Theory of Everything but the Theorist


Arrow of Time, Vladimir Kush

From Philosophy Now:

Denying the reality of tensed time illustrates what happens when physics exceeds its proper bounds. Shrinking the conscious subject to an observer who is in turn reduced to a group of values assigned to mathematical variables, thus discarding memory and anticipation keyed to a ‘now’ (in turn rooted in ‘me’, ‘here’), empties time of what matters to us. Psychological reality is no less real for not being reducible to physical reality.

A purely physics-based Theory of Everything will at best be a ‘Theory of Everything But the Theorist’ – and that is a mighty big omission. Even the rediscovery of something like a Newtonian absolute ‘now’ agreed throughout the universe would not supply what is needed. A Newtonian absolute, ubiquitous now would be ownerless – unlike the existential now, which is maintained not by observers reduced to mathematical points, but by breathing, thinking individuals who look forward in hope and look back in anger. Everyday ‘I-time’, with its profound distinction between past and future, is not ready to be consigned to the ashcan of thought.

One would have to be arrogant, ignorant, stupid or ungrateful not to be struck with wonder at the power of physics to grasp physical reality. But the human world eludes its grasp. The mysteries of memory and of tensed time remind us of that. “Time,” Bernard d’Espagnat observed, “is at the heart of all that is important to human beings.” To reduce time to tenseless physical time is to lose what lies at the heart of that heart.

“Time, Tense & Physics”, Raymond Tallis, Philosophy Now