1,500 years ago the Roman senator & philosopher Boethius wrote of two types of 'the now':

“Nunc fluens facit tempus, nunc stans facit aeternitatum."

The now that passes produces time, the now that remains produces eternity.

Can these two types of now be put into a more edifying modern context? For example, the now that passes: this is 'now' in the context of temporality. A future event becomes now, then passes into the past.

The now that remains, this is the now that is always the present. Carried along with existence (generally living existence). Almost atemporal, except most things in this now are moving. Is this now an observer's perspective?

Any thoughts appreciated.

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    "The now that remains" is the eternal present of God in Boethius, "it encompasses the infinite sweep of past and future, and regards all things in its simple comprehension as if they were now taking place". The closest modern thing I can think of is the Hartle–Hawking state, or, at least, the pedestrian Red Forest version of it played on in the show 12 Monkeys.
    – Conifold
    Nov 26, 2022 at 1:42
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    According to modern QM' necessity of observer participancy to probe any observable which reality or existence depends on ultimately, the so called "past" has no evidence except those queried and registered in the present by any authentic observing agent. In this sense the future is always likely to have more reality assuming those recorded in the present don't get deleted, fogotton or faded away... As the Buddha warned that past thought cannot be got at, present thought cannot be got at, and future thought cannot be got at in Vajra Sutra, it may be too optimistic even for the future... Nov 27, 2022 at 5:15
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    @DoubleKnot I like this QM "necessity of observer participancy" because it brings existentialism into physics. As regards the present, Latin praesens "being there", presumably directly from the verb present, "be before" from prae- "before" (see pre-) + esse "to be", which also implies observer participancy. So in relativity there can be many presents, but paradoxically, beyond observability, rationally they are all absolutely simultaneous. For example the reunited twins of the Twins Paradox see the same present; it never actually slipped. I have more work to do to justify this. Nov 27, 2022 at 9:44
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    Current logic is hard to express Heidegger's the ownmost of Dasein consists in its existence. Relativity of simultaneity aside, the Burgsonian ready-to-hand now of the thrown projected being-in-the-world should not play any special role in the account of its Dasein's facticity than its any other nows inasmuch as our earth is not at any special place called center per Copernicus. Thus what really matters for Dasein temporally consists of all those limited discounted present-at-hand cares with the same form until Dasein's yonder and Sein-zum-Tode in search of unexpected hedonic signal one day. Nov 29, 2022 at 2:13
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    Cool quote and perfectly understandable. It needs no further clarification, but I'll offer you this: in a singularity, all time exists at once.
    – Marxos
    Dec 1, 2022 at 18:38

3 Answers 3


Similar content from David Hoy's The Time of Our Lives, page 43 :

Hegel has two other arguments that supplement his attempt to problematize the Now. The first concerns the fleeting character of the Now. Whenever I identify myself as having an experience right now, that moment is already over, and the Now is already in the past. If this were right, then one could never use the term “Now” to refer to the present moment. The Now to which one intended to refer would never be the Now that was actually occurring. In Hegel’s words, “The Now that is, is another Now than the one pointed to.”1.

  1. G. W. F. Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 63.

In the geometry of spatial perception, it is known that perceivers with n-dimensional senses can perceive all facets of (n-1)-dimensional structures simultaneously (see e.g. Flatland). So a 2-dimensional perceiver can perceive an entire line "at once," we 3-dimensional perceivers can see all sides of polygons "at once," etc.

Now, suppose that time were multidimensional (you could defend this thought experiment by citing anyone from Kant (according to him, time's dimensionality is known by synthesis a priori, not analytically) to Itzhak Bars, the physicist who's argued for a two-dimensional theory of time; in between these two there are the infamous musings of J. W. Dunne). Suppose, furthermore, then, that we are one-dimensional temporal perceivers. So for us, our "now" is always more or less a single "point." By contrast, a being with higher-dimensional temporal perceptions could engage with a whole "timeline" as if it were a single "now."


A modern context is provided by theoretical physics in which reality is modelled by assuming that all particles follow trajectories- known as worldlines- through a four-dimensional spacetime. Particles in Special Relativity are typically modelled as being point-like, so they move along their worldline occupying an infinitesimally short segment of it. Now, in that context, is simply the time coordinate associated with the infinitesimally short segment of worldline occupied by the particle. Now, therefore, is analogous to 'here' in that it refers to the place where the particle happens to be. The section of the word line leading up to that point is called the past of the particle, and the extrapolated section ahead of that point is the possible future of the particle.

There is still work to be done to make that model consistent with the other main model of theoretical physics, which is quantum theory, in which the positions of particles are not so well-defined.

Since, as far as we know, people are made of particles, here and now for a person is the relatively localised point in spacetime they happen to occupy. The future is a region of spacetime you have yet to enter, while the past is the region you have left.

I have not yet encountered any branch of physics which specifically explores implications of the possibility that particles, or larger objects comprised of them, have extents in time in the same way as they have non-zero extents in space.

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