ABSTRACT

In the fi rst volume of Time and Narrative Paul Ricoeur draws upon a theory of time proposed by Augustine in Chapter XI of his Confessions. It is the idea that our only possible relation to time is a psychological one attached to temporality’s three domains. Thus the past is constituted by our memory, the present is constituted by our attention, and the future is constituted by our expectation (Ricoeur 1984: 5-30)1. This tripartite form that our consciousness takes is our sole relation to time. But Ricoeur points out a paradox about the tripartite division: while each psychological element relates to past, present, or future, they are all only experienced in the present – but as the past, present, or future. In a comparable sense, Edmund Husserl refers to the fundamental intentionality of consciousness, with ‘protention’ and ‘retention’ as the immediately past and future components. Maurice Merleau-Ponty also speaks to this in a more radical sense when he says, ‘We must understand time as the subject and the subject as time. What is perfectly clear is that this primordial temporality is not a juxtaposition of external events, since it is the power which holds them together while keeping them apart’ (Merleau-Ponty 1962: 422). Making our relation to time solely related to our psychological state doesn’t mean that the development of ‘clock time’ as a form of measurement cannot refer to something outside that state. That is, atomic clocks can be accurate down to nanoseconds in relation to the division of equal segments of the temporal framework of the completed rotation of the earth and the completed revolution of the earth around the sun. It is just that this exactitude has little to do with the actual experience of time by human beings. Kant made clear his position on this: ‘Time is therefore merely a subjective condition of our (human) intuition (which is always sensuous, that is, so far

as we are affected by objects), and in itself, independently of the mind or subject, is nothing,’ and ‘Time is nothing but the form of our internal intuition. If we take away from it the special condition of our sensibility, the conception of time also vanishes; and it inheres not in the objects themselves, but solely in the subject (or mind) which intuits them’ (Kant 1990: 31-2).