Time, Science, and Society in China and the West

By J. T. Fraser; N. Lawrence et al. | Go to book overview

J. T. Fraser's "Levels of Temporality" as Cognitive Representations

John A. Michon

Summary An interpretive proposition, made and examined in J. T. Fraser natural philosophy of time, is called the principle of temporal levels.* It maintains that each stable integrative level of the universe manifests a distinct temporality and that these temporalities coexist in a hierarchically nested, dynamic unity.

This paper argues that the hierarchy of temporalities of the principle of temporal levels may be treated as cognitive representations that derive from a fundamental set of subjective interpretations of reality, known in cognitive psychology as worldviews or basic metaphors.

After a sketch of some of the crucial features of Fraser hierarchical theory of time, the paper discusses two major views of basic metaphors. In particular, it demonstrates that basic metaphors qualify as interpretation functions by means of which knowledge about the world is accessed and organized into cognitive representations.

Quantitative relations appropriate to each basic metaphor specify a particular type of measurement scale. If the metaphors are then taken in their temporal context, the temporal levels of Fraser theory emerge. His five levels of temporality appear to be related to five distinct, canonical scales of measurement. The formal properties of these scales correspond closely to the properties of temporal levels specified in Fraser natural philosophy of time.


1. Introduction

In this paper I shall discuss the metatheoretical status of J. T. Fraser theory of time as a "hierarchy of creative conflicts" as it has been proposed in his recent work (particularly Fraser 1975, 1978, 1982). As a descriptive system Fraser levels of temporality (hereafter referred to as FLT [singular]) has gradually matured and expanded over the past fifteen years. At the same time, Fraser theoretical and ontological claims have become more explicit. "Time," says Fraser, "had its genesis in the early universe, has been evolving, and remains developmentally open-ended," and--well aware of the fact that this is not an easy view to accept--he continues: "The notion of time as having a natural history is difficult to assimilate with received teachings or even to express in noncontradictory statements. Yet [a] detailed inquiry . . . reveals that the evolutionary character of time is already implicit in the ways time enters physical science in particular and natural science in general" ( Fraser 1982, 1).

This is no trivial matter; in fact, Fraser claims a straightforward material status for time.

____________________
*
This research was supported, in part, by a grant from the Netherlands Organization for the Advancement of Pure Research under project number 15-23-15.

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