There is a physical explanation of some irreversibility, via the second law of dynamics

... the second law implies that time is asymmetrical with respect to the amount of order in an isolated system...

And this article argues at length that the flow of time is incoherent, except as a feature of human experience.

[T]he passage of time connotes more than just an intrinsic asymmetry: not just any asymmetry would produce passing. Space, for example, could contain some sort of intrinsic asymmetry, but that alone would not justify the claim that there is a “passage of space” or that space passes.

Apparently, time itself is irreversible

Time, in its entirety, is reversible if and only if all the processes (both existing ones and those that can exist) are reversible. Correspondingly, time as such is irreversible, if and only if there is at least one irreversible process possible.

Says the philosopher Shramko

Is is possible to explain the psychological experience of the flow of time? If time itself is irreversible but does not flow.

  • this is definitely a philosophical question, definitely. there's articles on it and everything – user38026 Jan 4 '20 at 10:56
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    your question has a well-defined answer in the world of physics, but that's probably not what you are after here. – niels nielsen Jan 5 '20 at 4:48
  • Recommend Rovelli’s Order of Time to tease apart some of these concerns (physical time, biological time, phenomenology of time etc) – Joseph Weissman Jan 13 '20 at 12:29
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    Bergson? Proust? – Gordon Jan 13 '20 at 15:11
  • it is absurd that four people have voted to close this as off topic. absurd. philosophers spend lifetimes lecturing on the flow of time – user38026 Jan 14 '20 at 23:06

The psychological experience of time has all its keys in the human memory.

We percieve things in our memory like we percieve things from reality through senses (by the way, in an equally or even more approximate manner, subject to many false perceptions, "hallucinations" or false memories). We simply believe past second was what it was because we percieve it in our memory. From this perception, it always seems that events follow each other in continuous sequence.

But, that doesn't mean it's time true nature. If we sleep, we loose memory perception, and wake up thinking we just fell asleep. We are only able to approximate elapsed time through other memories of sleeping. Likewise, would time flow inconsistently, our memory of it would still remain continuous.

A more in-depth philosophical read on the subject https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/time-experience/

Interestingly I also worked on the perception of movement, through what is called Beta movement. This also can hint you about ways your brain can trick you into thinking uncontinuous temporal events are continuous.

  • Welcome to Philosophy SE! It would greatly enhance your answer if you could supply some references, maybe you have read someone that hold these views... – christo183 Jan 13 '20 at 12:31
  • i guess a lack of continuity the same as a lack of passage. – user38026 Jan 13 '20 at 12:56

Is is possible to explain the psychological experience of the flow of time?

An excellent writer on this topic is Hermann Weyl. He denies the possibility of experiencing time, and if you look closely you'll see that we do not experience it. It can be explained only as a psychological phenomenon. Thus Weyl speaks of mathematical time, which would be the folk-psychological invention used by physics and mathematics, and intuitive time, which is time as experienced. The latter is not a movement but a location that is always here and now.

So, the phrase 'psychological experience of time' is problematic. It is debatable whether there is such a thing. It is our inability to experience the passing of time (as anything more than a psychological construction) that allows us to doubt whether time is metaphysically real.

  • i was asking if we could explain the "psychological construction" though – user38026 Jan 13 '20 at 14:25
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    Oh okay. This is explained at great length within the Perennial philosophy, which shares Weyl's view of time. For instance, 'Abhidhamma Studies: Buddhist Explorations of Consciousness and Time' by Ven. Nyanaponika Thera. . . – user20253 Jan 13 '20 at 14:36

Is is possible to explain the psychological experience of the flow of time? If time itself is irreversible but does not flow.

Experiences can be explained as illusions: a dot does not actually have to move in order for it to seem to move, as in film reels. I think that this illusion in this instantaneous case is then applied to all persistence.


Not all optical illusions are "reversible figures", so 'illusion' may get us nowhere if we want to argue that the experience of time is always reversible or ambiguous.

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