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The Riddle of The Time

It is set out by time. The orders of years, seasons, months, weeks, days, hours, and seconds, milliseconds or smaller durations that one cannot comprehend. Plans are made according to these divisions. Time washes over everything as it passes, and why it does so is a mystery that riddles minds. Great thinkers, great scientists, and religious teachings have brought up different comprehensions and understandings of time, its properties, and how it works (Bardon, 2015). Although there have been many interpretations for time, it keeps its quality as a riddle. Its effects can be observed through change and motion of the surroundings and how it effects to human psyche. Also, it can be experienced through changing states of mind, aging of the body, and differentiating from feelings to feelings. However, a comprehension of time seems far from the picture in the progression of thought and culture. In this way, this article presents a dispute and elaborations of concepts, thought, mythos and about time and psychology of time. The first perspective to be taken in the matter of time is the perspective concerning its ontological properties. The questions to be asked in this dispute are going to be on the scope of whether time exists, whether it is real, and what its drift seems to be a necessity for existence or being (Chernyakov, 2013). The second perspective to the matter of time is the epistemological approach. In this part, it is going to be questioned that how the knowledge of time can be obtained, and what the properties of time are that makes the attention of one be aware of such a phenomenon or concept (Fraassen, 1992). Then, the third perspective towards the matter of time is the scientific approach on the matter. The dispute on the matter of time has come a long way since the first philosophers questioned time till current relativistic and dimensional understandings of time. On the other hand, another perspective to the matter of time is related to subjectivity, which inspects and demonstrates the effects of time within the field of psyche of the individual.

Goddard, D. (2020). Stonehenge. [Photography].
Fig. 1: Goddard, D. (2020). Stonehenge. [Photography].

In this part of the article, the word, 'time', is going to be used to refer the phenomenon that is felt as passing in a cyclical fashion in reference to the sun, the change of the seasons, the change of the shape of the moon in the sky, or any other physical and psychological reference point that could be counted as making a cycle pattern through its patterns. This kind of time is thought to be measured via different mechanisms such as clocks and calendars that can react in similar patterns to the change of the different cycles or denote the bunch of time that passes at once (Hunt, 2008). In this process, what is perceived as the changing amount of duration is perceived as the patterns happening cyclically. Whether these cycles actually refer to the same amount of time or not, depends on the precision of the measurement and whether our measurements really refer to the exact amount of change that occurs. The former is related to the scientific perspective, and the latter is related to the epistemological perspective of the matter. Before going on with these perspectives, presenting the cultural relation to time would suffice for how humanity comprehends time and what they refer to when the subject matter is time. The process of defining cycles to have a sense of measurement of time is a kind of provider of order to the society. Initially, these elements of order making are related to the natural cycles that humanity conforms to as rituals that they perform as if nature calls to provide them what they need, or what they need to do for sustaining their existence (Hunt, 2008). Later on, with the change of living conditions, these natural calls take the form of the points in time at which the people make the desired interactions with each other and with nature, such as agricultural activities or gatherings. The fact remains that, however time is observed as patterns and cycles, as these cycles move forward, it is observed that qualities of beings change and dissolve into nothingness and they stay merely as memories of the past. This change is represented in culture via such an understanding of time as an all-incarnating and all-devouring being, which has representations like Kronos, the titan father of Zeus. Kronos eats his children as time brings the beings into existence and destroys them (Cicero, 2018). This kind of assessment of time demonstrates that the approach of humanity towards time has changed from a place of passivity to being a determinant force (Hunt, 2008). Though the image of time as all devouring keeps its place in the culture as the reminder of the mortality and impermanence of the beings in or through time.

Goya, F. (1819-1823). Saturn Devouring His Son. [Oil Painting].
Fig. 2: Goya, F. (1819-1823). Saturn Devouring His Son. [Oil Painting].

Time refers to the concept of time in this part of the article. The existence of past, present, and future are entailed as the concept of time comes into the picture. The moment passes now and becomes past, and the moments to come are referred to as the future, within the context of time. Hence, the question of whether time exists brings the investigation of whether the past and the future exist and how far they extend. Assuming time exists , one approach to this existence could be that it is something intrinsic to the universe, or it could be a subjective perspective of measuring motion. Taking the first one as the moving point, this knowledge leads the thought into two different branches. One is that time is absolute. The other is that time is a dimension of the universe. The former entails an ideal of time that is obvious with the condition that methods for obtaining the knowledge of it are rationality and reason. Through the employment of these tools, the knowledge of absolute time can be understood. This method also resembles Newtonian time. Newtonian time implies that time is an absolute part of the nature that affects every object in the same manner. Comparatively, the latter does not specify time as an absolute being. And similarly, for the latter, time is intrinsic to nature, but how it is comprehended is a relative aspect that depends on how the species that comprehend it is related to the nature. For humanity, this understanding is hand in hand with relativity. In contrast with the absolute space and time, this approach brings forth that space and time are unified dimensions that form space-time (Maudlin, 2015). How space-time behaves is relative to the observer, hence it depends on the relation of the observer with the nature. On the other hand, the other approach to time is that it does not exist. In other words, time is completely subjective. What one comprehends as passing of time or the experience of time can completely differ. Different from relativity, time is not a dimensional entity, but it is a social construct. The collective time is the dominant ideology in the society that determines the lives of people.

Dalí, Salvador. (1931). The Persistence of Memory. [Oil Painting].
Fig. 3: Dalí, Salvador. (1931). The Persistence of Memory. [Oil Painting].

This part of the article concerns both the phenomenon and the concept of time, and human relationship with these. In this part of the article, the field to analyse is how our perception of time occurs. Considering the approaches and branches in the paragraph above, how one relates to time changes according to which approach they take. Firstly, taking the first approach as the starting point, the epistemological relation with time is in such a way that the knowledge regarding the qualities of time and how it interacts with beings can be obtained through reason and rationality (Mulhall, 2005). The other branches of these approaches diverge at the point that for the first branch there is only one frame of reference for time, and for the second, though time is a feature that is intrinsic to the existence, there is no absolute frame of reference, and there are as many reference frames as the entities with different velocities. Commonly for these branches, the idea is that the knowledge of these frames or the absolute frame can be obtained through reason and rationality. On the other hand, for the second approach, the knowledge of time is subjective and interchangeable for different observers. The construct of time is taught and recognized by the subjects of different ideologies (Kristeva, 1993). For example, different religions have different concepts of time. For Buddhism, time is circular, and people come to life again and again until they reach their karmic completion (Potter, 1970). For most Abrahamic religions, time is linear. It starts as God starts it with word, and it ends with the apocalypse (Rust, 1981). For scientific method, time is a dimension that can be measured with the mechanisms and knowledge regarding time can be obtained through the measurement and theoretical work. This epistemological approach that takes time as a part of subjectivity roots the psychological theory (Meissner, 2007). For the field of psychology, time is an essential element in defining the subjectivity of the person, because the past traumas of the person can determine the actions of the person at the moment, and psychology focuses on this determination, in the inquiry of analysis of the personality (Sabbadini, 2014). On the other hand, for the positivist scientific theory, the claims need to depend on more concrete data to generate knowledge on these fields. However, this information provided by theory does not necessitate a certain arrow of time. Which way is past and which way is the future are interchangeable, because the equations of energy of the theory does not provide an arrow of time (Muller, 2017).

The progress of science and technology developed as the theory, experimentation and calculation methods have become more and more specific. Also, the progress of these gets faster as science and technology develop. The reason for this kind of dual progress is that scientific knowledge depends on experimentation. Experimentation depends on specification of the variables and definition of the environment, and durations in which the experiments are conducted. Relation of this progress with time is that; the experiments can get more and more specific, because the resolution of measurement of time increases and the measurements get more and more precise according to the resolution that is provided via these variables. And, for scientific method, what is measured via the clock is the time. The precision of the clock increases as follows. For first clocks, the sun is the provider of the time according to the shadow that falls on the certain assigned points that refer to the specific time of the day. And people could know that it is the referred time of the day again in the cycle of the day. Later on, the clock systems used water, springs, pendulums and other mechanical cyclical systems to measure a certain duration of time, which have become more and more precise. Today, the amount of atomic radiation that is radiated at a certain frequency is used as the cyclical process to determine the amount of time that passes. And the smallest amount of time that can be measured is theorized to be the Planck time, which is the amount of time that takes light to travel the Planck length. This is, according to scientific theory, the smallest unit of time (Wendel, Martinez, Bojowald, 2020). Hence, it brings the question that whether scientific method can have any progress left to increase its resolution and certainty. If the scientific method was still using Newtonian physics and the first kind of approach of time, this could have been a dead end for the scientific theory since the progress of the scientific theory depends on the development of the resolution of measurement and its application to the theory. However, relativistic perspective of quantum mechanics creates new possibilities for scientific theory to progress (Canales, 2016). This relative understanding of time could be the point of convergence of positive sciences with philosophy in a holistic understanding, because it seems that theory of relativity and the approach of subjectivity of time are coinciding in their way of comprehending transitionary reference frames (Krishnamurti, 2014).

Hurt, R. (2016). One manifestation of general relativity is gravitational waves, depicted here as created by two colliding black holes. [Digital Art].
Hurt, R. (2016). One manifestation of general relativity is gravitational waves, depicted here as created by two colliding black holes. [Digital Art].

In conclusion, our understanding of time progressed since the first philosophers thinking and questioning about time. From the first thinkers, the knowledge has accumulated to be able to reflect the light of questioning on this mystery. And clues show that the more the mysteries unfold, the more questions come forth. For physics, the answers to the questions of why to the current inquiries and dilemmas could be demanding another revolutionary leap towards the fields of questioning the basic assumptions of philosophy. And for humanity to be able to have a deeper understanding of the universe and existence could be depending on the understanding of time in a more scientific and also subjective way. Time is a riddle that seems to be an inseparable part of the life. However, life might not necessitate having a sense of time, or a cyclical one. We live in a way that we have time in every aspect of our lives from our language to our perception and every word and every thought are exposed to temporality. Even if time is a phenomenon, a fundamental part of reality, a dimension, or a subjective comprehension, things to discover about time seems to be as infinite as a moment itself and as small as the memory of the whole past of the universe.


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Visual Sources

Cover Image: bestdesigns (January 19, 2017). Time Fantasy stock photo; Man in creation with time element. [Digital Art]. Retrieved From:

Fig. 1: Goddard, D. (2020). Stonehenge. [Photography]. Retrieved From:

Fig. 2: Goya, F. (1819-1823). Saturn Devouring His Son. [Oil Painting]. Retrieved From:

Fig. 3: Dalí, Salvador. (1931). The Persistence of Memory. [Oil Painting]. Retrieved From:

Fig. 4: Hurt, R. (2016). One manifestation of general relativity is gravitational waves, depicted here as created by two colliding black holes. [Digital Art]. Retrieved From:


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