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Distributed for Reaktion Books

What Is Time?

An Enquiry

Translated by Kerri Pierce
We refer to time constantly, and we compulsively measure its passing—but do we know what it actually is? In What Is Time?, Truls Wyller enquires into time’s complex nature, juxtaposing the latest scientific theories with our personal experience of chronology. The book examines the notion of time in physics, history, religion, anthropology, philosophy, and literature, and Wyller concludes by proposing his own theory of time: that the temporal character of any series of events is essentially practical and derived from human life. Written from a philosophical perspective, What Is Time? gives an accessible, rounded portrait of the nature of time, and it is essential reading for those who wish to gain a deeper understanding of the motion of our everyday existence.

176 pages | 4 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2020

Art: Art--General Studies

Physical Sciences:

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"Wyller wades back into the thicket with What Is Time? An Enquiry, published in Norway in 2011 and now available in English translation. . . . The question remains a conundrum to the unaided intellect and too big for any one discipline to monopolize it. Wyller, a professor emeritus of philosophy and religious studies at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, naturally gives a tip of the hat to Augustine, though the majority of his references are to scientists, philosophers, and the occasional literary figure from the last two or three centuries. . . . A graceful overview."

Scott McLemee | Inside Higher Ed

"There are few things that are as integral to the human experience as time. But how can we understand time itself? Wyller ventures to answer this question by looking at philosophy, science, religion, literature, and human psychology. It is clear that time can be defined in spectacularly different ways, from the most rigorous (time as the fourth dimension in Einstein’s general theory of relativity) to the most abstract (time as a literary construct in the retelling of a story). Interestingly, the author uses the concept of ‘now’ to demonstrate the relational nature of time to humans, which, in a very real way, sets human and scientific time apart."

Nature Astronomy

“With this erudite yet very accessible book, Wyller tackles the most central question in the study of time: How do we reconcile the time of physics with time as we experience it? His answer—drawing on history, philosophy, science, and literature—is that time is constituted by consciousness itself. Delightful, synoptic, and laudably interdisciplinary.”

Adrian Bardon, Wake Forest University, author of “A Brief History of the Philosophy of Time”

Table of Contents

Introduction: Which Time?

1 The Clock and its Past: On Traditional and Modern Time Conceptions
2 Physics Time: Einstein
3 Philosophy’s Time: Bergson, Husserl, Heidegger
4 Recurrence Time in Life, Religion, History and Literature
5 Is There Any Time out There?
6 The Human Now

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