As a practical matter, clocks and calendars regulate everyday life. Yet at the most primitive level, human awareness of time is simply the ability to distinguish which of any two events is earlier and which later, combined with a consciousness of an instantaneous present that is continually being transformed into a remembered past as it is replaced with an anticipated future. From these common human experiences evolved the view that time has an independent existence apart from physical reality.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.