Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Final Report H3


“I never think of the future – it comes soon enough”.
Albert Einstein

What is time? Philosophers have debated this and many other questions like it for centuries, with no definitive answers to speak of. Was there time before the Big Bang? Does time exist when nothing is changing? Is the future infinite?
It is certainly fair to suggest that the concept of time begins within the confines of personal human consciousness. The way that people interpret time is neither universal nor cast in stone, but rather the interplay between various factors including culture and religion.
         Referring to the ever-so-resourceful information of Wikipedia, time is the indefinite continued progress of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past, through the present, to the future.
Many things in nature occur in recurring cycles. Days, tides, seasons, and years are all cyclic in nature. They happen over and over again. Perhaps because we are surrounded by such patterns, most forms of life have come to adapt to and react in cyclic ways. Molting, hibernation and mating, for example, follow distinctive patterns that repeat in the natural world year after year. It stands to reason, then, that man's habitat and lifestyle would be affected by such naturally occurring cyclic patterns too. Beyond that, it is possible to conceive of the idea that there are circular rhythms happening around us right now that are simply too grandiose to measure or even comprehend in one’s lifetime: re-creations of the entire universe, the persistence of earthquakes, continental shift, and even life and death itself.
The concept of time as a circle is an ancient one that has been incorporated into the mythology and religion of numerous cultures, from the Mayans and Aztecs to Hindus and Christians. Though different in description, each believes in some form of continuous time, either through life after death or rebirth. Others view the endless circle of time from the perspective of the universe as a whole.
Looking from a psychological perspective: as time goes by, more stuff happens and we acquire more memories. The idea that the amount of memories we have increases as we head toward the future can be equated to the concept of ever increasing entropy; the cup cannot be put back together – we cannot undo what has been done in our lifetime. The fact that the future is anticipated causes us to continually live our lives while moving linearly forward.
“Of these three divisions of time [past, present, and future], then how can two, the past and the future, be, when the past no longer is and the future is not yet? As for the present, if it were always present and never moved on to become the past, it would not be time but eternity. If, therefore, the present time is time only by reason of the fact that it moves on to become the past, how can we say that even the present is, when the reason why it is that it is not to be? In other words, we cannot rightly say that time is, except by reason of its impending state of not being.” – St. Augustine; The Confessions, Book XI
The word ‘now’ is often used to denote the present. It also implies that whatever is being referred to in the “now” can be seen or experienced by the person doing the referring. Since the word ‘now’ is such a commonly accepted word, why is it that when you look below the surface, there is still so much controversy and misunderstanding surrounding the word?
It is often argued that the present does not even exist, because by the time an instant is experienced or thought about, it is already over. Therefore, everything is either past or future. This is the question of the “now.” According to this theory, whenever things are changing, the present becomes the past as soon as it has happened, and whatever is happening at the present moment is the only “now” that exists; everything that has already happened is no longer real. And if the past is the keeper of change, and the past is no longer real, then nothing is changing. If nothing is changing, then time is not passing and so it no longer exists.
Other arguments advocate that the present is the only thing that exists. This is the “presentist” standpoint, that the past cannot be real, because having already happened it is no longer accessible and therefore no longer a part of reality. The future, as well, is not real, for if it were real it would be unchangeable, but in reality no one knows what the future is going to bring.
Stcherbatsky, a scholar of Buddhist philosophy, explains that according to their presentist ideas, "Everything past is unreal, everything future is unreal, everything imagined, absent, or mental is unreal. Ultimately real is only the present moment of physical efficiency.”
Aristotle's keen interest in the relationship between motion and time certify him as being a fair representative of ancient viewpoints on time. He realized that the motion of two objects could be compared by comparing the amount of time that elapsed while the objects were moving.
He developed theories addressing the world and its constant state of flux and supported his theories using physics and its relationship to time. Though he theorized about change before he theorized about time, that did not mean that he found time to be dependent on change. Quite to the contrary, he did not see change as possible without time.

Many philosophers have offered unique insights into the nature of time. Some theorize that we do not really exist. Others hypothesize that we have existed forever and always will. As with any subject matter, some theories have more support than others, and all of them have been modified and extended over the years. Our incessant and often fascinating attempts to study and address the issue of time is an indication of its importance to the world today and to future generations. Without time, there would be no seasons, no years, no hope of change, and perhaps, no existence at all.

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle


  1. This is a very interesting subject. I myself am curious to what time really is. I think your post does a great job at giving examples of different theories and theorists. Also you give a wide array of theories which makes for an interesting read. However, I am interested to see what your own theory of time is. Maybe in your next post briefly note your own theory. Personally I think time is a product of culture as you mentioned in the beginning of your post. We take after what we are used to because we were born into it. However, I have no clue or theory to suggest how the first person introduced the concept of time. That is beyond me.

  2. Augustine also said that he knew perfectly well what time was, until someone asked him to explain it. I think most of us can relate to that. Time's the stream I go afishin' in, said Thoreau. But what does that mean?

    Best thing I've read on the subject lately is James Gleick's "Time Travel: A History." The good news is, we CAN travel through time via literature and the imagination. Bad news (but probably good, in fact): we can't really live in any other time than that to which we were born. Wendell Berry said the best we can do for the future is to give all to the present. Makes a lot of sense, and suggests another defintion: time is our opportunity to create a legacy.

  3. I heard an interesting quote for time the other day. Here in the western hemisphere we need never worry if tomorrow will ever come because it is already tomorrow in Australia. That is an interesting concept of time purely based on the different time scales of the world. It is completely inaclaplacable though time simply moves on the same for all of us until it eventually ends for all of us or does. Assuming that time ends when mean that there is nothing after our naturally conceived time?