The enigma of the existence of time

Marko Uršič
Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Arts University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU


Aristotle, at the beginning of his famous analysis of time in Physics, discusses the question whether time exists or not, since the past no longer exists, the future does not exist yet, and the present is just like a moving “point” without extension. St. Augustine, following in his Confessions the Platonic definition of time as the “moving image of eternity”, tries to resolve the enigma of time by conceiving time as distentio animae, i.e. as stretching-apart of the soul from the attention of the present to past by memory and to future by anticipation.

Many centuries later, by McTaggart's distinction between temporal A- and B-series of events, the classical dispute between intrinsic vs. extrinsic (or subjective vs. objective) definition of time comes back in conceptual frames of modern analytic philosophy. Einstein’s theory of relativity endorses the B-concept of time as “timeless” ordering of events. From the philosophical point of view, the relativistic space-time as a metrical concept follows in its essence Aristotle’s definition of time as the number of some motion/change “in respect of the before and after” — however, the relativistic time is paradoxically “timeless”, since there is no absolute simultaneity of events, and there are only relative sets of “time-slices” in the 4D “block universe” (or in the universal “timescape”), which is only an abstract concept, since following “the Principle of Relativity”, the actual/real absolute reference frame does not exist.

Contemporary discussions in the field of the analytic metaphysics of time generally occur among “eternalists”, “possibilists” and “presentists”, and they take into account especially the discoveries concerning time in modern physics. However, the old master Aristotle has already known that somebody has to count “the number of motion,” and that some hypokeimenon (substratum) has to exist for the experience of “now”. — So the main point of my presentation is the statement that time and consciousness are essentially connected, maybe not in physics itself, if we consider it as a set of theoretical models of the natural world, but surely in our phenomenological, conscious experience. We have to “take consciousness earnestly” (as David Chalmers has pointed out), if we want at least to understand the enigma of time.

About the author

Snippet from Wikipedia: Marko Uršič

Marko Uršič, slovenski analitični filozof, logik in religiolog, * 18. maj 1951, Ljubljana.