Time Regained: Reconciling Phenomenological and Physical Perspectives on Time


Time is an elusive phenomenon. However, some of its features are experienced quite vividly. For instance, it seems (i) that time passes uniformly and universally, (ii) that ‘our present’ extends throughout the whole universe, (iii) that the future is open whereas the past is fixed, and (iv) that material objects are extended in space but not in time. These features of temporal experience have been at the heart of many phenomenological studies over the past decades. Yet, contemporary physics provides a radically different picture of time: (i’) time passes more slowly in some places, more rapidly in others (or, more accurately, the geometry of spacetime is influenced by the distribution of matter), (ii’) there is no unique present (since there is no objective relation of absolute simultaneity), (iii’) no asymmetry between the future and the past is to be found within the fundamental features of reality, and (iv’) material objects do not extend only spatially but also temporally. There is thus a gap between time as we find it in ordinary experience and time as physics describes it.

The project aims to bridge this gap – that is, to reconcile the time of human experience with that of physics. This requires working in close contact with both phenomenological and physical data, and to develop a framework in which these data can be articulated non-paradoxically. The overall strategy consists of three methodological steps. First, I will provide explicit, non-metaphorical content to various features of temporal experience. Secondly, I will determine which theories of the temporal structure of the world are most appropriate to accommodate this content – special attention will be paid to the ‘Growing Block Theory’ of time and the ‘Stage Theory’ of persistence. Thirdly, I will provide a naturalistic basis to these theories, by exploiting recent results of our best physics (viz. General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics and Quantum Gravity).

The reconciliation of phenomenological and physical perspectives on time is extremely relevant for philosophy: the dialogue between phenomenologists and physicists is difficult, when not altogether inexistent, whereas both approaches contribute to a better understanding of this familiar, but paradoxically elusive, aspect of reality. The project aims therefore at laying the bases for cross-disciplinary and meaningful discussions between phenomenologists and physicists, in order to draw bridges across their divide. The project is expected to reveal that phenomenal time is a more faithful reflection of physical time than one might a priori think and, therefore, should lead to a unified conception of time and cognate notions (e.g. temporal passage, change, persistence).

Schedule and milestones

Sub-project 1

  • Paper 1: Symmetric and Asymmetric Theories of Time.

Sub-project 2

  • Paper 2: The Bare Past.
  • Paper 3: Stage Theory and Derivative Existence.

Sub-project 3

  • Paper 4: A Naturalistic Basis for the Growing Block Theory of Time.
  • Workshop on O. Pooley’s forthcoming book The Reality of Spacetime (OUP).
  • Monograph: The Asymmetric Nature of Time.


  • Grandjean, V., Le futur ouvert. Hermann. 2023.
  • Grandjean, V., L’ approche non modale de l’essence. Connaissance philosophique et connaissance des essences. C. Tiercelin & A. Declos (dir.). Ed. du Collège de France. 2023.
  • Grandjean, V., The Asymmetric Nature of Time. Springer Nature. 2022.
  • Grandjean, V., The Bare Past. Philosophia. 2022. Vol 50, pp. 2523-2550.
  • Grandjean, V., Symmetric and Asymmetric Theories of Time. Synthese. 2021. Vol. 199, pp. 14403-14426.
  • Grandjean, V., Pascucci, M. (eds.) Temporal Reasoning and Tensed Truths. Synthese. Forthcoming.


  • Duties to Past Selves (with Angès Baehni)
    GEM Seminar, 08/12/2023
  • Intuitions et science: l’impossible réconciliation ?
    Conférence UNAB, 14/09/2023
  • Indeterminate Personal Identity
    SPS Congress, 02/06/2023
  • Indeterminate Personal Identity
    GEM Seminar, 14/04/2023.
  • Indeterminate Personal Identity
    Unity Relations Seminar, 09/03/2023.
  • Intuitions et science : l’impossible réconciliation ?
    Cérémonie Prix Nexans, Neuchâtel, 09/12/2022.
  • The Bare Past
    M&E Seminar, Oxford, 08/11/2022.
  • Ni subjectivisme, ni scientisme : pour une réévaluation cartésienne de l’intuition
    Colloque de recherche, Neuchâtel, 01/11/2022.
  • Intuitions et science : l’impossible réconciliation ?
    La phénoménotechnique du temps en 2022, Besançon, 27/10/2022.
  • Quel plan B pour la théorie-A ?
    Congrès de la SoPhA “Les Valeurs du Savoir”, Neuchâtel, 18/07/2022.
  • Distinguished Successors and Actuality
    Conference “Times, Events and Logical Specification”, Olomouc, 19/05/2022.


  • Les parties, le tout
    University of Neuchatel, Fall 2023
  • Unity Relations (with M. Scarpati)
    University of Oxford, Hilary Term 2023.
  • Le conséquentialisme (with Antoine Vuille)
    University of Neuchatel, Fall 2022


  • Time and Contradiction (with B. Le Bihan)
    University of Geneva, 22-23 May 2023.

    Awards and Grants
  • Prix Nexans 2022
    Conseil de fondation du Fonds culturel de Nexans, 09.12.2022.
    5’000 CHF
  • Book Processing Charges Grant n° 10BP12_213555 / 1
    Swiss National Science Foundation, 29.06.2022.
    15’685 CHF