Thought Experiment on the Existence of Time

Does time exist independent of perception? Or is it a result of perception?
First of all, we need to carefully define time. Time is the distance (duration) between events; it is what makes events unique to themselves.

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Fig 1. represents time as the duration/distance between two events: lunch and dinner. Let’s say that the approximate time between these 2 events is 6 hours.

However how one experiences time is dependent on other factors i.e. biology and Einstein’s theory of relativity. Biology states that our internal clocks can change our perception of time (which could explain the saying “time flies as you age”). There have been multiple occasions in the world of neurology in which patients have reported changes in the rate in which events passed (the rate of time) from physical changes in their anatomy. The Theory of Relativity states “time dilation”: how you experience time changes dependent on your velocity.

Now imagine that there is someone who experiences time twice as fast as the person in Fig 1.

Fig 2. Represents person 2 who experiences time twice as fast as person 1. We write the shortened distance as 3 perceived hours.

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The faster the subject perceives time, the shorter the distance between events get. Fig 3 represents the inverse relationship between t, the duration between events, and v, the velocity at which the subject is perceiving time.

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What if we keep on shortening this distance? Here is the thought experiment: if the subject were to experience time at the rate of infinity, v=infinity, the distance between events would become infinitely small, t=0. Mathematically we can represent the process by the following:

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Thus if you were the one to experience v=infinity, all events would reach singularity and converge into one event. In this case, time does not exist but all events become one supra-event (represented by the fig below).
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Although such experiences are likely not to exist, it tells us that the existence of time is reliant on how we perceive our reality and is not an objective configuration that exists independently of human cognition. If there was anything to be learnt by the rationalist school of thought, like Descartes, is that entities, which rely on human cognition to exist, cannot be validated to exist in reality independent of perception.

Action and consequence are one. Only timeĀ separates action and consequence; time is artificial; and so, there within the action lies its consequence. -Buddhist Philosophy


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