Two ways of looking at nature according to their objectivity

The time,  motion and coming to be we experience can be understood in two ways. First, according to their successive character, which is grounded on their impermanence. As mobile and temporal, things are continually ceasing to be, or, considered positively, they are continually reasserting their existence against its passing away. Second, we can consider motion and time according to their quantitative aspect, that is, so far as they “leave a trail” of quantity as they pass. This is the way of modern physics, and of science in general. Taken in this sense, motion and time are viewed as permanent and actual. It’s not that the scientist must judge them as permanent or actual- he in fact doesn’t need to form any judgment at all about their reality as such.

Both modes of considering time and motion are objective, but oddly enough for our contemporary sensibilities, the scientific mode is less objective than the other mode of considering the world. The quantitative mode of time and motion is dependent on us as observers for their existence. To get at the quantitative existence of time or motion we have to treat them as certain permanent things or states. We judge them as having some of the existence that they have in our own memory in order to understand them in a way that is most proportionate to our understanding. This explains both why we can gather so much more exact and precise knowledge according to the quantitative mode of understanding, while at the same time as seeing this kind of knowledge as essentially less objective than the awareness of the world as imperfect, inactual, and impermanent. This latter understanding is one essential foundation of the religious understanding of the world.

(this post dealt with time, motion, and coming to be, which are essential to nature as such. the should be read in conjuction with yeaterday’s post, which makes similar points about bodily existence.)


  1. Gagdad Bob said,

    June 29, 2008 at 7:17 am

    Most profound. I am indeed reminded of Eastern metaphysics, which explicitly treats time as having cyclical, qualitative properties that condition the events within it, so to speak. There is no question that religious ritual endeavors to align us with these celestial rhythms. The Sabbath is not just the end of the week, but the end — and therefore beginning — of existence itself.

  2. a thomist said,

    June 29, 2008 at 9:31 am

    It strikes me now that time is circular: we look to circles whenever we want circles to measure it, right (the rotation of the earth, the orbit, etc.)? Wasn’t it exactly this time yesterday? Wasn’t it exactly this day last week, this date last month, this month and this season last year, and even this decade last century? The ancients would never view “their” calandar as anything but a cultural thing- the idea that there would be “only one time” for everyone would be like thinking that there is only one kind of cuisine for everybody. How did we even get this idea that time could be anything other than a circle?

    This idea that there could be any linear progression of time- and one time for all people, at that, seems to be to be purely a response to the Incarnation. This strikes me as being at the heart of why we formed the idea that there could be one time for all people. As a simple historical fact, that’s where the calendar came from.

    (this is why I can’t stand the faddish contemporary replacements of BC and AD. Besides being such a rude and flagrant act of ingratitude towards all the monks who slaved to put that calendar together, it denies the very source and reason of the calendar itself.)

  3. Gagdad Bob said,

    June 29, 2008 at 11:46 am

    About half fifteen minutes ago I read two passages by Schuon that somehow seem relevant:

    “When all is said and done there are only three miracles: existence, life, intelligence; with intelligence, the curve springing from God closes on itself, like a ring which in reality has never been parted from the Infinite.”

    Thus, every moment of time tells the story of fall and redemption, so to speak. Yes, Christianity busted us out of the closed circle of paganism, but surely not for the endless line of scientism! Rather, it opened us to the divine spiral that lures us back to our Source and End.

    “In reality, if God is the ‘omega,’ He is of necessity also the ‘alpha,” on pain of absurdity. The cosmos is a ‘message from God to Himself by Himself.'”

    Of course, timelessness takes time, which is where we come in!

  4. Gagdad Bob said,

    June 29, 2008 at 11:49 am

    I was going to say “half an hour,” then “fifteen minutes,” but I suppose “half fifteen minutes” will do…. Either way, it was NOW.

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