Overcoming Time: Life & Living in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus

If by eternity is understood not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then he who lives eternally lives in the present. Our life is endless in the way that our visual field is without limit.
–Ludwig Wittgenstein
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

There are several elements about our lives that are to be overcome. We have deep fears, desires, guilt, weaknesses, and anxieties. These troublesome aspects of our daily lives are the products of our existence as organisms birthed into a universe shot through with temporality. This temporality is the context within which all experience unfolds.

Problems arise when the nature of one’s lived experience becomes inseparable from the nature of conflict; namely, the conflict between that which is lost to the past and that which is hoped to be regained in the future. This seemingly irreconcilable conflict is only possible within the constructs of a temporal universe; therefore, one cannot address the problem of a conflict-ridden life without first addressing the problem of temporality.

Temporality has been a subject of intense investigation for philosophers and scientists alike for centuries, and its analysis has provided deep insight as it relates to the complexity of the human condition. Is time the essence of our Being-in-the-world as Heidegger claimed, the medium of “inner sense” as Kant reasoned, or an utter illusion as Einstein theorized? Regardless of what the essential nature of time may be the question that we must ask ourselves is “can one overcome time?” And if one can overcome time how will such a universe appear to the human mind?

I not only believe that one can overcome time but I believe that until one overcomes time the human being will be abandoned to a world that is fundamentally foreign. This foreign quality of the world manifests itself most virulently in our inability to bridge the divide between our particular modes of existence and the existence of the Other. For this reason, a philosophical perspective on the world that does not make this distinction between the past and the future, is a perspective that values the act of affirmation over and above all other possibilities. As Wittgenstein remarked, to live in a state of timelessness is to interpret one’s life as “endless”. Correspondingly, every action that one commits transcends the bounds of the past and present. This all-encompassing character of the act in a timeless universe forms that missing link between the Self and the Other. To be compassionate now is to be compassionate forever. To show concern now is to show concern forever. To reject time now, is to accept the Other forever.


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