Now, Exaiphnês, and the Present Moment in Ancient Philosophy
- Fritz Thyssen Foundation
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The experience of time is among the most fundamental features of human existence. The present thereby serves as a basis by means of which we can make sense of both past and future; thus our experience of the present, which we capture in notions like “the now”, “the instant of time”, or “the present moment”, is of special concern. We are made aware of the moment of time through motion and changes, and since the present moment seems to be when we experience these changes, our conception of the “now” is strongly connected with the notion of change. But experiencing a change means experiencing that something turns from being F to not being F, or from F to not-F. If the instants when something is F and not-F are the same instant, however, then the thing seems to be both F and not-F at the same time, and we seem to end up with a contradiction. This threatening inconsistency prompted several influential answers in ancient times: for example, Heraclitus may seem to endorse this inconsistency, while Parmenides seems to have concluded that time and change are thus unreal. Plato develops the notion of exaiphnês to suggest that the turning from F to not-F occurs outside of time. And Aristotle develops both Parmenidean and Platonic intuitions to argue that change is continuous and the segmentation of time into ‘nows’ occurs in thought.
The problem of the present moment remains a source of lively philosophical debate and the ancient ideas are still a constitutive part of it, which is the motivation for organizing the conference “Now, Exaiphnes and the Present Moment in Ancient Philosophy”. The conference will bring together an international group of leading scholars working on these problems in different authors and traditions. Among the confirmed speakers are Ursula Coope (Oxford), Salvatore Lavecchia (Udine), Walter Mesch (Münster), Alex Pleshkov (Moscow), Spyridon Rangos (Patras), Mark Sentesy (Penn State), and Niko Strobach (Münster).