Philosophy Colloquium: The Veridical Experience of Temporal Passage in the Block Universe

Posted on 1/28/2016 1:41:28 PM

The Philosophy Department is pleased to announce that Maria Balcells (Bucknell University) will give a talk titled “The Veridical Experience of Temporal Passage in the Block Universe” on Friday, February 5, at 3:30 p.m. in HSS 206.


There are many elements of our experience that are thought to be, or at least contribute to, the experience of temporal passage or flow. These elements include the feeling of moving into the future and away from the past, our inability to control such movement, and the dynamic character of this progression. These elements together have contributed to the view that time flows or passes. Most who take these elements of experience to be indicative of some property of time have criticized the four-dimensional block universe theory of space and time, in which all moments exist equally and eternally. This criticism is largely due to the block universe theory's hostility towards an additional mechanism, such as a moving now, and thus the theory’s apparent inability to explain the experiences of temporal flow. 

The tension between the experience of temporal flow and the block universe seems to leave one with the option of either abandoning the block universe in favor of a metaphysics that can accommodate our experience, or maintaining the block universe theory, but holding that our experience of temporal flow is illusory.

I hold that both of these options are untenable. Instead, I argue that the dynamic experiences that lend themselves to the view that time flows can be accounted for within the block universe theory without any additional mechanism. In order to argue this point, I attempt to show that the general character of our temporal experience may be structurally dissimilar to the temporal structure of reality and yet still veridical. While the belief that veridical experiences must be structurally identical to the properties of the external world has been abandoned in the realm of color, sound, etc., this belief still has its grips on how we think about time.