Tuesday , 6 June 2023


By khaouja ahmed

Defining exactly what is time is a difficult task in spite of the effort made in the field of science and of tools of observation and time measurement. Each of us would give the answer of the philosopher Saint AUGUSTIN concerning its meaning: “What is time then? If nobody asks me, I know; but if I were desirous to explain it to one that should ask me, plainly I do not know.” Contemporary intellectuals define it as an abstract datum, for others it is a kind of a mental space where events take place.

Saint AUGUSTINE admits the creation of the world with an origin of time and the delegation to man, by his creator, of a freedom, which allows, on the one hand, sin, and, on the other hand, merit. Even if current physics admits the beginning of time with the “Big Bang”, deterministic physicists do not like the principle that time have a beginning, perhaps not to speak of divine intervention, and not to contradict NEWTON who imagined a nature like a large clock which rotates under the action of the gravitational force in a continuous movement without beginning or end.

For the philosopher René GUENON, what is really measured is never a duration but the space traversed during this duration in certain movements of which we know the law. This latter is presented as a relation between space and time, whereas mental phenomena have no spatial character, but on the other hand also take place in time.


Social or lived time is made up of a set of representations whose elements synthesize social consciousness. The particularity of social time is that it is not perceived in the same way in modern societies as in traditional ones.
In the “Natural Contract”, Michel SERRES, defines modern social time as short-term time, i.e. computable time and traditional social time as long-term time. He specifies on this subject that politics, media and science are representations belonging to the short term and that their mission consists in covering the traditional time acting in the long term. Indeed, the politician carries out projects according to the upcoming elections, the media man is preoccupied with the week events, or even day news and the scientist sees his articles hardly exceeding ten years within the framework of the perpetual changes of paradigms. If long-term time saves memory and genes of older generations, short-term time seems to affect them.
The Koran evokes a divine time without commonality with the numbered terrestrial time. Thus, it reveals the limit of a too one-sided conception of time. Terrestrial time is in relation with bodily existence, as soon as it is made to disappear, we are in an “extra corporeal” extension.
The time of revealed religions is considered as a function, on the one hand, of the fall of ADAM. Time in relation to the Koran, while being vectorial and irreversible, has not been freed from the cyclical conception, given the return of religious holidays and times of prayer. In the life of monotheistic cultures, there was a certain continuity between the past and the future; the present was experienced as an opportunity to purify oneself and correct the past in order to avoid punishment in the world beyond.
Formerly, social time was confused with religious time. With modernity and the development of cities, we have gone from religious time to the time of traders; thus, time has taken on “over time” a material value. The really busy time today is when you earn money for yourself or for others.


Today, more than ever, we have the impression that modern times are also “deregulated”. This time unfolds at an ever-increasing speed according to the different manifestations, to such an extent that we begin to project ourselves permanently towards an elsewhere that we believe is better, by refusing to take the present as a source of meaning. So, we no longer live, but we hope to live, in the end nonetheless, we risk never reaching the state of happiness we were aiming for, because as J. ATTALI says “To advance or to retreat are empty concepts of meaning. It is another geometry of history that must be prepared”. And intellectual certainties do not last long, some technological applications resulting from modern times are consumed in a time much less than the time it takes to reduce their polluting effects upstream and downstream. René GUENON said on this subject that “the most visible character of the modern era is the ceaseless movement, of continual change, of ever-increasing speed like that with which the events themselves unfold; it is the dispersion in multiplicity and in a multiplicity, which is no longer unified by the consciousness of any higher principle “. Isn’t the rapid development of knowledge mean that there is something abnormal in the very nature of this knowledge.

If in the past, the activities of humanity seemed to aim to fight against whatever ephemeral and short-lived and to leave footprints that give meaning to their transition, today everything has become ephemeral and short lived. Yet we always try to find a meaning in this collective organization of the destruction of time. Today we are experiencing total disorientation, caused by the fact that we want to synchronize with the technological rhythm. Even in the field of management one suffers from a great helplessness; large companies change their strategy frequently at the risk of disappearing forever. In the United States, managers must always be able to seek to go beyond the current paradigms. And when a paradigm changes, everything drops to zero and successes of the past do not guarantee anything.

How we can solve the problems that arise in our humanity starting from the reasonings belonging to the short term, because for Michel SERRES the pollution affecting today the ecology comes from modern time that is to say from the knowledge belonging to the short term. He specifies that the salutary future is more linked to the long term, experienced by those who, from local gestures, induced large cultures.


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