What would the greatest philosophers in history say about time?

What would Aristotle, Plato and Socrates say about time to Confucius and Lao Tzu? What if the greatest philosophers of the Western world met the greatest philosophers of the Eastern world? What would they say to each other about time? Confucius emphasized doing the proper thing at the proper time. Lao Tzu believed that time was created in our minds and to say “I don’t have time” was to really say “I don’t want to.” Socrates would have asked “why do you think time is in your minds? Could time not be in our hearts?” Aristotle would have pointed out that the planets, stars, and earth all do their own thing independent of what humans believe or want. Aristotle defined time as a kind of ‘number of change’ with respect to the before and after (Ursula Coope, “Time for Aristotle,” 2005, Oxford online Monographs).

By this time, Plato, totally exasperated would note that “no human thing is of serious importance.” “Thus, why waste time quibbling here over what time is or is not, let us go find a tavern and have a drink together.” And so the philosophers all went off in search of a tavern. Legend has it they spent the rest of the day drinking and making fools of themselves with the young women in the bar who could not understand what they were talking about. Well, such is the folly of most men when their minds meet their basic instincts and needs.

My question for you and for all up and coming philosophers is: “does time rule your life or does instinct and nature rule your life.” Do you live according to the clock and logic or do you live according to your feelings and instincts? What most guides your choice of activities and times? Are you a thinking person or a feeling person? What if you could switch? How would your life be different?

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bgalbreath
    Dec 12, 2011 @ 14:57:20

    “does time rule your life or does instinct and nature rule your life.” Do you live according to the clock and logic or do you live according to your feelings and instincts?

    I largely ignore the clock, refusing to grapple with the objective fact of limited time. I guess that makes me more a feeling person than a thinking one. A great philosopher, David Hume, said that reason is, and ought to be, the servant of the passions. In other words, thinking helps us reach the goals that instinct and feeling set. I suppose there is room to reverse the project and to subject the things we just find ourselves intuitively wanting to the scrutiny of dispassionate thought. But even the standards of reason we use must ultimately stand on something that reason just accepts without rational justification. As another philosopher, Pascal, put the case for the primacy of feeling, “The heart has its reason that reason knows not.”

    In your question, you seem to be equating paying attention to time with being a reasoning rather than a feeling person. If we view time (or space-time) as an objective measure, then the connection between time and rationality makes sense. But if space-time is inherently subjective and perspectival, perhaps not so much.



  2. John Persico
    Dec 13, 2011 @ 18:03:38

    Hi Bruce, I am enjoying your comments very much. I think I tend towards the rational very much. I have never been acccused of being a “feeling” person though I do “understand” that much of life is based on feelings and not intellect. I think it is the Yin Yang again of life. I like the quote “what knowledge is there that is greater than kindness.”



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