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Time

Within our conceptual model of the objective world, the temporal relations between events engender the idea of "time" as a reified theatre within which events have their existence, and (consistent with materialism) within which such events exist whether or not they are experienced. But the objective world itself consists of a category of the constituents of consciousness, and in panexperientialism there is nothing other than instantiations of consciousness. The conception of "time" consistent with materialism, then, has no role to play in panexperientialism, even though temporal relations still obtain between events appearing within any particular instantiation of consciousness.

I started out by describing the field of experience as “in constant flux”, which is as much as to say that I consider change to be as fundamental as experience. But the way we speak about the changing nature of experience misleads us into thinking about change in terms of our conception of "time" - i.e. as a kind of spatialized representation of change that divides into past and future separated by “the present instant”. Our most successful conceptual models employ this spatialized representation of change in order to create an explanatorily useful four-dimensional “block universe” model of space-time (Minkowski’s contribution to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity). But this model leads us to conceive the cosmos as if it were frozen inside a glass block, not only devoid of change but also devoid of any privileged “now” that could exhibit any such change by virtue of its passage through the block. The original acknowledgement of change becomes difficult to accommodate in this view without begging the question. The block universe model therefore leads us to the view of time known as eternalism in which change is considered an illusion, whilst leaving this putative illusion without satisfactory explanation. However, the demise of simultaneity in Special Relativity would seem a compelling reason to entertain this view. Panexperientialism, however, entails a view of time known as presentism in which there is only the “present instant” (the privileged “now”), and this view is clearly in conflict with the demise of simultaneity entailed by Special Relativity. (Finally, for completeness, the view known as possibilism must be mentioned, which reifies the past and present but not the future, permitting future events to be undetermined to some degree.)

Versions of materialism entail either no instantiations of consciousness at all (eliminative materialism - a view that dismisses consciousness as an illusion but that leaves this putative illusion without satisfactory explanation), or a multiplicity of instantiations of consciousness that are coordinated by their embeddedness in a more fundamental material (i.e. non-conscious) world (a view that leaves that embeddedness without satisfactory explanation). According to materialism, then, the world unfolds independently of any consciousness of it, rendering the past immutable whether or not any aspect of that unfolding was experienced. In panexperientialism, however, there is no “material world” that exists in the absence of any consciousness of it, and so the constituents of consciousness are constrained only to exhibit consistency across all instantiations of consciousness by virtue of their mutual immanence. So the all-in-all entailed by this mutual immanence unfolds as a unified process that is complete in itself, devoid of the unexperienced events in the past that are characteristic of materialism. The presentism entailed by panexperientialism stands in contrast to the eternalism entailed by Special Relativity, rendering the Minkowski model of space-time a useful mathematical construction that reveals its limitations down at the quantum level. (Indeed, this scenario would be consistent with Suarez's “before-before” experiment. See appendix 1.)

In panexperientialism, “the past” consists of nothing more than certain established states of affairs in “the present” - i.e. in the all-in-all as it unfolds as a unified process that is complete in itself. The upshot for panexperientialism (and in contrast to materialism) is that, in some supposed history, any events that were not themselves constituents of the objective world as it then appeared in some instantiation of consciousness or other would not yet exist. Only when some correlated event becomes actualised (in “the present”) would the possibilities for any associated but unexperienced past event be reduced. So, for the most part, past events would be implicit in the constituents of the all-in-all, but there would also be possible past events that would not be implicit in those constituents because they had never actually been part of the objective world as it appeared in any instantiation of consciousness. Thus it might appear that aspects of the past can be “created” in the present, and this raises the possibility of empirical testability. (Indeed, this scenario would be consistent with Wheeler’s “delayed choice” experiment. See appendix 1.)

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