Esteban J. Beltrán Ulate
In their debut text Cosmological and Psychological Time, Yuval Dolev of Bar-Ilan University and Michael Roubach of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, guide readers through topics concerning Relativity Theory, Transience and Experience, Temporality and Phenomenology in an engaging series of 12 chapters. In this review, I outline the main ideas purported in each of the chapters with the aim of bringing the reader closer to the understanding the relevance of the chapters to the field of time and philosophy, without pretending to purport a total synthesis of the work.
The motivation of Dolev and Roubach’s text is described in the introduction, where the central character of time is captured, from two visions: continental and analytical. From the perspective of continental philosophy, which assumes that time is intimately bound up with the notions of consciousness and subject, an assumption exists that there is an independence between the mind and experience. In the middle of this bifurcation of continental and analytic philosophy, there is also a tension as to the conception of time as Presentism or Eternalism. Within the framework of this tension is a working group of representatives of both analytical and continental currents. From a series of academic meetings at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem, the text is derived, in order to contribute to the discussion of time from a double glance.
In the first section, “Relativity Theory”, there are four studies: “Physical Time and Experienced Time”, “Relativity, Global Tense and Phenomenology”, “Why Presentism Cannot Be Refuted by Special Relativity”, and “Einstein’s Bergson Problem: Communication, Consensus and Good Science”.
In “Physical Time and Experienced Time”, Denis Dieks assumes that the image of the Universal block is compatible with the human experience. By adopting this assumption, Dieks concludes that the human experience is detached from the critical view of the senses; thereby, breaking the sphere of experience as the way to reach information that will be confirmed by relativity. In this case, phenomenology is an intellectual tool that permits reflection and offers ideas that have been scientifically endorsed by relativity theorists. In sum, Dieks’s chapter is an analysis about A-Theory and B-Theory, the problems between both theories in relation to perception, and the dichotomy of understanding between how the naturalist-scientific and physic-psychological may converge. The author outlines several considerations about time from Newtonian physics and from relativity theory, with a special interest to the focus of flux time.
In “Relativity, Global Tense and Phenomenology”, Yuval Dolev confronts Dieck’s ideas developed in “Physical Time and Experienced Time”. Therein, he assumes that any task of interpreting relativity, absent a phenomenological approach, is inappropriate. Therefore, a global tense and the passage of time are immovable from experience. Concurrently, a phenomenological analysis of passage time establishes a framework of relativity; whereby, the inclusion of experience forces the abandonment of both Theory A and Theory B of time. Dolev disagrees with Dieck’s phenomenological analysis, his thesis about the block universe, as well as his assessment of the tension existing between the block universe and experience. He further postulates that relationship between the conditions of the local observer and the distance of the event that happens is problematized, suggesting the impossibility of any strict simultaneity between the event and the experience of the same, “The experience takes place not where the flares are igniting, but where the observer is located” (p. 26). Finally, Dolev assumes the there is a possible compatibility between Global Now with the relativity theory only after reflecting on a series of challenges he took as reference to the Now of Andromeda.
In “Why Presentism Cannot Be Refuted By Special Relativity”, Yehiel Cohen presents a third way to respect relativity theory in confronting the idea of a relationship existing between presentism and relativity. He also proposes that e-Lorentz transformations assume the notion of absolute simultaneity. Therein, Cohen confronts both, the conventionality of simultaneity and the relativity of simultaneity. The first part of the chapter develops a refutation of presentism by special relativity, taking note of Putnam’s thesis that, “there are no privileged Observers” (p. 42). Cohen then explains the notion of Conventionality of Simultaneity, where he describes how Sklar refutes Putnam’s thesis, and rather argues for Reichenbach’s synchronization of two clocks.
Midway through the text, Cohen adheres to a language that echoes Hinchliff’s terminology, deepening the notion of Point Presentism and Cone Presentism. This adherence extends first from an analysis of R(point) and the problem of now, and second from a scrutiny that concludes the untenable character of R(bcone). In summary, both R(point) and R(bcone) are assessed as flimsy, as Cohen conceives, because both are constituted by separate space-like events. Cohen’s work factually illustrates how an e-Lorentz transformation might be sustained, and concludes that, “presentism is not refuted by special relativity!” (p. 50). Cohen then culminates his chapter by confronting the problem of the Now as an open question.
Jimena Canales concludes the first section with the chapter, “Einstein’s Bergson Problem: Communication, Consensus and Good Science”. Here, Canales focuses on the Bergson-Einstein controversy; whereby, both men held differing opinions as to the possibility of physical time and a separate human existing apart from physical time. While the article does address both views, it also questions how the future of the debate may be shaped. Canales relates the origin of the controversy by describing the meeting between Einstein-Bergson in 1922. She also offers a short list of authors that represent opposing views concerning time in XX century. The opposing views she addresses regard physical time and the others regards psychological, yet she finds that, “neither of these labels do justice to the contributions of each men” (p. 57). Instead, Canales shows how Bergson is differs from Einstein, by evidencing their contrast through a comparison of the differences arising from their journals and the Letters of Einstein, which were the center the attention in the CIC meeting in Geneva (25 July, 1924). She further notes that it was in Geneva that Bergson and Einstein continued their debate, and critics to Bergson amalgamated, because, “[When] Einstein offered his official response…Bergson had not understood the physics of relativity” (p. 59).
Conversely, Cannels notes Bergson’s assumption that Einstein could not comprehend him because his lack of philosophical training—a point given heed by Bergson based on his supposition that the German (Einstein) did not read his book Duration of Simultaneity. Canales finishes the chapter by describing a third way the two men differ, favoring neither Einstein nor Bergson. Instead, she centers her attention on notion of communication, “science is replete with rhetorical strategies of nondialogue” (p. 69), Canales’ goal with this chapter is show a need for the perpetuation of improved rhetorical, argumentative, and persuasive practices, so as to benefit scientific communication practices and to establish a normative ideal of investigations. By instituting these two practices, a higher plane of communicatory practices can be established, providing the linchpin for garnering more of a consensus by generalists and specialists alike.
The Second Section, “Transience and Experience”, begins with a chapter written by Barry Dainton titled “Some Cosmological Implications of Temporal Experience”. The chapter illustrates constraints existing between the cosmological and phenomenological tradition. Therein, Dainton focuses his attention on the implications of temporal experience in metaphysical theorization regarding time. Dainton also defends Existentialism from objections and discusses the relationship between Existentialism and Cosmological conception, via block universe, presentism et al. He then adopts the notion of “extended presentism” as the most promising option for cosmology.
After observing the implications of motion, that Zeno, Russell, Broad and Slezak have noted, Dainton then revels an alternative called the “Extensional model”. Dainton also considers the merits of the Retentional and Extensional models of temporal experience, using music examples (Successions C-D-E-F-G) whose results are favorable to the scholars, thereby giving reason to accept the Extensional alternative to the Retentional account. Dainton explains Overlap Presentism’s characteristics, and unveils the compatibility between Existentialism and Ovelap Presentism. Dainton finishes the chapter by analyzing Bolzmann Brains theory, incorporating some of the differences between Brentano and Husserl’s thesis about time and which gives Dainton pause to reason the necessity for new approaches.
In “From Physical time to human time”, Jenann Ismael offers thne possibility of non-contradiction between flow time and conceives the universe as a block as a strategy for linking time and space. Ismael also adopts the idea that events that are represented by temporal perspectives are invariant of Eternalism point of view, based on his belief of there being, “[a] gap between the time everyday experience and the time of physics” (p. 107). Ismael, also confronts the problem of time by suggesting that, “some of the most difficult unsolved problems are much closer to the human scale and have to do with reconciling the way that physics tells us universe is with that we experience it” (p. 107), Lastly, he considers that the problem between familiar time and Block Universe present echoes of Parmenides and Heraclitus’s debate.
Ismael does provide some arguments regarding the historical perspective of natural thought, describing it as a combination of contents of memory and perception within the epistemic asymmetries of time. However, he proposes that it is the task of the investigator to advance from thought inside time (natural thought of history) to a thought outside of time as way to reconcile the Parmenidean and Hereclitian vision of time, or A-series and B-series. Ismael’s chapter concludes by developing new questions about physics time.
Tamar Levanon’s “Relation, Action and the Continuity of Transition” inquires as to the problem that exists between temporal experience and internal variation. This particularly relates to the succession of moments, whereby Levanon scrutinizes William James and Alfred North Whitehead’s thesis by contrasting in with Bertrand Russell`s thoughts. Levanon goes on to present the negation of Russell and conforms it to being a transition to James` and Whitehead`s approach. However, this factor does not mean that both authors share the same ideas. On one hand, Whitehead replaces succession from causation, while James refuses the notion of abstract succession. On the other hand, Russell considers succession as immediate experience between parts of one sense datum. Levanon concludes with by an following enlightening thought, “The claim is that temporality is already immersed with in our phases inevitably brings us back to the passage of time itself” (p. 141).
Ulrich Meyer’s chapter “Consciousness and the Present” defends the thesis there being a non-existent connection between consciousness and presentness, Meyer rather conceives, “whether the phenomenon of consciousness allows us to make a principled distinction between the preset and other times” (p. 143). Meyer starts describing two issues of philosophers of time, first the tension of Analytics and Continental Philosophers in the problem of relationship between physical time and human time, and second with the status of present moment, throw the view of Eternalists and Presentists (including a growing block view).
After explaining the dearth of independence between the issues cited, Meyer confronts the initial question, and bifurcates how consciousness could mark present through proposing that: (1) consciousness generates presentness or that (2) presentness brings about consciousness. This analysis is settled by George Myro’s theory and concludes with a reflection that divides the connection between consciousness and presentness.
Meir Hemmo and Orly Shenker’s chapter “The Arrow of Time” assumes that temporal directionality cannot be derived from science. Instead, the authors start with two uncontroversial facts: “we experience a direction of time”, and that, “we experience a direction of processes relative to this direction of time” (p. 155). The thesis of their chapter directs that physics is not the singular mode for analyzing time and that there are other modes for comprehending the direction of time. To support their claim, Hemmo and Shenker discuss the direction of thermodynamics, analyzing the argumentative structure from two points of view: (1) how to predict the increase of entropy towards future, and (2) from a historical analysis that proposes that entropy in thermodynamic retrodiction that entropy. Yet, for their claim to be properly contextualized, the authors introduce the reader to the notion of Past-Hypothesis. Their chapter concludes with the their submission that, “current physics is not complete, and its lacuna is in a very central and conspicuous place in the empirical data” (p. 156).
The third and final section, “Temporality and Phenomenology”, begins with Michael Roubach’s chapter “Heidegger’s Primordial Temporality and Other Notions of Time”. Therein, Roubach examines the notion of Heidegger’s “primordial temporality”, and reflects on this notion as the most basic form of time that is understood. Roubach delivers on his promise to argue for Heidegger’s claim of the existence of an, “ordinary notion of time [that] presupposes primordial temporality” (p. 165). Methodologically, Roubach explores the notion of primordial temporality (ursprüngliche Zeitlichkeit) in Being and Time, and assumes that some motivations arise to the problem or consciousness of time. In the middle of text, the authors invoke affinities between Heidegger and Brouwer’s intuitionism.
However, there are critics of Ricoeur and Blattner’s analysis of Heidegger’s thesis that build an argument from Heidegger’s discussions of notion of time (futurity and finitude). Therein, a relationship between primordial temporality and consciousness of time and ordinary time is discovered. At the end of the text, Roubach rejects Ricoeur’s notion that “narrated time” precedes the Heideggerian perception of time, and rather considers the, “path [as] open for rethinking the relationship between conscious time and objective time” (p. 175), Roubach finishes evaluating the dichotomy between continental tradition and mathematical representation of time, and focuses on notion of primordial temporality as bridge between conscious and cosmological time.
The objective of Philip Turetzky’s “The Passive Syntheses of Time” is to describe Deleuze’s passive synthesis of time in order of its genesis. Turetzky’s chapter first compares lectures between how Husserl and Deleuze’s define and understand time, requiring a concurrent comparison from Hume’s influence. The text then discusses the idea of a non-unified field of the continental tradition based on a discussion of the Hursserlian topics of reductions, intentionality, genetic phenomenology and passivity. Turetzky’s then analyzes Deleuze’s three passive synthesis of time, concentrating on the third synthesis first, followed by the second and the first. Turetzky necessarily explains the notion of “caesura” and how it corresponds to Husserl’s notion of retention. Turetzky finishes his dense text by describing the project of Husserl in 1939 as “ground judgments in aesthetics” and demonstrating how the third synthesis is essential for second for Husserl’s conception of time (p. 201).
Dror Yinon concludes the text with his chapter “Change’s Order: On Deleuze’s Notion of Time”. Yinon’s chapter is based on the second chapter of Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition. He starts the chapter by analyzing the traditions that assume objective time is grounded on subjectivity and relating subjectivity with the transcendental structure of temporality. Yinon then deliberates about Deleuze’s three syntheses of time and focuses attention on Deleuze’s notion of change, concluding the chapter with McTaggart’s critique to time as change.
The ideas and underlying perceptions developed in Cosmological and Psychological Time denotes a great sum of learned reflection. Those scholars whose research concerns the nature of philosophy of time must access this text, as it brings a wide lens of analysis, and clarifies some important notions of the difficult topics discussed herein. In sum, I would submit that this text as a necessary addition to a researcher’s library, based on the depth it brings to the investigation of time and philosophy. The effort of the editors, Yuval Dolev and Michael Roubach, and all the contributors will, without a doubt, be recognized as relevant and timely.