The Now and the Passage of Time

From Physics to Psychology

in KronoScope
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


The notion of the “present moment” has intrigued philosophers, physicists, and psychologists alike. Here we review the literature in the physics and the neuropsychology of the “now” in order to connect those two yet unrelated fields. Such a unitary perspective helps us to explain why there cannot be an objective and absolute “now” and why we naïvely tend to believe in a cosmically extended present. In particular, invoking the recent identification in the Cognitive Neurosciences of various temporal integration windows underlying an individual’s temporal experience within physical spacetime enables us to qualify in a more precise way in what sense the now, as frequently claimed by philosophers, is mind-dependent.

The Now and the Passage of Time

From Physics to Psychology

in KronoScope



ArthurRichard T.W. DieksDennis “Minkowski Spacetime and the Dimensions of the Present” The Ontology of Spacetime 2006 vol. 1 Amsterdam Elsevier 129 156

AtmanspacherHaraldFilkThomasRömerHartmann “Quantum Zeno Features of Bistable Perception” Biological Cybernetics 2004 90 33 40

BabkoffHarveyFostickLea “The Role of Tone Duration in Dichotic Temporal Order Judgment” Attention Perception & Psychophysics 2013 75 654 660

BelotGordon “Dust, Time and Symmetry” British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 2005 56 255 291

BuschNikoVanRullenRufin ArstilaValtteriLloydDan “Is Visual Perception Like a Continuous Flow or a Series of Snapshots?” Subjective Time: The Philosophy Psychology and Neuroscience of Eemporality 2014 Cambridge, MA MIT Press 161 178

CarnapRudolf SchilppP.A. “Carnap’s Intellectual Biography” The Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap 1963 La Salle, IL Open Court 3 84

CraigA.D. (Bud) “Emotional Moments across Time: A Possible Neural Basis for Time Perception in the Anterior Insula” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 2009 364 1933 1942

DaintonBarry “Seeing Change” Philosophical Issues 2008 18 362 384

DaintonBarry Time and Space 2010 2nd edition Montreal McGill University Press

DaintonBarry CallenderCraig “Time, Passage and Immediate Experience” Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time 2011 Oxford Oxford University Press 382 419

DennettDaniel C.KinsbourneMarcel “Time and the Observer: The Where and When of Consciousness in the Brain” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 1992 15 183 201

DieksDennis DieksDennis “Becoming, Relativity and Locality” The Ontology of Spacetime 2006 vol. 1 Amsterdam Elsevier 157 176

DonaldMerlin A Mind So Rare: The Evolution of Human Consciousness 2002 New York W. W. Norton & Company

DoratoMauro Time and Reality 1995 Bologna Clueb

DoratoMauro The Software of the Universe 2005 Aldershot Ashgate

FairhallScott L.AlbiAngelaMelcherDavid “Temporal Integration Windows for Naturalistic Visual Sequences” PloS One 2014 9 7 e102248

FingelkurtsAndrew A.FingelkurtsAlexander A. ”Present Moment, Past, and Future: Mental Kaleidoscope” Frontiers in Psychology 2014 5 395

GallagherSean “Philosophical Conceptions of the Self: Implications for Cognitive Science” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 2000 4 14 21

GallagherSeanZahaviDan ValtteriArstilaLloydDan “Primal Impression and Enactive Perception” Subjective Time. The Philosophy Psychology and Neuroscience of Temporality 2014 Cambridge MA MIT Press 83 99

HassonUriYangEuniceVallinesIgnacioHeegerDavid J.RubinNava “A Hierarchy of Temporal Receptive Windows in Human Cortex” Journal of Neuroscience 2008 28 2539 2550

HoerlChristoph “A Succession of Feelings, in and of Itself, is Not a Feeling of Succession” Mind 2013 122 373 417

HusserlEdmund BroughJohn Barnett “Lectures on the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time” On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time (1893-1917) 1991 Dordrecht Kluwer Academic Publishers Originally published 1928 as Vorlesungen zur Phänomenologie des inneren Zeitbewußtseins. Halle: Max Niemeyer Verlag

JamesWilliam The Principles of Psychology 1890 London MacMillan

KiversteinJulian “Making Sense of Phenomenal Unity: An Intentionalist Account of Temporal Experience” Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 2010 85 155 181

LloydDan “Neural Correlates of Temporality: Default Mode Variability and Temporal Awareness” Consciousness and Cognition 2012 21 695 703

MarchettiGiorgio “Attention and Working Memory: Two Basic Mechanisms for Constructing Temporal Experiences” Frontiers in Psychology 2014 5 880

McAuleyJ. DevinJonesMari RiessHolubShaylaJohnstonHeather M.MillerNathaniel S. “The Time of Our Lives: Life Span Development of Timing and Event Tracking” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 2006 135 348 367

MetzingerThomas Being No One. The Self-Model Theory of Subjectivity 2003 Cambridge, MA MIT Press

MontemayorCarlos Minding Time: A Theoretical and Philosophical Approach to the Psychology of Time 2013 Leiden Brill

MontemayorCarlosWittmannMarc “The Varieties of Presence” Timing & Time Perception 2014 2 325 338

MontonBradley DieksD. “Presentism in Quantum Gravity” The Ontology of Spacetime 2006 vol. 1 Amsterdam Elsevier 263 280

NewtonIsaac Philosophiae Naturalis Principia mathematica 1972 3rd edition Cambridge, MA Harvard University Press [1726] (1726) with variant readings. Assembled and edited by Alexandre Koyré and I. B. Cohen with the assistance of Anne Whitman

NoëAlva Action in Perception 2004 Cambridge, MA MIT Press

NorthoffGeorg Unlocking the Brain. Volume 2: Consciousness 2013 Oxford Oxford University Press

PhillipsIan ArstilaValtteriLloydDan “The Temporal Structure of Experience” Subjective Time: The Philosophy Psychology and Neuroscience of Temporality 2014 Cambridge MA MIT Press 139 158

PöppelErnst “A Hierarchical Model of Temporal Perception” Trends in Cognitive Science 1997 1 56 61

PowerSean E. “Complex Experience, Relativity and Abandoning Simultaneity” Journal of Consciousness Studies 2010 17 231 256

PriceHuw Time’s Arrow and Archimedes’ Point: New Directions for the Physics of Time 1996 New York Oxford University Press

RashbrookOliver “The Continuity of Consciousness” European Journal of Philosophy 2013 21 611 640

RobbAlfred A. The Absolute Relations of Time and Space 1921 Cambridge Cambridge University Press

RuhnauEva MetzingerT. “Time-Gestalt and the Observer” Conscious Experience 1995 Paderborn Ferdinand Schöningh 165 184

RuhnauEvaPöppelErnst “Adirectional Temporal Zones in Quantum Physics and Brain Physiology” International Journal of Theoretical Physics 1991 30 1083 1090

SavittSteven F. “There’s No Time like the Present (In Minkowski Spacetime)” Philosophy of Science 2000 67 3 S563 S574 In “Proceedings of the 1998 Biennial Meetings of the Philosophy of Science Association Part ii: Symposia Papers” supplement

SavittSteven F. MyrvoldWayne C.ChristianJoy “The Transient Nows” Quantum Reality Relativistic Causality and Closing the Epistemic Circle 2009 74 Amsterdam Springer 339 352 The Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science

SmithNicholas “Inconsistencies in the A Theory” Philosophical Studies 2011 156 231 247

SmolinLee Time Reborn 2013 London Penguin Books

SkowBradford “Relativity and the Moving Spotlight” Journal of Philosophy 2009 106 666 678

SternWilliam “Psychische Präsenzzeit“ Zeitschrift für Psychologie und die Physiologie der Sinnesorgane 1897 13 325 349

TschacherWolfgangRamseyerFabianBergomiClaudia “The Subjective Present and Its Modulation in Clinical Contexts” Timing & Time Perception 2013 1 239 259

Ulbrich PamelaJan ChuranFinkMartinaWittmannMarc “Perception of Temporal Order: The Effects of Age, Sex, and Cognitive Factors” Aging Neuropsychology and Cognition 2009 16 183 202

van WassenhoveVirginie “Minding Time—An Amodel Representational Space for Time Perception” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 2009 364 1815 1830

VarelaFrancisco J. “Present-Time Consciousness” Journal of Consciousness Studies 1999 6 111 140

WackermannJiří “Measure of Time: A Meeting Point of Psychophysics and Fundamental Physics” Mind and Matter 2008 6 9 50

WaldRobert General Relativity 1991 Chicago Chicago University Press

WhiteheadAlfred Process and Reality 1929 New York The Free Press

WittmannMarcPöppelErnst “Temporal Mechanisms of the Brain as Fundamentals of Communication—With Special Reference to Music Perception and Performance” Musicae Scientiae 2000 Special Issue 1999-2000 13 28

WittmannMarcvon SteinbüchelNicoleSzelagElzbieta “Hemispheric Specialisation for Self-Paced Motor sequences” Cognitive Brain Research 2001 10 341 344

WittmannMarc “The Inner Experience of Time” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 2009 364 1955 1967

WittmannMarc “Moments in time” Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience 2011 5 66

WittmannMarc “The Inner Sense of Time: How the Brain Creates a Representation of Duration” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2013 14 217 223

WittmannMarc ArstilaValtteriLloydDan “Embodied Time: The Experience of Time, the Body, and the Self” Subjective Time: The Philosophy Psychology and Neuroscience of Temporality 2014 Cambridge, MA MIT press 507 523

WüthrichChristian CiuniRobertoMillerKristieTorrengoGuliano “The Fate of Presentism in Modern Physics New Papers on the Present. Focus on Presentism 2013 Munich Philosophia Verlag

WüthrichChristian PetkovVesselin “No Presentism in Quantum Gravity” Space Time and Spacetime: Physical and Philosophical Implications of Minkowski’s Unification of Space and Time 2010 Berlin Springer 257 278

ZimmermanDean CallenderCraig “Presentism and the Space-Time Manifold” The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time 2011 Oxford Oxford University Press 163 244


Monton (2006) argues that quantum gravity can reintroduce presentism. Wüthrich (2010) offers a convincing criticism of this claim.


See also Savitt (2006) who uses a different structure to explain the shared character of the present which he takes as a given without taking into consideration natural neural thresholds (or integration windows). Interestingly the claim that “becoming” is a primitive succession of events is compatible with a process view of reality à la Whitehead (1929). The flow is a primitive property of the world but this claim can be reinterpreted with the idea that the succession of events is a process and is a primitive property of the world.



Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 108 108 17
Full Text Views 82 82 48
PDF Downloads 3 3 1
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0