ST.

AUGUSTINE'S

CONCEPTION

OF TIME

of thought and a poetry not unlikethatof WV ITH an elevation Plato, and with a nicelydiscriminating analysis that places himamongthegreatest of psychologists, Augustine -investigates the natureof time.His subtleand profound mind founda peculiarattractionin the contemplation of the mystery of time,whichis essentially bound up withthemystery of createdbeing (De Civ. Dei XII 15). Few menhave been as intensely sensitive to thepathosof mutability, of the rapidity, transitoriness, and irreversibility, of time. Following his inclination to subjectivism, Augustineasks himselfhow timerepresents itselfto themind.He first seeks to render the idea of timeclear by a brief, provisionaldefinition, based upon the usual idea thattimehas threeparts. While one meetsnothing but riddlesin an investigation of the natureof time,nevertheless so much is certain,that if nothingwere passing,therewould be no past; if nothing were to come,therewould be no future;and nothingwould exist, if there were no present.The past is that which is no more; the futurethat which is not yet. And if the presentwere perpetually present,there would be no longer any time,but onlyeternity. For the presentto belong to time it must pass. Hence timeonlyexistsbecause it tendsto not-being. A logical analysis of the various conventionaltime-intervals discoversthatthepresent is an instant of timewhichcan no further be divided into smaller particles.The time-atom flies with such speed fromthe futureto the past that it cannot be lengthened. This time-particle or presenthas no space. Thus, the presentbebeingthe onlyreal time,it is diminishing to-an inextensive point. Such a conception would be in the tradition of the mathematical conceptionof time. "Si quid intelligitur, quod in nullas jam vel minutissimas momentorum partesdividipossit.... Praesens autem nullemhabet spatium" (Conf. XI I5). Obviouslythis conception of time is the same as thatof Descartes. Doubtless Augustineis far from attaininga formulaas clear as the enunciationof a geometrical theorem. The principalthingis thathe recognized the possibilityof a mathematical analysis of time. Even thoughhe does notknowwhattimeexactlyis, he at least stateswhatit is not, oftenthe sole solutionof manyproblems. 503

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It has therefore no relevance to thestableimmobility of divineeternity: "tempusautemquoniam mutabilitatetranscurrit aeternitatiimmutabilinon potest esse coaeternum" (De Civ. whichescapes us. thoughthe individualnotes and sounds are successivenot simultaneous (Conf. which knows itselfto be neitherlong nor short. In generalhe admitsthatthepresenthas no extensionin abstraction.How then can we speak of a longer or shortertime. On the otherhand. being made of a succession of indivisibleinstants.which sweeps us offour feet.It is therefore not correct to say that the past or the futureis long. 10 Jan 2013 10:05:08 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . we measure time.that in reality it is stillfeltas duration.and thus one is in possession of a remembered or an expectedtotaldurational present. The difficulty is not onlyto account for eternity. The individualdurationsdovetail. Augustinepresupposesthat the presentis only inextensiveif subjectedto a logical analysis. XLVI. for. however small the extensionin duration.or even of a time double the other? However. It cannot remain for long as an indivisible instant. the presentinstantly turns itselfinto a past which is no longer and a future whichis not yet. BetweenGod and thecreature is the same difference as betweena consciousness in whichall the notes of a melodyare simultaneously present. Time thus reduces itselfto the impermanent.is a mysterious reality.of a futurewhichis not yet.so to say. Dei XII I5). The numberof isolatedintervalscan be readily noted. But how can we measurethelength of a past whichis no more.or of an instantaneous present?What we measureis the absence of the present. The essenceof timeis theindivisible instant of thepresent. The threedimensions that we customarily thus redistinguish duce themselves to one. as. neither is it in reality entirely devoidof any extensionof duration. That is a stubbornfact. and a consciousness whichperceivesthemonly in succession. But the indivisible presentdoes not cease to vanish. XI 33). in whichthe past survivesin memoryand the futurepreexistsin some way in the formof an anticipation. because they have diversecontents.504 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW [VOL. We rathersay of This content downloaded on Thu. the present. for example. for time itself.In its normaloperations thehumanmindthrough memory in somemeasuretranscends time. when we apprehendas a whole a metre or a melody.

presentin all its day. future be long the fact remainsthat we measure time. how can one measurethem? have no real existence.They both have an objectiveexistence in the sense that they are being discernedin the mind.Aristotlealready said: "Nothing exists of time except the presentwhich is indivisible" nor thepast nor the the present (Physics II 2). ured.No. If time is nothing. submergesinto the and that the presentin turn instantaneously then If thepasthas no real existence.But if the futurecannot be foreseenby means of images. Augustineis quite aware that one of the most intricatedifficultiesof the problemof time is the questionhow time is measraisesmoreriddlesthansolutions. we of time.But thepast thatit was long. past and future For in orderto measureanything theremustbe something.that we Nevertheless.] ST. relations(Conf. out of an unrealizedfuture. out of not-being. but only in an indivisibleinstant. past. This phase of theproblem of the contradictions No one shows a keenerappreciation involved in the proof of the objectivity if the of time. 10 Jan 2013 10:05:08 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . we do not recall the actual whichare no more. AUGUSTINE'S CONCEPTION OF TIME 505 thatit will be long.and if the future prediction would be impossible.whereit is annihilated? has no real existence. No one measures the non-existent. nor an hour. Time is never simultaneously parts.butthethoughts and imagesthesehave events.so we learnto knowthe future. Thereforeneither or can called short.and of the future ? can one truly say of thepresent thatit is long? Can it be measured nor a A century cannotbe present. inference fromcause-and-effect visionis a refined XI 19). While no part of time is.I know where theyare. we yet measureit. For when we recallthe past. all history would be false. how is it predicted? Just as we infer the futuresunrise fromthe aurora by Prediction or premeans of signs. vanishedinto the past.Is it nothing make comparisons betweenthe intervals no real existence?How is it that measure? Have past and future thepresentemerges. but we see left in our mind.There are thusproperly notthreetimes -a past and a futurewhich are not. The solutionof the paradox is thattime is presentin and measuredbythemind. nor a month. with an immediate present This content downloaded on Thu. neithera year. 5. While I neitherperceivethe past nor the future. Our infancy presentits image when we revive it in our memory.

or not at all. For if the movement movement is theonlymeasureof time. whichis a mere pointof transition a presentof a presentof thingspresent. This triplemode of the presentexists of the future is expectation. To of Aristotle. The only answer Augustinecan give and to the one who asks him how he measures the non-existing " non-spatialtimes is: "I know. the present of thepassingmoment. once moreto give verbal With renewedzest Augustineattempts tells how we measureit. anotherthing. it mustbe its own measurement. XLVI.motionwith motion. There remainsonly a movingpointin nothingness.However.but in the human mind.with what With time?In a certainsense yes. ? Do I measure it by comBut how do we measure time itself If it is witha morelimitedmovement? paringa largermovement do I measure time? with timethat I measure motion.Time is thus not the motionof bodies (Conf. Augustineconcludes. thereare threepresents.yetI can stillestimate Thus the motionwhichtimemeastude thetimeof its immobility. .and a movement which is to come has not yet begun to exist. its displacement betweentwo the motionof a body is essentially continues to be pointssituatedin space.if the body remainsimmobileat the same point. 10 Jan 2013 10:05:08 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . grantsucha solutionseemsan excessivesimplification Thus For if timeis not motion.how can we speak of past and future? A movement whichhas passed has ceased to exist.and a present and the present of the past is memory. for I can measurethe duration This content downloaded on Thu. . is timemeasuredif it is not space.the measureof timeis not to be Therefore. Augustinecould not rest satisfiedwith the timewiththe of Greekscience. the present ent is attention. and the timewhich timeitselfmeasuresis still ures is one thing. of thepresThe present of thingsfuture.?It is a profoundenigma. in our mind. foundin things. XI 24). This spatial displacement identicalwhateverthe time consumedby the body. Moreover. the question stillis. In otherwords. but betweentwo non-entities.506 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW [VOL.thereis no motion exactiwithmoreor less rigorous whatever.whichidentified naive objectivism of bodies of the heavenlybodies. we can measure time with time. Feeling that the mind in some sense transcendsthe process of time it contemplates. time before he precisionto the natureof To resolve the problemwe may identifytime with motion. things past.

whichalone renderspossiblethe coexistenceof the futureand thepast in thepresent.a foot.that I measure. as a kind of distension of the mind. the futureby prevision. If it is a questionof versespronounced by the voice. 10 Jan 2013 10:05:08 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .so to say. But what can I say about it? If it is a question of theirlengthon paper. a syllable. he has recourseto a metaphor accordingto whichhe conceivesof time as something analogous to space. not time.formeas- This content downloaded on Thu. or thatof a poem with of versesit contains.] ST. to dilateitself. 5. it is natural that it should have to stretch itselfout in recollection of the past and strainto the future. Such a solutionis characteristic of Augustine. Augustine meansbymental distension the faculty of themindto know successively the past by memory.Not unlikeBergsonhe defines the mindin termsof attention.Here it is in memory and thought thathe catchessightof his quarry.No. not temporal. that is space.the dissociationof time and motionreappears under another form.the durationof theirfeetby that of theirsyllables. In orderto discoverthe connection betweenthe permanent and the transitory.byprevision and memoryfromthe remotest futureto the most distantpast. for a shortverse can be pronounced so thatit lasts a longertime thana longverse.and those of theirlong syllablesfinally by those of the shortones. whichforAugustineis afterall thewhole problem. If thenon-existing future and past together with theinstantaneous present are notamenableto measurement.and vice versa. In every question he findsthe trial within. AUGUSTINE'S CONCEPTION OF TIME 507 of a long syllablewiththatof a shortone. The distensionof the mind enables one to perceive duration and makes possible the measurement of time.It is thesamewitha poem. It is above all in ourselves thatwe mustseek themeasurement of time. thenumber whichversesmeasurethemselves in theirturnby the numberof feet. Thus Augustinedoes notignorethe factthattimeis notonlya function of theamplitude of motion. butalso of speed. And as the humanmindis but a dispersedimage of the One. Measurementsof this kind are spatial.It is impossibleto measurewhat does not endureand what has ceased to exist. Augustineis stillnot satisfied withthe proffered solutionof the problem at hand. and the present by actual perception. neither can the uninterrupted passage of an eventbe measured.

past and future coincide. Before it is begun the it is all in when it is finished.and in particular thought. Its threedimensions presentis the onlyone whichis real and invisible. XLVI.it exists. The enduringattentionof the mind of time. sum of individuallives (Conf. It is equallytrueforthe wholelifeof man.Augustine of a poem which a man knows by heart. it holds good for the whole humanrace. the mindhas to know at least two termswhich are simultanein orderto be able to measuretime. and an end.but while it is in progress. whatmeaningis thereto thequestionwhat did God the in bringing do beforethe creation?For human consciousness the words before and futureand the past togetherin attention. a a reflex of thingspassed and passing.althoughthe existingoutsideof us. theirintervalsor successionsis made possible. 10 Jan 2013 10:05:08 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . does effort What tremendous afterhave no longerany significance. Not the theyhave of thingsmeasurestime. whichis the and. That of a beginning impliesthe conjunction urement is.They coincide by the grace of the mind. Time is nothingbut an impression.in three dimensions. XI 28). If thisis so. existsonlyin anticipation. between the two terms. withtherecitation comparesthetime-process Finally. finally. Time no longer divides itself into a present.Memory. "the lightof theintervals of the presentinto the futureand into the past. of created ittaketo attaina tolerable of therelation comprehension This content downloaded on Thu. The impression of thema certainmeasurement and comparing thingsthemselves.like time.but the impression transition a mode of left in the mind. past is measuredin memThe non-existent function of memory. survivesthe which preservesthe transitory ory.The soluouslyin thepresent between tion of the problemis in showingwhat the connection the beginning and the end. of thethreedimensions providesthecoincidence distension is thesubsisting of duration". It is interesting to note theanalogieswhichBergson'sand Augustine'spsychology of duration have in common. recitation memory.And what is true of the durationof a poem.whose actionsare its parts.is.5o8 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW (VOL. What is true for of the the memoryof the past is also true for the anticipation future. holds equally good of the durationof each line and syllableof it.

Time is thedistension is It eternity.that is. unison of that which unfolds the simultaneous quiescentpresent. in time. Hence eternity Time implieschange. For Auence and operationof something but a concrete was no lifelessabstraction. ever the same because of time.True.Having started self-subsisting changeably in his studyof time.succession. consumesitselfin time. God knows eternally. timeis no precedednor folwhichis neither present. and improvemovement.In intuition as well as by intuition. absolute. 10 Jan 2013 10:05:08 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Dei XI 6. gustinethat something itselfall the in contains it fullnessof life. ment. AUGUSVtINEJS 509 that Man can onlysucceedon condition timeand creativeeternity! in and integrates fromthe fluxof time. Eternity is all that time is not.Augustinealso ends witheternity. philosophy It is thus in keeping with the heritageof Neoplatonismthat Augustine seeks to preservethe dignityof God by placing him and timeare absolutely outsideof timeand space. thatis.j ST.CONCEPTION OF TIMP No. It is the immutable. 5. 31). XII I5). imperfection. Thus alone may he and now pass fromtime to eternity alone in the end providesthe solutionof Thus the metaphysical problemof time.transition. divine consciousnessis unpoint of its unwinding witheternity on its level. a of unity the in fromexistingsimultaneously Whateversucceedseach otheris incapableof coexisting(De Civ.Time and eternity betweenan ever fixed There is no comparison the same dimension. because it dissipatesand For man lifeis wastedbecause it flows. Whereas menknow things in succession. his thought he withdraws which is no more and which is presentthe totality a permanent not yet.Man's weakness in perceivingthings act. more. Whereas human consciousnessalways knows exactly at which activityit is. of theeternal. (Conf. preventsthings in the unityof an indivisible simultaneously fixedpermanency. are differences Their incompatible. This content downloaded on Thu. They are not of are incommensurable. is an immutable eternity lowed by anothermoment.XI II.This apprehenvalues producedat each passing moment was one of the major factorsthat molded the sion of eternity of Augustine.The sense of this is itselfdue to the preswhich does not pass. simultaneously. man knows by analysis the psychological In analysistimeis succession. temporally. 29.

It is a process withoutexternalaims. of the experience Augustineleaves the questionof the variability and withinthe lifeof the present-fromindividualto individual span of the individual-untouched. on its own horizontal circulating self-concentrated.coexistin God's eternalpresent. Being a totallyrealizedperfection.However. an antinomy.which There are two unique peculiarities the selfThey are. Its process is level.whileperishableforman. second.the irrevocableirreversibility finality of its sequence. in the natureof time. is a profound tionof thepresent of time. His life is not of time.Is therea presentwhich encompasses all men? What relationif any exists between God's' enduringpresentand the varyingconsciousnessof the infinitely presentof men? Metaphorsalone seem to serve here as tools of interpretation. In every a whole world and in everyinstant a whole worldperishes. and the annihilaThe paradox of the evaporationof the moment How is one to resolve abstraction. AuBased upon the presuppositions of of the relationship the have answered problem might gustine God's eternal presentand man's varyingexperienceof the present between as well as a difference as follows:There existsa similarity of thepresent. XLVI. They abide'in the nunc stains theycome to time until of intervals these perishing through pass rest in God.5IO THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW [VOL. Only the experiencedinstantis given. of his systemof ideas.the nonof the intervals the paradox of the annihilation realityof the past and the future? Nothing is ever destroyed. first. The souls of men of the scholastics. lower world. This is indeeda solution. Moreover. moments ever magicallyproduced. instant futuredo not past and infinite emergesout of nothing.The infinite Neitheris nothing of time. and. because the presentcondenses itself to an inextensivepoint. constitute in theircontrast of the present. XI ii). independent Neither is it a descentto a an ascent to still higherperfections. stans aeternitatis-anda timethatis neverfixed eternity-semper God is wholly (Conf.it seems to dissolve all existenceinto emptiness. 10 Jan 2013 10:05:08 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .Infinite exist. They and man's consciousness God's eternalpresent timelessly are things many infinitely both are real. it opens up new problems. While there This content downloaded on Thu. He is an immobileeternity.

Augustine endures through which "Thou art thesameand thyyearsfail of theHebrewtradition.howcan God eternally but is unableto solve it withthe problem."But by merely tohisbasicassumptions. 5. was contrary is an indissequence of temporal irreversibility The inexorable the duration offfrom clipped is perpetually fact. thedivine nowwas identical through of the and irreversibility of the uniqueness The recognition of achievements is one of themostremarkable process temporal imageof revolving Hence timeis not a perpetual Augustine.he failedto workit out. to it. struggles Augustine He couldhavemade tradition. using meantthat eternity heritage In the latter the Hebrewtradition. often usesthelanguage all time. and travbeginning has had an absolute Creation finality.he does not create As there decree could God of how realizesthe difficulty time. had a beginning years. thepassage andthat of time dimension theunilateral Godhas fixed forall men. moving butis irreversibly eternity.Augustine of a fewthousand creation be a finite should thatthere eternally it also willhave withtime. God thusencompasses today". manifold whichimpliesall the coexisting assumean eternally alsounanproblem left this Augustine worlds. to thenon-existreality assimilates endlessly The present future. their forthe finite to procure intended is an arrangement coexistence may give an Augustine possibleenrichment.] ST. 10 Jan 2013 10:05:08 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . If therefore endwith a dramatic of creation? a finite period determine God. fact? One may thisabsolute How is oneto escapefrom ingfuture. souls the greatest God's "we pass through of all thisin his expression intimation all souls. in successively is no timein God. together The of the present.that time byincluding itplausible is. momentary possible that havemaintained hisideashe could with In accordance swered.Reality putable the thepastinto from itself gnaws The non-existent ofthepresent. It has an in a definite direction.as it alluding not. of the speculative Greek bythetools thetoolsof by in God.Sincecreation for has no significance time time. AUGUSTINE'S CONCEPTION OF TIME 5I1 segments in God'seternal there are onlyminute present. organic This content downloaded on Thu.No. in man's limited consciousness of eternity amongmenis due to of the present of the realities distribution thedivine of thesoulsof menthrough thepassage finiteness.

He was thefirst to take timeseriously.5I2 THE PHILOSOPHICAL REVIEW els to an absolutegoal. Augustinewas therefore actuallythefirst man to discoverthe meaning of time.in spiteof the factthatPlato. and Plotinus. a typicalGreek characteristic.had written about it. thinker HERMAN HAUSHEER LAMONI. IOWA This content downloaded on Thu. While theirendeavorwas primarily to explain it away. Aristotle. Augustineexplainedthe time-process itself. There can be no return. 10 Jan 2013 10:05:08 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . That whichis begun in time is consummated in eternity.