The Owl of Minerva 15 (2):226-228 (1984)

Few categories are as useful for illuminating the whole complex of correlative intellectual, spiritual and political problems of the modern world as the opposites of time and eternity. Tom Darby has made impressive use of the dialectic of time and its overcoming in the “eternal instant” not only to analyse the central preoccupations of Rousseau, Hegel and others, but also to reveal their representative significance within the peculiarly modern concern with existence. One is reminded of the Homeric distinction between men and gods as that of mortals versus immortals, which was replaced by the Platonic redefinition of man as the mortal immortal who lives in the tension between life and death. For it is precisely the rejection of that tension that has formed the self-understanding of Western man since the Renaissance and has so completely absorbed the interest of the thinkers covered by Darby’s study. The search for perfection in individual and political existence is in essence the desire to escape the temporality of the human condition. Imperfection, finiteness, contingency and death are the inescapable fate of all creatures that live within time. It is only by escaping temporality that we can aspire to the being of eternity which, in Boethius’s formulation, is “the simultaneously whole and perfect possession of interminable life”.
Keywords Major Philosophers
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ISBN(s) 0030-7580
DOI owl198415213
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