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Tristan Garcia “Another Order of Time”

Garcia, Tristan 2011. Un autre ordre du temps. Pour une intensité variable du maintenant. Revue de métaphysique et de morale 72: 469-486. Trans. Kris Pender

[…] nothing guarantees that I am not deceived by time.

The time of phenomenology is too narrow: it finds itself reduced to the time of consciousness; the time of the dialectical tradition, notably the Hegelian, is too broad: it is understood by and dissolved in the future. If one wants to think time, neither more nor less, it is necessary to engage with the analytic tradition; but this tradition breaks time to pieces and systematically plays some of its parts against the others, so that one has a lot of time, but never time entirely. Why? Because it divides time into extensions, considering past, present and future as parts of a whole – some real, others illusory. If this conception can only arrive at dead ends it is because it is necessary to cease thinking these modalities as extensive parts, and perhaps envisage them as variations of intensity.

The present is devastating in that, if it is identified with presence, it immediately becomes an absolute and eats away at past and future, which are given over to non-being: if the present is all that is present, in the past and future there no longer remains any possibility of being, other than negatively.

Time must be conceived as the objective condition of possibility due to the fact that events can be ordered by a subjectivity according to their relative presence. The existence of time is the sign that there is a more and more important presence in the universe and that this presence is ordered: there is more presence today than there was a thousand years ago, there was more presence a thousand years than there was five billion years ago, and there was more presence five billion years ago than at the moment of the Big Bang. From this point of view, it is necessary to remain faithful to Broad: presence in the universe does not squander itself. It does not disappear, it does not become non-being. We shall simply  say that it diminishes according to a certain order.

[…]since we will envisage thinking an intensive order of time, rather than an extensive division of it, how can we identify each of these temporal modalities (past, present, future) with a distinct intensity of presence, without any of them being reduced to the other? In considering presence to be a variable intensity, three possibilities for determination are freed: a maximal presence – without ever being absolute –, a maximal absence – which neither concerns absolute non-being – and all that can be situated between these two poles of maximal intensity (more or less presence, more or less absence). What tends to be relatively present and absent without being ‗what is more present‘ or ‗what is more absent‘? Only the past seems to be in a position to play this role: the past is relatively present (and it is so less and less). On the other hand, since we have considered that the present is not an absolute and exclusive presence – but in fact is prime presence, maximal presence – nothing remains to us other than to define the future as ‗the greatest absence which is‘.

The future, contrary to the past, is not an ordered process. The future is a fixed point of reference – without extension and in minimal intensity – which progressively detaches itself from the present, which is an irrevocable increase in the determinations of the universe. We therefore do not get closer to future as time passes: in reality, we move away from it.

[…] there are two distinct localisations in time: that which is the present continuously moves away from the indeterminate future, since the present is more and more present and rich in determinations; but that which is present – that is to say, such or such a present moment, for instance the moment of my birth – at the moment it appears, forever remains at an equal distance from the future. Therefore, my present is less and less close to the future, since it is more and more determined.

[…] any event is doubly localizable in time – in relation to the present (the top of the pile) and in relation to the future (the bottom of the pile, that on which it rests). Such an event – the formation of planet Earth, for example – sees the present moving away from it, but remains at the same distance from the future which it had and which it has always had. This permanent relation to a fixed future, which is its ground, conserves its possibility of always being the moment that it has been, of not being entirely effaced in a constantly renewed present.

The model which we propose for another order of time breaks with this intuitive but untenable representation, according to which time would flow from the past towards the future, by way of the present. Our intensive order is entirely different: the present is first, as maximal intensity of presence; the past, which is a second order in the very interior of the order of time, is the classification of events by the relative weakening of their presence; the future, finally, which is the ground rather than the horizon of time, corresponds to the greatest possible absence.

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