The Confusing Concept Of Time

The Confusing Concept Of Time

Time (with some philosophical grounding) for those of us feeling the burden of resolution.

As a (Western) Philosophy graduate, the concept of time is an overwhelming thought to me. A memory of a stressful time. A time when I was mind-stuck between Aristotle’s Reductionism and Plato’s Absolutism (essentially, whether time exists only in relation to events and change – us and things – or whether it is something in and of itself).

There are multiple schools of thought about time. Yet, we still refer to the Ancients because it seems time has not revealed much about itself. It has certainly not revealed anything definitive. As the philosophical time debate wages on, we are still essentially at the beginning – if we can speak in terms of start and end.

Does time even exist? Although some philosophers are convinced it does not, it sure feels like there is a temporal order to things. With the introduction of feeling, we get a whole new can of philosophical worms: how do we perceive time? It seems ridiculous to say we see, smell, hear, taste or touch it. Does time require a sixth sense? And if time does exist, what does it do for us? Can we manipulate it or are we destined to merely experience it?

concept of time

I am glad to say my time of rushing to meet deadlines for essays about the existence and nature of time are over. If anything makes time feel tangible, it is a looming deadline accompanied by the sickly feeling in your stomach when you wish you could time travel to personally ask McTaggart, “What the fuck?” Or maybe somewhere on some timeline that version of me is living that reality over and over. Shudder. However, on this time series, where my present self is writing this, and your future self will be reading it, I aim to simply enlighten you with the liberating notion that time as a concept is as confusing as we are confused.

It can be liberating to realise that if the concept of time is so disputed then the rush, stress and anxiety you feel at the start of the year is… well, arbitrary. If, like me, you are feeling the burden of bettering yourself then it can be nice to realise that the January spike in pressure is something you can free yourself from. Although useful, once we realise that the timeline we have been punishing ourselves with is not the dictator of our success – or our lives – we can get through January’s frosty mornings without the morning routine of dread.

In Love

By all means, continue to meet your deadlines, leave in time for your bus, and aim to be punctual. Take those new year blues with a pinch of salt. Your self-improvement, your mental health, your goals need not answer to anyone else’s concept of time. Whether you are convinced time is relative, absolute or does not even exist, do not punish yourself. Be less like the White Rabbit, enslaved to the pocket-watch. Be more like Alice, and embrace the new year with curiosity and freedom.


Written by Michelle Houlston,

Junior Editor

Artwork by Alejandra Labbé

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