The present (or now) is the time that is associated with the events perceived directly and in the first time, not as a recollection (perceived more than once) or a speculation (predicted, hypothesis, uncertain). It is a period of time between the past and the future, and can vary in meaning from being an instant to a day or longer. In radiocarbon dating, the "present" is defined as AD 1950.
It is sometimes represented as a hyperplane in space-time, typically called "now", although modern physics demonstrates that such a hyperplane cannot be defined uniquely for observers in relative motion. The present may also be viewed as a duration (see specious present).
Society and religion
In Patanjali Yoga Sutras the first sutra defines Yoga as 'NOW'. By 'Chitta Vrithhi nirodha' (restraining the thought-streams) the present can be experienced. The moment a person thinks, he is recalling his past experience. He will never know the present. Being conscious or being aware is the only way to know the present.
Buddhism and many of its associated paradigms emphasize the importance of living in the present moment — being fully aware of what is happening, and not dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. This does not mean that they encourage hedonism, but merely that constant focus on one's current position in space and time (rather than future considerations, or past reminiscence) will aid one in relieving suffering. They teach that those who live in the present moment are the happiest. A number of meditative techniques aim to help the practiser live in the present moment.
Christianity and eternity
Christianity views God as being outside of time and, from the divine perspective past, present and future are actualized in the now of eternity. This trans-temporal conception of God has been proposed as a solution to the problem of divine foreknowledge (i.e. how can God know what we will do in the future without us being determined to do it) since at least Boethius. Thomas Aquinas offers the metaphor of a watchman, representing God, standing on a height looking down on a valley to a road where past present and future, represented by the individuals and their actions strung out along its length, are all visible simultaneously to God. Therefore, God's knowledge is not tied to any particular date.
Philosophy and science
"The present" raises the question: "How is it that all sentient beings experience now at the same time?" There is no logical reason why this should be the case and no easy answer to the question.
Special relativity's "present"
The original intent of the diagram on the right was to portray a 3-dimensional object having access to the past, present, and future in the present moment (4th dimension).[clarification needed]
It follows from Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity that there is no such thing as absolute simultaneity. When care is taken to operationalise "the present", it follows that the events that can be labeled as "simultaneous" with a given event, can not be in direct cause-effect relationship. Such collections of events are perceived differently by different observers. Instead, when focusing on "now" as the events perceived directly, not as a recollection or a speculation, for a given observer "now" takes the form of the observer's past light cone. The light cone of a given event is objectively defined as the collection of events in causal relationship to that event, but each event has a different associated light cone. One has to conclude that in relativistic models of physics there is no place for "the present" as an absolute element of reality. Einstein phrased this as: "People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion".
- Citations and notes
- Hegeler, E. C., & Carus, P. (1890). The Monist. La Salle, Ill. [etc.]: Published by Open Court for the Hegeler Institute. page 443.
- Sattig, T. (2006). The language and reality of time. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Page 37.
- James, W. (1893). The principles of psychology. New York: H. Holt and Company. Page 609.
- Hodder, A. (1901). The adversaries of the sceptic; or, The specious present, a new inquiry into human knowledge. Chapter II, The Specious Present. London: S. Sonnenschein &. Pages 36 - 56.
- MN 131: Bhaddekaratta Sutta
- Whitehead, Alfred North. The Concept of Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1930), p. 73
- Hạnh, Thích Nhất (1990). Our appointment with life: the Buddha's teaching on living in the present. Parallax Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0-938077-36-7.
- Rahula, Walpola (1974). What the Buddha Taught. p. 72. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- Consolatio Philosophae, Bk. 4
- Cline, Austin. God is Eternal – Timeless vs. Everlasting. About.com.
- Irwin, William; White, Mark D. (2009). Watchmen and Philosophy: A Rorschach Test. John Wiley and Sons. p. 128.
- McInerney, Peter K. (1992). Time and Experience. Temple University Press. p. 44. ISBN 978-1-56639-010-1.
- Letter from Einstein to the family of his lifelong friend Michele Besso, after learning of his death, (March 1955) as quoted in Science and the Search for God: Disturbing the Universe (1979) by Freeman Dyson, Ch. 17, "A Distant Mirror", ; also quoted at-Einstein's God (NPR)
- General information
- Greene, Brian, (2004). The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality Knopf. ISBN 0-375-41288-3
- Stepath, Katrin, (2006). Gegenwartskonzepte, Würzburg. ISBN 3-8260-3292-6
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