Our question is easy to state but difficult to answer: What is time? One response: “If no one asks me, I know; if I want to explain it to someone who does ask me, I do not know.” We’ll see that, far from a bout of momentary confusion, there’s something about time that evades every attempt to conceptualize it. In fact, if the 20th-century philosopher Henri Bergson is to be believed, the situation is far worse: time is fundamentally incomprehensible, and every attempt to conceptualize it only distorts it! Why? Doesn’t every conception of time just transform it into space? Don’t believe me? Consider that monstrosity, the time-line! There’s no conception of time that doesn’t covertly transform it into space. But wait, you might be saying, doesn’t physics reveal something about time? Indeed it does: time is not real! It’s a “subjective illusion,” a feature of our way of experiencing the world—certainly not an “objective property” of Nature. So there you have it: time is either incomprehensible or illusory. Take your pick! But should we accept this alternative?
Admittedly, this is a little abstract. Philosophy, physics—who cares? What does this have to do with daily life!? What if the way we relate to time determines how we think, speak, and act? What if, rather than having a free will, our life is determined by how our body takes its time? What if our sense of self is derived from this way of taking time? We’ll see that (contra physics) not only is time not an illusion but that changing our relation to time is a precondition for changing our world. How’s that for concrete? Here’s a thesis: a political intervention that failed to alter our sense of time would be a very superficial intervention. Troubling our sense of the present might be a condition for troubling our present. But what could transform our sense of time? Philosophy, physics—these seem incapable of doing so. They all presuppose an illegitimate image of time! Gilles Deleuze proposes a surprising candidate: art. Perhaps only art can transform our sense of time. “What time is it, anyway?”
In this seminar, we welcome people of all ages, with all kinds of interests, and from all backgrounds. There are no prerequisites—just a willingness to grapple with the material. There’s no one who couldn’t illuminate some facet of this complex phenomenon, time. We hope you will join us!
Facilitator: John Paetsch recently received his Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Georgia. His dissertation explores why Gilles Deleuze, Henri Bergson, and G.W. Leibniz all entwine “continuity” with “heterogeneity”—whether considering how a life dissipates time or a body diffuses force. Sad to say, it spares neither philosophy nor aesthetics nor physics nor mathematics—blame his advisor, O.B. Bassler! A portion of it will appear soon in Deleuze and Guattari Studies. He is presently translating the unjustly neglected essays of the philosopher-mathematician Gilles Châtelet for Urbanomic. He has published anomalous poetry with Gauss PDF (text here, review here) and Make Now Books. He has a Master’s of Liberal Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, a minor in mathematics, and a tendency to disregard the distinctions between genres.
Time: Saturday, June 16, 10am-3pm
Cost: $75 before June 9th, $95 after