There Is Something Deficient In Our Idea Of Time


Time, As Such, Doesn’t Exist, But As A Utilitarian Experience, What We Do With Time, Ends Up In That Familiar Experience We Call Temporality

Off hand, I can think of two real world areas of relevance that the synchronic axis of freedom speaks directly too. One is far removed from normal experience, i.e., quantum effects, and the other is so close to experience that we ignore it most of the time. It is to the latter that I will briefly direct my comments. If my memory serves me correctly, I believe it was St. Augustine who said, “When I do not think about time I know exactly what it is, but when I am asked to describe it, I find that I know nothing about what it is.” Temporality, as most of us are aware, is a very peculiar phenomenon.

Time may be described on three levels. Theoretical physics (both quantum mechanics and relativity theory) measures time in its physical aspect, that is, “the t-coordinate is an undifferentiated continuum, and, if this coordinate is ‘taken for real’ as has been the tendency among many scientists and philosophers, the familiar distinction between past, present and future, so important in human affairs, comes to be regarded as a mere peculiarity of consciousness.” [Kenneth G. Denbigh, Three Concepts of Time, 1981, p. 4.] We also encounter the concept of non-reversible time in the physical sciences. In thermodynamics and in the biological sciences the arrow of time becomes unidirectional. According to the second law of thermodynamics energy dissipates while entropy (disorder) increases. In our consciousness of the everyday succession of events we also experience a unidirectional arrow of time. We cannot unsee, unhear, unknow, etc. our experience of the processes of perception and cognition. So, we might ask, which time is real time? Conceivably there is something deficient in our idea of time. Now let’s look at time from the perspective of freedom’s synchronic dimension.

Freedom effectively replaces temporality as an operational concept. Freedom, in the sense of a logical proposition — not, not being, —here represents difference, but implies sameness. From the synchronic point of view, on a fundamental level, difference and sameness may be understood as two sides to the same coin (temporality is reversible). But, this symmetry is lost when freedom moves from its base level to a higher level of freedom, from not-life to life. Reciprocal movement, on this higher level moves in one direction only, — no assimilation, no life, however, since nothing gets out of life alive, mortality conserves reciprocal movement. Freedom, now in this higher liberated state, is free to evolve into higher life forms.

But what about human time, the time that so perplexed Parmenides, Augustine and Kant? What about the time that left the French mathematician Laplace no other option other than to declare that the existence of God was an unnecessary hypothesis? As I have already pointed out, human time comes to us by way of our senses and by way of constructed, logically consistent, scientific models used to measure time. Humans, like all the other animals, assimilate information from their environment as they adjust
schemes-of-assimilation to better accommodate their environment. What makes humans unique in this process is their capacity to create symbolic models that help them to better accommodate and assimilate their environment, which, at least in part, is a utilitarian experience.

Time, as we normally think of it, doesn’t exist, but as a utilitarian experience, what we do with time, ends up in that familiar experience we call temporality. Operationally speaking, the time of being (implied being) arises in the experience of discontinuity occurring in continuity, and we call this being “time.” When we use implication to construct temporal modals we are using “time” to understand time, — to understand the how-to-processes that help us to accommodate/assimilate our environment. On this operational level, human time is merely a by-product of discontinuity occurring in continuity, but then so too is language, number, logic, and self. The human temporal moment then, carries within itself not one account of temporality i.e., the video time of sequential physical events; it also carries within itself “the center of action,” as Piaget calls it. Mind and identity are discovered in this “center of action,” (personal identity being that degree of permanence that we experience in the midst of constant flux). And, more importantly, the forward movement of knowledge is also discovered in this liberated and liberating space that gets called “time.”

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2 Responses to “There Is Something Deficient In Our Idea Of Time”

  1. boozilla Says:

    Thank you for this breath of fresh air! so happy to have found you.

  2. bwinwnbwi Says:

    Your welcome. Your comment brought me back to this piece of writing. I had forgotten I had written it. My time these days is spent at my other blog, my bwi…music blog. Eventually (if I live long enough), I will re post all of this blog with shorter (more pictures, more entertaining) posts in my music blog. Creative and relevant pictures, however, might be hard to find though! Thanks again for your comment.

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