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On Time

Organizing Committee:


Any sensation or experience that we have can be understood only on the basis of time, only if we locate the occurrence within its temporality.  Yet, we never have an experience of time itself; time is never an object present in our world that we can intuit or conceive of.  Something like this paradox led Hegel to call time the nonsensuous sensuous. What, then, can we actually know of time?


It seems that time, much like Being, can only be known through its difference from these phenomena (time never manifests itself as such, within the phenomenal realm).  Time is only intelligible on the basis of some difference, the changes in our world that lead us to intuit a temporal progression of cause and effect, which in turn requires time as the ground of its identity and continuity.   We expect something to support the flux of our world, and yet time is only this flux; Aristotle said as much when he defined time as the "number of motion,” and Einstein said the same when he defined time as what we measure with a clock.


We will hold a series of meetings examining how time shapes the form of expression in a variety of discourses, and how these arts and sciences play with and within their peculiar temporality.  We will begin with a meeting where we consider the representation of time in the history of metaphysics, by looking at Derrida’s Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money.  Derrida locates Heidegger’s lecture “On Time and Being” on the cusp of this metaphysical tradition.  Heidegger points out, among the many paradoxes of time, that time is nothing temporal.  What is temporal arises and passes away within time, while time itself does nothing such.  As with Being, Heidegger cautions against saying "time is," as such a locution presumes what can never be a given, that time is, that it could ever come to presence as a being.  He employs an idiomatic German expression, es gibt, it gives, which would translate to the English "there is" (it gives time/there is time).  For the same reason, we must avoid asking the question "what is time," and inquire instead - Time: what gives?


jonotrain's picture

Hey friends!

Sorry the last time class still hasn't been rescheduled - I fully plan on getting this back onto the calendar one of these days.  In the meantime, I just wanted to let you know about another class I'm involved in organizing: a reading group for Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus.  Our first meeting is 7 PM September 19th, next Wednesday, at 155 Freeman in Greenpoint.  Hope I see you there!

jonotrain's picture

Hey everyone,

I'm sorry to have to postpone class on such short notice, but for health reasons I'm going to have to push back the date of the next time class. I will post another note as soon as the new date is scheduled.


jonotrain's picture

Hey all! Just wanted to share another timely word with you:

timeous, adj. and adv.

Etymology: < time n. + -ous suffix, perhaps after wrongous adj. and righteous adj. (compare forms at that entry). Compare earlier timeously adv.

orig. Sc. Now chiefly Sc., Irish English (north.), and S. Afr.
A. adj.

1. Done or occurring sufficiently early or in good time; prompt; (Law) done before a fixed time limit has expired. Cf. timely adj. 1c.

1482—2007(Show quotations)

†2. Sc. Early. Cf. timely adj. 1b.

a. Of fruit: appearing early in the season. Obs. rare.

c1520—c1520(Show quotations)

b. Of a person: rising and becoming active early in the morning. Obs.

1599—1633(Show quotations)

3. Well-timed, opportune; = timely adj. 1a.
Now often overlapping with sense A. 1.

a1626—1998(Show quotations)

4. Temporal, as opposed to eternal. Cf. timely adj. 2. rare.

1855—1907(Show quotations)

†5. Sc. That moves in time with a rhythm. Obs. rare.

1884—1884(Show quotations)

†B. adv.

Sc. and Irish English (north.). = early adv. 1. Cf. timeously adv. Obs.

jonotrain's picture

Hey everyone,

A full description of the next On Time class is up on the website now. It will be led by both me and Nicola Masciandaro, and it will take place at 155 Freeman, at 7:30 on August 1st.

Here is the description along with links to optional readings. As always, there is no need to have done the readings or been to previous sessions to attend:

8/1: Narrative Metalepsis//Times of Conversion w/ Nicola Masciandaro and Jonathan Basile

//On Narrative metalepsis:

We began our discussion of time by recognizing a certain paradox inherent in time and in everything temporal (that is, everything). Although all that exists does so “within” time, time itself is never anything present in our world, anything we could directly intuit or conceive of. How is it that we ourselves, along with our world, are thrown forth into existence as temporal effects, despite never having had access to this thing we call “time,” which ought to provide the unique ground and cause of temporal existence?

I would like to borrow an idea from narrative theory in order to try to better grasp the foundationlessness of our temporal existence. Gerard Genette uses the term narrative metalepsis to refer to a peculiar possibility of all narratives, the transition from one narrative frame to another. Every instance of narrative (storytelling, memory, biography, history, etc.) necessarily occurs across a strange gap: the act of narration and the storyteller exist in a time and space which is both liberated from and yet interwoven with the time and space of the story being told. I can tell you the history of America or the story of Oedipus, for example, in much less time than the duration of the events being narrated. Also, by necessity, I narrate from a different standpoint “in” time (which is never a homogeneous continuum), a different “now.” Narrative metalepsis would occur, then, whenever I realize, with a sinking feeling of horror, that I have crossed over that gap and now live inside a story. It is enough to recognize the ability of advertisers and politicians (or advertisers-as-politicians) to create a narrative around which our world re-forms, or to recognize that for “2500 years” we have all repeated ad infinitum the story of Oedipus, in order to realize that this impossible movement of narrative metalepsis is one we have always already made, and are doomed to repeat.

Perhaps, then, an investigation of this figure will help us to understand how we stepped inside the grand narrative we call “time,” despite the inaccessibility of the raconteur (God? The Other? “Time” itself?). In other words: the best response available if we ask of time – How did this one get started?

Optional reading: Gerard Genette, Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method p. 227-243 ( note: PDF page numbers are three pages behind)

//On Times of Conversion:

Intentionally forgetting the erroneous idea that spiritual conversion primarily concerns religious doctrine, we will read these three classic medieval scenes of conversion for what they reveal about the temporality of conversion itself, how they speak to the hypothesis that conversion is a temporality or being of time. That there is a fundamental intimacy between time and conversion is evident first of all from the intersection of their concepts in the principle of turning or curvilinear movement. Our interpretations will accordingly be guided by an equation of this principle with the central problematic or term of conversion in each text, namely: the problem of the will (Augustine), the problem of cosmic ascent (Dante), and the problem of labor (Langland).The overall, generic truth to be pursued in this reading is that our realization of time’s nothingness is a potentiality of time itself, an impossible yet inevitable product of its turning.

Texts: Augustine, Confessions, Book 8;
Dante, Inferno, Cantos 1-3 (;
Langland, Piers Plowman, C.5.1-104 (

I thought On-Timers might be interested to know that Christian Marclay's 24 hour video piece, The Clock, is on view at Lincoln Center through August 1st. I went yesterday and highly recommend:

from the site, "The Clock is a spectacular and hypnotic 24-hour work of video art by renowned artist Christian Marclay. Marclay has brought together thousands of clips from the entire history of cinema, from silent films to the present, each featuring an exact time on a clock, on a watch, or in dialogue. The resulting collage tells the accurate time at any given moment, making it both a work of art and literally a working timepiece: a cinematic memento mori."

Thank you for the discussion on meditation. I enjoyed hearing what others had to say about their experiences with time and meditation.

I guess as an afterthought, I'd like to point out this event that I am a volunteer for :

You can visit different meditation styles in NYC all of the upcoming week.

jonotrain's picture

Hey friends! Just wanted to share with you all this strange way of writing the time:

chronogram, n.

Etymology: modern < Greek χρόν-ος time + γράμμα a writing, < γράϕειν to write. Compare French chronogramme.

A phrase, sentence, or inscription, in which certain letters (usually distinguished by size or otherwise from the rest) express by their numerical values a date or epoch.

‘Thus, in 1666, when a day of national humiliation was appointed in the expectation of an engagement between the English and Dutch navies, a pamphlet issued in reference to the fast-day, instead of bearing the imprint of the year after the usual fashion, had this seasonable sentence at the bottom of the title-page: ‘LorD haVe MerCIe Vpon Vs’. It will be seen that the total sum of the figures represented by the numeral letters (printed in capitals) gives the requisite date 1666’ (Athenæum No. 2868).

jonotrain's picture

Hey everyone! I updated the Time page last week but forgot to post a message letting everyone know that the next session of On Time is scheduled! We will be meeting to do a brief group meditation and then discuss the effects of meditation on our relationship to time. We will meet this Wednesday, the 27th, at 7:00 PM at 155 Freeman. Hope I see you all there!


jonotrain's picture

Hey everyone!

Audio and slides from the last Time class (on Rhythm and Musical Time) can be downloaded here:

Thanks to everyone who participated! It was a great session.


jonotrain's picture

Hey all!

Just a reminder that tonight at 7 PM at 155 Freeman will be the next session of On Time - on rhythm and musical time. Hope I see you there!




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