PHILOSOPHY
PHYSICS

Now Upstream of Time (Part 1)

14 JUNE 2021

 

Centuries after the exclusion of lived experience and the life-world by a science inherited from Platonism, the repressed returns in its purest form: that of a living present recognizing itself as the origin and the blind spot of science, under the pressure of the advances of quantum physics. From there, a radical response is made to the speculative materialist argument of ancestrality. The epistemic correlation does not bind, in time, real objects to empirical human subjects contemporary with them; it binds, upstream of time, the present act of constitution to an always-now constituted natural domain.

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Truth Leaving the Well, Édouard Debat-Ponsan, 1898; Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

"If all time is eternally present,

all time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

remaining a perpetual possibility

only in a world of speculation.

What might have been and what has been

point to one end, which is always present".

 

T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

                ow" is a word. 


If its meaning is limited to its use, as the second Wittgenstein proposes, the word is clear. "Now" can be the trigger for action without delay: "start now!" Or it can be an attractor of shared attention to what is happening in the immediate sphere of understanding of the speakers: "listen to those birds singing now"; or it can be a piece of information about the availability of a good, announced but postponed until then: "the calendar for the year 2022 is now on sale". 


If, on the other hand, we start to ask what the word designates, what it refers to, according to the regime of the noun extended to adverbs, the difficulties multiply. They are poorly concealed by the terms used to characterize its use: "without delay", "immediate", "until then"; for these terms, and many others such as "actual" or "present", merely surround "now" with a constellation of terms that are sometimes redundant, sometimes as problematic as it itself is. What is actuality if the act can be past or planned, rather than "in the process of" happening? What is the immediate or the present, if not what is happening now?


The etymologies, for their part, are only half illuminating. The etymology of the French word "Main-Tenant" says the holding-in-hand, the persistence of the presence retained under the hand. "Main-Tenant" inscribes presence in a tactile relationship, where the word "presence" itself suggests a visual relationship: prae-esse, in Latin, means to be here before the eyes.  The Indo-European etymology,, Greek νυν, Latin nunc, German nun (jetzt), English now, is probably the zero degree of the word neuo, Latin neo, German neues, English new. It says novelty, the appearance, the sudden departure, of something that is perhaps about to last. The etymology of the Italian word adesso takes up the Latin ad ipsum, "in (at) this", implying at this very moment. It pronounces the identity of act and time, and imports a central deictic function, this, into a temporal deictic (this time). In this respect, it accords with the Spanish ahora, hac hora in Latin: this hour (the word 'hora' can originally refer not only to the hour but to various periods of time, being related to the English word year; it is found in another word used in Italian for 'now': ora). But behind the scenes of all these etymologies, as well as in the variety of uses of "now", there is a passage to the limit. Adesso, "this very moment", seeks to capture the precise instant in which it is enunciated, even if this pseudo-instant is misguidedly extended by the duration of the enunciation. Maintenant, in French, is pronounced abruptly, with a burst of voice on 'Main', when it is a matter of giving the start of a gesture or process. , New, signifies a break between the before and after, an unpredictable novelty that feels sudden. By breaking a continuity, seeks to capture the instantaneous, the infinitesimal caesura between what was and what will be. 


So what does "now" designate: the duration of the presence maintained, or the discontinuity of a present without precedent and without tomorrow? In this simple question we can see an ancient metaphysical dispute whose two opposing terms are the permanent and the present. Already the misunderstandings about Parmenides, eternalist or presentist, are emerging. Already the internal tension in Aristotle's work between oυσια [ousia] and νυν [nun], between the substance and the instant, seems inevitable. 


It would be tempting to enter this arena of metaphysical debate about the present without delay, starting again from its closest heritage, such as the text oυσια and Grammè in Jacques Derrida's Margins of Philosophy. It would be tempting to take a new step in the debate, by re-reading the dense history of the question of time, and by first exposing some of its presuppositions in order to overcome the false dichotomies conditioned by them. But, under the guise of disturbing some presuppositions of the metaphysical theses on time, this would mean accepting the presupposition of all metaphysics' presuppositions, the one that founds it as an organized discourse, underneath those that underlie its constellations of superficially opposing theses.


This elementary presupposition of metaphysical discourse, so elementary that it is difficult to recognize it as such, is firstly that words almost always have a meaning, a power of "de-signation", which moves us from the sphere of their sounds to the terrain of what is out there independently of them. It is then that concepts necessarily have a consistency of their own, whether it is that of a division of nature into its articulations, or that of a mental categorization of what appears. Finally, it is that the stability of the meaning and use of words, their repetition beyond the occurrences, allows us to gather, in what is designated, centers of constancy beyond the flux of appearances, and that this alone allows us to grant a truth value to propositions. For the true here designates the statement that conforms to the constant being, whereas the false designates the statement that affirms what is only inconstantly apparent. This scheme of adaequatio rei et intellectus, which expresses and redoubles the adequacy of things to words, resisted the Kantian revolution, provided that the verb "to constitute" was substituted for the verb "to gather". Within the framework of Kantian criticism, but also in Husserl's Experience and Judgement, concepts and words are certainly no longer supposed to point to immutable "things in themselves" behind the curtain of appearances, but at least they delimit by their use regions of invariance (intersubjective as well as trans-temporal) within the constellations of phenomena, thus constituting domains of objectivity from them. In this new framework, the adequacy of concepts and propositions to their objects is no longer a passively recognized given, but it remains relevant as the result of an actively sought co-stabilization of the act of signifying and the term of signification. 

However, each of these presuppositions about the function of words in metaphysical discourse becomes an insurmountable obstacle, and a source of confusion, when we try to characterize 'now'. 


If a word implies the expulsion of attention from where it is, the hope of expressing what the word "now" covers suddenly vanishes. For to say "now" in a sentence in the indicative or imperative mode is to want to repatriate attention in its emergence. To say "now" is to invite listeners to suspend their flight to memories and projects, and to return to the place where the word is spoken, with its vibration as a reference point. Uttering the word "now" is not intended to take listeners away from themselves; on the contrary, it aims to suspend their thoughtless forays into other times, and to bring them reflexively back into their own perceptual, memorial and imaginary spaces. In short, the mere act of signifying runs counter to the legitimate meaning of the word "now". 


That a concept is the translation of a particular natural articulation or mental category, as opposed to other articulations or categories, does not fit the concept of 'now' either. On the one hand, there is nothing in an objectified nature that resembles "now". And on the other hand, the mind has nothing to oppose to what is happening now, since, as St. Augustine pointed out, our mind has access to the past and the future only through their present donation. The word "now" therefore lacks not only the possibility of meaning in the ordinary sense of "referring to something", but also in the Saussurean sense of being opposed to other meanings. 


As for the stabilizing function of words and recurrences in language, it is most obviously at odds with the lexical field of "now". What is signified by a noun is a thing whose being and manifestation extend far beyond now; what is signified by an adjective is a feature of the thing that also extends, to a lesser extent, beyond now. What is signified by the adverb of place "here" is a specific spatial situation that can sometimes be maintained for some time and sometimes be repeated by a return movement. But what is signified by "now" does not continue beyond now. What is signified by "now" obviously does not stabilize any configuration of phenomena, since it is the very instability of appearing. What is signified by the adverb of time "now" is not a locatable situation either, since the duration of the act of locating it is sufficient to remove it definitively from its location.


We have just documented a series of well-known paradoxes about the temporal features that we seek to signify. They arise if we want to stop their meaning, rather than let it go to its metamorphoses at the mercy of usage. The expression of time and its alleged characteristics takes time, the time of enunciation. Time is the presupposition of its own meaning. As for the expression of now, it never ceases to escape its actuality because it lasts. And simultaneously, it can only remain now, always-now, because its entire duration trails in the wake of the present where it ends. 


To arrest the meaning of the very terminology of mobility is an impossible task. According to Bergson's clear verdict, this is a sign of the most insurmountable failure of intelligence and its linguistic instrument. Intelligence claims to capture reality by immobilizing it in verbal repetitions, whereas "movement is undoubtedly reality itself".(1) Through the litany of its lexical recurrences, intelligence does not take a single step towards its metaphysical dream, but only achieves a practical objective: to foresee and use the more or less reproducible aspect of appearing. Through the rules of simultaneity between the readings of clocks and events, by spelling out the names of the instants identified by these clocks, through their graphic arrangement along a straight line (the fourth dimension of relativistic space-time), scientific intelligence does not capture the essence of time either; it just replaces it with an operational procedure of prediction of dynamic variables, valid for any inertial or accelerated reference frame. 

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                     In order to remain faithful to the now, one must fuse its flight from meaning with its remanence as that which has nowhere to flee, rather than opposing flight and remanence. We must hold together these two edges of the gap between the act of signifying and the mere outline of signification, even if this means creating a dizzying exception in language.

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Henri Bergson; Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

These paradoxes of the expression of time and now are those of an attempt to say a "non-thing" that does not face us, and that we cannot grasp as a tool; a "non-thing" that is neither the present-at-hand (Vorhandenheit), nor the ready-to-hand (Zuhandenheit). This "non-thing" that we are trying to say is what we have always bathed in without having been able to put it before us, without being able to use it in any way. This "non-thing" that we want to say carries us, trans-ports us, goes through us. In short, and in an almost self-contradictory way, what we are trying to say when we pronounce the word "now" is neither pre-sentable (in the sense of prae-esse, of being-before), nor hand-holdable (in the sense of usable). 


It is confirmed that what we are trying to indicate by "now" is not a possible object of meaning, because we can neither move towards it nor make use of it in a certain direction of activity. Should we therefore deprive ourselves of this word? Do we have to comply with the injunction to retain in our discourse only those words to which we can give meaning, according to the traditional meaning of the word "meaning", which implies assigning a direction to the intentional gaze? And if we cannot, should we give up, remain silent, forget everything we know how to do and have done in everyday life when we use the common words "now", "yesterday" and "tomorrow"?


If we want to avoid that extreme retreat in which an excess of philosophical acuity would let us lose the benefit of living in the community of speaking beings, if we want to make allowances for the fact that this community to which we belong does not automatically fall into absurdity when it uses adverbs of time and conjugations of verbs, we must identify the alternative regime of "meaning" under which these singular words are successfully implemented in discourse and dialogue. To identify this alternative meaning of meaning, it may suffice to go back upstream of the completed act of signifying, to that state where the target of the act of intentional aiming at is not yet grasped, let alone seen, but where we are inhabited by an unfulfilled desire for it, where we feel the vague discomfort of its probable lack. The desire to say what haunts us, and the discomfort of not knowing how to say it, because we don't know what we are haunted by. But also the desire to transmit our haunting to the other person in order to probe his or her ability to take part in it, to make him or her feel our sense of lack as keenly as possible. And the desire to observe in the other person the complicity that will fulfill our wishes, or, at worse, her incomprehension that will force us to refine our expressive resources. 


The desire to say something [vouloir dire], here, is still deprived of a said. More precisely, the desire to say something, here, is that whose "said" [le dit] is reduced to its own unsatisfied gap, and to the hope that the interlocutor will inscribe herself, as long as it has not been appeased, in the same cavity of dissatisfaction we have experienced. It is this upstream and this foundation of the completed act of signifying that Merleau-Ponty highlighted in Signs


The significant intention in me (as well as in the listener who finds it again when hearing me) is at the moment, and even if it must then fructify into 'thoughts' - only a determined void, to be filled by words, - the excess of what I want to say over what is or what has already been said.(2)  

In the ordinary course of speech or writing, this void ends up being filled, this desire for expression ends up being satisfied. The thickness of the text, the song of the signifying sounds, are usually enough to arouse satisfaction in oneself and in others, if the talent of their author is sufficient. But what if the gap keeps widening, if the fulfilment of the desire for meaning is a lure that attracts us without ever being achievable? What remains is precisely what could not be filled: the emptiness, the excavation, the actuality of the lack without the perspective of its filling. There also remains the possibility of making others recognize it again as their own abode, an abode that cannot be pointed to because it envelops us both, a focus that cannot be placed under the beam of a gaze because it is the origin of seeing. 


In the case of the word "now", this is precisely the case. The desire to signify cannot be satisfied, since signifying "now" has the immediate consequence of letting it slip through one's hands and no longer holding it. The best we can do, since we cannot grasp “now”, is to share its flight: by holding each other by the hand, by recognizing that we inhabit the same alveolus in the making, by putting in common, in the glow of an exchanged glance, the flickering flame that we know to be, by burning our lives together on the infinitesimal film of our fluid co-presence

A series of remarks spanning millennia of history suffice to illustrate the escape of "now" from any attempt to designate it, the inability to pose it as a signifiable being. The three remarks chosen are cited in an order from the oldest to the most recent, and from the most detailed to the most concise. After encapsulating the three tenses in the present alone, as if the latter were a kind of unlimited container, St Augustine turns around, denying the present the privilege of being: "If the present, in order to be time, must go into the past, how can we say that a thing is, which can only be on the condition of no longer being?". Simplicius, for his part, quotes an anonymous author, known as the pseudo-Archytas, who overemphasizes the paradox of speaking of 'now' by making the word last. He again hammers home the withdrawal of what is given by this word, as soon as it is given: "The now being indivisible, it is already in the past when we speak of it and when we try to apprehend it". Finally, there is Hegel, who reaches the height of conciseness, when he simply points out that "The now is precisely this of not being any longer when it is."(3)  


Hegel's justification of his refusal to attribute being to "now" is, however, uncertain. Hegel in fact evokes successively the now that "is" and the now that is not. The now that is not is identified with that which is reflected and designated as now, in other words, with that which is now "shown" as now. If we are to admit that this latter "now" is not, it is because it, once captured by an act of designation, is thrown back into the past, and the past is no longer, which is equivalent to not being at all by virtue of what Derrida has denounced as the ontological privilege of presence. But is it acceptable to distinguish several "nows", a "now" that is, and a "now" that is not? In the name of what should we say that a particular "now" slips from the present into the past, as if it had a form of individuality and permanence? And how can it be conceived that anything, including the act of designating it, can throw "now" back into the past? Isn't it an obvious contradiction in terms, since now is no longer now as soon as it shifts into the past? Isn't the use of the word "now" abusively extended if it starts to encompass a past event?

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                    That the present is only thinkable through the possibility of its retentional trace must be conceded to Derrida. But the identification of original being with the trace does not follow from this.

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Jacques Derrida; Image credit: Flickr

This impropriety testifies to the persistence in Hegel, and no doubt in the whole history of philosophy, of the Aristotelian concept of the "now".  The Aristotelian concept hardly separates "now" from a particular moment in time. It is from such a concept that we will have to free ourselves entirely if we want to elucidate what Hegel calls (debatably, as we shall see) "the now that is", namely, just now


So let us meditate, after so many other readers, on the treatise on time in the fourth book of the Physics. The instant, the νυν, is at the heart of the paradoxes of time that Aristotle lists. Without going into the details of the ebb and flow of his conceptualization of the instant, it suffices to underline the opposition of two statuses that coexist rather uneasily in it. 


The first status resembles that of the "now that is" in Hegel's sense: "Is this moment, this present itself (...) one? Does it always remain identical and unchanging? Or is it different and constantly different?."(4)  The present moment, in this limited sense, blurs the opposition of constant self-identity and incessant difference: "in one sense, the moment is the same; and in another sense, it is not the same."(5)  Its status is uncertain, and this very uncertainty is constitutive of it. What makes its concept safe from outright rejection is that the status of the other two tenses, the past and the future, is even worse. "One of the two parts of time has been and is no longer; the other part must be and is not yet.”(6)


But how can we understand the two terms of the dichotomy: the incessant difference and the constant identity of the moment? 


Should we consider that a particular instant is preserved through time, thus allowing us to take its constant identity at face value? This would deny change, and thus the very essence of time; or it would border on the absurd if it forced one to declare that such and such an instant remains the same from one instant to the next. 


Should we say, on the contrary, that an instant "perishes", to allow it to differ from itself? This is not acceptable either, for, as Aristotle remarks, "it is not possible for the instant to have perished in itself, since it existed at the time; nor is it possible for the previous instant to have perished in another instant." (7)  To perish is a process, it cannot take only one instant, all the more so when what is supposed to perish is the instant itself. 


The second status of the instant, of the νυν, is then sketched out, but once again in a hesitant manner. Aristotle begins by stating: "it does not seem that time is composed of presents, of instants."(8)  This could imply that "now", the present, is radically heterogeneous to time, of a completely different nature than time. But Aristotle suggests that this is not what he means here. His simple use of the plural for the words 'present' and 'moments' is enough to suggest their spacing on a line, which sketches a representation of time. And this representation is confirmed when Aristotle makes the non-composition of time by "presents" equivalent to the non-composition of the spatial line by points.(9)  The instant is thus assimilated, as a non-durable limit of duration, to the non-extended limit-point that composes the extended line.(10)  If time does not consist of presents, it is not because of a difference in nature between time and the present. It is, like the relationship between point and spatial line, because of the opposition between the zero extent of the instant and the non-zero extent of time. This correspondence of time and spatial extent, of the instant and the point, is made inevitable by their articulation in the movement and trajectory of the mobile body. By his double gesture of bringing time and space together, Aristotle announces medieval and then Galilean kinematics, in which time is represented by an axis analogous to that of space in order to represent the movement of the mobile body by a line immersed in a four-dimensional volume. At the same time, he sketches out the confusion, denounced as a litany by Bergson, between the duration actually experienced and the deposition of its intellectualized residue in a spatialized pseudo-time. 

For all that, Aristotle himself did not take the ultimate step, and the ultimate impropriety, that would be implied by the pure and simple spatialization of time; he carefully maintained the specificity of time in relation to space, despite their partial analogy. His nuanced text describes the combination of common and distinctive features he sees between the instant in time, and the point in the line: "The present instant (...) is the limit of time, the beginning of the one and the end of the other. But this is not obvious for the instant, as it is for the line, which remains motionless. The instant divides and divides time only in power; insofar as it divides, it is always other; insofar as it unites and continues, it is always the same."(11)  The instant therefore divides time in power, while the point divides the line in act. But to say that the instant divides time, even if in potential, or that it limits the anterior and posterior, even if it escapes them, is to virtually posit a temporal line and to situate the instant somewhere within it. In this case, it is right to translate "instant" as a kind of temporal point articulating the past and the future. A point-in-time subject to the fate of fading away, because it is renewed immediately after having served to articulate the two times that adjoin it. 


But what we are looking for is not a moment, but the now. Now without equal, and not this particular now. Now unique in its very evanescence, and not a certain now that is, distinguished from other nows that are not, that are no longer. In order to remain faithful to the now, one must fuse its flight from meaning with its remanence as that which has nowhere to flee, rather than opposing flight and remanence. We must hold together these two edges of the gap between the act of signifying and the mere outline of signification, even if this means creating a dizzying exception in language. 


The first edge of the split. That "now" flees its own meaning implies, as we have seen, that it remains in the state of a mere signifying intention, that the word "now" only manages to dig a semantic void calling without hope for its intentional direction. The signifying anfractuosity of “now” could only be filled by a particular moment, and not by now, this absolute singular. As a pure signifier, “now” cannot grasp a signified.


Second edge of the split. Now remains, because it would have no time to flee from if it were nevertheless signified. A past now would not be a now, but a chronometrically situated time. A chronometrically situated now would already have expired and would therefore not be now. Now remains, even if time passes. This has an immense implication: that now is not a time. For time, with its polarity and chronology, never ceases to be woven now. Time is woven into this true now that does more than remain, since it is the abode of things that are, of things that pass away as well as things that persist. 


But how can this be done? How do we weave time now? By a certain interpretation of the reading of natural and artificial clocks. A reading that makes us believe that clocks capture time and subject it to quantitative evaluation. As Bergson has shown, this belief is the illusory consequence of an articulation between quantity and quality, between the numerical intervals of clock readings and the lived perception of duration. Everything is said in his text about the indissoluble relationship between quantified time and the lived now: 


"When I follow with my eyes, on the dial of a clock, the movement of the hand that corresponds to the oscillations of the pendulum, I am not measuring duration, as people seem to think. I am merely counting simultaneities, which is quite different. Outside of me, in space, there is only ever a single position of the needle and the pendulum, because nothing remains of past positions. Within me, a process of organisation or mutual penetration of the facts of consciousness continues, which constitutes true duration. It is because I last in this way that I represent what I call the past oscillations of the pendulum, at the same time as I perceive the present oscillation."(12)


In other words, the relationship between quantified time and experienced duration is itself experienced in the now that both flees and remains. Quantitative clock readings acquire their temporal meaning only in and through the currently experienced "representation" of the differences between their successive indications. But this representation of differences requires the retention in the living present of previous clock readings; a retention whose objective correlate, studied by the cognitive sciences, is a memory provisionally inscribed in the "working memory". Outside of this experienced retention, nothing manifests itself but a single position of the clock hand, punctuated by a throbbing "now" that does not even know it is repetitive, so oblivious is it to its past occurrences. The physical concept of time is thus the natural child of an interbreeding between the immobilization of the instant by its numerical designation (the time it is), and the mobility that is experienced now in the retentional trail. 


It is indeed at this very moment that time is being woven, and we now know how this happens. But if time is woven now, now cannot be a time. And since now is not anything else than a time, it cannot even be said to be, contrary to what Hegel says. What Hegel calls "the now that is" must therefore be understood as the now that is not. And what Hegel calls "the now that is not" must be understood as a particular instant that is; a punctual instant placed there-before our attention, as an object of reflection and of chronometric representation. 


This reversal of the attribution of being or non-being to "now" evokes another reversal indicated by John Scotus Eriugena in his mystical-metaphysical epic of the Periphyseon. According to the Carolingian philosopher, the most fundamental division that runs through nature separates things that are from things that are not. The primary sense in which this division is to be understood places phenomena, space, and time, on the side of things that are; whereas the non-phenomenal and non-spatio-temporal precondition of the apprehension of phenomena, space, and time, is placed on the side of things that are not. In the words of John Scotus Erigena: 


"Everything that can be perceived by the bodily sense or by the intellect is truly and logically said to be 'being'. But everything which, by virtue of the excellence of its nature, escapes not only the senses, but also all intellect and reason, is rightly regarded as 'non-being'."(13)

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                    We cannot even imagine what it would mean to have a mind (endowed with something similar to our consciousness) that is not affected by the needs and tribulations of life. For us consciousness is essentially a consciousness that suffers and enjoys. We conceive our mind as being essentially pathetic.

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John Scotus of Eriugena; Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

For John Scotus Erigena (as for the whole tradition of negative theology), this non-being by dint of excellence is called God. Because all that is, is as a correlate of Him who is not, of Him who stands in the beginnings of being, of Him who lies in the backstage of their unnoticed precondition. The correlation between Him who is not, and the things that are, is called "creation". It is described as the relationship of the uncreated creator to his creatures. 


But the unnoticed, non-being, prerequisite of the things that perceive and are could just as well be called "now" in a secular version of Eriugena’s theodicy.(14) Is it not indeed now that the ultimate creative act is accomplished, now  that the outpouring of unpredictable novelty takes place? As Bergson points out in his introductions to Thought and Motion, what prevents us from indulging in the duration currently experienced is a quest for reproducibility characteristic of the intellect, the intellectual position of scenarios that can follow the present state and are made possible by inductive analogy with the past. In other words, what prevents us from recognizing what is as duration is that we have methodically covered the absolute creativity of the singular present with a layer of generic repetitiveness. But for a thought destabilized in its search for repetition, for a thought returned to its unparalleled, sui generis source, which is the now-which-is-not (in a sense analogous to that of John Scotus Eriugena’s negative theology), this creativity is again self-evident. If now is not in the Erigena sense, this means that everything is in it and relative to it: present things, time springing from lived duration, the represented time of clock scans, memories, hopes and fears. Everything is relative to now without it being; and it is because now is not that everything that is is relative to it. 


The lesson of Derrida's critique of the metaphysics of presence can be thus accepted without denying the evidence of the present. That the present is only thinkable through the possibility of its retentional trace must be conceded to Derrida. But the identification of original being with the trace does not follow from this. What only follows is that thought is only capable of grasping traces, and that it grasps them from the original non-being that is the unthought but thinking present. 


A related question arises from this. Does the fact that thought can only grasp traces imply that the now that is not, is not part of the thinkable? I would be in conflict with myself if I said so, since what I am doing now, at this very moment, is in contradiction with the incapacity of thought to approach the authentic now! The now that is not remains in some way thinkable; but it can only be thought by a thought that allows itself to be reabsorbed by the thinking. 


This aptitude for reabsorption was manifested in my previous analysis of the use of the word "now". Let us reformulate this analysis, in order to better grasp what the involution of thought in the thinking person can be. That "now" is signifying without any signified corresponding to it, that it digs an abyss of wanting to say without anything being able to fill the absence of what is said, manifests the most scrupulous fidelity to what one seeks to signify. It is the very awareness of the present lack of a signified of the word "present" that allows one to be in the presence of what is meant by this word. The atmosphere of lack takes the place of the signified. The thinker's reception of the emptiness of the present of all that presents itself is precisely what "now" means.

(End of Part 1)

Translated by SOPHIE GALABRU

NOTES

1. H. Bergson, L'évolution créatrice, Presses Universitaires de France, 2018, p. 156.


2. M. Merleau-Ponty, Signes, Gallimard, 1960, p. 112.


3. G.W.F. Hegel, La phénoménologie de l’esprit, Paris, Aubier, 1999, p. 88.


4. Aristotle, Physics, IV, XIV, 5.


5. Aristotle, Physics, IV, XVII, 2.


6. Aristotle, Physics, IV, XIV, 2.


7. Aristotle, Physics, IV, XIV, 6.


8. Aristotle, Physics, IV, XIV, 4.


9. Aristotle, Physics, IV, VIII.


10. Aristotle, Physics, IV, XVII, 5.


11. Aristotle, Physics, IV, XVIII, 14.


12. H. Bergson, Essai sur les données immédiates de la conscience, In: H. Bergson, Œuvres, Presses Universitaires de France, 1959, pp. 72-73.


13. John Scotus Erigena, De la division de la nature, I, Presses Universitaires de France, 1995, p. 67.


14. See the concept of Infinite Judgement in Kant CRP A71/ B96 ff. To subtract a thing from the finite set of those which have such and such a property is to put them by difference into an infinite/undefined category. Like "now" which is not in time.