12 | CR Book V, Chapter 3 & 4
matter more to some people. The units which we habitually choose de-
pend on our philosophy of history, and thereby on the society we live in.
The foregoing analysis discloses a bewildering number of layers.
Where do we stand in them? Do we have to make a choice? On the
contact with what type of event should we base our conduct? Should
there be a correlation between the degree to which an event is truly real,
and the length of its duration? Assuming that contact with truly real
objects may help us to realise our own true being, we may wonder what
difference it may make to us whether we habitually experience things or
events on this or that level of duration. Living habitually on a high level
of duration, plants are kept out of much trouble. On the other hand,
however, it is well-known that we often estimate, or feel, that more time,
or that less time, has elapsed than measurement by the clock would show.
It may be that to project durations on a screen of mechanical time does
not reveal the true being of the corresponding events except in a
distorted fashion, and that we learn nothing essential about durations
by measuring them by mechanical time, the reference to which might
easily be superficial, artificial and external only.
In their love for clean-cut extremes, some philosophers have
maintained that either the shortest possible, or the longest possible
duration gives us the true reality of things and events.
Chapter 3 - Instants - The Sautrantikas, and others, asserted that
all events are of a minimum duration, and perish instantaneously by
their own contradictions. The assume that time is composed of instants,
and events of instantaneous events. Yet in perceptual time the conditions
of perceiving impose a limit on the subdivision of time, and the smallest
unit we can reach, or the "specious Present", comprises infinitely many
instants. Neither do the waves of attention, which determine the length
of what is present in the world we attend to, reveal to us instantaneous
events. Only conceptual time can be subdivided indefinitely. If a thing's
being were only in the strict conceptual present, or in the instant of
conceptual time, the world would be annihilated, because the present
would be a point without duration, and just when it is, it has ceased to be.
The world would be a nothing in between two nothings. as a perpetual
transition between the immediate past and the immediate future, it
would be nothing.
The Sautrantikas overlook that (1) things do not have their being
in conceptual time; (2) the fact that time can be mentally sub-divided
into instants does not show that it is in reality composed of them;
(3) things have their being not only in the present, but in the past, and the
future also belongs to their nature.
Chapter 4 - Eternity - Long durations have an emotional attrac-
tion. Philosophical and religious imagination conceived of vast stretches
of time long before scientific observation discovered their existence.
Vast "spaces" of time evoke a feeling of sublimity which involves the two
opposite feelings of annihilation and augmentation of life, coupled with
a sense of security in the face of a formidable power. It appeals to us by
nourishing our negative attitudes to ourselves, giving us a sense of relief,
way of dignified escape, a feeling of liberation, and a hope of stability.
What do things look like when we view them from the standpoint
of eternity? Does eternity merely exclude, or does it also include time,
succession and change?