Sunday, 14 May 2017

Space, Time And Experience

We have discussed space travel and time travel and will now consider experience. We experience an empirically discerned spatiotemporal realm. The subject and objects of experience are both spatially differentiated and temporally enduring. If there were neither space nor time, then experience would shrink to an instantaneous point, i.e., would cease to exist. I think that experience is necessarily spatiotemporal and therefore that timeless consciousness is as impossible as a sideless square. Can there be transtemporal consciousness that would incorporate time just as three-dimensional space incorporates planes? I don't know.

If a fictional character has qualitatively different sensory experiences and/or thought processes, then how does the auther convey these qualitative differences to his readers? Poul Anderson describes the heightened sensations of werewolves, merpeople and Ythrians in flight. I was reminded of this by reading Elliot S. Maggin's accounts of Superman's ability to perceive the entire electromagnetic spectrum and of Lex Luthor's ability routinely to think his way out of any high security confinement.


  1. Kaor, Paul!

    And I do believe one Person, God, can and has had that "timeless consciousness" for all eternity. In fact, I would consider that a good definition of what God is.

    And I think the closest Poul Anderson came to describing a fictional character in one of his works having "qualitatively different sensory experiences and/or thought processes" would be in "Night Piece." A story in which the POV character hypothesized another "intelligent" race had evolved on our Earth alongside mankind. I used double quote marks with "intelligent" because the POV character hypothesized this "superior" species evolved along different lines than those leading to intelligence as we use the word.

    "Night Piece" is very different, even strange, compared to the generality of Anderson's short stories. But he actually came to prefer this story over others of his works. As PA said in his prefatory remarks to "Night Piece": "It's quite unlike anything else I've done. But that's precisely why I'm fond of it." A little further on he wrote: "I have no pretensions to being a Kafka or Capek, but it did seem to me it would be interesting to use, or attempt to use, some of their techniques." Lastly, "I'm not likely to do anything of this sort very often--some of those archtypes scared the hell out of me--but I hope that I succeeded in getting across a small part of that which I was trying to get across."

    So I would nominate "Night Piece" as the Anderson story where he comes closest to showing us someone with "qualitatively different sensory experiences and/or thought processes." Yes, I agree, "Night Piece" was and is hard to understand. But, a truly alien mind WOULD be like that!


    1. Sean,
      But is God beginningless and endless (infinite time), timeless or atemporal (zero time) or transtemporal (beyond time)? I think that zero time = nonexistent.
      Would you be able to elucidate "Night Piece" for us?

    2. Kaor, Paul!

      The quick, perhaps too glib answer would be for me to say God is beginningless, infinitely endless, timeless, a temporal and transtemporal. Because I would argue that otherwise God would not BE God if He lacked any of these things.

      Anderson's "Night Piece" has to be his single most toughest to understand stories. I've read it more than once and I don't pretend to fully understand. And the best commentary on that story was probably written by PA himself (parts of which I quoted). I would need to reread the story and think hard about it before I could attempt my own commentary. I will keep that in mind.


    3. Sean,
      Please do! We discussed this before and I would find it helpful to have that story explained insofar as you can.

    4. Kaor, Paul!

      Many thanks for this flattering request. I can only promise to reread "Night Piece." Fair warning, it is skull numblingly difficult to understand.