It does seem right that the concept of time is rather elusive and (thus) easily lent to metaphor. But suppose we were determined to forego all metaphor. Suppose our souls were on fire and we were determined to capture the elusive. How then would we explain the concept of time? For example, what do we take ourselves to be talking about when we speak of the past? What do we understand when we understand that a certain event has already happened – e.g., yesterday? What does it mean, “already”? It is our word, our language. So what do we mean by it?Our sense of ourselves as enduring through time pervades our entire conception of the human predicament. But in attempting to articulate this crucial temporal aspect of our being, we find ourselves resorting to metaphor in a way that seems unnecessary when it comes to space …… we speak of the ‘march’ or ‘flow’ of time, while in our finest literature we find such images as Marvell’s ‘time’s winged chariot’ or Shakespeare’s ‘womb of time.’ Space, by constrast, does not need such metaphors … Time strikes us as elusive, in a way that space does not. (The Labyrinth of Time.)
Indeed, the philosophical literature on time is awash with such further-down-the-road disputes as whether the past continues to exist (once it has become past) or whether only the present can strictly ever be said to exist. Or with whether the future “comes into being” as time rolls by or whether the future has (unsuspected by us) lain before us all along. Participants of these disputes often take the notions of ‘past,’ ‘present’ and ‘future’ for granted, as though it was obvious enough what these everyday terms are supposed to mean. —I find it far from obvious though and cannot help feeling that we will not get very far with the concept of time if we do not first tackle the more basic questions.… everyone already has a fairly intuitive sense of what it means to say that a certain time or event is past. So there is no particularly pressing need to come up with a scheme for analyzing away such talk. (‘How Fast Does Time Pass?’)
He adds:… [it] seems plausible to suppose that our impression that time itself passes or flows is heavily bound up with the dynamic, flowing, changing, character of our ordinary everyday experience.
… these more elemental aspects of consciousness do not (obviously) require or depend on conceptualized awareness—couldn’t the experience of animals or infants be stream-like? (‘Time, Passage and Immediate Experience.’)We certainly do we seem to be aware of the “stream-like” character of our experience of the world. Alternately, the world seems to be “continuously changing” before our eyes. And our notion of the passing of time does indeed appear to be closely entangled with this notion of continuous change in the world. But, of course, this just shifts the bump in the conceptual rug, for we can now ask, what (after all) is our concept of “change” in the world? What do we understand when we understand that the leaves on a tree have changed their colour, or that the hands of a clock have changed their position. What does it mean, “changed”? It is our word, our language. So what do we mean by it?