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For the Time Being: Our Experience of Time in the Block Universe

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posted on 28.06.2013, 00:00 by Maria Balcells
Traditionally, our thinking about time has been dominated by two images. On the one hand, our experience of the future rushing into the present and becoming the past provides us with a dynamic image of time. According to this model, genuine change is brought about by time itself changing and passing. On the other hand, the temporal order of events is seen as having certain permanence or stability regardless of this experience of change – my birth is before my death, the launch of Apollo 13 is after World War II, etc. This permanence is reflected in a scientific image of time, sometimes called the block universe model, whereby time is an extended and unchanging dimension alongside the three spatial dimensions. These two images of time appear to be incompatible and since experience has been taken to lend itself more readily to an image of time passing, the onus has been on proponents of the block universe to account for the experience of change in an unchanging universe. In my dissertation, I look at various elements of our experience of change and attempt to defend the block universe model of time as being capable of accounting for an experience of dynamic change despite its own unchanging character. In accounting for our experience without embracing the reality of temporal passage, I investigate how assumptions about our own consciousness inform our view of time. I argue that the experiences typically taken to be indicative of temporal passage are often metaphorically described and taking these metaphorical descriptions too literally has been a major source for confusion. As an alternative, I consider a model of consciousness that allows for the represented temporal properties to be structurally dissimilar to the external time of the world, thus allowing a dynamic experience without time’s literal passage.



Huggett, Nicholas



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University of Illinois at Chicago

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Hilbert, David Edelberg, Walter Jarrett, Jon Callender, Craig

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