The unreality of time and temporality

Time and temporality are mutually related but they are not the same. Time and temporality are distinct things. While time is related to the pass or the flow of time occurring in the present, temporality is related with the concept of past, present and future.

There are two reasons for which time doesn’t have an objective reality: a metaphysical and a psychological one.
The metaphysical reason is very simple: if the universe is a monist universe with space as the unitary substance, then time doesn’t exist as a substance. In a monist universe there is only one substance: space; therefore time cannot be a substance. And if time is not a substance, then it has exist in space and depend on it.
And this is consistent with Special Relativity. We know from Special Relativity that time is not an absolute quality of the universe. Time is local: it changes from place to place. And time is relative. It depends on the dynamics of each place in space. More precisely, it depends on the associated acceleration of a place in space. And since accelerations are relative in space, time is relative. So what Special Relativity is telling us, is that time is not independent from space. It depends and is relative to space (something consistent with our conclusions from monism).
The psychological reason for the unreality of an objective time, is that time is a mental construction to interpret change. The problem begins with the way our mind interprets the variation of things. Variation can be either transformation of objects (like growth, decay, etc.) or motion of objects from place to place. On either form we see the flow of time.
But no object suffers a variation in isolation. Everything changes in relation to the surrounding space. And in our interpretation we introduce time when we dissociating object from space and we interpret the variations of that object in space.
So, our mind evolved to interpret the world, first by object recognition, where we fix an element of perception into an object in-itself. Then by spatial location, where we construct a spatial map with the surrounding space as a fixed reference frame. And then by interpreting variation as objects changing on a fixed space, in time.
And we can se how this construction is directly translated into our scientific interpretation of the world. Science uses all the elements of our psychological interpretation of change: mathematical spaces with coordinate reference systems, temporal and spatial variables, objects in space, and variation of elements in time and space. In science, objects, time and space are also distinct elements.
If space is all that there is in the world, then there is no duality object-space. Object and space are the same thing. Objects are made out of space. And it is not objects that change in space, but space itself that changes. Of course, our mind doesn’t interpret it in this way. Our mind dissociates objects from space, and creates time to interpret their variation.

If there is no physical time then, what do we measure when we measure time? Well, to start with, measurement itself is an artifice of metric constructions. So leaving measurement aside, a more fundamental question is, where does variation come from if it is not temporal? And we have already provided an answer for this question in metaphysics (see metaphysics). Variations come from dynamic asymmetries in space. In other words, variations are totally spatial variations. Any time measuring device involves two things, a counting mechanism and a system of periodic oscillation (e.g. mechanic, atomic, etc.). For the system to be useful as a measuring reference it has to have a stable variation. The variation of a dynamic system can be reduced to spatial variations, where the stability and the frequencies involved in the system have their origin in space itself. So when we measure time, we are not measuring a physical quality of the world, but we are actually creating a measurement based on spatial variation.

Parallel to the idea of time, and just as central in our conception of the world, we have the idea of temporality: the idea that time flows with a direction, and that there is a past, a present and a future.
Just as the idea of time is a mental construction with no objective existence, so is the idea of temporality. Past and future are mental constructions with no objective reality in the world. The difference between time and temporality, is that while the construction of time is based on cognitive functions (like object recognition, spatial location and temporal reconstruction), the construction of temporality is based on memory.
Every image we have is an abstract mental construction, and every mental image involves memory retrieval. So we not only remember the past, but we also remember the future, since every image we have of the past and future is constructed by retrieving elements from our memory.
And what is memory then? Memory is a property of chemical synapses, and it is also related with reinforcements of neurological associations, like repetition, emotional content or addition of neurological synapses. One of the advantages of chemical synapses is that it works as a biological mechanism to retain useful information. In particular, information which is important for the preservation of our existence. So from all the information we come across, what is important for us, is the information that we retain by repetition, by emotional content, etc.
Physically, a biological structure that retains information, is a dynamic system that reaches high stability. And physical stability doesn’t depend on any temporality in the world. Dynamic processes don’t become more stable than ‘before’, but they become more stable if they become more invariable in relation to the surrounding space.
So, do we have memory of events from the past? No, we retain useful information in stable dynamic configurations which we retrieve by association. And what is the future? The future is a mental construction formed by associating elements from memory and projecting possible outcomes of events. Past and future are mental constructions with no objective reality in the world.

Our cognition and memory take us to think of elements as objects in-themselves, of space as static references, and of a world with time and temporality. None of these elements have an objective reality, but they all contribute to powerful and useful interpretations of the world around us. And this is exactly what our mind evolved for. To construct useful and efficient interpretations to procure our self-preservation.


One Response to “The unreality of time and temporality”

  1. Human natural subjectivity « Natural Philosophy Says:

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