chapter  3
The past: loss or eternal return?
Pages 27

Augustine’s ‘problem’ of time arose from its apparent passage into non-existence-a relentless flight which the passive self could only experience as loss. If the past is non-existent, this is indeed a problem for the self which is in time. Augustine’s response was to secure the existence of the past through the distension of the soulthe holding together of future, present and past in an act of attention approximating to God’s eternal ‘now’. Both lacks-the loss of the past and the fragmentation of the self-are supposed to be met by redefining time in terms of the soul’s stretching out. In this chapter I want to focus more closely on the idea of the past as ‘lost’, exploring it through Bergson’s philosophy of time. I will then examine a stark alternative posed by Nietzsche’s idea of ‘eternal return’—that, far from thinking of the past as lost, we might think of ourselves as never able to leave it behind.