The perception of time seems to be a quale as every other else. Though, the unique thing about it could be that it's actually measurable.

People regulate their drowsiness by objective factors like light. There's a well known experiment conducted by Michel Suffre on himself in 1972 - when he spent a month with no light and no information about the time, his time perception, along with his sleeping cycles, has twice slowered. This experiment indicates that our perception of time is heavily interwined with our bodily (objective) sensation but as our thoughts, it seems to have the characteristics of a quale.

On the other hand, there were experiments with similar goals that were about to find out wheter people percieve time slower when they're falling from high on a trumpoline but they didn't. Similarly as the studies on changes of our time perception during our lifetime, this experiment shows us that our time perception might be often a thing of our memory - this would indicate time isn't even a quale at all.

When I watched the movie Arrival, I realized it wouldn't actually be possible to share one's perception of time - just as it's not possible to share our speed of time.

Though - it seems to me that perception of time is unique in its ability to be shared to a certain extent. Could this be the interface of consciousness and the physical word? Aren't we actually sharing our qualia when we consider ideas such that the time used to run slower when we're young?

I think the similar reasoning logic be applied for thoughts - which might be why some philosophers doesn't consider them to be a quale. What does it mean for the philosophy of consciousness to actually have such interface? Is there any similar dimension of sensation on the border of shareable sensations?

  • There is a basic problem with this as a goal: The measurable correlate of a quale, e.g. the wavelength of red light, is not the quale itself. It is both more than the quale -- in that it has material reality, and less the quale, because the experience can be created by false stimulation when it is absent. – user9166 Feb 18 '17 at 16:47
  • @jobermark Ok but if was for ex. our perception of time change as we're getting older, it wouldn't really mean anything in the physical word (even though it could have been probably fully described by analyzing our neurons). Appropriate metaphore would, I think, be that our vision would slowly shift towards audio sensation in our lifetimes. My point is not that time is the only scientifically explainable quale but the only which qualities we can describe – Probably Feb 18 '17 at 18:19
  • We can describe lots of quale to at least the same degree we can note the effects of time. The blinding fullness of a bright white light, the tenuous halting due to one kind of pain or the feeling of being engulfed by another, etc. etc. We have remarkably similar bodies, and they respond to stimuli in remarkably similar ways. We have the experience and it leaves us changed, at least temporarily. And the changes can be empathically communicated. – user9166 Feb 19 '17 at 1:56
  • I understand we can communicate things like colorblindness or hearing loss but those seem to be all things we could simulate with virtual reality. The true qualia are what we can't simulate - and therefore you can't say that we all see red in a remarkably similar way (even though I'd argue for that from philosophical reasons). Time perception seems to be "above" those in the sense that you need time perception to percieve them (wow - I just realized that time perception might be consiousness). – Probably Feb 19 '17 at 6:54
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    The flaw here would be that we do not experience the passing of time. Nobody has ever experienced this. My go to thinker on time is Hermann Weyl.and he makes this point clearly. Our awareness in always right now, We may, as you say, get a sense of time passing slowly or quickly, but this is a theory imposed on experiential data, not raw experience. In immediate experience there is no past or future. Our perception of time is not a quale since we do not have such a perception. If we did then the common idea that time is metaphysically unreal would be unsustainable. – user20253 Nov 29 '17 at 12:48


Time is an illusion, there is no "forward" or "backward" or "any kind of movement" in time.

There is only the present, and things move in the present.

In the present, we can store things in memory, we can access our memories, we can make an estimate about "the future".

There is no past or future in reality.

Yes we can access our memories, and if we spend 2 weeks in a box with nothing to do we may keep thinking "I'm so bored, I wanna get out" and we may store many bad memories, I'm still thinking about wanting to get out, now it's getting darker and I still want to get out, it's been 2 days and I still want to get out, and so on.

Then, we have many memories about that 2 weeks, so we may say "it was very slow time". This is inaccurate. Even if there was time, it would move constantly. But there is no time at all, and all we have are the present memories. It is more accurate to saying something like "I have many memories of that one time in the box for 2 weeks, I remember on the 4th day when I kept thinking that it had already been 4 days, etc".

So maybe there is some kind of quale (the gayest word I've ever heard, by the way), but it is not about "perception of time", only about memories of passed events.

  • Gravity is "just" spacetime curvature, that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Similarly, I think it's not true we don't experience time in the present. I ask you to wait for as long as you percieved a football match, I can even compare your subjective changes in this quale (so it's not just a mathematical function of our brain that gets biased sometimes) – Probably Jan 28 '18 at 12:54
  • At the same time, it changes dramatically. I gave one example of that in the question. Another is Vsauce's experiment. google.cz/… – Probably Jan 28 '18 at 12:57
  • Gravity is real, but time is not. And how do you compare the changes? You can only observe how things are and how they move in the present. – user30501 Jan 28 '18 at 14:23
  • just like they compare sweetness of different substances: you give your respondents a solution of sugar and a solution of stevia and ask them which of them they percieved as sweeter – Probably Jan 28 '18 at 15:09
  • So you give them sugar in the present and ask them to tell you about their current memories and observe their response in the present. None of this suggests that time exists – user30501 Jan 28 '18 at 15:31

When you reduce the argument to its minimum, it goes like this:

Of course, there's a difference between a "quale" (singular of qualia) as used by philosophers and an "sensation" as used in medical circles. As a doctor, I could precisely describe the sensation of "green" from your retina to your neocortex but I'll never be able to describe your sensation.

Thus, we can't measure how much does my "greenness of green" differ from yours. And that is true about my "saltness of salt" and "harmony of a major chord" as well.

But the perception of the speed of time is the same thing as our quale of the speed of time since if we assume we all have a consciousness that percieves time, it's really nothing we can sense in other way than as a physical quality - as the time we guess that has passed between a moment A and a moment B.

The reason I couldn't understand the time-speed quale was that when I wanted to understand the quale coming from one sense, I imagined it as percieved by another sense. So I imagined that I percieve what I call sound as what you call sight and thus my "tones" and your "colors" are interchangeble.

Therefore, it's hard to imagine what the speed of time is supposed to actually mean - because speed of time is all the other qualia combined. And we have no other way to percieve life than through time!

But we can still make a metaphore: Imagine you percieve time as a sequence of words that represent what you sense. Someone else might percieve it as a sequence of images.

(Spoiler to Arrival incomming)

Take the aliens from Arrival who percieved time as a space, where people can be only at one place at a time and can move only in one direction, in the constant speed of 60 min/hour.

So I'd consider time-speed perception a quale but still a specific one because we don't really have a specialized organ for percieving it - it's a combination of our awareness, frequency of experiences we remeber and our tiredness (directed by the amount of light around us) and thus, arises in the brain (which is similar to another controversial quale - thoughts).

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    I am not sure why "speed of time" is in any way unique. Heat can be "measured" by temperature, color by frequency, etc. Of course, what is actually measured has nothing to do with qualia (as nothing measured can), but that is also true in all three cases. Biologists can come up (if they haven't done so already) with a way to measure the rate of "internal clock" (like circadian rhythm) relative to mechanical ones, which will correlates with the "speed of time" perceptions. – Conifold Nov 29 '17 at 1:38

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