What is the course about?
"What then is time? If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asks, I know not."
Augustine, Confessions Book XI
"Time" is a word we use so often that we can lose sight of how its meaning shifts in different contexts. This interdisciplinary course tarries with time and takes a phenomenological route through its mysteries.
As an important strand of Western philosophy, phenomenology sees time as the fundamental marker of our being: all experience is structured temporally and all us must wrestle with the practical problem of how to live a mortal life.
We start with early Mediterranean views on cosmological time and consider how the finite lifespan of humans is conceptualised in relation to the universe and ideas about creation. We will look at how philosophers have wrestled with an apparently indifferent cosmos or sought to situate our limited span within a grander vision.
We then focus on the subjective and personal approaches to the passage of time and discuss how memory and expectation structure temporal experience and our sense of self.
We will examine the writings of phenomenologists such as Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger and consider their precursors and fellow-travellers. In particular, we will consider the central place of time in modern fiction and the explicit connections to philosophy invoked there.
What will we cover?
• What is phenomenology?
• How do time and mortality relate to personal identity and the meaning of life?
• How do I reconcile my subjective experience of time with objective time measurement?
• Does the past exist? What makes claims about the past true?
• How can we talk meaningfully about the future?
The class will consider a wide range of writers including, but not limited to: Augustine, Kant, Proust, Bergson, Hegel, Descartes, Kant, Husserl, Heidegger, Borges, Woolf, Ricoeur, de Beauvoir, Sartre and Joyce. We will therefore be mixing literature and philosophy as appropriate.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
• Explain what a phenomenological approach to time entails.
• Describe how phenomenology underpins existentialist philosophy.
• Discuss how we might see the relation between memory and time.
• Outline the relation between modern fiction and phenomenology.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
This is an intermediate course. It assumes no prior knowledge but is not suitable for a first encounter with philosophy.
A willingness to engage with new ideas is needed.
It is a companion course to HP091 Philosophy of Time and Change which runs in the same slot in the preceding term. That course concentrates on scientific ideas about time.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
These classes use a mixture of lecture, structured discussion-based activities and problem-solving in small groups.
Optional online resources and exercises will be suggested if you want to consolidate or extend the material outside
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
No equipment will be required besides pen and paper or other means for taking notes. Access to the internet is
advantageous but not required.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
The companion courses HP093 Philosophy of Space and HP091 Philosophy of Time and Change are taught in the same time slot in preceding terms. They start in September 2018 and January 2019 respectively.
General information and advice on courses at City Lit is available from the Student Centre and Library on Monday to Friday from 12:00 – 19:00.
See the course guide for term dates and further details