Aeternitas: A Spinozistic study by H. F. Hallett

By H. F. Hallett

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Cog. Met. ’ (Eth. I , xxxiii, Sch. ) Eth. I , Def. viii, Explic. 3 *4 AETERNITAS momentary. In one of his earlier works M . Bergson expressed the strange misconception that for Spinoza ‘the indefinite duration of things was all contained in a single moment, which is eternity’,1 a conception comparable with the even more common opinion, that for Spinoza all multiplicity fades into mere identity in Natura, and all content into vacuity: the ‘ dark shapeless abyss’ of ‘eternal night’, as Hegel has it.

Under analysis, therefore, crude dura­ tion is seen to be composed of a past period that is remembered, a future period that is expected, and a present period composed of a perceived sequence of past and future. Further, it follows that the supposed superior reality of the present over the past and future belongs to it not as present (for the mere present is never experi­ enced, and the specious present is already past and future), but is due to its special relation to the active percipient. It is not that the present is more real than the past or future, but that perception is judged to be a more reliable source of knowledge than memory or anticipation, and again, that the specious present is avail­ able to us for action in a way in which further past and future are not; and since all the parts of crude time are equally real or unreal, I may go further and deny explicitly that past, present, and future belong to time itself as such; they must be ascribed to the relations of the individual ‘subject’ (corporeally and mentally) with the contents of time.

It belongs only to the parts of the Real, as parts, and not to the whole, to the microcosm and not to the macrocosm. I would willingly have used a less ambiguous term if one had been available: ‘relative time’ and ‘absolute time’, o f course, will not do; and ‘microcosmic’ and ‘macrocosmic’ time, though perhaps more accurate and less dangerous, are still not quite accurate (for time belongs, on m y theory, to the microcosm only in so far as it fa ils to be a genuine koo /xos ), and have for other obvious reasons been rejected.

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