The Time of Our Lives

The Time of Our Lives: A Critical History of Temporality

David Couzens Hoy
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: MIT Press
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    The Time of Our Lives
    Book Description:

    The project of all philosophy may be to gain reconciliation with time, even if not every philosopher has dealt with time expressly. A confrontation with the passing of time and with human finitude runs through the history of philosophy as an ultimate concern. In this genealogy of the concept of temporality, David Hoy examines the emergence in a post-Kantian continental philosophy of a focus on the lived experience of the "time of our lives" rather than on the time of the universe. The purpose is to see how phenomenological and poststructuralist philosophers have tried to locate the source of temporality, how they have analyzed time's passing, and how they have depicted our relation to time once it has been--in a Proustian sense--regained. Hoy engages with competing theoretical tactics for reconciling us to our fleeting temporality, drawing on work by Kant, Heidegger, Hegel, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Nietzsche, Gadamer, Sartre, Bourdieu, Foucault, Bergson, Deleuze, Žižek, and Derrida. Hoy considers four existential strategies for coping with the apparent flow of temporality, including Proust's passive and Walter Benjamin's active reconciliation through memory, Žižek's critique of poststructuralist politics, Foucault's confrontation with the temporality of power, and Deleuze's account of Aion and Chronos. He concludes by exploring whether a dual temporalization could be what constitutes the singular "time of our lives."

    eISBN: 978-0-262-25522-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xxii)

    In contrast to the exquisite inquiries of Marcel Proust into how time is experienced, philosophical attempts to describe lived temporality may appear graceless. Nevertheless, there is an appealing aesthetic quality and even a certain beauty in the subtleties, distinctions, and intricacies of the great philosophers as they work on an intractable problem such as time. Proust’s goal is not so different from philosophers such as Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Bergson, and Deleuze, who want to identify the source of time. Starting from the recognition of the increasingly rapid loss of time, the task becomes to explain what it is that we...

  6. 1 In Search of Lost Time: Kant and Heidegger
    (pp. 1-40)

    Where should a history of the phenomenology of temporality begin? Strictly speaking, phenomenology in the distinctive sense that it has today starts with Edmund Husserl. Martin Heidegger and Maurice Merleau-Ponty are then among those who subsequently self-identified as phenomenologists, although Heidegger’s connection to Husserl makes that label problematic. Any such history would have to recognize, however, that phenomenology emerges from a longer and wider tradition that includes major figures such as Immanuel Kant as well as Husserl’s precursors and near contemporaries such as William James or Franz Brentano.

    This chapter begins accordingly with an introductory account of Kant in the...

  7. 2 There Is No Time Like the Present! On the Now
    (pp. 41-94)

    Although clichés about time generally sound like truisms, they can also be revealing. In this particular case, “there is no time like the present” is often used as a practical adage. “Now is a good time to take action” would be another way of stating this advice. In this sense, it is closely linked to “Carpe diem”—seize the day! The expression can also be viewed not as practical advice, however, but as an ontological claim, one that points to the reality of the present and the unreality of the past and the future. “ There is no timebut...

  8. 3 Where Does the Time Go? On the Past
    (pp. 95-140)

    This chapter is concerned with the past, with memory, and with the conditions for memorialization. What is the past? The past is sometimes construed as the present frozen in a kind of stasis. Science fiction is thus able to imagine time travel as a return to a time and place where what happened is still happening, just as the present is happening now. The only condition on the past is that it is closed, unlike the present, which still opens into the future. The future is sometimes assumed to be structurally like the past, except perhaps that it is less...

  9. 4 “The Times They Are a-Changin’ ”: On the Future
    (pp. 141-182)

    If nostalgia is one side of the coin, hope is the other side. Nostalgia is putting all one’s hope in the past. The previous chapter maintained that nostalgia is to be avoided. Does avoiding nostalgia therefore mean giving up hope for a better future? This is a central question in the politics of temporality. In this chapter, I will consider the advantages and disadvantages of hope. Hope can imply too much continuity with the past, such that total change becomes unlikely. In contrast, hope for total change can blind the politically active to possibilities in the present.

    For this debate...

  10. 5 Le temps retrouvé: Time Reconciled
    (pp. 183-222)

    There is the moment when a distinction is made and the moment when it is taken back. In these final pages I explore various strategies for reconciling lived temporality with objective time. This process involves rejoining the concepts of time and temporality, which I began by distinguishing. By the terms “reconciling” and “rejoining” I have in mind, of course, what Proust means when he speaks about “le temps retrouvé.”¹ When he speaks ofle temps perduhe does not mean only “past” time. Despite the French expression for wasting one’s time, “perdre son temps,” I do not think that he...

  11. Postscript on Method: Genealogy, Phenomenology, Critical Theory
    (pp. 223-242)

    This book has studied temporality as seen through the different lenses of a variety of philosophical approaches. If phenomenology has been the central method under investigation, other methods have included Bergsonism, critical theory, pragmatism, deconstruction, and hermeneutics. This study has allegiances with all these traditions, but it understands itself in particular as a form of the critical history of philosophy, one that employs genealogical strategies. This postscript will pull together the threads of discussion of the three philosophical methods that are most at stake in this book, namely, genealogy, phenomenology, and critical theory. In particular it will focus on the...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 243-266)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 267-276)
  14. Index
    (pp. 277-288)