I’m presenting a live event, hosted by Ajeenkya D Y Patil University, on Tuesday, July 19 at 2:30pm IST (5:00am EST). You can view the event on Vimeo:
Thinking, Remembering Thinking, Thinking about a Memory of Thinking, and how that Messes with Time
If you wanted to fill in the details surrounding a memory of an event, like viewing a show at a music festival, what would you do? You could revisit the site of the festival, ask friends you went with to share stories, or see the same show again somewhere else, meet the performers, and ask about their perspectives. But what if you wanted to fill in the details surrounding the memory of a thinking-event, like a fantasy of yourself on the stage instead of the performers? You could repeat the fantasy again, this time with more awareness of what was happening in your mind during the visualization, but how would you know for sure that any of the qualities of the repeated fantasy match those of the first iteration? How would you know for certain you visualized the same sights, the same sounds, or experienced the same affiliated feelings, or even started and ended the fantasy the same way, with the same duration in between? For the memory from real life, you have people, things and events in the external universe that confirm for you the continuity between where the show took place, how long the show lasted, and who or what was involved, but nothing can confirm this kind of continuity for you in terms of your thinking-events. In fact, this experiment leads to an unanswerable question: how do you really know that you had any of the thoughts that you remember having?
In my essay, The Pressure of Light: how consciousness creates permanence in a universe of infinite-heterogeneity, I complete a systematic analysis of remembered-internal-events compared with remembered-external-events. My analysis shows that the mind’s account of repetition, of permanence, stems from a structure of uncertainty surrounding remembered-thinking, which does not translate to present-moment experiences. It shows that contextual and causal relationships between thoughts also exist only in an uncertain past, and are thus concepts that exist in a time-state quite separate from normal time in the universe-external. Consciousness, and the mind’s framework for understanding the universe, presumes the existence of repetition, of permanence, from which they perceive contextual and causal relationships, so, according to my analysis, both consciousness and conceptual-knowledge exist only in the past, never in the present moment.
As I walk the Straigh and Measureable Arrow of Time (Einstein Quotes)
This issue of the newsletter continues the walk backward through the essay by presenting the quotes that head section two. The first quote from Hume, and second from Einstein, strengthen my perspective of the nature of remembered-thinking. The quotes focus on the subjective experience of time when thinking about external events. My essay focuses on the subjective experience of time when thinking about internal-events. Crucial to my ideas is the fact of unitization of remembered-thoughts, of separation, and perceived ordering. As long as perception conceives of remembered-thoughts in the same way as perception conceives of remembered-external-events, Hume and Einstein’s assertions about the ordering-principle behind subjective-time-perception holds true for my own ideas.
This cooridnation between my ideas, Einstein’s, and Hume’s in particular will be explored thoroughly tomorrow morning in the live event. If the short section below is of interest, I would highly recommend attending!
Without further ado…
“An historian may, perhaps, for the more convenient carrying on of his narration, relate an event before another, to which it was in fact posterior; but then he takes notice of this disorder, if he be exact; and by that means replaces the idea in its due position. It is the same case in our recollection of those places and persons, with which we were formerly acquainted. The chief exercise of memory is not to preserve the simple ideas, but their order and position.”
– David Hume, The Treatise of Human Nature (1739), whom Einstein acknowledged as the most significant philosophical shoulders on which was built the Theory of Special Relativity.
“But what about the psychological origin of the concept of time? This concept is undoubtedly associated with the fact of ‘calling to mind,’ as well as with the differentiation between sense experiences and the recollection of these. Of itself it is doubtful whether the differentiation between sense experience and recollection (or simple re-presentation) is something psychologically directly given to us. Everyone has experienced that he has been in doubt whether he has actually experienced something with his senses or has simply dreamt about it. Probably the ability to discriminate between these alternatives first comes about as the result of activity of the mind creating order.
“An experience is associated with a ‘recollection,’ and it is considered as being ‘earlier’ in comparison with ‘present experiences’. This is a conceptual ordering principle for recollected experiences, and the possibility of its accomplishment gives rise to the subjective concept of time, i.e. that concept of time which refers to the arrangement of the experiences of the individual.”
– Albert Einstein, from his 1916 book on Special and General Relativity, in which he agrees with David Hume, but expands on the individuality of the experience of time.