Friday, March 20, 2009

Time windows

Why, when we regard time in the form of past, present, and future, do we assume that the views that we possess of those entities have an inherent reality? We look at event streams through these windows of time, as we would view information on a computer through the windows in a graphical user interface. In that case, we know that the format through which we are viewing the information is not the information itself: it is contingent, it is customizable, and its appearance derives from presentation logic in the operating system rather from qualities inherent in the information itself. But in the case of time, we think that these time windows give us knowledge of time itself.

What is time? It is not the event streams themselves, which of necessity exist within an underlying context. If we are to answer the question, it is that abstract mathematical underlying reality that we must seek to understand. Past, present, and future are relative views that flash before our eyes as the train passes features in the landscape. If we were to know the country of time, we would have to recognize the unity of the landscape as the underlying reality and its specific features as dependent as much on our consciousness and our perspective as on the objective event structures which are enshrined in our perceptions.