Asymmetry of Past and Future

Part of the Cognition and Language: A Series in Psycholinguistics book series (CALS)


Argument: The past constrains the present, and is revived in it as a “track” in its development. The present departs from reproduction through novel change in the revival and constraints on becoming imposed by the external world. The future is the set of possible presents that might be reasserted in the perishing of the current present. Belief in the future is impelled by agency, regularities in becoming, and the asymmetry of microgenetic process.


Actual World Past Event Present Moment Actual Object Causal Theory 
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  1. 1.
    Existence refers to a finite world of temporal facts. The relation of the finite to the infinite is a topic for metaphysical study. For Whitehead, the concept of an absorption of temporal fact into the eternal harmony of God’s nature provided a resolution of permanence with transience in such a way as not to lose novelty; L. McHenry, Whitehead and Bradley (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1992).Google Scholar
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    For background, see Brown, Self and Process, 175–178, 187; and Brown, Life of the Mind, 335.Google Scholar
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    Discussed in Life of the Mind. On time, see J. T. Fraser, Time: The Familiar Stranger (Washington DC: Tempus, 1987).Google Scholar
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    The transition from simultaneity and timelessness in subsurface mentation (e.g., dream) to seriality and time in waking consciousness may underlie some of these examples. See Self and Process, 132, for a discussion of precognition in dreams in relation to levels in time awareness.Google Scholar
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    See J. Earman, A Primer on Determinism (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1986), on isotropy and a fixed future. Anisotropy also occurs with certain physical phenomena, such as radiation, gravity, and exponential decay, or phenomena such as the wave of concentric circles made by a stone falling in a pond. See also H. Zeh, The Physical Basis of the Direction of Time (New York: Springer-Verlag, 1989).Google Scholar
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© Plenum Press, New York 1996

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