the Time is experience-based.

    Sultan.

  28. David Genge says

    The ‘Future’ and the ‘Past’ do not exist (by definition).
    When we contemplate the past we are bringing memories to consciousness.
    When we contemplate the future we are bringing imagination to consciousness.
    We imagine the ‘Present’ as a boundary between the ‘Past’ and the ‘Future’.
    Can a boundary exit between one non-existent and another?
    No!
    And it is precisely here that we realize: Time is abstract.
    Abstractions are ideas (by definition).
    The ‘time’ abstraction is assumed, underlies and is fundamental to all of our narratizations. We are talking about time and measuring it and incorporating it into our calculations of physics and arranging to meet at a particular and finding the concept so profoundly useful throughout our entire conscious lives that we are almost always wrapped in the delusion that time is as ‘real’ as any thing, this keyboard, this chair, this body, this painful ass that keeps prompting me to go for a walk.
    But time is not real. Time is abstract.
    What else do we think real but after contemplation, discover to be abstract? For your consideration I propose these candidates: relationships, mathematics, laws of physics, ideas, minds, souls, gods…

    (narratization: not my word. See J. Jaynes “The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” (If you haven’t encountered this book you are in for a treat)).

    I am disturbed when it occurs to me that at the ends of all the tendrils of scientific/philosophical inquiry we might always find mystery, that our descendants, even as they convert entire solar systems, entire galaxies into mind stuff might, never know all.

    • Janet CameronJanet Cameron says

      Fantastic insights, David Genge. Thank you so much. I hope you won’t mind if I use your words for my philosophy group, with due acknowledgement, of course.

  29. Janet CameronJanet Cameron says

    Just a few thoughts. The present, imagined as a “boundary” between the non-existent past and future, is made meaningless by the non-existence of past and future. So we need to redefine what the present, the “now” is if it cannot be described (except in the imagination) as a boundary. You know, I think sometimes we trick ourselves through the constructs of language. I don’t have an answer for this, because language is all we’ve got if we want to communicate our ideas to one another.

    I was walking along the seafront today playing Smetana into my earphones, and it was the most warm and special feeling in the world. Even if everything else wasn’t real, I knew “myself” within that feeling. I think I am with Descartes on that. As for time, well, I’m just glad I have enough of it while I am alive to enjoy all the unreal things that make this weird life worth living.

    I will download that book you suggest David Genge – (is that book unreal too?) onto my Kindle and see if I feel any differently after reading it.

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