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Time as Experience and Idea
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
A review of the book by Wolfgang Achtner, Stephan Kunz and Thomas Walter
Dimensions of Time:  The Structures of the Time of Humans, of the World and of God (Grand Rapids, Michigan and Cambridge, UK:  Eerdmans, 1998. 196p.)

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These authors take a fresh approach to the concepts of Time.  They provide a history and metaphysic of the concept of Time, profiling worldview perspectives that underlie different cultural and philosophical ideas of Time.

They evaluate ancient, classical and traditional Western concepts of three aspects of Time: endogenous (the individual experience of the passage of time), exogenous (the perceived structure and character of time in the real world as experienced in each cultural and historical context) and Transcendent time (the concepts of ultimate time in the universe).  The book analyzes social structures on the basis of the discovered concepts of time in the various cultural and philosophical contexts investigated.

In broad categories, the book is divided into three sections, reflected in the sub-title.  The first section, "The Time of Humans," is the longest, because it entails a sampling of the broad types of human concepts across cultures and historical periods.  Their analysis includes quotations and analysis of concepts from the ancient Greeks, the Hebrew writers in biblical and extra-biblical writings, and references to other sources.  Each of these are evaluated critically to see the changes in ideas through history, and how these concepts of Time and reality are related to social structures and concepts of justice in each society.

The analysis includes considerations of the concept of Mind and the relationship of the individual to the Social Whole.  The second section on Science is highly mathematical and seems to assume more background.  It is a short section, but does seem to fairly well represent the history of scientific concepts of time up to the current possibilities in String Theory, Chaos Theory and Quantum Theory.

The title of the third section could be misleading, and the authors start with a disclaimer that they do not take the arrogant approach that they actually know and represent the Mind of God.  They attempt to deal with the implications for Transcendent Time.  This would be the real time of the ultimate, in the perceptions of the cultures involved, and valid conclusions they may draw for a consistent concept of time beyond the limitations of Human Experience.

Such conclusions would be based on the balance of the triad forming their theoretical approach to the problem of Time.  They provide an understandable and reasonable proposal, concluding a commendable reflective consideration of the problem across all the sources analyzed.

See related reviews and articles on this site:
Time -- A Cultural Concept
Time as Technology in Culture

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First written 22 July 2006
Posted on Thoughts and Resources and Amazon.com 10 October 2006
Last edited 18 December 2006

Copyright © 2006 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use.  Other rights reserved.

Email:  orville@jenkins.nu
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