Sunday 19 February 2023

Time is real *because* it is an aspect of consciousness (Time is objectively real, but subjective in origin)

It was thinking about Time that probably began to turn my thoughts towards 'spiritual' matters in a fairly serious way - so that after about a decade of thrashing-around I became a Christian. 

For example; I encountered a book called Ceremonial Time, and then began reading a lot of anthropology of hunter-gatherers, and how they regarded Time. 

And began reading A Question of Time by Verlyn Flieger - which is about Tolkien, and got me onto the Notion Club Papers, also books by JW Dunne, JB Priestly - and indeed the neo-Platonism of Boethius. 

I still continue to think about Time, and have more recently come to regard Time as inseparable from Being - in that Time is included in concepts such as life, consciousness and purpose - which are necessary aspects of Being. 

Even more specifically; I have come to regard Time - considered conceptually, and all actual possible Time - as necessarily intrinsic to consciousness; because consciousness is the cause of all possible meaning, and without consciousness is meaningless, unknowable chaos

People often assert that Time is subjective - hence, they imply, not necessary not-really-real - because it is a product of Consciousness. 

They are implicitly assuming that only things which are independent of consciousness are really-real. The assumption is that only those things that exist when there is no consciousness to apprehend them are truly objective. 

This is, indeed, the standard assumption of science - as well as most other functional systems of modern discourse. 

It is also the assumption of much Christian theology; which posits that God exists prior-to and outside-of Time - that God is not affected by Time - that God is always the same, hence Time has no meaning for God.  

Such ideas crop-up in many attempts to explain how God can be omniscient without impinging on human freedom of agency - because God lives outside of Time, while men live in Time (this is the explanation in Boethius's Consolations of Philosophy - and CS Lewis's Mere Christianity, where it is also used to 'explain' how God can listen to millions of simultaneous prayers). 

All of these are based upon what I would regard as Objective Models of Time which separate Time from Consciousness, and describe Objective Time without any reference to any Consciousness or subjectivity.    

Thus - a separation is assumed between subjective Time occurring in Consciousness; and a putative Objective Time whose properties are modelled without reference to any Consciousness, and may therefore be utterly different from experienced-time. 

Yet, I have come to believe that - because God is alive, conscious, with purpose - Of Course God exists in Time, as do all Beings. 

What, then, sets bounds to Time? What is possible, and what is not possible? 

I think the answer lies in what we can experience - and Not what we can believe

Experiencing is participative - we are involved in it. 

We may believe that No Time, or simultaneity of past-present-future is possible; but we cannot Consciously-experience no-Time - because all Conscious experience involves change, and takes place in time. 

If we are conscious, then there is Time, as intrinsic to being-conscious. 

(If there were no Time, there could not be consciousness.) 

We can experience the past, by observing it; and that past can change us from-now-on as we learn from that experience. But we cannot experience changing the past, because we cannot stand-outside of Time - ourselves unchanged while operating upon events. 

When we experience the past, we are not 'travelling' to another Time, but are participating in the past as it continues in the present

But we cannot know the future - because it has not happened. The future is not a part of the present, therefore we cannot experience it. 

We cannot experience what has not happened; and the future has not happened. 

In sum - I regard Time as objective - which is why there are things that cannot be done, no matter what we may believe. 

But Time is also necessarily subjective, because it requires a Being, with consciousness. (And all beings are conscious - to some degree, in one way or another).  

In other words - and in general - all objectivity is subjective in origin: including Time


Mark In Mayenne said...

Time and memory are necessary for a sense of self since between them they connect the strings of consciencenesses. So you wake in thé morning knowing who you are. Conscienceness on its own isn't enough, but you need both time and memory.

Bruce Charlton said...

@MinM - I agree, memory is part of it.

In this mortal life; memory is subject to omission, distortion and in general entropic corruption - at least in its physical manifestations.

Therefore, I assume that resurrection implies that there is an underlying everlasting spiritual memory, which is free from such limitations, and is carried through into eternal life - for those who choose to take that path.

Tom V said...

I think time is just the ongoing, everlasting moment of now. We do everything in this moment. Everything happens in this moment.

Bruce Charlton said...

@TV - Indeed - that is what I am trying to refute! I believe it to be incoherent, for reasons stated.

Alexeyprofi said...

The second dimension is formed from a multiplied one-dimensional figure (a point rotated around itself). The third dimension is formed by multiplying a two-dimensional figure (a circle rotated around its middle). Time allows a three-dimensional object to be multiplied, making it a fourth dimension. Actually, it allows you to multiply one-dimensional and two-dimensional objects too, so they say space + time

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ap - That analysis is of the type that excludes consciousness. Therefore it is a model - which may have uses - but is not real.

I became convinced that this is an error, and how it happened and became mainstream and unnoticed/ denied, by Owen Barfield's Saving the Appearances.

Alexeyprofi said...

@BC I believe that time is subjective because the length of time we perceive differs depending on our mental state. When I think actively, five minutes can feel like an hour has passed. And when I sleep, then there is no subjective time. On the other hand, objectively time must also exist, because it is with it that a person compares his subjective perception. But I believe that only what is perceived exists, so for me this is a problem. Maybe the answer is, while for humans and other creatures with nervous system subjective span of a given period can be different depending on a state of psyche, it's fixed for the atoms and etc, so same operations always require the same amount of subjective time for them, and we take this constant amount of time as an objective measure.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ap - I think you need to be clearer about your metaphysical assumptions - i.e I think you are assuming that some things are empirical facts that are actually metaphysical assumptions.

For instance " I believe that only what is perceived exists" is an assumption about reality that is incoherent; and if you thought it through, you would find that you don't really believe it is real.

For most people, we can only get free of these unexamined (partly unconscious) assumptions by getting clear and conscious about them; and then, perhaps, finding what we really Do assume to be reality.

Francis Berger said...

" . . . all objectivity is subjective in origin: including Time."

The emergence of a new religious consciousness appears to involve overcoming perception-induced objective/subjective duality through a kind synthesis via consciousness. Is there where dyads and polarity come in? The understanding that the poles are united, interact, and depend on each other while remaining two separate poles?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Frank -

Well, that is how Coleridge and (from him, plus Steiner - and himself) Barfield described polarity.

But this is a very difficult explanation to understand! Polarity so abstract in its conception, that I don't think we can really grasp it beyond the level of a scientific/ mathematical model - in which case we are grasping the model, and not the reality.

This is why I have given-up on using the term polarity and its discourse. It's not that I regard it as wrong; but it provides an unsatisfactory kind of understanding.

By contrast, I think we all have - even as children - an innate understanding of what is 'a being', and therefore an explanation rooted in beings seems a better basis for metaphysical explanation.

With polarity, Coleridge was (in effect) tried to explain 'what beings are' - and that is what led to the abstraction and modelling. I think we already know what beings are, and that they do not need to be explained - indeed, since they are basic to ultimate reality beings Cannot be explained: they are fundamental.

We *can* describe some of the attributes of beings (life, consciousness, purpose, self-sustaining, a capacity for growth and development etc) but we are Not 'defining' beings by such lists.

In he end, all metaphysics must come down to a level at which entities are undefined.

William James Tychonievich said...

Dinner gets this. With occasional lapses, he stays focused on consciousness (“fields of presentation”) as the foundation for all his theorizing.

It’s probably about time I did another Dunne post.

Daniel F said...

Heidegger's term for "human being" -- Dasein -- was predicated on the idea that "being" itself did not exist outside of "beings" (and really, _human_ beings) because it was only when human consciousness interacted with reality that things really took on existence and meaning. So, he deemed consciousness necessary to (true) existence; this would also have implied the necessity of time for all consciousness (including God?), although he may not have gotten around to describing that second half since his Being and Time was ultimately uncompleted, specifically the Time part.

While in Heidegger's writings, the influence of and his response to the Greek philosophers was most prominent, but I think his Catholic upbringing and the Christian worldview and the problems it implied are an equally important although less upfront ingredient in his works.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Daniel F - In the past I made a couple of fairly serious attempts to engage with Heidegger - ; and my conclusion was that he had some significant insights but was basically wrong. Because half-right is wrong. At any rate, I got a strong impression that people got 'hung up' on H, and couldn't break free (or didn't want to) - and yet being influenced by H Never seemed to do anyone any good!