Time Deconstructed. Part 1. Seneca: Saving time

Introduction

In these series we would like to present how time can be thought of in philosophy – that is, time reflected out and through man’s experience and then put back into the experience to transform or modify it. If time is viewed as an objective essence beyond all consciousness, then we deal with a scientific view, which is not the purpose here.

Alex Strohl Alone in the water
The picture is kindly provided by Alex Strohl

Seneca: Saving time 

The first reflection upon the nature of time should begin with the acknowledgment of the shortage of human life. It cannot be yet profound, and instead, it shows that people have only finite time at their disposal. As obvious it seems, the lack of such awareness is evident in a person who acts as if though he were prepared to exist forever. In other words, he does not attach any value to time or squanders it. Do not jump to the conclusion that the purpose of awareness is to rouse a person from sleep to the full potential of life and to fill the latter with excitement. For a philosopher, and especially the one we are going to talk about, the life void of proper thinking would be even worse than day-to-day reality of opinions. As an example, we are taking a stoic who, by the very nature of Stoicism, places value only on the life of the mind.
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Solitude and Silence

Solitude and silence can be very rewarding things if you learn how to use them. Those practicing meditation know how hard it is to stop the constant chatter of the mind. There is nothing wrong with having thoughts, but having too many thoughts can be exhausting and contaminating for vision. Bombarded with dozens of images within just a minute, you seem to have no privilege to stop the flow of appearance and rethink your attitude to it, but to live on your terms is to be able to re-direct that flow. Your picture has to be clearer. The ideal state, however, should be conceptual thought instead of merely organized representation (picture-thinking).

stevenherteleer When.jpg
The picture is kindly provided by Steven Herteleer

The closest goal of meditation is to dismiss any particular picture-thought and to regard it from aside (not to be lead by an emotion resulting from a picture). The task of solitude and silence is in going over all images, which your memory delivers every single moment, devouring them, and finally, ridding of them for good. The process consists of not letting to enter new information into your mind and silencing whatever unnecessary you already have. The more time you spend alone, the more you develop minimal reflection helping to get a clearer picture of who you are and your state of affairs.

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Augustine. On practical consequences of vanity

“Quid enim sum ego mihi sine te, nisi dux in praeceps?”
Augustine (Confessiones IV–I // PL 32 0694).
“For without you, who am I but a guide to my self-destruction?”

Saint_Augustine_Portrait

On Happiness

We can surely say that happiness either exist or does not exist. Philosophically treated, happiness either the life of wisdom (Stoics’ definition) or the ideal of imagination (Kant’s definition). Not choosing any side prematurely, we should at least go with Kant against the conventional image of happiness as the pile of things quenching all the physical need of the man.

Living through external, ever in the quest for wealth, honor, and sensual pleasure (Spinoza’s three types of affects), people are running into the abyss of non-being. To find a way out, we should reconsider our concept of knowledge and its practical aspects. Knowledge is not a dead thing that only applies onto externals. It is the most useful thing (if the word thing can be used here at all), which can lead us to the sanest life. And that life with the unity of thinking and action we could call the genuine happiness.

Plotinus on Ugliness of Self-Ignorance

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We often try to justify our activities. Especially nowadays, if we study philosophy, we want to explain the goal of philosophy to ourselves and others. But do we really need anything more than this – ‘We ourselves possess beauty when we are true to our own being; our ugliness is in going over to another order; our self-knowledge, that is to say, is our beauty; in self-ignorance we are ugly.’ (Plotinus. Enn. V.8 / The Heart of Plotinus: The Essential Enneads. p. 186).