Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Interesting Quotes: Bennett on Timeless Personhood

From "Time in Human Experience" by Jonathan Bennett:
To get a sense of what it would be like for us if things were somehow different from how they are, we take fragments of our experience and assemble wholes out of them. We know what it would be like to have purely achromatic vision; for we have watched black-and-white movies, and have seen mountain landscapes whosewhole palette is black, white and grey; and we can have the thought of a visual life that is, so far as colour is concerned, all like that. Or suppose we want to envisage experiencing an outer world which does not consist of hard physical objects but rather of smooth waves of reality of some kind. Never mind the physics. I am talking about the idea of the world’s being given to us as wave-like, with the sort of immediacy with which it actually comes to us as full of knobbly things. We can get some sense of that, too, by focussing on the parts of our actual experience that pertain to fluids and jellies and clouds, and out of those materials trying to build a picture of a complete course of experience that presents us with an objective, outer world which is not organised in a thing-like manner. I know of no other way for us to imagine alternative possibilities for ourselves. If that is our only way, then to get a sense of what it would be like to exist out of time we must focus on the parts of our lives that are not temporal, and out of those fragments assemble a picture of a way of being that is all like that. All like what? What fragments? In this case the technique cannot get started, because all of our inner lives are temporally ordered, not just over-all but also down to the finest detail. We have no atemporal fragments out of which to build; no ground to stand on while we try to get a sense of a non-temporal way of being. So temporality lies deep in our thought because it spreads wide in our experience. We cannot think our way down to a level where time does not apply, because no parts of our experience, however small or odd, lie outside time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can see a clock ticking and
imagine that it does not tick
and that nothing moves and nothing
changes--no thoughts arise and so on.
If time means change (how else to mark time?) then I can imagine being in no time easily --in my view.