The philosophy of time starts from the Socratic debate questioning time.

Socrates often said his wisdom was limited to the awareness of his own ignorance. He believed the best way for people to live was to focus on self-development rather than the pursuit of material wealth. Socrates seems to have been notorious for asking questions but not answering, claiming to lack wisdom. Perhaps his most important contribution to western thought is his dialectic method of inquiry, known as the Socratic Method, which he largely applied to the examination of key moral concepts such as the good and justice.

To solve a problem, one would pose a series of questions and the answer will filter out. The influence of this approach is most strongly felt today in the use of the scientific method, in which hypothesis is the first stage. The development and practice of this method is one of Socrates’ most enduring contributions and is a key factor in earning his mantle as the father of political philosophy, ethics or moral philosophy, and as a figurehead of all the central themes in Western philosophy. “I know you won’t believe me, but the highest form of human excellence is to question oneself and others”. He was put on trial and condemned to die by drinking hemlock, for the expression of his ideas against those of Athens. Jacques Louis David immortalized the event in his 1787 painting ‘The Death of Socrates’.

The theme of ancient philosophy was to understand the fundamental causes and principles of the universe. Medieval philosophy discussed the relation of faith and reason. The Renaissance was a period of transition between the theological philosophy of the middle ages and modern thought, in which Latin began to lose its role of the standard language for philosophical discussion as humane arts, such as history and literature became more popular. The concept of man became the central object of philosophical reflection. Modern philosophy begins with the revival of skepticism and the rise of modern physical science. Chronologically, this era spans the 17th and 18th centuries and is generally considered to end with Immanuel Kant’s systematic attempt to reconcile Newtonian physics with traditional metaphysical topics. It was in the nineteenth century that Karl Marx began the study of social materialist philosophy.

Contemporary philosophy is about Realism which tends to believe that whatever we believe now is only an approximation. Realism also suggests that every new observation brings us closer to understanding reality. These ideas are three centuries old but capable to challenge how society thinks today. Rationalism is another view emphasizing the role or importance of human reason. Extreme rationalism tries to base all knowledge on reason alone. Rationalism typically starts from premises that cannot coherently be denied, then attempts by logical steps to deduce every possible object of knowledge. Descartes, father of modern philosophy was of the view that we are directly aware of ideas, rather than objects.

Then came Skepticism, a philosophical attitude that questions the possibility of obtaining any sort of knowledge. “Nothing about the world can be established with certainty”. Idealism is about what is in the mind is known more reliably than what is known through the senses. There is no deep distinction between mental states, such as feeling pain, and the ideas about so-called external things, that appear to us through the senses. This is the philosophical explanation of the linkage between psychology (mind) with economics (utility). Transcendental idealism, advocated by Immanuel Kant, proposed that there are limits on what can be understood since there is much that cannot be brought under the conditions of objective judgment.

Another major theme was that there are fundamental features of reality that escape our direct knowledge because of the natural limits of the human faculties. Kant held that objective knowledge of the world required the mind to impose a conceptual or categorical framework like space and time. Pragmatism was founded in the spirit of finding a scientific concept of truth. Since the usefulness of any belief at any time might be contingent on circumstance, Peirce and James conceptualized final truth as that which would be established only in the future.

The closest philosophy gets to economics is when it studies moral science or Epistemology, which is a branch of philosophy concerned with nature and scope of knowledge. Much of the debate in the respective field is focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth, belief, and justification. Applied Philosophy takes philosophical pursuits into modern day fields such as psychology, sociology, linguistics, and economics. As areas of intellectual endeavor proliferate and expand, so will the broader philosophical questions that they generate. The process of philosophical thought is unending.

The curved philosophy of expression

Applied philosophies like psychology branched into finer studies that had a lot to do with understanding the trends prevalent in a certain time and how it was expressed through art, music, and films. Robert Prechter makes an attempt to quantify social mood in popular song lyrics and quantifying pessimistic rumination in popular songs in his book Pioneering studies in Socionomics. He opens up a new area of philosophy suggesting that social mood drives markets. He illustrates this by studying various expressions of social mood. For example Music, which according to Prechter eliminates one of the most difficult psychological barriers that other communicators had to continually deal with: that of overcoming boredom, fear, dislike or mistrust of the communicator. The surge in activity over Michael Jackson’s passing only reemphasizes the impact music has on a society and why the study of social mood would be incomplete and may be ineffective if one would not study expressions in art and music.


David C. McClelland an American psychologist theorist in his acquired needs theory proposed that an individual’s specific needs are acquired over time and are shaped by one’s life experiences. Analysis of achievement motives in British school readers showed a strong correlation of these themes, a generation later, with Britain’s industrial growth. This was approximately thirty to fifty years after the achievement themes of those stories. According to Prechter, “One of the most indicative elements of culture reflecting a nation’s collective potential for achievement decades before this potential is evidenced by the national economic growth rate is art. These reflections are not proposed as causes for the development of high or low achievement motivation in the population but merely as indices for measuring national attitude towards it”.

In other words, the social environment in which children are raised to regard diligence as a positive or negative good produces at the same time works of art which express this feeling. Visual arts can score levels of achievement motivation. The same achievement motivation level could be measured in the literature of different times. McClelland, in essence, suggests that the level of economic growth of a country is characteristically cyclical. Societies were cyclical. The state of economic growth produces, in its turn economic prosperity. Thus an environment of affluence is created which is conducive to a child dependency and thus a nonachieving oriented child and vice versa. Simply putting the theory suggests that the sketching I was doing in my art classes at school, three decades back could define me now.

Prechter extended McClelland’s work by focusing on song material rather than stories. The most interesting aspect is the classification of 134 songs. It is done in three heads with a total of nine subheads. Even if coincidence Prechter was following a classification based on time triads, three subdividing into nine. Another coincidence is the overlap in what McClelland proposed and the work of cyclists William Strauss and Neil Howe recurrent cycle of generations with similar mention of 30 and 90-year cycles, again a factor of three. If the cycles are so repetitive why is all the focus on studying and classifying mood, why are we not dedicating a part of research resources to Time Mr. Prechter?

The history of psychology was exploring over the last 2500 years. We moved from the earth to the universe, faith to reason, focus from nature to the focus on man, Newtonian to metaphysical, socialism to materialism, realism to rationalism, objects to ideas, senses to the mind, limits in thought to unbounded approximation, ambiguity to space and time structure, philosophy to psychology, psychology to mood, mood to cycles. How far are we from the philosophy of time? How much can we really ignore it? Is it really the emotion that keeps us alive as we react to the music or is it the cycle of time, which pulses relentlessly connecting everything around our music, art, and emotion, synchronizing it in time?

Using the fractal S-curve, Theodore Modis, Market Guru and Physicist can explain Ernest Hemingway’s writing career, a number of research papers written by Einstein and how Mozart’s compositions are mathematical fractals.

The Philosophy of Time

Humans have always felt the need to create and their interests and mentality reflect through their art and philosophy of life. Time was one of the most controversial subjects treated in art, mainly because people can’t understand time and time fascinates them. There is even an art institute which organizes an event called “Time-Based Art Festival” dedicated to capturing moments of movement in art.

The question of time was always one of the main concerns of philosophy among other existential problems like knowledge, truth, beauty, justice, mind or language. There are three main theories in philosophy regarding time, presentism, eternalism and a mid theory. Presentism states that only present things exist, the past and the future are unreal. The opposite of presentism is eternalism, which states that present, future, and past things exist eternally. There is a third theory called “midway theory” or “growing universe theory” which says that both past and present things are real, but the future is not, because it is uncertain or merely potential.

Friedrich Nietzsche was influenced by Heinrich Heine and Arthur Schopenhauer in his theory regarding the “eternal recurrence” which affirms that each individual may or will be born again and live an exact life as the previous, with the same joy and pain and this cyclicality would last forever. Charles Darwin comes to challenge Nietzsche’s theory with his work on evolution, stating that life evolves, time is linear and leads to progress.

One particular field where time is discussed in all aspects is literature. Poets and writers were among the artists who were the most fascinated with time. They tried to express their own thoughts combined with philosophy and time theories, analyzing the features of time and eventually arriving at one of the two basic aspects of time: linear time or cyclical time.

The issue of cyclic time is discussed by the Nobel Prize winner and Colombian writer, Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his novel called One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). Even the text of the novel is cyclic, suggesting that any end develops to a new beginning and any beginning will have an end. The characters of the novel see everything repeating itself cyclically. Their history is a circular pattern of recurring events, yet these events are rather similar than equal. There is a certain parallelism between them and the end of the novel does not lead to cyclical regeneration, but to a final destruction.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

T.S. Eliot, the famous Anglo-American poet called time “the still point of the turning world”. The greatest Romanian poet, Eminescu also saw time as being cyclical. He defines his theory clearly in his poem called Glossa. The poet talks about the only true way which leads to happiness: ignorance, because everything is repeating and there is no use for hope or fear.

Dante’s Divine Comedy sees time as being linear in opposition to cyclical and recurring. Dante was inspired by Saint Augustine’s work and the medieval Italian poet uses the same characteristics of time in his masterpiece. Time is linear, moving in a straight line from event to event, towards the future.

Saint Augustine’s theory regarding time also inspired the famous German writer, Thomas Mann. He sees time as a mystery, something that cannot be defined clearly in our limited minds. As he states in his novel called The Magic Mountain (1924), “What is time? It is a secret, lacking in substance and yet almighty.”

The same aspect of linearity was treated slightly differently by William Faulkner, a North American Nobel Prize winner in his novel called The Sound and the Fury (1929). The author talks about the “mechanical progression” of time, the ticking of clocks which measure time as it moves forward mechanically. The main character of the novel commits suicide because he realizes that time cannot be stopped and it is constantly ticking its way towards death. In his last moments, he remembers his father’s words, who stated that “Clocks slay time. Time is dead as long as it is being clicked off by little wheels; only when the clock stops does time come to life.” But he eventually understands that the clocks cannot be stopped (even if he tries to smash his wristwatch) because nature has clocks that measure time and push it towards the future and implicitly annihilation.


Philosophy of time explains how music, economics, psychology, religion, art, sciences are expressions and thoughts connected in time. Music like every other expression of creativity has a cycle low and cycle high in terms of quality and quantity. Human aspiration can push creation to a new peak, but the underlying mathematics of creation remains curved and driven against or by time. Good music, a cross between accident and invention depends on time for experimentation and time for inspiration. Nature a cross between determinism and disorder needs time to flourish and decay and start again. We can always have a philosophy attempting to understand the truth, why people respond to music? Why it chokes us when we hear MJ again? Science can try to work out the way. There is only one problem, beyond the mood and the mind, we will be forced to look at connections between history, economics, sciences pushing us back to the Socratic debate, “Is it TIME?”