Phenomenology Online

A Resource for Phenomenological Inquiry

Temporal Reflection

Lived time (temporality) is subjective time as opposed to clock time or objective time.


Lived time is the time that appears to speed up when we enjoy ourselves, or slow down when we feel bored during an uninteresting lecture or when we are sit anxiously in the dentist’s chair. Lived time is also our temporal way of being in the world–as a young person oriented to an open and beckoning future, or as an elderly person recollecting the past, etc. Here again, when we want to get to know a person we ask about his or her personal life history and where they feel they are going–what their project is in life. The temporal dimensions of past, present, and future constitute the horizons of a person’s temporal landscape. Whatever I have encountered in my past now sticks to me as memories or as (near) forgotten experiences that somehow leave their traces on my being–the way I carry myself (hopeful or confident, defeated or worn-out), the gestures I have adopted and made my own (from my mother, father, teacher, friend), the words I speak and the language that ties me to my past (family, school, ethnicity), and so forth. And yet, it is true too that the past changes under the pressures and influences of the present. As I make something of myself I may reinterpret who I once was or who I now am. The past changes itself, because we live toward a future which we already see taking shape, or the shape of which we suspect as a yet secret mystery of experiences that lie in store for us. Through hopes and expectations we have a perspective on life to come, or through desperation and lack of will to live we may have lost such perspective.