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Sorin Sabou

Letter to the Romans, Nicomachean Ethics, and more

Augustine's Theory of Time

For Augustine the time itself is created by God: ‘there was no time before heaven and earth’ (Conf 11.13.15); there is no ‘then’ where there is no time. God is understood to exist in an ‘ever-present eternity’ (Conf 11.13.16; Russell, 2009) beyond time where his ‘today’ is eternity. To underlay the beginning of time and the distinction from eternity Augustine says that ’there was never a time when there was no time’ (Conf 11.13.16). In other words God is not coeternal with time (Conf 11.13.17).
The nature of time is seen from the point of view of sequence: past, present, and future. The future is not yet, the past is no longer, only the present exists (Conf 11.18.23). Accordingly, there are only three times: ‘time present of things past; a time present of things present; and a time present of things future’ (Conf 11.20.26). All of these are soul related as their existence is concerned: memory (time presence of things past), direct experience (time present of things present), and expectation (time present of things future) (Conf 11.20.26; for the subjectivity of time see Russell, 2009, Moore and Bruder 2011, 79). This sequence of time is expressed by Augustine in a famous phrase: ‘from what is not yet, through what has no length, it passes into what is no longer’ (Conf 11.21.27; see also Moore and Bruder 2011, 79).

Augustine, Confessions and Enchiridion. tr. Albert C. Outler. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1955.
Moore, Brooke Noel. and Bruder, Kenneth. Philosophy, The Power of Ideas. 8th ed. New York, McGraw Hill, 2011.
Russell, Bertrand. History of Western Philosophy. London and New York, Routlege. 2009.
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