During the lifespan of a human being, each one has a birth and a death, a beginning and an end. People generally acknowledge the day of their birth every year, and every year reaching closer to death. Not only do all men without exception have birth and death in common, but all men use a conceptual instrument to measure and record events, and moments during their life. This conceptual instrument is universally known as, “time.” But what is time? Most can agree on how it is used, but not all agree on a universal definition of time, and how time may exist metaphysically. Does it exist subjectively or objectively? Time may merely be a concept in the mind of man used to measure the existence of life, and if so; then the existence of time is dependent on the mind, and may be recognized, as a subjective practical illusion.
19th and 20th century British Philosopher, JME Mctaggart concluded that, time is an illusion. Mctaggart demonstrated the contradictions of time in two theories known as, A and B theory. An important principle to gain as a presupposition, and understanding the theory of time, is acknowledging that “time essentially involves change,” (Dummit 497). Furthermore, in addition to time, since time is always in motion, not only does it involve change, but it also involves direction.
Consider first the B theory, or the B series of time. In the B series, temporal events are recognized as before or after, earlier than, or later than. For example, consider three different dates; the year 1800, 1900, and 2000. In this time series, the dates are fixed. The year 1800 hundred is always and forever will be before the year 1900 hundred, and the year 2000 will always be ahead of the year 1900 hundred. Time in the B theory is not a true time series because, as stated earlier, a qualifier of time is change. Time in the B series consist of temporal fixed events, which disqualifies change; therefore, making the B series of time incompatible with the properties of time.
Consider now the A series of time. In the A theory there are three predicates; past, present, and future. Events begin in the future, which then become present, and finally become past. For some, this series of time may seem to make sense, since the flow of time through the three predicates seem to involve constant change through the flow of motion; but, Mctaggart claims that, the “A series would generate contradiction because past, present and future are incompatible attributes,” (Thomas). They are incompatible in the sense that each moment; for example, moment “D” starts in the future, then becomes present, and then becomes past. Moment “D” with all its properties is a fixed moment as it passes through all three predicates of time. Moment “D” starts in the future, and it remains a fixed temporal moment as “D” flows through the present and past, which defeats the qualifier of change. Mctaggart reveals that both A and B series are contradictory, and therefore concludes that time is an illusion.
Following the idea that time is an illusion; it is reasonable to conclude that; time does not exist ontologically, meaning that, time has no basis for natural substance, or anything related to being. Neither does time exist objectively in the philosophical sense, meaning that, the existence of time is not based on facts, or existing independent of the mind. Therefore, if time is going to make sense to the mind, then the existence of time needs to be mind dependent, existing subjectively. It follows then that time is a concept; it is an idea in the mind of man, which has become a concept developed as an instrument to measure the existence of life. This is important to grasp because, since the concept of time is mind dependent, then without the mind, or the existence of human life, then time also ceases to exist. Since times’ existence had no ontological or objective existence, then without the mind to give it a subjective existence; time could not exist subjectively, and would then have absolutely no basis for any kind of existence.
Recognizing time as an illusion does not create any kind of dilemma to practical life. The concept of time is still subjectively practical to everyday life. Time does not need to exist objectively for it to be used practically. Consider a clock on the wall; the clock on the wall is a mere physical tool used to practically apply the concept of time in true life; the same way a measuring tape is a mere physical tool used to practically apply the concept of distance in true life. Distance is another concept in the mind of man used as an instrument to measure the amount of space between two locations. Distance depends on two reference points, if the two physical reference points are removed, then the concept of distance exists only subjectively,the same as time. Therefore; it follows that, though time is an illusion, it does not hinder the mind of man to attribute this illusion intelligibly, and practically in everyday life; making time a, subjective practical illusion.
It now becomes important to consider how the concept of time as an illusion, may change someone’s perspective on the past, present, and future. There are several different theories, but one in particular is presentism. Associate Professor at Nottingham University; Jonathan Charles Tallant, defines presentism as; “the thesis that ‘only present objects exist,’ or ‘nothing exists that is non-present,” (479).The past and the future do not exist in this theory. This means that in regards to the past, whatever once existed presently; currently does not exist, but once existed, and is now referred to as the past. The word past then becomes a concept to identify what once was present; therefore, “past” has no ontology
The present, or the now moment makes sense as a moment based on conscience observation. In order for the now to be reality, it has to have an observer to be conscious of the now moment. It is important to realize, that a now moment does not exist in the way human fallible minds are costumed to comprehending it. When one thinks of now, one thinks of a moment occurring. But the moment in essence is not occurring, and instead it is passed. People’s minds tend to want to make sense of now, as if it were a pausing moment; and to make better sense of now, perhaps that is what may be required. For “now” to exist objectively in reality it may necessitate a pausing moment, a moment that one can stop and declare, “this is the now.” Since a moment may not be paused, then every moment is in the past, and no longer exists objectively.
There are many ideas developed by man to effectively and productively progress and communicate through life. Some of the most important ideas developed are conceptual ideas. Concepts such as; time, along with past, present and future, are all concepts developed in the mind as instruments to account for the existence and occurrences of life, to include the conscience observation of the flow of motions, or moments. Although some of these concepts may be referred to as illusions, and have no real ontology, or objective existence; as long as they are understood as subjective practical illusions, they may still be used intelligibly, and reasonably in everyday life.
Dummett, Michael. “A Defense of McTaggart’s Proof of the Unreality of Time.” The Philosophical Review 69.4 (1960): p. 497. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy1.apus.edu/stable/2183483?pqorigsite=summon&seq=1#pag e_scan_tab_contents
Thomas, Emily. “John Mctaggart Ellis Mctaggart.” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. http://www.iep.utm.edu/mctaggar/#SH3c
Tallant, Jonathan Charles. “Defining Existence Presentism.” Erkenntnis 79.S3 (2014): p. 479. http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy1.apus.edu/docview/1519819917/fulltextPDF/49D754 5020C8445DPQ/1?accountid=8289