Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 59 (1):28 - 68 (1997)

The arrow of time has been invoked to bridge all gaps between the 'two cultures'. Would time also help to mediate between the sphere of cognition (epistemic meaning) and the sphere of Bedeutsamkeit (meaning-as-relevance) when taking ritual to be a strongly idiosyncratic representative of the latter? What is the role of time in the modes of meaning in the realm of scientific concepts in their most rigorous shape (the mathematical) on the one hand, in ritual on the other hand? Taking an external point of view, surprising connections can be laid, especially when focussing on the relations of form and materiality or content in the respective fields. Ritual can be considered — according toits formal structure — as an embodiment of the notion of an algorithm. When looking at the temporal structure of the respective symbolic practices from an internal point of view however, their contrasting modes of creating meaning become irreducible. In particular, the algorithmic-sequential mode in ritual is a shell for another time, constitutive of a proper Bedeutsamkeit. This is analyzed in terms of the role of the past in ritualized meaning (and illustrated via the art of time in the Japanese tea ceremony). Whereas a paradoxical creation of a past as something lost and nevertheless to be recollected is constitutive for the meaning of the ritual gesture, the proper element of the concept is time's arrow always pointing forward, to the next stage. Here the past, while embodied in the scientist's gesture as trace of epistemic styles and traditions, at the same time has to be suppressed in the interest of the creation of the new
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