Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Ancient and Medieval Theories of Time (Brief Notes)

I want to expand my notes on this topic, but here's the initial part of my notes.

A contemporary definition of physics from Oxford Languages-"the branch of science concerned with the nature and properties of matter and energy.  The subject matter of physics, distinguished from that of chemistry and biology, includes mechanics, heat, light and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and the structure of atoms."

Contemporary physicists describe the world through mathematical expressions or formulae: they employ tools that their predecessors did not have.

The etymology of physics (Oxford Languages)-"late 15th century (denoting natural science in general, especially the Aristotelian system): plural of obsolete physic ‘physical (thing’), suggested by Latin physica, Greek phusika ‘natural things’ from phusis ‘nature’."

Time and Eternity definition by Plotinus at Enneads 3.7.11:

Plotinus (205-270 CE): "And we, stirring to a ceaseless succession, to a next, to the discrimination of identity and the establishment of ever-new difference, traversed a portion of the outgoing path and produced an image of Eternity, produced Time."

"Would it, then, be sound to define Time as the Life of the Soul in movement as it passes from one stage of act or experience to another? Yes; for Eternity, we have said, is Life in repose, unchanging, self-identical, always endlessly complete; and there is to be an image of Eternity-Time — such an image as this lower All presents of the Higher Sphere."

"Time, however, is not to be conceived as outside of Soul; Eternity is not outside of the Authentic Existent: nor is it to be taken as a sequence or succession to Soul, any more than Eternity is to the Divine. It is a thing seen upon Soul, inherent, coeval to it, as Eternity to the Intellectual Realm."

Aristotle defines time as the measure of motion with respect to before and after (see Physics IV)

Plato depicts time as the moving image of eternity (Timaeus 38). To understand his theory, one needs to be familiar with the Platonic Forms and the discourse context of the Timaeus.

Augustine of Hippo-time is distentio animi (distention of the mind/stretching apart of the soul). See Confessions 11.

Augustine writes: “Quid est enim tempus. Si nemo ex me quaerat, scio; si quaerenti explicare velim, nescio.”


Roman said...

It seems to me that the hellenistic tradition is entirely some kind of B theory of time, including the Christian theological tradition.

I have a hard time finding any open theists in the tradition.

Duncan said...

Roman said...

Thanks Duncan, that's an interesting paper.

Edgar Foster said...

I agree that you'll be hard pressed to find open theists in antiquity. One scholar who has violated plenty of sources about time in ancient philosophy is Richard Sorabji.

I limited my examples to the Greeks and medievals because of a course I'm currently teaching. One text for the course is Sir Anthony Kenny's work on the middle ages. But Duncan's link is interesting.

Edgar Foster said...

Edgar Foster said...

I would like to read MacDonald's article a little more closely, but I diagree with him that concepts don't exist--it's difficult to see how anyone can prove concepts are non-existent.

Duncan said...

"Hebrew and Ugaritic qedem (or qadm) means face, east, past; we face the past, it is in front of us."

Isaiah 30:21

Edgar Foster said...

Duncan said...

Rashi - And your ears shall hear from behind you Not as you do now, that you despise My words and say, “You shall not prophesy for us true things” (verse 10), but your ears shall be bent also behind you to hear from Me, perhaps a prophet >>>will come and instruct you the way to go<<<, whether right or left.