Feb 23, 2013


The real (non-chaotic) perception of time by the human brain is the consciousness of the succession of physical actions (oriented to success or oriented to reaching understanding) and cognitive reflections on a sequence of one’s actions that have already taken place, upon the consequences of those actions and feelings of pain or pleasure in response. Already in 1871 Darwin wrote in his “The descent of man” that moral beings must be capable of reflecting over and evaluating their actions. Ideally, all human actions should be evaluated by reflecting upon specific principles, using this reflective process to rationally deduce a specific judgment and to improve the person’s capacity for subsequent performances. But in reality the filters that our brain applies are rather chaotic and highly influenced by multiple external factors. Therefore, when our brain creates anything, it also creates chaotically other things which are not what we intended. Only time will tell if our reflections are valid or not as it will become clear what has and has not worked. There is, of course, no way of asking non-human beings to reflect of their actions, but humans can be asked. CORRECTION: It seems that corvids, carrion crows (Corvus corone corone) and ravens (Corvus corax) could reflect as well.Photo Joachim S. Müller's photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/joachim_s_mueller/ And now it is clear that the medial frontal cortex of the human brain is crucially involved in self-generated action and post-actional self-reflection but it remains to be shown why it is that self-reflection depends on mechanisms on the medial frontal surface and which other parts of the brain are involved in post-actional self-reflection. This CEREBRART work illustrates these ideas.


  1. ...has the consciousness the time-sensations at all?

  2. Excellent question, thank you! Well, my answer depends on who you are. A brain scientist? A psychologist? If you are e.g. a philosopher, you probably have read Husserl’s On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time. Husserl’s theory of the structure of time-consciousness was developed when he was also developing his theory of noema. According to him, we always experience a temporally structured flow of sensory consciousness (and not any “atomic” sensations). And more than that - exactly this temporal flow of sensory consciousness plays a system-forming role in our understanding of the entire external world. And in the same temporal flow experience we are also conscious of events flowing off in time in our own internal world.

    Let me give an example from my own conscious experience. Suppose I am planning some experiments. In the middle of my planning I feel that I have to create an additional control group consisted of 8 animals who underwent otherwise identical treatment but without some minor detail which could be of some importance. This thought occurs suddenly in my consciousness exactly in the middle of planning and at the same time, in the present phase of planning, I retain the entire experimental design keep planning and replanning it. I suppose, according to Husserl’s theory of the structure of time-consciousness, my present phase of planning is a complex form of consciousness which definitely has time-sensations comprising my present thought of an additional control group together with a series of present retentions of immediately past thoughts and a series of present protentions of immediately future thoughts concerning the entire experimental design. An extensive discussion on consciousness and time-sensations is beyond the scope of this short answer but you are welcomed to ask further questions.

  3. I agree but it is important to keep in mind that the human brain has its limits and time-sensations are often chaotic and intangible in nature

  4. The Main Question ... If we can move forward and backward in space, why not in time? How is the succession of physical actions possible? What makes mental time travel possible?

  5. We are judged by our actions, not our intentions - right or wrong?

    1. That's what's wrong - we are judged by our actions AND our intentions - especially if our actions aren't matching our intentions, yet we would like to be judged by our good intentions...