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Relativity of time from historical and cultural perspective
Relativity of time from historical and cultural perspective

Author(s): Valeri Lichev
Subject(s): Philosophy
Published by: Институтът по философия и социология при БАН
Keywords: historical anthropology; psychoanalysis; time layers; prolongation; shortening; delaying or acceleration of time;

Summary/Abstract: The article treats of relativity of time in a historical, socio-cultural, and philosophical aspect. The roots of this idea can already be discerned in religious and mytho-poetic representations. In the Middle Ages the idea was paradoxically linked with the Apocalypse (R. Koselleck): it appears that God, even though He would like to, cannot hasten the end of the world, since He wants to give a greater number of people the chance of being saved through faith. Modern times discovered subjectivity and, through it, the uneven course of internal time. This is evident in Montaigne’s Essays. After withdrawing from active public life Montaigne began to write down his thoughts, aiming thereby to calm his spirit, which was as tempestuous as an unbridled horse, and which gave birth to „monsters and chimeras“. In the psychoanalytic aspect this would mean putting the Imaginary under the control the Symbolic (J. Lacan). A considerable contribution to the topic of the relativity of time is made in Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet. The play suggests the idea that there is a connection between language, time, and the role of the three persons of a conjugated verb. The apparent temporal confusion of the characters is explainable only by interpreting the complex relations between them. The playwright thereby reveals the interpersonal character of time as a symbolic human construction. With the application of technological achievements in the economy during the 19th century, it was believed that man, not God, was now the master of time. This view was reflected not only in social-political doctrines but in literature as well. The author analyses Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons, in which the relativity of time is viewed in its subjective- emotional aspect. The main character’s extreme nihilism introduces a new understanding of time, characterized by what modern scholars believe to be the typical tendency to erase the past. In the intertextual aspect (J. Krysteva) this idea can already be found in Montaigne, who believed that the total denial of the past was like correcting „the faults of a thing by completely destroying it“ or like „healing sickness by death“. In the 20th century historical anthropology’s idea of the multi-layered nature of social time can be found in Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers. After the hero is thrown into an abandoned well, he discovers the complex structure of his own consciousness, with its various temporal orientations and respective spiritual attitudes.

  • Issue Year: XXII/2013
  • Issue No: 4
  • Page Range: 56-72
  • Page Count: 17
  • Language: English