Being in Time: Selves and Narrators in Philosophy and Literature

Being in Time: Selves and Narrators in Philosophy and Literature

Being in Time: Selves and Narrators in Philosophy and Literature

Being in Time: Selves and Narrators in Philosophy and Literature

Synopsis

Genevieve Lloyd's book is a provocative and accessible essay on the fragmentation of the self as explored in philosophy and literature. The past is irrevocable, consciousness changes as time passes: given this, can there ever be such a thing as the unity of the self? Being in Time explores the emotional aspects of the human experience of time, commonly neglected in philosophical investigation, by looking at how narrative creates and treats the experience of the self as fragmented and the past as 'lost'. It shows the continuities, and the contrasts, between modern philosophic discussions of the instability of the knowing subject, treatments of the fragmentation of the self in the modern novel and older philosophical discussions of the unity of consciousness. Being in Time combines theoretical discussion with human experience: it will be valuable to anyone interested in the relationship between philosophy and literature, as well as to a more general audience of readers who share Augustine's experience of time as making him a 'problem to himself'.

Excerpt

Consciousness and time have an ambiguous relationship. My individual consciousness had a beginning, though its starting point-if there was such a thing-may elude me. And it will have an end. Even if I believe that some form of consciousness as yet unknown will replace the centre of thought, desire and feeling I now call 'I', my imagination must falter at placing myself in it as in 'my' future. My future, like my past, reaches no further than what I can relate to as my individual consciousness. I may believe that the glimpses I have of a reality beyond my death are foreshadowings of a mysterious transformation. I may believe that they are nothing more profound than intimations of my own mortality-unthinkable only because in the nature of things I cannot think beyond it. Either way, it seems, my consciousness-in any form in which I can identify it with myself-is circumscribed by time. Whether I think of death as end or as transformation, I know that both the time of the cosmos and the human time of pleasures anticipated and losses mourned will certainly continue when I am gone.

Time envelops my consciousness. Within it I come to know that and who I am; and my sense of its continued onward movement frames my anticipation of death. Time, beyond doubt, is independent of me. And yet this all-enveloping time, within which I come to exist, and which will assuredly continue without me, becomes elusive if I try to conceive it without any reference to consciousness. Does it not depend, if not on me, at least on the presence of some thought? It seems no less true that time is 'in' consciousness than that consciousness is 'in' it. Most certainly time does not depend on me. And yet it is something in which I, as consciousness, surely have some stake.

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