Listening to the audio version of objectivism by L. Pekoff for the second time, and I am so distracted by one thought I am finding it impossible to proceed. Existence, consciousness and identity, all correct but no mention of change, therefore time as an axiomatic. How can one have consciousness without change (time)? Does not the very acknowlegment of consciousness and Identity necessitate time? I can understand a concept of existence outside of time but cannot conceptualize consciousness or identity outside of time, giving them a different status than axiomatic truth of existence.

  • Discourse on concepts "out of time" is very tricky. As you state, time is often an axiom of many things we create in philosophy, and its very hard to imagine the concept of timelessness. As an alternative, would it help to use an open-world definition of "consciousness" and "identity" such that they have the meanings you conceptualize within the confines of time, but may have additional meaning outside of it?
    – Cort Ammon
    Sep 30 '16 at 21:29
  • Hi. I suggest to reword the title, so that it be clear that this is a question about objectivism. Oct 1 '16 at 21:50
  • Thought requires change, but if consciousness is a distinction with a difference, then it depends on the exact distinction you're drawing. For example, does an automobile exist when its engine is shut off?
    – user19423
    Oct 2 '16 at 5:21
  • 1
    Are you familiar with religious eternalism? "Beginning with Augustine and Boethius, many thinkers have held the view that God exists apart from time, or outside time. He possesses life all at once. But the expression ‘all at once’ is not meant to indicate a moment of time, but the absence of temporal sequence, though not, in the view of some, the absence of duration". God expresses his consciousness and identity in a single act of comprehension plato.stanford.edu/entries/eternity/#EteVie Kant ascribed something like that also to our "non-empirical self" in his theory of free will.
    – Conifold
    Oct 6 '16 at 20:31
  • A complication is that the term 'consciousness' may have different meanings. If we mean 'intentional consciousness' then this requires time. But those who delve into consciousness as a practical or 'empirical' study say that intentional consciousness is superficial. .
    – user20253
    Sep 10 '19 at 10:55

According to Shaivism which is one of the oldest philosophies in India, it does exist without time. ref here

In this Indian philosophy there are 36 principles of reality or tattvas which may be: pure (purusha/spiritual/abstract), impure (prakṛti/material/concrete) or pure-impure(abstract/concrete).

Consciousness (Siva Tattva) is a pure abstract tattva which means that it is created by Siva itself and the last step before liberation Moksha. Kāla is the tattva of time which is pure-impure ref here. A mind is made up of the following impure tattva: Intellect (buddhi), Ego (ahamkāra), and Mind (manas) which are material tattvas (not spiritual ones). These last 3 tattvas give you the illusory idea of individuality (they are responsible for what you call acknowledgement and identity).

Does not the very acknowledgement of consciousness and Identity necessitate time? I can understand a concept of existence outside of time but cannot conceptualize consciousness or identity outside of time, giving them a different status than axiomatic truth of existence.

Consciousness always happens here and now and it exists both outside and inside the individual mind. Consciousness does not understand nor does any action. It witnesses existence including thoughts (of the future, past, present always here and now), actions, stillness, ideas, feelings, understanding, etc. Consciousness has always been there just like a "Timeless/formless light of existence" but your mind was diverting your attention into what is illusory, transient and impermanent (individuality/matter/Maya).


It's nearly impossible to understand why this philosophy came to those conclusions if you don't practice meditation. When you get to advanced meditative states such us Niruddha (fully arrested thoughtless mind) time and consciousness don't go hand in hand. You know you are conscious but time goes by way faster than you think. Also in advanced states of meditation the ego is disconnected from the mind that is to say, the idea of self disappears (this also happens in lucid dreams and experiences with psychedelic drugs).

"Achintya-bheda-abheda-tattva" (The Supreme Lord is simultaneously and inconceivably one and different from His creation)

  • Re "consciousness does exist and without time" in my recent answer I started with a voice-over of J Krishnamurti distinguishing consciousness from its content. So I think it's better to say can than does. Anyhow upvoted Sep 9 '19 at 15:43

Consciousness may not be possible without time, but how are consciousness and identity bound up together? For instance, if I get amnesia, I have a single consciousness and multiple identities.

Kant would assert identity outside time even more completely, as he was a Christian from a tradition of personalizing God, but leaving him 'eternal' in the Augustinian sense. (I am not suggesting you consider Christian dogma as philosophy. But think about how those before you thought about time through the prism of Augustine's notion of a God outside time.)

From that point of view God should be able to have an identity, but he should not be limited by time. It is not true that he could not have consciousness (the Christian claim (and the Hindu one) after all, is that he incarnated himself, perhaps, a'la C.S. Lewis, for the very purpose of experiencing consciousness.) But as an omniscient, changeless entity, fully aware of the future, he would have no need of consciousness, knowing everything, and having come to know everything 'all at once', he would have no need to learn or to have experience. So identity and time need not be related, if you have a notion of thought and will that is 'perfect and unchanging' and not sequential.

So time is only related to the one factor. Time and consciousness are related. From Kant's point of view, that relationship is almost complete, and it is not shaped the way we might first assume. It is time that is an aspect of consciousness, and not the other way around. Time cannot ultimately be an underlying principle, like existence, it has to be a contingent way of our interpreting our own experience for the sake of our limited minds. So having presumed consciousness, it would not be necessary to separately presume time.

The modern notion of 'spacetime' from Einstein makes this more credible, as we know that each individual travels through time in a way that makes it slightly different, according to what speeds and other changes are involved. For there to be a single, underlying structure there, it needs to be either very complex or quite odd in some other way we have a hard time grasping. Whereas if only the composite of space and time in experience exists, and neither space nor time are absolutely real on their own, what are the odds that either of them, or both of them together, are independent of us, and do not proceed from our interpretation?

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