Engaging with Montaigne’s Essays, Proust’s Time Regained and Flaubert’s Correspondence, this talk presents time as a pure becoming – before anything would be constituted that could undergo a process of change. To this end, it draws on John Locke’s intuition of time as a ‘perpetual perishing’, in order to show how every instant stands in a discontinuous relation to every other instant. The talk explores the implications of such a conception for the analysis of memory: the juxtaposition of the different ‘I’s’ in Proust’s work, the perpetually surprising self of Montaigne, and Flaubert’s reference to Montaigne, whom we are to read not in order to learn but in order to live, in accord to a famous passage from the Essays: ‘I have done nothing today — What? have you not lived?’ Recognizing time as sensible makes personal identity a puzzle: ‘Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise’ (Lewis Carroll). This sentence presents one of the consequences of considering time as discontinuous, and of considering becoming as disconnected from change. This talk tries to replace the sovereignty of consciousness with a sovereignty of thought.
Ali Benmakhlouf is a Professor of philosophy at the Université de Paris Est – Créteil who divides his time between France and Morocco. His research interests include Arabic philosophy, the philosophy of logic, and questions of bioethics. He has published books on Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, and Alfred North Whitehead, as well as on Averroes and Al Farabi and, more recently, Montaigne. He is currently a member of the French National Ethics Advisory Committee and President of the Deontological and Ethical Advisory Committee at the IRD (Research Institute for Development). His most recent books are L’identité, une fable philosophique (Paris: PUF, 2011); Vous reprendrez bien un peu de philosophie (2011); C’est de l’art (2011), and Pourquoi lire les philosophes arabes (2015), La conversation comme manière de vivre (2016).
The lecture is part of the current ICI Lecture Series ERRANS, in Time. Ideas of physical, social, revolutionary time, internal time consciousness, or historical experience are far from settled in their respective discourses and practices. Yet attempts to harmonize or correlate the understanding of time and temporal phenomena generated in different disciplines all-too quickly resort to normative, if not teleological ideas of progress, efficiency, or experiential plenitude. Can the heterogenous relations between discordant conceptions of time and temporality be understood as being ‘erratically’ structured, that is, as marked by inherent misapprehensions, a dissonance that defies regulation, and an unexpected variability?
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