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The Relation between the Time of Psychology and the Time of Physics. Part I

H. A. C. Dobbs and C. D. Broad
The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science
Vol. 2, No. 6 (Aug., 1951), pp. 122-141
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/685506
Page Count: 20
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The Relation between the Time of Psychology and the Time of Physics. Part I
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Abstract

THIS paper seeks to elucidate the phenomenon known in psychology as 'the specious present,' by postulating a two-dimensional theory of the extensional aspects of time. On this theory, the usual logical and psychological difficulties, encountered in current accounts of this phenomenon, can be resolved. For, when there are two dimensions of time, the same event may be without extension in one of these dimensions ('transition-time'), while it is nevertheless finitely extended in the other of these dimensions ('phase-time'); so that in a definable sense the phases of a finitely enduring event, though successive in one time-order, yet are contemporary in the other. The epistemological standpoint implicit in the paper is generally similar to the one Bertrand Russell has put forward, in his Physics and Experience (Cambridge, 1946), and his Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits (London, 1948) (allowing for the changes which would be required in Russell's theory to take into account a second time dimension). A 'psycho-neural parallelism,' or one-one correspondence, is postulated between features of certain 'experiential events' (namely, those experiential events normally held to be happening to some person's mind, which are describable in the language of psychology); and features of certain 'physical events' (namely, those events described in the language of physics, chemistry and physiology, which are ordinarily conceived as happenings in that same person's body). These physical events are conceived of as being causally connected with events in the physical world outside the experient's body, by means of the concepts of light waves, sound waves, chemical stimuli, and consequential processes in the nervous system (central and peripheral) and sense-organs, in the usual way. In terms of this psycho-neural parallelism the physical correlate of the finite temporal span of the specious, or experiential present, is to be found in certain consequences of the uncertainty principle in quantum physics; according to which there is a finite interval of time necessarily associated with a nearly precise determination of energy levels, and of transitions between them. Some of the physical implications of this theory, applied to processes in the material structure of the human body, are discussed qualitatively. But, for the reasons given in the last section of the paper, a quantitative treatment is not yet possible. The paper is greatly indebted in regard to the physical application of the two-dimensional theory of time, to the discussion of the pentadic group structure in Eddington's Fundamental Theory (Cambridge, 1946 and 1950); and in particular to the treatment there of the phase-variable as the 'time-analogue' in the quantum statistics of stationary states.

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