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Fragment 191, word count: 371.

tags: time, metaphysics, Plato, Aristotle, Hegel, ideas, eternity, spirit, subjectivity,  drama.

There is nothing to say about eternity. There is nothing interesting about it. There is no life to eternity. Both Plato and Hegel asserted that things experienced can have different degrees of reality, and that a fully real world would be fixed, final, and eternally unchanging, so completely objective. There could be no subjectivity intervening in the state of things of that world by interpreting, curating, evaluating, and reshaping things according to projected dramas of a personal genius because that would make things unfinished and always at the point of being something new. Time is blatant unreality in that view. The world that is engaged and reshaped by subjectivity is never even remotely real in the Platonic sense, and Plato took that to mean that, for philosophy, it is a distraction, dismissible trivia. Nevertheless, even though Hegel conceived a cosmos that moves dialectically toward perfectly real eternal ideality, the perfection of eternity is not Hegel’s focus. Instead, his focus is the intentional and desperate enactment of the approach to final reality. This drama in time distinguishes Hegel’s fundamental reality from Plato’s. Hegel seems to play out an intuition that, as the primordial opening for creativity, time is the core of the spirit he wants to clarify, a kind of Aristotelian spirit in cosmic nature. It is an intuition that future-projecting teleological drama is the distinctive nature of spiritual existence. For Aristotle, every particular object holds within it an idea of itself, the spirit of itself, just as every individual person does, a self-asserting idea extending beyond what is instantaneously present, beyond the sensory appearance, the perceivable attributes, an idea with future-facing formative force! Such an Aristotelian interiority to outwardly atomic objects integrates each one with a continuity of loss and ever-opening novelty that goes far beyond it, integrating it with, placing it within, an all-encompassing radically unfinished reality. In presenting this conception of ideas as one with time, Aristotle was also already departing from his teacher Plato whose Ideal Forms were strictly eternal and timeless. Maybe Aristotle wasn’t meaning to shift the conception of reality, but he was tacitly recognizing that the drama of spiritual existence in time matters in a way that eternity never can.

Copyright © 2022 Sandy MacDonald.