Time and Its Importance in Modern Thought

Time and Its Importance in Modern Thought

Time and Its Importance in Modern Thought

Time and Its Importance in Modern Thought


One cannot read much metaphysics, either of this age or of any other, without finding frequent references to "the problem of time". At first sight this may seem rather absurd. For what can be more familiar than time? Everyone, however young, unthinking, or impatient of "metaphysical moonshine", has immediate experience of temporal succession: nearly everybody in this enlightened and civilized land can "tell the time" and inform us that an hour has elapsed; and even the most unreflective of these have a dim suspicion that this elapse is in some queer way final, that the past hour will 'never' return, but that it will remain 'for ever' in a kind of wastepaper basket called The Past, along with all the other hours that have ever been, and all the other events that have ever happened 'in' them. The transitoriness of human experience has been an all-too-abiding (we are sometimes tempted to think) theme in literature from very earliest times.

"There is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now is in the days to come shall all be forgotten."

"As soon as thou scatterest them, they are even as a sleep, and fade away suddenly like the grass. . . . Though a man be so strong that he come to fourscore years, yet his end is but labour and sorrow, so soon passeth it away and we are gone."

"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying,
And that same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying."

"Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney sweepers, come to dust."

"I came like water, and like wind I go. . . ."

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