“Space and time are the framework within which the mind is constrained to construct its experience of reality.” ~Immanuel Kant
“Time is the greatest and the most difficult riddle which confronts mankind.
“Kant regards time in the same way as he regards space, as a purely subjective form of our perception. He says that, conditioned as we are by the properties of our perceiving apparatus, we create time as a convenience for perception of the outside world. Reality is continuous and constant. But in order to be able to perceive it, we must break it up into separate moments, i.e. represent it to ourselves as an endless series of separate moments, out of which one and one only exists for us. In other words, we perceive reality as though through a narrow slit. What we see through this slit, we call the present; what we saw but see no longer, we call the past; and what we do not see at all but expect to see, we call the future.
“Examining each phenomenon as the outcome of another one, or several others, and this in its turn, as the cause of still another, or others, i.e. examining all phenomena in their mutual functional relationship, we, by this very fact, examine them in time because, quite clearly and distinctly, we first visualize the cause and then the effect – first the action, then its function – and we cannot think of it otherwise. So for us the idea of time is essentially connected with the idea of causation and functional interdependence. Causation cannot exist without time, just as motion or absence of motion cannot exist without time.” ~P.D. Ouspensky, Tertium Organum: A Key to the Enigmas of the World
Time . . . So much has been written about it both casually and seriously, in short and lengthy essays even in books, both slim and voluminous. We have seen how the issue of time is discussed scientifically and philosophically. But written and discussed or not, time is something embedded in the human condition. In the course of human experience on earth, time is indubitably a necessary component of our daily lives. In fact, there is no need to talk about time as a subject matter to bring out the kernel of its significance. The signification of time does not therefore require a high degree of intellectual orientation to grasp. The importance of time is in the lifeblood of our existence, so to speak.
We do things in time (and of course in space which is inseparably connected with time in most if not in all cases). We have schedules to accomplish things and deadlines to beat. We have appointments and dates that could lead to terribly disastrous outcomes if not conscientiously considered and attended to. We have a way to explain our present condition as the result of what we did in the past. We can logically approximate what could most likely happen tomorrow or in the next week, month or year ahead of us on the basis of what we do in the present. We are homo temporalis—being-in-time. We cannot do away with time because it is an aspect of our being’s essence.
Physically, we have invented and utilized instrumentalities of time measurement and time reference for practical purposes in relation to how we manage our lives and circumstances in terms of achievement requirements within certain timeframes. In the process, we have viewed time objectively. In this context, time is objective. In a state of affairs where time is of utmost essence, delay is catastrophic. This instance we find in industrial and commercial operations where plans and actions are hinged on business policies that place maximum weight on the value of time. Time synchronization within the complex network of a technological operation wherein a minute miscalculation in time programming could result to an enormous tragic conclusion is a perfect example of how the objectivity of time extremely counts.
“Hard” objective-physical time is something of which we are not in control. In fact, this is the leading factor that has set in motion the industrial age or the second-wave civilization (using Alvin Toffler’s terminology in his bestseller The Third Wave) that defines what we call in the history of human civilization, the modern era. “Hard” objective-physical time has become the “cultural dictator” of the economic superstructure in both capitalist and socialist societies. The dynamics of industrialization are intertwined with the imminence of time.
Prior to the industrial age was the pre-modern era or the agricultural age—in Toffler’s parlance, the first-wave civilization—wherein objective physical time was “soft” and not as strictly viewed and implemented as in the industrial era. In this context, the human factor was yet exercising some degree of personal control over the “soft” objective-physical time through a pattern of movements wherein the spontaneity of habits was endowed with the capability “to read the stars and the seasons,” so to speak. There was no factory schedule requiring workers to be in the workplace from 8 am to 5 pm or beyond. In the agricultural era, the work schedule was not strictly based on the clock. There was not so much stress on being late to work, for work in the field was largely determined by climate and weather conditions. In a general sense, it could be said that time was more flexible in the hands of the one who used it and the routine of works to be accomplished did not have the burdensome characteristics of how things are done in modern industrial “smokestacks.”
Two concepts of objective-physical time—“hard” and “soft”—have just been discussed and we are yet on the surface of the issue at hand. Looking at the other side of objective physical time is its subjective-personal counterpart. It is time within the emotional landscape of our being. It is where subjective and personal attitudes toward states of affairs determine the length or shortness of time. On the one hand, the waiting time for an exceedingly desired event gets too excruciatingly long and slow as one wants the said event to immediately occur. On the other hand, time becomes too fast when one is not specifically immersed in a significant undertaking and time just passes spontaneously without getting especially concerned about it. So that at a certain point of time, we become conscious of it and comment, “Oh how the days have passed so quickly and it’s weekend again.”
In this sense, time becomes arbitrary; a situation that does not require and is not conditioned by any instrumentality of time measurement and/or time reference. As if the longevity and shortness of time is determined by certain subjective “energies” whose non-physical locus is confined in the psychical realm of feelings and personal approximations.
But whether time is objective-physical or subjective-personal, the reference point is always reckoned in the present. In both instances, time provides the parameters to effect a signification of events and circumstances even if an event is said to belong to the past and hence historical because history is in itself a signification of events of the past in the present time. This consideration brings to mind the three conventional phases of time: past, present, future. And having gotten used with the “reality” of the present as something “unquestionably given,” what about the past and the future? How “real” are they?
If we look at “reality” in terms of being actually experienced here and now, it is only the present that is real. But this may not be accurate for the events of the past were also matters of experience and hence real. We therefore have a strong line of argument to assume that the past and the present ought to be considered as real. But it could likewise be argued that the “reality” of the past rests on the fact that once upon a time it was then a “present”. In other words, what we consider now as “past in the present” is also “present in the past.” And by way of self-reflexivity at this point in time, the past is deemed to be real as it is brought to present awareness and thus thematized through the operation of memory. The non-thematic past is therefore unreal and may only be “brought back to reality” by the process of thematization whose elements of thought are drawn from memory. In this connection, we return to the notion that the only temporal locus that renders reality to states of affairs is the present. Events and circumstances of the past have to be rehearsed in the present to render reality to them. In the process, it is only the thematized past that becomes real as it is brought to the present for it is only by virtue of the reality of the present that the breath of life is breathed into the past to make it real.
But what about the future; how real is it? The future is conventionally considered as a time phase along with the past and the present but it is only descriptive of all possibilities that are supposed to happen after the present. The “future” is only a linguistic convenience NOT to bring to mind actual “future events and circumstances” because such “events and circumstances” are non-existent and unreal but solely to express ambitions, desires, dreams, expectations, needs, wants and wishes. In philosophic terms it is said that ontologically, the future is no-thing, nothing. And even if we thematize future events in the present, there is no way to get to their actual reality at this very present moment. In other words, the present does not have the metaphysical power to realize the future at the present point in time.
It does not however mean that the “unreality” of the future renders it totally insignificant. The so-called “insignificance” of the future is also an expression of linguistic convenience in the face of the fact that the future is presently nothing. The present conceptualization of events desired in and for the future is in itself a significant exercise of human creativity under normal circumstances. It is the present reality of being able to conceive one’s desires and wishes, dreams and ambitions that makes human life exciting and worth living. In this sense, we say that human life is characterized by the real and the unreal but it is the challenge of the unreal to bring it to reality that sustains the meaningfulness of human life. The future is unreal but it is the challenge of such unreality that makes the present always open to possibilities.
In conclusion, let me quote the full text of my short essay, “The Artist as a Philosopher (or the Philosopher as an Artist) before the Canvas of Nothing” [from my book SOPHOPHILIA, p. 77 . . . http://issuu.com/kspt/docs/sophophilia]
What is so philosophical–deeply philosophical–about the artist but her/his enormous capability to be excited/elated/exhilarated by the challenges of the Nothing. S/he looks at the blank canvas before her/him not as nothing but as a space of unlimited possibilities–a Nothing, a not-yet, a Becoming–that belongs to the future. The present Nothing promises a future Being—Nothing Becoming Being.
And all depends on a creativity that is purely human–a creativity that merges with a sense of the future that is likewise absolutely human, no more no less. Had this not been so, humanity couldn’t have seen the wonders of comfort, sophistication, information and ease that revolve around the present reality like a merry-go-round in a seemingly endless carnival of life.
Human creativity . . . a sense of the future . . . a philosophical defiance of certain programmed limitations where nothing is nothing, where zero is nothing. Rather, a philosophical affirmation that Nothing is something–that Zero is significant in the formation of hundreds, thousands, millions . . . ad infinitum.
The artist guides the philosopher. . . . May the former find inspiration in the latter. At the end of the day, may the artist find a common convergence point with the philosopher so that the two become one.
Space & Time: Kant’s Transcendental Idealism by Michael Mohr, Mikkel Abildtoft, Valdemar Stokholm, Hanna Sandvik and Hans Munck-Westh . . . http://rudar.ruc.dk/bitstream/1800/4216/1/3.1.1.%20Group%2011%20-%20Space%20%26%20Time%20Kant%27s%20Transcendental%20Idealism.pdf
Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness by Henri Bergson . . . http://archive.org/stream/timeandfreewilla00berguoft#page/n13/mode/2up
Tertium Organum: A Key to the Enigmas of the World by P. D. Ouspensky (specifically Chapter 4) . . .http://issuu.com/ruel56/docs/tertium_organum_-_ouspensky
©Ruel F. Pepa, 25 March 2013