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Philosophy and the Time Paradox

  • Nov 17, 2013 · 1:00 PM
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Philosophy and the Time Paradox

We are time's subjects, and time bids be gone.
William Shakespeare

Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift. That's why it's called the present.
Bil Keane

Lost time is never found again.
Benjamin Franklin

The Time Paradox, a new book by Philip Zimbardo & John Boyd, puts forth an intriguing argument — our attitudes toward time, often unconscious ones, can strongly shape our personalities and the kind of lives we lead. They can contribute to our happiness and success, or our unhappiness and depression.
The argument goes something like this: Not entirely knowingly, we all focus on the past, present or future. And, in moderation, each focus can have some net good. Future-oriented people tend to be ambitious and successful; present-oriented people tend to have friends and fun; and past-oriented people often have close family relationships. But when we associate too strongly with one of these “time zones” (again often without realizing it), we run into problems. When we’re too strongly focused on the future, we sacrifice friends, family and fun. When we’re too present-oriented, we leave ourselves open to hedonism and addictions. And when we cling to the past, we simply get stuck in the past, and depression usually follows. The upshot then is that we need to find a “temporal balance,” and this applies not just to individuals, but to nations, religious groups and social classes as well. According to Zimbardo and Boyd, larger social groups can tend toward distorted senses of time. The American financial crisis boils down to an extreme focus on the present, or a lack of concern for future consequences. That’s essentially what the big credit giveaway was all about.
You may recognize Philip Zimbardo’s name. He’s a widely recognized psychology professor who was behind the famous Stanford Prison Experiment (1971). He has served as the president of the American Psychological Association. And, previously, he published The Lucifer Effect, a New York Times bestseller.  

To delve a bit more deeply into The Time Paradox, you should watch (below) the engrossing presentation that Zimbardo gave at Google’s HQ. Or you can listen to this radio interview that aired recently in New York City (iTunes Feed MP3).

Lastly, you can take a survey on The Time Paradox web site and learn more about your temporal balance.

Video: The Time Paradox (1:08)

READ 'The Time Paradox' ONLINE HERE:


Join Plato's Cave philosophers as we spend our precious time considering all aspects of TIME -- Is it real?, How best to spend it?; How best to waste it; How is it perceived by different people and different cultures? Is there an end to it? and other questions in our discussion of 'TIME'.
Be sure to check the Plato’s Cave discussion and files sections where you can read, post and download documents that are relevant to this topic.

 -Steve, Organizer


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  • Veronica D.

    Einstein asserted that time is relative and somewhat of a social construct. In "Albert Einstein and the Fabric of Time" [] As he changed throughout his life, his concept of time also changed. "Einstein concluded in his later years that the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously." What does that say about the rest of us? If the concept of time changes, but time itself doesn't change, can we ever really know "time"?

    1 · November 10, 2013

    • TeRaei L.

      Oh yes, this is the concept of time I can relate to the most (perhaps intuitive, perhaps too much Doctor Who) I remember thinking Alan Moore portrayed that brilliantly with Dr Manhatten :) btw, it was great to meet you Saturday -- hope we bump into each other again, I'd love to chat more!

      November 18, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Any chance of extending the actual into the ether?

    November 17, 2013

  • Jairo M.

    Sorry to miss this. I am getting over a contagious sickness. Maybe it's just a cold. Still having to coughing Not yet ready for public.

    November 17, 2013

  • amanda m.

    I was just reading a book by Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She is way interested in the future. I mentioned to a friend. She is paying attention to children who will be there for our future. Doesn't she know corporations are only focused on the next quarter? And so buy politicians who only care for as close to the moment as possible. How can anyone influence anyone to actually care? That alone is a kind of investment.

    1 · November 9, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Looks like a great topic! We'll be in Miami that weekend. Perhaps D.F. or another attendee will open a Google Hangout and I could at least listen in via common tech kuttaineh at gmail

    November 8, 2013

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