Perception of Time

Even the concept of time is added to sensory information by the mind. On the sensory level, we experience a series of sepa- rate events, such as the image provided by a horse walking down the street. We see the horse at one point and then at another and then at another and so forth. Simply looking at the isolated sensations, there is no reason to conclude that one sensation occurred before or after another. Yet, this is exactly what we do conclude; and because there is nothing in the sensations themselves to suggest the concept of time, the concept must exist a priori. Similarly, there is no reason—at least no reason based on experience—that an idea reflecting a childhood experience should be perceived as happening a long time ago. All notions of time such as “long ago,” “just recently,” “only yesterday,” “a few moments ago,” and so forth cannot come from experience; thus, they must be provided by the a priori category of time. All there is in memory are ideas that can vary only in intensity or vividness; it is the mind itself that superimposes over these experiences a sense of time. Thus, Kant concluded that the experi- ence of time could be understood only as a creation of the mind.

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