Context (blog): Rationalising the Universe
Does the Present Really Exist ?
Saving the Present

The Existential Pivot

A philosophical problem is: for all of the beauty and explanatory power of the block-time model and the plane-of-simultaneity-pivot of General Relativity, what is it that existentially, experientially privileges the current moment ?  The existential experience of “Now” may be relative, as an experience it may be spectacularly insignificant on a cosmological spatial or temporal scale, but it does appear to be moving forward in a unified sense that we can all agree on any specific consensus experience as in some sense “moving” from past into future.  I am impressed by physics and relativity (both Special and General) but I feel that for it’s profound predictive and theoretical implications, it still fails to account for the lived, conscious experience of the moving now.


Block spacetime appears to invalidate the privileged observer and yet the human experience does appear to be as of an indefinitely (procedurally) collapsing wave function, of a rolling phase transition, or of some other distinctive “difference” represented by the current, experienced moment or Now.  A problem with the all-at-once existence of time in the spacetime model is that there is no privileged place, no specification of a rolling node or nexus of now.

If “Now” is only a local concept which is defined by human-scale living beings which are dependent on very specific energy and information flows, causality and thermodynamics for their material existence and thought processes, what is it that privileges the current (moving) moment and experience of Now ?

I began writing this around 09:21 on the 17 December 2017, the Battle of Hastings was fought on 14 October 1066, the formation of planet Earth occurred some 4.6 billion years ago, and these are all events occurring on a spacetime continuum of sequential and logical causality.  Any individual event in the continuum happens at its own Now which is not in any sense privileged other than its appearance in a specific place in the past or future of other Nows in the temporal “stack”.  My great-grandfather was born, lived and died and during his life experienced the Now, the rolling moment of existential awareness that precisely is time on a human scale.  I am similarly experiencing this Now but the moment is a different one to the one my great-grandfather experienced.  I am curious as to why any specific moment appears to possess an identity, a more or less “concrete” reality – what is it that defines or distinguishes the current, lived moment from all the other moments and Nows in the stack ?

If there is no privileged temporal location in a four-dimensional spacetime continuum, why can we all agree that there is a (or some) process going on here and that we are moving forward in (what is at least, cosmologically-speaking, locally) a logically sensible progression through time ?

Is the experience of time merely a biological curiosity or psychological artefact, a happy accident of life as an aggregate of structural coincidences at a particular nexus and scale of physics and chemistry ?  Event then – the mystery of the apparent current moment, inexorably rolling forwards as it at least appears to; this remains a deep enigma.


One thought on “Rationalising the Temporal

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