Philosophy Series Contents (to be updated with each new installment)
Philosophy Series 1 – Prelude to the Philosophy Series
Philosophy Series 2 – Introduction
Philosophy Series 3 – Appendix A, Part 1
Philosophy Series 4 – The Pre-Socratics – Hesiod
Philosophy Series 5 – A Detour of Time
Philosophy Series 6 – The Origin
Philosophy Series 7 – Eros
Philosophy Series 8 – Thales
Philosophy Series 9 – An Interlude to Anaximander
Philosophy Series 10 – On the Way to Anaximander: Language and Proximity
Philosophy Series 11 – Aristotle and Modernity: The Eternal and Science
Philosophy Series 12 – Levinas and the Problem of Metaphysics
Philosophy Series 13 – On Origin
Philosophy Series 5
A Detour of Time
The continuation of Hesiod’s cosmogenesis cited here declares,
But afterwards she lay with Heaven and bore deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Cronos the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire.1
In later Roman mythology Cronus erroneously became chronus (χρόνος2, time). In Hesiod, Cronus was a child of Earth and Sky. He was a Titan god. Hesiod described Cronus as “Crooked-counseled and terrible”. Cronus castrated his father, Sky and overthrew him. Cronus impregnated his sister Rhea and then ate all the children except one that Rhea hid, Zeus. The Romans associated Cronus with Saturn. Saturn was extremely popular with the Romans. In fact, the popularity lasts to the present day. The seventh day of the Judaeo-Christian week is in Latin, Dies Saturni (“Day of Saturn”) or Saturday. Virgil, a Roman poet, associated Cronus with a heroic king of Italy3. This association made Cronus a hero and not the detestable figure in Greek mythology. However, Ovid, another Roman poet, was primarily responsible for making Cronus (the Greek Titan) into chronus (time) in his book Metamorphoses. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Saturn reigns in the Golden Age which was marred by continual rebellion against the heavens. Ovid associates these upheavals with the beginning of change and becoming. This association was the beginning of the confusion between Cronus (Saturn) and chronus (time).
This ‘confusion’ or ‘forgetting’ is important as it assigns a false note to the historical opus of what ‘temporal’ means. Even more, it may be here that that chronus is canonized as a sequence or succession of ‘now’ moments which proceed from the past to the future. This is ‘clock’ time. Chronus came to mean quantity of time. However, the Greeks had another important concept of time, the fullness of time, kairos (καιρός). Kairos was quality as opposed to quantity. Kairos was the in-between-moments, the right time. It was time that gathers together, pulls in and ruptures the vulgar notion of time as chronus as Heidegger thought chronus. Kairos was not governed by ‘now’ moments. It could not ‘fit’ into a synchronous4 (sýnchronos, equivalent to syn- syn5– + chrón ( os ) time + –os6 adj. suffix) temporal scheme. “Chronos is that in which there is kairos and kairos is that in which there is little chronos [chronos esti en ho kairos kai kairos esti en to ou pollos chronos].”7 This is important because for the Homeric era, temporality was not thought in terms of a neutral, generic grid of sequential ‘now’ moments. Quantity did not hold sway over quality. Moments were not equal in ‘essence’ but had quality, the supreme moment. Kairos gathered in time but did not possess it. It was a ‘between’ time that was not this moment or the last moment or the next moment. Hesiod’s chaos had the quality of kairos. It was not eternal.
The ancient Greeks did not even have a concept of ‘eternity’. Eternity, as we think it, was a later Latin, Christian, extension of chronus. If chronus, which came to be thought as a neutral, grid (the common idea of physical time), never ends the Christian notion of eternity would result. Walter Brogan explains the notion of eternity here:
Aidion is often translated as the eternal or eternity-aeternitas. But the notion of the eternal as opposed to the temporal is a later development of Christian thinking. The literal meaning of the Latin aeternitas is not “atemporal,” but “to return always,” and in this way to be everlasting. The Greek word aidion comes from aei and dios. Dios is a word used by Homer to mean the noblest. Thus, it is the word for Zeus, as well as a word for men and women of excellence and of noble nations. It is also used to depict the powers of nature. It means that which is divine-like. Aei means throughout time. Aidion means that which holds itself through time in the presence of the divine and thus is. The aei is the enduring of a being that maintains itself in its “isness.” Thus, Heidegger says: “And aei means not only `without stopping’ and `continuously,’ but primarily that which is presently there (das Jeweilige)-he who is ruling at the time (ho aei basi- leuon), not some sort of `eternal’ ruling”.8
Kairos could not be contained or possessed by a generic ‘now’ moment. It could not be held in presence. Kairos exceeded this notion in a similar fashion to the way Descartes thought the notion of infinity exceeded its concept. It may be that Hesiod thought the first, chaos, as kairos. In Hesiod’s other work, Works and Days, he writes what would later become a famous dictum: μέτρα φυλάσσεσθαι· καιρὸς [kairos] δ’ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν ἄριστος; Observe due measure: and best in all things is the right time (kairos) and right amount9. It would not make sense to Hesiod to think of what came before or after kairos. Our contemporary logic would inform us that there must be a before or after to Hesiod’s supreme cosmogonic time but that logic (logos) would not necessarily follow for Hesiod or the Muses. The Muses were full of play and gaiety. They basked in kairos as a child in play. The important thing to remember here is that the very first (protista) is not temporalized into a ‘now’ moment or even a-temporality (not temporal). The very first is the fullness of the supreme, in-between-moment, a quality not contained in neutrality either. I will note it here that kairos will become an interesting problem between Aristotle and the Sophists in later discussions.
Perhaps historically, kairos could speculatively be thought along the lines of Kant’s categorical understanding as a-priori. It is also spoken of in Christianity with regard to the fulfillment or redemption of time that occurred in Christ. The latter philosophical notions of the transcendental may also appropriate its temporality from kairos. For Heidegger10 and the ancient Greek skeptics the historical epoch (epoché, ἐποχή, epokhē, to hold back, suspension, cessation)11 or age (aon) is not a collection of ‘now’ moments but the quality of an era. Better yet, kairos could be thought along the lines of Heidegger’s notion of pre-cognition or pre-understanding which always, already ‘is’. Heidegger would refer to kairos as “the moment of vision” (augenblick, literally “glance of the eye”). Augenblick is the moment of decision. As such, it is conflict and strife (polemus). For Heidegger, augenblick is an event, Ereignis. Thomas Sheehan writes of Ereignis as:
In ordinary German Ereignis means “event,” but in Heidegger’s retrieval of the unsaid in Aristotle, it becomes a name for the structure of the ontological movement that enables all being-significant. Playing on the adjective eigen (“one’s own”), Heidegger comes up with the neologism Er-eignung: ontological movement as the process of being drawn into what is “one’s own”…12
Ereignis is the event that pulls (sways) or appropriates meaning or significance as the ‘there’ of Being. This ‘pulling forth’ is also a withdrawal, an expropriation, of logos or as Sheehan states it, ” a differentially structured semantic field is engendered and sustained, is appropriation-by-absence”.13 For Heidegger, Ereignis is not temporality or Being but an in-between which gives (es gibt) time and Being. Ereignis as event is not “simply an occurrence, but that which makes any occurrence possible”.14 The event is the ‘there is’ (il y a) and ‘it gives’ (es gibt) of time and Being. It is the da (there) of Being. This German idiom, es gibt, denotes a passive and an active voice albeit grammatically neutral.15 It literally means ‘it gives’ as active but the idiom connotes ‘there is’ as pasive. In ancient Greek and Latin there wasn’t a separate word for ‘it’.16 However, what is meant by ‘it’ in those languages was not as we understand ‘it’ but ranged in meaning from the irrelevant to the demonic (δαίμων, daimôn).17 For classical Greece the daimôn was not evil as later Latin thinkers envisioned it. In Socrates the daimôn was an oracle, wisdom from unknown otherness. Therefore, the notion of it was not a dead, neutral ‘thing’ but an indeterminate other. Moreover, with regard to es gibt, ancient Greek grammar has a middle voice. The middle voice does not exist in English, German or modern Greek. The middle voice indicates a simultaneous action on both subject and predicate. The middle voice is not forced into an acting or being acted upon but draws together the meanings of codetermined, mutual determination and active reciprocity. Ereignis is not an event that happens to a subject nor is Ereignis an ‘it’ as a thing. Ereignis is not neutral, already understood as mere ‘thingness’.
The abstract notion of ‘thingness’ which arises from the already understood, ontological, orientation to beings as separate and ultimately divisible ‘stuff’ we know as ‘thing’ comes from the equally abstract notion of temporality as a linear succession of ‘now’ moments. When temporality is pre-understood as equally chopped up packets of ‘now’ moments, the ‘stuff’ of time must also be abstractly considered as well as equal packets of matter (ὕλη, hyle) we think as ‘things’. For modernity, the self-evident, simple and superficial presentation of all stuff as things is a simple ‘given’ from an un-thought history; it is a practical component of everyday life which seems ludicrous to question. However, that is precisely what Heidegger and the ancient Greeks addressed in their thinking of being (ontos).18 From this abstract notion of ontos it is difficult to understand the ancient Greek notion of kairos. Heidegger shows how our everyday experience of being in the mode of instrumentality (i.e., our being with the hammer is such that the hammer disappears in use) counters the notion of being as present-at-hand (when the hammer breaks and becomes conspicuous as present-at-hand) which is also the mode of ‘thingness’ where we already understand beings as separate objects to be observed in their abstract presence and not in our participation with being. He also showed how lived time has a stretch which may slow as in the experience of boredom or anxiety and speed in moments of joy or exhilaration which counters the abstracted notion of time that thinks in terms of ‘clock time’ as linear ‘now’ moments.19 Likewise, when kairos as the fullness of the moment is thought in terms of a qualitative gathering of temporality, as holding sway for meaning and significance for beings, epochs and ages, it is difficult from a ‘common sense’, ‘intuitive’ point of view (vista) to concretely get past our historical abstractions of chronus. Perhaps some modern ways to begin to think this is with the birth of a child, the death of a mother, the end of communism or the ‘secularization’ of a religious world. Even what Heidegger calls being-towards-death is a moment that holds sway throughout our lives. These practical experiences of temporality as kairos was, in concrete ways, more practical for ancient Greek thinking of temporality than our modern notion of ‘clock time’. The question of what is really real, kairos or chronus was a question for ontos, being, ontology which concerned Aristotle in what the Latin mind thought as ‘metaphysics’.20 However, the ancient Greeks thought of these questions in terms of phusis; the question of physics as it appears, as idea, and as ‘being as such’ or ‘first cause’. It was difficult for the Latin mind, the Christian weltanschauung, to think of Hesiod’s chaos not as ‘eternal’, chronus existing from all time and through all time, but as kairos, the gathering together and holding sway, the fullness, completeness (telos) of moments which was not ‘a moment’ but the in-between of the moments of chronus. Temporality thought as kairos does depend on the abstract and quantized schema of linear ‘now’ moments proceeding from an infinite past to an infinite future but from concrete and practical qualities which determine (hold sway over) beings and being, civilizations and history, forms (peras) and indefinite (apeiron), origin (archê) and chaos.
Philosophy Series 6 – The Origin
1 See Link
2 See Link
3 Georgics 1.336; 2.406, 539; 3.93; and Aeneid6.794; 7.49; 8.319; 12.830
4 See Link
5 See Link
6 See Link
7 Giorgio Agamben, The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans, Trans. Patricia Daley (Stanford: Stanford U.P., 2005), page 68-9.
8 Walter A. Brogan. Heidegger And Aristotle: The Twofoldness Of Being (Kindle Locations 1035-1041). Kindle Edition.
9 Hesiod, Works and Days 694 ;Translation of the Works and Days are based on Evelyn-White 1929
10 Martin Heidegger, Time and Being, trans. by Joan Stambaugh (Harper and Row, 1972), page 9.
11 See Link
12 GESCHICHTLICHKEIT /EREIGNIS /KEHRE, Thomas Sheehan, Existentia (Meletai Sophias) [Budapest], XI, 3-4 (2001), 241-251. See Link (pdf page 10)
13 GESCHICHTLICHKEIT /EREIGNIS /KEHRE, Thomas Sheehan, Existentia (Meletai Sophias) [Budapest], XI, 3-4 (2001), 241-251. See enowning.blogspot.com/2011/02/thomas-sheehan-on-what-heidegger-means.html
14 Martin Heidegger, Time and Being, trans. by Joan Stambaugh (Harper and Row, 1972), page 19.
15 Neutrality is a concern that will be addressed in future discussions of Emmanuel Levinas. However, Heidegger should not quickly be read as denoting es gibt as neutral, a mere it, a thing. Much of his critique of the forgetting of Being since the Greeks is based on thinking of Being in the same type as a ‘thing’. We think we understand the being of a thing as an ‘object’ present-at-hand, something we look at in its pure presence. This understanding of Being as an object or a thing has dominated since the Greeks but Heidegger wants to show that there are other ways of experiencing being such as instrumentality, ready-at-hand, in which we experience the being of a thing such as a hammer in its disappearance in use. We are not looking at the hammer as an object present-at-hand lest we hit our finger. We are using the hammer to accomplish a goal but the hammer itself is not experienced as an object present to our vision. The notion of a hammer in use that is still present-at-hand in some abstract sense is not the concrete way we are experiencing the hammer while using it. Even more, Heidegger wants to make the claim that whenever we ‘see’ being, being retreats, withdraws such that the ‘truth’ of what we see or understand of being is conditioned more by its absence than its presence. Therefore, what we ‘see’ is always embroiled in semblance, appearance, a representation, that cannot capture Being per se. Being cannot be brought to presence even as idea – εἶδος (eidos – that which is seen, form, shape) and ἰδέα (idea – form) . There is always a ex- to being, an excess which cannot be accounted for or brought to light and presence. Therefore, neutrality in es gebt is not so much a neutral article as a referent to Being. It is a further question to ask if Being is third person, neutral or first or second person singular, I or you or plural, we or them. It would be natural to think Being as a kind of high order machine or mechanism but that would fail to understand Heidegger. On the other hand, there is a sense of a determination that Being is either a kind of thing or a kind of person, I (Nietzsche) or other (Levinas). This pathos of thought thinks after the universal. It is the thought that Being is either a type of person (he, she, I, thou, other person, etc.) or a not-person (a substance, thing, matter, mechanism, etc.).
This universal dilemma of one or the other, mutually exclusive, may be a false dilemma. As the ancient Greeks would remind us there is always a both-and or mixture that would constitute a third kind in every binary opposition. There is also a hypothetical, none-of-the-above in every binary opposition which may be thought as ‘abstract’ and not ‘concrete’, possible but not actual or even impossible but nevertheless, hangs on as a persistent ghost of sight. This then poses the question what to do of the ghost, the apparition, the phantasm? Is it mere ‘logic’ to dismiss such tangential nonsense? Has such ‘logic’ ever presented itself historically as the ‘violence of the text’? Has there ever been cases in human history where some people were ‘logically’ considered not-people, erasable, marginalized, deemed irrelevant, silenced, etc.? Are there cases where the canonical text created its own anti-thesis? It certainly seems that this is possible albeit not necessarily so. The tension created in the binary opposition of the person and the not-person is a tension that re-presents itself in idealism (Hegel), realism, positivism, pragmatism, structuralism, modernism and post-modernism (Derrida, Foucault). In both cases of the neutral OR the person, an exclusiveness must be endemic to the argument of the opposing case. It must be shown that one cannot be at the same time with the other. In the history of violence, ‘he’ and ‘she’ sit atop the authenticity of being and not-being is relegated to mere stuff, empty, devoid of qualifications which would evoke the ethical concerns for a ‘he’ or a ‘she’. The way non-human ‘animals’ can qualify for the pronoun ‘he’ or ‘she’ and yet hover closer historically to things than non-things is a clear case of how dialectic logic forces opposites but retain a ghost of an in-between, the uncanny, the phantasm. The in-between, the ghosts of our ‘logic’ face us in our day to day which defy our categorical ontologisms.
This kind of problem occupied much of Greek thinking. Is being one OR many? How can that which is also be that which is not? Can being and not-being be predicated of the same? Can being change or does it persist and endure? What is it that endures or changes such that we can still think it as being? How is movement possible if being is changeless? Aristotle’s answer, as we shall see, was more along the lines of both-and as the two-fold of being (see Walter A. Brogan. Heidegger And Aristotle: The Twofoldness Of Being). Post modernism similar to Marx points to phantasm in the world created by text and artifice which appear as being and what is not, permanence and temporal, human and not, logic and nonsense. Is there a commonality to all these approaches that squelches the Other as other? Levinas would pose the question, how is ethics understood? Are there ways in which the other can be leveled off and totalized into a system? Should we be attentive to this possibility? Is there a history of violence which draws upon components of sameness in every idea-ology, the logos of appearance? Do ideas encapsulate themselves in their own essences? Is the idea system closed or open? Can ideas only open up to other ideas, seeing to other sights, light to other illuminations OR can they point beyond themselves to another type or kind? One answer might be that ideas can only ‘see’ other ideas. If ideas can see ‘other’, wouldn’t that other be an idea? Otherwise, how can seeing see what it can’t see? This inquiry goes back to the same types of questions the ancient Greeks asked. How can being both be and not-be? How can Being be one or many? This is the problem Aristotle addressed in what we now call his work Metaphysics. It is also the direction of Levinas’ inquiry. It is in this tension that we will eventually discover what Jacques Derrida quoting James Joyce tells us, “Jewgreek is greekjew. Extremes meet”
Are we Greeks? Are we Jews? But who, we? Are we (not a chrono- logical, but a pre-logical question) ﬁrst Jews or ﬁrst Greeks? And does the strange dialogue between the Jew and the Greek, peace itself, have the form of the absolute, speculative logic of Hegel, the living logic which reconciles formal tautology and empirical heterology after having thought prophetic discourse in the preface to the Phenomenology of the Mind? Or, on the contrary, does this peace have the form of inﬁnite separation and of the unthinkable, unsayable transcendence of the other? To what horizon of peace does the language which asks this question belong? From whence does it draw the energy of its question? Can it account for the historical coupling of Judaism and Hellenism? And what is the legitimacy, what is the meaning of the copula in this proposition from perhaps the most Hegelian of modern novelists: “Jewgreek is greekjew. Extremes meet”?[Writing and Difference, Violence and Metaphysics, ISBN 0-203-99178-8 Master e-book ISBN, page 192]
16 Martin Heidegger, Time and Being, trans. by Joan Stambaugh (Harper and Row, 1972), page 18.
17 Martin Heidegger, Time and Being, trans. by Joan Stambaugh (Harper and Row, 1972), page 18.
18 See this for a relatively easy introduction to Heidegger’s thoughts in Being and Time.
19 Modern physicists have long since disposed of such simple minded notions of time, Einstein comes to mind, but there are many other intriguing notions of temporality in modern physics which also address the ‘stretch’ of time even with regard to another modern notion – ‘subjectivity’, and its fuzzy relationship with ‘objective’ temporality.
20 See link
The word ‘metaphysics’ is notoriously hard to define. Twentieth-century coinages like ‘meta-language’ and ‘metaphilosophy’ encourage the impression that metaphysics is a study that somehow “goes beyond” physics, a study devoted to matters that transcend the mundane concerns of Newton and Einstein and Heisenberg. This impression is mistaken. The word ‘metaphysics’ is derived from a collective title of the fourteen books by Aristotle that we currently think of as making up “Aristotle’s Metaphysics.” Aristotle himself did not know the word. (He had four names for the branch of philosophy that is the subject-matter of Metaphysics: ‘first philosophy’, ‘first science’, ‘wisdom’, and ‘theology’.) At least one hundred years after Aristotle’s death, an editor of his works (in all probability, Andronicus of Rhodes) entitled those fourteen books “Ta meta ta phusika”—”the after the physicals” or “the ones after the physical ones”—, the “physical ones” being the books contained in what we now call Aristotle’s Physics. The title was probably meant to warn students of Aristotle’s philosophy that they should attempt Metaphysics only after they had mastered “the physical ones,” the books about nature or the natural world—that is to say, about change, for change is the defining feature of the natural world.
This is the probable meaning of the title because Metaphysics is about things that do not change. In one place, Aristotle identifies the subject-matter of first philosophy as “being as such,” and, in another, as “first causes.” It is a nice—and vexed—question what the connection between these two definitions is. Perhaps this is the answer: The unchanging first causes have nothing but being in common with the mutable things they cause—like us and the objects of our experience, they are, and there the resemblance ceases
The Greek plural noun-phrase ‘ta meta ta phusika‘ became in Medieval Latin the singular noun ‘metaphysica‘—much as the Greek plural ‘ta biblia‘ (‘the books’) became the Latin singular ‘biblia‘ (‘the bible’). The word was used both as a title for Aristotle’s book (now thought of as a single entity) and as the name of the “science” that was its subject-matter. The word for ‘metaphysics’ in every modern European language (‘la métaphysique‘, ‘die Metaphysik‘, ‘la metafisica‘…) is an adaptation of the Latin word to the orthographic and phonetic requirements of that language. This is true even of the non-Indo-European languages (like Finnish and Hungarian) that are spoken in Europe. Works written in some non-European languages, however, use words constructed from native materials both to translate the European word ‘metaphysics’ and to refer to writings in their own philosophical traditions whose subject-matter is similar to the subject-matter of Western metaphysics. For example, the Chinese phrase that is the customary translation of ‘metaphysics’ is an allusion to a statement in the I Ching: “that which is above matter is the Tao”; the phrase can be literally translated as ‘[that which is above matter]-ology’, the final word of the phrase being a “discipline marker” that performs much the same function as the English suffix ‘-ology’. The word that is the usual Arabic translation of ‘metaphysics’ means ‘the science of divine things’. Unlike the Chinese phrase and the Arabic word, however, the European words derived from ‘metaphysica‘ carry no internal indications of their meaning. (The word has, as we have seen, an etymology, but as is so often the case, etymology is no guide to meaning.) It is uncontroversial that these words all mean exactly what ‘metaphysics’ means in English—or, less parochially, that all the European words derived from ‘metaphysica‘ mean exactly the same thing..