The Triumph of Time

From philosopher Edward S. Casey’s Getting Back Into Place:

“‘Time will tell’: so we say, and so we believe, in the modern era. This era, extending from Galileo and Descartes to Husserl and Heidegger, belongs to time, the time when Time came into its own. Finally. And yet, despite the fact that history, human and geological alike, occurs in time (and has been doing so for quite a while), time itself has not long been singled out for separate scrutiny …. By the middle of the eighteenth century, time had become prior to space in metaphysics as well as in physics. If, in Leibniz’s elegant formula, ‘space is the order of co-existing things,’ time proved to be more basic: as ‘the order of successive things,’ it alone encompasses the physical world order. By the moment when Kant could assert this, time had won primacy over space. We have been living off this legacy ever since, not in only philosophy and physics but in our daily lives as well.

These lives are grasped and ordered in terms of time. Scheduled and overscheduled, we look to the clock or the calendar for guidance and solace, even judgment! But such time-telling offers precious little guidance, no solace whatsoever, and a predominantly negative judgment (‘it’s too late now’) … We are lost because our conviction that time, not only the world’s time but our time, the only time we have, is always running down.”

Casey’s project may be described as a phenomenologically inflected recovery of place. But he begins by describing the triumph of time. Tell me whether this does not resonate deeply with your experience:

“The pandemic obsession with time from which so many moderns have suffered — and from which so many postmoderns still suffer — is exacerbated by the vertiginous sense that time and the world-order, together constituting the terra firma of modernist solidity, are subject to dissolution. Not surprisingly, we objectify time and pay handsome rewards … to those who can tie time down in improved chronometry. Although, the modern period has succeeded brilliantly in this very regard, it has also fallen into the schizoid state of having made objective, as clock-time and world-time, what is in fact most diaphanous and ephemeral, most ‘obscure’ in human experience. We end by obsessing about what is no object at all. We feel obligated to tell time in an objective manner; but in fact we have only obliged ourselves to do so by our own sub rosa subreptions, becoming thereby our own pawns in the losing game of time.”

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