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Silvia Benso_Marramao’s Kairós_The Space of 'Our' Time in the Time of Cosmic Disorientation-(2008)

Silvia Benso_Marramao’s Kairós_The Space of 'Our' Time in the Time of Cosmic Disorientation-(2008)

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Published by Yavuz Odabasi

Silvia Benso: “Marramao’s Kairós: The Space of ‘Our’ Time in the Time of Cosmic Disorientation”

Giacomo Marramao, “Kairós: Towards an Ontology of ‘Due Time.’” Trans. Philip Larrey and Silvia Cattaneo. The Davies Group Publishers, Aurora, CO, 2007, 90 pp + xii.

‘Human Studies’, June 2008, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp. 223-228.

Silvia Benso: “Marramao’s Kairós: The Space of ‘Our’ Time in the Time of Cosmic Disorientation”

Giacomo Marramao, “Kairós: Towards an Ontology of ‘Due Time.’” Trans. Philip Larrey and Silvia Cattaneo. The Davies Group Publishers, Aurora, CO, 2007, 90 pp + xii.

‘Human Studies’, June 2008, Volume 31, Issue 2, pp. 223-228.

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Published by: Yavuz Odabasi on Dec 29, 2012
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Kairo´  s
: The Space of ‘‘Our’’ Timein the Time of Cosmic Disorientation
Silvia Benso
Published online: 22 April 2008
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008
Giacomo Marramao,
Kairo´  s: Towards an Ontology of ‘Due Time.’
Trans. Philip Larrey and Silvia Cattaneo. The DaviesGroup Publishers, Aurora, CO, 2007, 90 pp
Time represents, ‘‘from time immemorial, one of the main themes of Westernmetaphysics and philosophical speculation’’ (p. 39)—thus claims Italian philoso-pher Giacomo Marramao in a book that, because of the interdisciplinary approach ittakes, the variety of interlocutors it addresses, the ground it covers, and themeditations it develops, should actually be of great interest to a larger public than auniquely philosophical readership. In this sense, not only philosophers but alsoanthropologists, social scientist, cultural critics, literary theorists, scholars of rhetoric, theologians, and even physicists and evolutionary biologists among othersare sure to find reasons for excitement in the translation of this work. Morefundamentally, though, the intrigue of time, its nature and meaning are questionsthat, at least once in their life (normally at times of birth or death) puzzle the mindof all human beings. In this sense, Marramao’s book can be of interest to everyone.Yet, despite the universal encounter with time, there seems to be a fundamentaldiscrepancy, or at least an ambiguity, between the daily experience of time and itsrepresentations. ‘‘What is ... time? If nobody asks me, I know; if I must explain it tothose who question me, I do not know.’’ Thus writes Augustine in the
(Bk. IX, chapter 14), identifying with incredible clarity the paradox of time to whichMarramao’s short but important book is devoted. What constitutes the ‘‘temporalparadox(p. 39) that Augustine first articulates so poignantly? According toMarramao’s formulation, the paradox is given by ‘‘the intertwinement of 
’’ so that, in the end, time can be properlydescribed as ‘‘a
familiar strange
’’ (p. 39). It is such a familiar stranger that
Kairo´ s
S. Benso (
)Department of Philosophy, Siena College, 515 Loudon Road, Siena Hall 423, Loudonville,NY 12211-1462, USAe-mail: benso@siena.edu
Hum Stud (2008) 31:223–228DOI 10.1007/s10746-008-9085-x
confronts head on and in constant conversation with both the twentieth-centuryphilosophy of the ‘‘temporal flow’’ (especially Henri Bergson, Edmund Husserl, andMartin Heidegger) and contemporary science (especially physics).Marramao’s work is regrettably still largely unknown to the Anglo-Americanreadership. Formed in the socio-critical philosophical tradition of the University of Florence, always attentive to historico-cultural phenomena, Marramao broadened hiseducation by studying social sciences at Frankfurt University, in Germany. Havinglectured in numerous major universities around the world, he is currently Professor of both Theoretical Philosophy and Political Philosophy at the University of Rome-III.An important work of his,
West Passage: Philosophy and Globalization
, one of thefirst books to consider globalization from a truly philosophical rather than political/ economic/sociological perspective, is due to appear in an English translation withVerso Publishing. An essay on related themes, ‘‘The World and the West Today: TheProblem of a Global Public Sphere,’is contained in
Contemporary ItalianPhilosophy: Crossing the Boundaries of Ethics, Politics, and Religion
, publishedby SUNY Press. Hopefully, these translations are only initial steps in the endeavor of making known to the English-speaking readership works by a thinker who haswritten more than 12 books in addition to many journal contributions.Marramao’s reflection is not new to the question of time.
Kairo´ s
constitutes infact the third volume in an ideal ‘triptych’(p. xi) that includes also
Potere esecolarizzazione. Le categorie del tempo
Power and Secularization: The Catego-ries of Time
), which was originally published in Italian in 1983 and then reprinted in2005, and
Minima Temporalia. Tempo, spazio, esperienza
 Minima Temporalia:Time, Space, Experience
), published in Italy in 1990 and reprinted in 2005.Curiously enough, in the English title of the volume under review, which in Italianreads
Kairo´ s. Apologia del tempo debito
Kairo´ s: A Defense of Due Time
), the term
has been changed to the expression
Toward an Ontology
(of due time). Noexplanation for this alteration is given either in the translators’ Foreword or inMarramao’s Preface (which, however, dates back to 1992 and was not updated forthe 2005 third Italian reprint).The term
is admittedly difficult to render in English in its Socraticsense. Besides indicating a difficulty of translation, however, the insertion of theexpression ‘toward an ontologyalso marks the philosophical agenda of Marramao’s book, which is clearly stronger than the simple provision of anargument
in defense of 
‘‘due time.’’ What Marramao wants to present is in fact aprecise philosophically proactive proposal, albeit non-foundational (p. 30), centeredon a notion o
kairo´ s
, the characteristics and nature of which are still underinvestigation and elaboration. His ambition is to replace the philosophicallyprevailing (at least in continental philosophy) ‘‘metaphors of the ‘stream’ and the‘flow’ [of time] with the notions of 
architecture of time
topology of time
’’ (p.30). In other words, Marramao wants to integrate the insufficient concept of timemodeled on intuitive perception with the measurable, spatialized concept thatemerges in modern science and leads to ‘‘a disintegration of the idea of a universalflow of time’’ (p. 32).The goal of the proposed integration would be the reinstitution of the paradox of which Augustine speaks and which Western philosophy has constantly sought to
224 S. Benso
neutralize. One way of formulating the question that drives Marramao’s project is toask: ‘‘How does one place the dimension of 
life, within such an ‘estranging’picture [as the scientific one], so shocking for the familiar certainties of commonsense?’’ (p. 32). In a clear echoing of Heidegger’s project of a fundamental ontologybased on time and of his concept of ‘‘ontological difference,’’ and yet in an equallyclear and declared opposition to Heidegger’s privileging of authentic overinauthentic time, Marramao’s book aims at ‘identifying the dimension, that is,the
of ‘ourtime, starting from the
cosmic disorientation
that the newscientific image of the universe has transmitted to our experience’’ (p. x). In otherwords, it intends to ‘‘identify the constitutive
of ‘our’ time—starting fromthe contemporary and ‘disorienting’ spatial-temporal dimension and far from anypretense of ‘authenticity’’’ (p. xi). Such a residue will emerge precisely as
kairo´ s
the time in-between, the interval in which something special happens. Beyondtraditionally rhetorical and theological understandings of it, the concept of 
kairo´ s
Marramao intends to propose is prepared by Aristotle’s ‘‘still unsurpassed’’ (p. 51)consideration of time in terms of the ‘‘now’(pp. 51–54). According to Marramao’sreading, Aristotle’s ‘nowis in fact ‘pulled away from the abstract, purelyquantitative dimension of mathematics, and is included within the
of time’’ (p. 54). In this manner, a conception of time as paradoxical, that is, as ‘‘
objective and subjective, physical and psychical, emotional and mental(p. 54)opens up.The extensive discussion of what constitutes only the central premise for theelaboration of such a novel concept of 
kairo´ s
occupies the largest portion of thebook. According to Marramao’s reading, the allegedly most radical twentieth-century philosophies of the temporal flow (namely, those of Bergson, Husserl, andHeidegger) bifurcate time into ‘a ‘propertime—authentic but incommunicable,which expresses the subjective and inner sense of 
—and an ‘improper’time—inauthentic but measurable, that manifests itself through its objective andspatialized representation(p. ix). A divide is thus created between time ascontinuous and unfolding and time as discrete and instantaneous. Whereas thephilosophies of the temporal flow intend to concern themselves with the former, thelatter understanding of time is rebutted and ascribed by them to the sciences. Byprovoking such a split and territorialization in the understanding of time, suchphilosophies in fact forget the twofold nature of time, Marramao claims.The recognition of the twofoldness of time was instead still present in Plato,Marramao argues with a suggestive interpretation that goes against many of theessentialist readings of the great Greek philosopher. According to Plato in fact, or soMarramao maintains, the ‘‘two sides’’ of the temporal coin, that is, the existentialand the measurable or scientific, ‘form an invisible network of reciprocalimplications and references’’ (p. 1). This much is signaled in Plato’s characteriza-tion of time in the
(37d), which according to Marramao constitutes ‘‘
the first complete definition of ‘time’in Western philosophy
’’ (p. 7). According to it,
is the moving image of 
aio´ n
.’’ This expression, usually translated as ‘‘timeis the moving image of eternity,’’ is convincingly reinterpreted by Marramao asmeaning that ‘‘
is as eternal as
aio´ n
. Both are either ‘‘always’’ together orfall
(p. 12). That is, the scientific and existential aspects of time are
Kairo´ s

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