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Shadows of Divine Things

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Location: Texas, United States

This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Movement, Change and Number: Aristotle’s View of Time

I've been wanting to start a philosophical series for some time now. That being the case, I have decided to post a few excerps from some research I did at Marquette University on Aristotle's view of time. This will be the first of several posts to that end. I hope you enjoy the series as much as I did researching the topic.


It seems undeniable that time exists, but in what sense does time take on existence? Is time subsistence, logical construct of the mind, or something else? Literally for thousands of years these important questions have not only been asked, but attempts have been made at finding some sort of satisfying answer. Noted philosopher Richard Sorabji comments on these types of questions by declaring, “of course we know that time exists. For one thing, there is something self-defeating about denying its existence; for that very denial requires time in which it takes place. The denial of time is self-defeating in the same way as the denial that one exists or thinks, a denial whose self-defeating character was exploited by Descartes.”[1] It seems that in some sense every sentient purposive being has some rudimentary awareness of time. In other words, fundamentally, distinctions of past and present events and an awareness of these distinctions can be made by purposive agents. And, as Sorabji points out, “any being capable of considering the existence of time is likely to be a purposive agent.”[2]

With this in mind, let’s look back in time at an ancient philosopher who had some very interesting things to say about time. Aristotle, in the Physics (book 4, section 10), delineates certain paradoxes[3] which seem to arise, for Aristotle, when time is considered. The intent of this paper is to examine Aristotle’s view of time. What does Aristotle mean when he declares time to be a number? Is time dependent or independent for Aristotle? Is time a logical construct of the mind or does it actually subsist? Since, as we shall see, Aristotle starts his approach to time from that which is observable, does time then depend upon some mind? Does Aristotle have an idealist conception of time? These questions, and other similar ones will be the focus of this research in an attempt to glean, from Aristotle’s writings, his notion of time.

[1] Richard Sorabji, Time, Creation, and the Continuum: Theories in Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Ithica, New York: Cornell University Press, 1983), 7.
[2] Ibid.
[3] For example, time is not movement but is not independent of movement. Also, time is the number of motion pluralized by individual ‘nows’ which are countable, etc.

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