Time and Linear Growth

Deleuze’s preface to Kant’s Critical Philosophy begins with a reversal of the conception of time in the ancient sense to the modern sense. The declaration of the modern break is found in Shakespeare’s Hamlet saying “time is out of joint”, which Deleuze interprets as movement no longer holding its sway over time but instead time subordinating movement. This reversal is profound: time it seems was once measured according to a movement which persisted above it and beyond any measurement of time’s control. Now in modernity, how things move – the flows, changes, dynamics, and energy fluctuations of matter – is subjected to time’s hold.

Imagine an analogue clock rotating in predictable cycles on a wall or your wrist; then imagine an alarm clock by your bed with digitalized lights to display numbers on a luminous rectangle screen and this distinction might become more apparent. Time is now independent of movements and extends into a virtual world beyond the flora and fauna that move in their potent interaction. Time in this modern world does not repeat the same movements in a cycle but *progresses* along a line: “the labyrinth is no longer a circle, or a spiral which would translate its complications but a thread, a straight line, all the more mysterious for being simple…”. This arrow of time has become “an immutable Form which does not change” since it is not subject to the diversity of movements, but it is still “the form of everything that changes and moves” effectively submitting the movement of all things to a linear directionality. Things go forward or backwards now instead of in repetitive cycles; we are always either “ahead of the times” or “behind the times”.
This changes the very structure of the Self and perhaps even creates a new one. Time is now a form steadfastly moving in one direction and needs a place if it is not a simple accounting of multi-directional material flows. Time must exist as a form in a mind. But it doesn’t just sit there; time cuts through the mind dividing it into past and future selfs. This idea of time must find its matching linear organization of movement in the mind of the self and so divide it from itself. Deleuze writes: “the I is an act which constantly carries out a synthesis of time, and of that which happens in time, by dividing up the present, the past and the future at every instant.” The ’I’ as an *act* conducting a particular kind of movement which is subordinated to time means that the produced result in this ’I’ must go forward only, leaving behind the past self despite when people say “your stuck in the past”. The ’I’ as singular present cannot be kept in the stasis of the moment, but is divided in itself thanks to a conception of time which gained its ground in real events.
The self or the I as both the subjective, perceiving decider and an objective, perceivable thing are two contrary aspects of a single thing now. The ego and the I become things to be analyzed and studied… by people (i.e. lots of I’s). All this becomes possible via a conception of time rising above its constraints from movement and becoming separate entity as a form. Seeking a place for itself to exist in that is not an illusory world of abstract forms, time finds itself in the mind of the ego which it then works on to divide in two.
It would be a mistake to attribute the idea of a self to a shift in the idea of time, something else is going on here. Time’s autonomy from space/matter comes not from a change of perception or the logical composition of the idea, it arose from a measurement tool of material movements to gain such prominence that it now organizes those material movements for its own purposes. Not exactly a pure form because of its effects on the composition of things, time has straitened us out along with the world we call real. No pure form or fictional world can stop its effects from influencing the physical. Time has just been left alone and accepted as an obvious and singular abstract idea that it has grown to carry us along with it. Time asserts its dominance over an earth that spins ’round and ’round and a climate that swirls, ripples, cracks, flows, etc. through the medium of a mind fleshy bodies believe to be their own.
A mind to go along with a body, both of which are “mine”. What else could this ‘I’ do at this point but divide itself ruthlessly? When does one insist that two options are not enough?
Keep in touch for the next part. I’ve got Nietzsche, Quantum Physics, and Economic Theories lined up…