Eternity is in Our Hearts

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This is a slightly edited version of an essay I wrote March 21st of 2014. My goal for this essay was to give my best shot to explain what time is.
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  Scrivner, Weston GBT 3, Paper #3 March 21, 2014 Eternity is in our Hearts “What is time? Who can easily and briefly explain this? Who can comprehend this even in thought?  Yet what do we discuss more familiarly than time? Surely we understand it when we talk about it, and also understand it when we hear others talk about it. What, then, is time?” [1.]  In this way Au-gustine of Hippo, a great Christian theologian, began his investigation of the subject of time within his Confessions  . But time is no easy subject to comprehend. Not much later, Augustine alluded to how tough it is to explain to another what time is. He reported that “if no one asks me, I know [what time is]; if I want to explain it to someone who does ask me, I do not know.” [2.] Logically speak-ing, before one can explain what time is, it stands to reason that he must first try to understand what it is. However, the task of trying to discover what time is has always required much effort because of the mind-boggling nature of the question and therefore has been known to cause intellectual ex-haustion in the one who tries to find out what time is. And, even though one can get to understand some things about time, it is unrealistic to expect that he will attain perfect knowledge regarding every topic contained within the subject of time. Yet, even though time has been historically proven to be a difficult subject to comprehend, it is because of the complex nature of the question that time is such a wonderful matter to meditate upon. Therefore, even though this paper will not ad-dress every topic having to do with subject of time, and even though it does not mean to impart ab-solute truth regarding what time is, it will examine some of what Aristotle, Augustine, and Thomas  Aquinas had to say in regard to time and will attempt to explain what time is. Before Aristotle and Augustine were able to define time, they found it necessary to examine what time was not. Aristotle distinguished three schools of thought past philosophers had possessed on the subject of time. The first school thought that time was a motion of the heavens [3.] , the second school was of the opinion that time was the heavenly sphere itself [4.] , and the third school “sup-posed [time] to be motion and a kind of change” [5.] , in which they were similar to the first school in ideology. Aristotle’s reasons for disagreeing with the first school’s view were two in number. First, assuming that we define time to be a circular revolution of the heavens, “then part of that revolu-tion is a circular revolution, because a part of time is time. Therefore, time is not a circular revolu-tion.” [6.]  Second, assuming that “the number of [heavenly] motions corresponds to the number of [heavenly] mobiles; [then] if therefore there are many heavens, there are many circular revolutions.  And thus if a circular revolution is time, there are many times together-- which is impossible.” [7.]  Of this first school of thought, Augustine would a few hundred years later tell the story that he once “heard from a certain learned man that the movement of the sun, moon, and stars constitute[d] time” [8.] , but he did not agree with this man. Furthermore, Thomas Aquinas later explained that “those who posited time as a circular revolution were led to do so because they observed that times occur over and over in a cycle.” [9.]  Nevertheless, Aristotle and Augustine concluded that time was not a motion of the heavens. To explain why the second school thought that time was nothing other than the sphere of the heavens, Aristotle told us that “some thought the sphere of the heavens in time, because all things are in time and all things are also in the sphere of the whole, because the heavens contain all things. Hence they wished to conclude that the sphere of the heavens is time.” [10.]  But as Thomas Aquinas would later point out, “there were two things wrong in their reasoning: first, because something is not said univocally as being in time and in place; secondly, be-cause they were using two affirmative premises in a Second Figure syllogism.” [11.]  Thus, Aristotle concluded that “[their] view [was] too naive for it to be worth while to consider the impossibilities  implied within it.” [12.]  “For”, Thomas Aquinas declares, “it is clear that all the parts of the sphere exist simultaneously, whereas the parts of time do not.” [13.]  Therefore, Aristotle and Aquinas con-cluded that time is not the heavenly sphere. In regard to the view of the third school, however, Aris-totle reasoned that “every change and motion is certainly only in the thing being changed or in the place where the changer and changed are. The first of these is mentioned because of motion in sub-stance and quantity and quality; the second because of motion in the predicament ‘where’, called motion in place. But time is everywhere and exists among all things. Therefore time is not a motion.” [14.]  Also, Aristotle argued that “change is always faster or slower, whereas time is not; for ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ are defined by time-- ‘fast’ is what moves much in a short time, ‘slow’ what moves little in a long time; but time is not defined by time, by being either a certain amount of it or a cer-tain kind of it.”  [15.]  Thus, Aristotle concluded that time was not movement [16.] , and Augustine similarly concluded that “movements of the heavenly bodies [do not] constitute periods of time.” For instance, he asks us to recall what took place in the tenth chapter of the book of Joshua in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible. “When at the prayer of a certain man,” Augustine said, “the sun stood still until he could achieve victory in battle, the sun indeed stood still, but time went on.”  [17.]   Thus, Aristotle and Augustine concluded that time was not motion. Therefore, time is not a motion of the heavens, the heavenly sphere itself, motion, or change. However, while Aristotle had made up his mind that time was not motion, nor motion time, he came to the conclusion that time does not exist apart from motion and change. Ultimately, Aristotle defined time as “number of motion in respect of ‘before’ and ‘after’.” [18]  He further states that “time is not movement, but only movement in so far as it admits of enumeration. A proof of this:  we discriminate the more or the less by number, but more or less movement by time. Time, then, is a kind of number.” [19.]  But Aristotle is careful to point out that the word ‘number’ is used in two senses. The first sense is “of the counted or countable”, while the second sense is “of that with  which we count.”  [20.] Hence, he went on to say that “time obviously is what is counted, not that  with which we count.”  [21.]  Aristotle gave an example of this when he said that “the number of a hundred horses and a hundred men is the same, but the things numbered are different-- the horses from the men.”  [22.]  But where Aristotle defined time as “number of movement in respect of the before and after” [23.] , Augustine defined time as “a kind of distention” [24.] . The term Augustine uses here for time, namely “distention” may sound like a tricky word at first, but it essentially refers to “an activity of the mind, whereby the mind is not merely extended to the past, as in the memory, or into the future, as in anticipation, but is distended, so as to hold things as present.” [25.]  Thus,  Aristotle concluded that time was distention. Initially, the two definitions of time formed by Aristotle and Augustine may seem starkly opposed to each other, but they do have one point in common. Early on in the chapter about time within his Confessions  , Augustine told us that God’s “years are one day, and [His] day is not each day, but today, because with [Him], today does not give way to tomorrow, nor does it succeed yesterday. With [God], today is eternity.” [26.] It is written that “God created man in His own image”  [27.] . Just so,  Augustine claims that “it [had] been granted to [the human soul by God] to perceive and measure tracts of time” [28.] and that “it might be properly said that there are three times [which are as fol-lows], the present of things past, the present of things present, and the present of things future.  These three are in the soul, but elsewhere I do not see them: the present of things past is in memo-ry; the present of things present is in intuition; the present of things future is in expectation.” [29.]  It can also be gathered from his definition of time that Augustine also thought that time was an in- vention of the mind whereby it distended itself so as to hold all things as present. Insofar as God is ever-present and eternal, so are our minds made to hold the past and the future as present as well as the present itself. Aristotle and Augustine’s definitions meet up here, because it is the mind that  counts and numbers things. Therefore, the two definitions of time formed by Aristotle and Augus-tine have one point in common-- the spiritual intellect perceives the passing of time and measures it,  which is affirmed by the following words “ !"#   $%   &%#$%   '&()*!'#   +%,%   '#   +%)-.   %"$("   +%)    /'   !"#   $(#   %).#%   '0.+'#   '#   +%-0)%   %"$.#   (&.1   2*   '"-*   (   %#3-.&(1   $(   &()*2%   (   '&()*!'#   (   3'(1   %& ' %-4*1   +%)   2'4-)   $',("1 ” [30] . Footnotes: [1.] Augustine’s Confessions, Book 11, Chapter 14 [2.] Augustine’s Confessions, Book 11, Chapter 14 [3.] Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the Physics, notes to Lecture 16 (found at http://dhspriory.org/thomas/english/Physics.htm at the lectures located in the section on Book IV titled “Place, Void and Time” from http://dhspriory.org/thomas/)  [4.] Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the Physics, notes to Lecture 16 [5.] Aristotle’s Physics, Book 4, Chapter 10, etc [6.] Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the Physics, notes to Lecture 16 [7.] Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the Physics, notes to Lecture 16 [8.] Augustine’s Confessions, Book 11, Chapter 23 [9.] Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the Physics, notes to Lecture 16 [10.] Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the Physics, notes to Lecture 16 [11.] Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the Physics, notes to Lecture 16 [12.] Aristotle’s Physics, Book 4, Chapter 10, Section 218b, Lines 5-9 [13.] Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the Physics, notes to Lecture 16 [14.] Thomas Aquinas’ commentary on the Physics, notes to Lecture 16 [15.] Aristotle’s Physics, Book 4, Chapter 10 [16.] Aristotle’s Physics, Book 4, Chapter 10 [17.] Augustine’s Confessions, Book 11, Chapter 23 [18.] Aristotle’s Physics, Book 4, Chapter 11 [19.] Aristotle’s Physics, Book 4, Chapter 11 [20.] Aristotle’s Physics, Book 4, Chapter 11 [21.] Aristotle’s Physics, Book 4, Chapter 11 [22.] Aristotle’s Physics, Book 4, Chapter 12 [23.] Aristotle’s Physics, Bk. 4, Ch. 11 [24.] Augustine’s Confessions, Book 11, Chapter 23 [25.] Augustine’s Confessions, Bk. 11, Ch. 26 (the second footnote to this chapter by the editor) [26.] Augustine’s Confessions, Bk.11, Cha. 13 [27.] God’s Holy Word, NKJV, Old Testament, Genesis 1:27 [28.] Augustine’s Confessions, Bk.11, Cha. 15 [29.] Augustine’s Confessions, Bk. 11, Ch. 20 [30.] God’s Holy Word, Septuagint, Old Testament, Ecclesiastes 3:11 (from http://bibledata-base.net/html/septuagint/21_003.htm-- I had meant to just write down the part that translates to “He has put eternity in their hearts” in the NKJV, but I did not have the expertise to find the match-ing Greek counterparts.)
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