Time, as I experience it, runs counter to most people’s sense of time (Note). In my research on how others see time, I uncovered was that there is not complete agreement on how it is perceived. One thought on time is “presentism” in which “time is experienced but does not pass.” The other is “flowism” in which “time flows whether people perceive it or not.” According to the concept of “flowism,” people perceive the passage of time by reflecting on their experiences. The philosopher Immanuel Kant agreed with this. He wrote that “the phenomenology of passage of time is a necessary condition for any experience.” For him, time existed and was “true” whether we experienced it or not (A priori reasoning).
Before Kant, western philosophers traditionally defined time to be a construction of the self, starting with St. Augustine. (“I measure my self, as I measure time.”) Therefore perceived time is the “mental state of the beholder.” According to this philosophy, we perceive time as we feel. For example, depressed people usually see time as slowing down.
Moreover, philosophers have argued about how time flows. In “objective time,” time really does flow. In “dependent time,” time flow is an illusion of the mind. In his writings, St. Augustine complained that Pagans went in circles for they always returned to the same place in Time. Civilized people only move forward from the Resurrection of Christ. Today, the flow of Time, in modern western tradition, has become a forward arrow that only points upwards.
Notes: 1. I have a type of synesthesia, a neurological condition, which often accompanies brain injuries. A common form is tasting colors.
Janiak, Andrew, “Kant’s View on Space and Time.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 14, September, 2009. Web. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-spacetime/.
Le Poidevin, Robin, “The Experience and Perception of Time.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2009. Web. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/time-experience/.
Musser, George, “Time on the Brain.” Scientific American. 15 September 2011. Web. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2011/09/15/time-on-the-brain-how-you-are-always-living-in-the-past-and-other-quirks-of-perception/.