The Dawn of the Artificial Day: Medieval Temporal Thought Processes

  • Don LePan


In medieval modes of conceiving of time, as in so many other areas of medieval thought, there is a central paradox. Just as medieval man saw the earth both as the ground wherein the nature of God is given visible expression, and as a tainted place wherein man may never aspire to unmitigated virtue, so too was time regarded both as a part of the divine order and as a dimension that must be left behind if human beings were to be purified.


Fourteenth Century Temporal Duration Mechanical Clock Primitive Society Primitive People 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    Homily of Obedience, 1547, as quoted by Tillyard, E. M. W., The Elizabethan World Picture (New York: Vintage, 1943) p. 88.Google Scholar
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  4. 8.
    There is, of course, a sense in which things can be ‘eternal’ in the sense of ’non-temporal’ or ’outside of time’, but this sense can to our way of thinking only apply to concepts or abstractions: ’goodness’, for example, must be regarded as ‘eternal’ in the sense of being ’outside of time’. It is interesting to note that Plato makes the logical error of confusing the two senses of ‘eternal’ in his attempt to prove the eternal existence of the soul of each individual (see Flew, A., An Introduction to Western Philosophy (London: Thames & Hudson, 1971) pp. 132–7). Although the fact that Plato regards time as infinite obviously indicates that primitive cognitive processes are not predominant in his mind, the extent to which a number of aspects of his philosophy may have distant roots in the earlier and more primitive ways of thought of Homeric Greece is a fascinating subject for speculation.Google Scholar
  5. See Dodds, E. R., The Greeks and the Irrational (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1953)). Interestingly, the Christian interpretation of eternity as being outside of time is not found until the medieval period. As Jacques Le Goff points out, to the very early Christians eternity was the infinite extension of time, not the opposite of time or the absence of time (’Temps de 1’Eglise et Temps du Marchand’ in Annales (1960) p. 419).Google Scholar
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© Don LePan 1989

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  • Don LePan

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