In my final term at Bristol University, I collected a range of academic ideas from final year students, to be published in Helicon Magazine’s weekly Features column. The idea was to distil dissertations into a two-minute snippet. This is the last that I’ll be posting from the collection.
Think you know what the concept of time is? Take two minutes to correct yourself, thanks to Zayd Awan (Philosophy BA).
The standard conception of time is that of a river: time flows from the past through the present and into the future. Although seemingly intuitive, phenomenologists have taken issue with this metaphor.
Phenomenology as an approach to philosophy stresses the primacy of lived experience as a means to ground all claims to knowledge. As a foundational philosophy, it looks to start with the experience of the world before knowledge claims (the experience from which we then derive terms like ‘time’, ‘space’, ‘the self’, ‘reality’, ‘dreams’ and so on).
THE INTERPLAY OF HARMONY ANTICIPATING DISCORD AND VICE VERSA IS THE FOUNDATION OF MUSIC, AND ALSO TELLS US SOMETHING CRUCIAL ABOUT OUR EXPERIENCE OF TIME.
Time, before becoming an object of knowledge through measurements from a clock, is a fundamental dimension of our experience. How does it manifest?
The joy of listening to a melody is precisely the way the elapsed tones are somehow retained in our present experience, enhance contextualise and enrich it, whilst leaving us with anticipation of the tones to come. This interplay of harmony anticipating discord and vice versa is the foundation of music, and also tells us something crucial about our experience of time. The past is retained in our present perceptions, whilst the future is anticipated within the current moment- feeding into and colouring our present perception as it fades into it.
It is only in virtue of our ability to retain present moments and anticipate further moments that we can talk of past and future at all. Thus time is not a river flowing from the past to the future, but a movement of experience in which anticipated moments flow into our present and quickly become past: this extended present is the site in which all experiences we will ever have manifests.
This piece was originally published for Helicon Magazine’s weekly Features column
Artwork, Paul Klee