Cognition & Reality

Friday, 1 October 2010

Fictional Past, Conjectural Future

Filed under: Perennial Philosophy,Radical Constructivism — drtone @ 12:05 pm

Neither the past nor the future exists. This can be a hard concept to grasp: Didn’t I drive to your office earlier? My wife and I definitely had a fight yesterday. The election is coming up. In another twenty years or so, I’ll be dead. And so on. Shit happens. Nevertheless, both the “past,” as we experience it in the present, and the “future,” as we now imagine it, are constructions.

Consider, for example, how tricky causality can be: Aunt Lorna bought a condo at the top of the market, and now she and Uncle Henry are bankrupt. Seems simple enough. That it’s only a story is apparent, however, when we consider how many intervening events, known and unknown, molar and molecular, noticed and ignored, have occurred between the two points “bought a condo” and “went bankrupt.” The “past,” therefore, is a story constructed by selecting some apparent “facts” and  rejecting others. The more consistent it is, the more believable it is likely to be, although the consistency itself is an illusion designed to maintain the coherence of an ego required to give an account of itself. It is mere thought.

The future? It seems so obvious that we know  what will happen in the future until we examine what about it we know. Consider how completely unpredictable the details are: When I leave the office, will the light at the corner where I turn be red or green? There is no way of knowing because the exact time of my arrival at the intersection is dependent on an infinite number of variables–as discussed in the previous paragraph. Now consider that the “future” consists of nothing but details, events small and large that have not happened. It is usual to talk about “walking out the door and being hit by a truck” as a limiting case, although we are being hit by figurative trucks all the time. Ask yourself if you really know what’s going to happen this evening, let alone next year. The “future” is a story less grounded, if anything, than the one about the past. It is mere thought.



  1. […] “past” and “future” are constructions, as I have discussed previously (in the fictional past). The specific representations we offer ourselves as “proof” of […]

    Pingback by Stories « Cognition & Reality — Wednesday, 20 October 2010 @ 3:08 pm | Reply

  2. […] about me, my past and my future. For that reason, attachment is little more than a dream, because neither the past nor the future exists. Leave a Comment LikeBe the first to like this […]

    Pingback by Attachment « Cognition & Reality — Wednesday, 19 January 2011 @ 12:38 pm | Reply

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