Does time belong to reality or is it a figment of our imagination? Or, as it is the belief of physicists from Einstein onwards, is it an obdurate illusion preventing us from understanding the world we live in? In the last two centuries, naturalistic and experimental investigations on the mechanisms of life and consciousness do confirm what is denied by physicists: all living beings endowed with a nervous system, albeit basic, have a sense of time.
Widely supported by an in-depth critical analysis, this line of thought is corroborated by clearly and thoroughly presented results of research and evidence. The sense of time is real and is an essential dimension of life. Like language and the concept representation of space, it is a biological event produced by nervous mechanisms developed by natural selection.The nervous organization of the mechanisms of time is quite complicated: cognitive neuroscience, involved in the study of the processes giving rise to the contents of consciousness, such as physical pain, space, the sense of right and wrong, willpower, music, silence, movement, have dealt with the subject for thirty years by now, but to date some fundamental dilemmas remain unclear. In spite of that – and this is what the book is about – the neurobiology of time is certainly one of the essential mechanisms of consciousness.
1. Is time real or an illusion?
2. About consciousness
3. The riddle to time
4. In search of lost time. Hermann von Helmholtz and Benjamin Libet.
The “temps perdu” of Hermann von Helmholtz
The experiments of Benjamin Libet
5. About time
6. Time’s reality
GT PT and timing
Time and language
Time and music
7. How our brain processes time
Perspective duration and retrospective duration
8. The illusion of simultaneity. The compression of time.
The compression of time in multisensory stimulation
The compression of time in audiovisual experience
The compression of time in monosensory stimulation
Causality and time compression
Benjamin Libet turns the present back
The conscious compression of time in case of brain injuries: Zeitrafferphänomen
Compressed time in old age
The compression of time as a life measure
9. Time, space and numbers in living nature
Animals have a sense of time and can do math
Time, space and numbers
10. The sense of time during sleep
11. The sense of time in a brain suffering from a malignancy
12. We cannot take leave of time
Can time come back?
A first encounter
Arnaldo Benini is Professor Emeritus of Neurosurgery and Neurology at the University of Zurich. He writes about science and philosophy for the Sunday edition of the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.