This collection examines the topic of time in the life and works of Augustine of Hippo. Adopting a global perspective on time as a philosophical and theological problem, the volume includes reflections on the meaning of history, the mortality of human bodies, and the relationship between temporal experience and linguistic expression. As Augustine himself once observed, time is both familiar and surprisingly strange. Everyone’s days are structured by temporal rhythms and routines, from watching the clock to whiling away the hours at work. Few of us, however, take the time to sit down and figure out whether time is real or not, or how it is we are able to hold our past, present, and future thoughts together in a straight line so that we can recite a prayer or sing a song.
Divided into five sections, the essays collected here highlight the ongoing relevance of Augustine’s work even in settings quite distinct from his own era and context. The first three sections, organized around the themes of interpretation, language, and gendered embodiment, engage directly with Augustine’s own writings, from the Confessions to the City of God and beyond. The final two sections, meanwhile, explore the afterlife of the Augustinian approach in conversation with medieval Islamic and Christian thinkers (like Avicenna and Aquinas), as well as a broad range of Buddhist figures (like Dharmakīrti and Vasubandhu).
What binds all of these diverse chapters together is the underlying sense that, regardless of the century or the tradition in which we find ourselves, there is something about the puzzle of temporality that refuses to go away. Time, as Augustine knew, demands our attention. This was true for him in late ancient North Africa. It was also true for Buddhist thinkers in South and East Asia. And it remains just as true for humankind in the twenty-first century, as people around the globe continue to grapple with the reality of time and the challenges of living in a world that always seems to be to be speeding up rather than slowing down.
John Doody is Senior Visiting Professor at Arizona State University. He is a member of the School for Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.
Kim Paffenroth is Professor of Religious Studies and the Director of the Honors Program at Iona College. He has written extensively on Augustine, the Bible, and on the interface between Christian belief and popular culture. In the last category, he produced Gospel of the Living Dead: George Romero’s Visions of Hell on Earth (Baylor, 2006), which won the Bram Stoker Award and led Dr. Paffenroth to write several popular zombie novels. His newest work on Augustine, On King Lear, The Confessions, and Human Experience and Nature, is due out in 2021 from Bloomsbury.
Sean Hannan is an Assistant Professor in the Humanities Department at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His first book, On Time, Change, History, and Conversion, was published by Bloomsbury in 2020. With W. Ezekiel Goggin, he is currently co-authoring Mysticism and Materialism in the Wake of German Idealism (under contract with Routledge).
Part I: Interpreting Augustine On Time
Chapter 1: Time, Eternity, and History in Augustine’s Early Works by Thomas Clemmons
Chapter 2: Keeping Time in Mind: Saint Augustine’s Solution to a Perplexing Problem by Alexander R. Eodice
Chapter 3: Time After Augustine by James Wetzel
Part II: Time, Language, And Song
Chapter 4: Living as Singing: Augustine’s Understanding of the Voice of Creatures in the Confessions by Makiko Sato
Chapter 5: Time, Mirror of the Soul by Cristiane Negreiros Abbud Ayoub
Chapter 6: The Inner Word and the Outer Word: Time, Temporality, and Language in Augustine and Gadamer by Matthew W. Knotts
Part III: Time, Embodiment, And Gender
Chapter 7: Augustinian Temporality and Resurrected Bodies by Paul Ulishney
Chapter 8: Love in the Time of Augustine: Rape, Suicide, and Resurrection in the City of God by Patricia Grosse
Chapter 9: Augustine and the Gendered Self in Time by Megan Loumagne Ulishney
Part IV: Augustinian Temporality in The Middle Ages
Chapter 10: Augustine and Avicenna on the Puzzle of Time Without Time by Celia Hatherly
Chapter 11: The Timing of Creation: Aquinas’s Reception of Augustine by Daniel W. Houck
Chapter 12: Augustine’s Dilemma: Divine Eternity and the Reality of Temporal Passage by Brendan Case
Chapter 13: Thomas Bradwardine: A Fourteenth-Century Augustinian View of Time by Sarah Hogarth Rossiter
Chapter 14: Time After Time: Gregory of Rimini, Contingents Past and Future, and Augustinian Critique by Matthew Vanderpoel
Part V: Augustinian And Buddhist Temporalities
Chapter 15: Non-Presentism in Antiquity: South Asian Buddhist Perspectives by Sonam Kachru
Chapter 16: Breaking the Stream of Consciousness: Momentariness and the Eternal Present by Davey K. Tomlinson
Chapter 17: Out of the Abyss: On Pedagogical Relationality and Time in the Confessions and the Lotus Sutra by Joy Brennan
“In Augustine’s Confessions, the saint famously uncovers time—that most familiar experience—as a rich vein of inquiry. The chapters in this volume mine that vein, showing anew its depth and breadth, through engagement with an unusually broad group of thinkers and themes. Materialist, Buddhist, and Reformation texts refract Augustine’s thought in illuminating new directions, while conventional Augustinian themes like sin, grace, creation, and eschatology are productively reexamined. Above all, these chapters remind us that an investigation of time is, at bedrock, always an investigation of ourselves.”
“Drawing on an array of disciplinary perspectives, Augustine and Time offers a wide-ranging, thought-provoking, and ambitious collection of essays that brings together historical and thematic approaches to examine Augustine's views on time, the Medieval reception history of his views, and possibilities for inter-religious dialogue.”
“This fine essay collection offers something rare. An international team of established and emerging scholars write from multiple perspectives, offer close readings of Augustine, fan out into reception history, and bring different disciplines and religious traditions into conversation. That breadth combines with the depth of focusing upon a single topic (time) while diving especially into one famous text (Book 11 of Confessions). The result is at once a dimensional and fine-grained take on Augustine’s thought. Augustine and Time is a suggestive, absorbing group of essays. “
“It is difficult to think of a more Augustinian problem than that of time and temporality. Whereas in previous generations Augustine was defined by his attention to scripture, selfhood and sinfulness, our current era draws us to his sense of temporality, which comprises all three themes but does so outside of any confessional order or pre-established philosophical hierarchy. The attempt to seize Augustinian temporality in all its many-faceted aspects is what makes this volume on time in Augustine both rich and indispensable.”
"Augustine and Time is about Augustinian temporality - how we live in the face of our finite lifespan, one day or week or month or year after the next, from our hazily remembered infancy through childhood, youth, adulthood, and old age. Augustine's conception of our all-too-human `temporality' is explored not only in Augustine and in the world of his time, but brought into dialogue with other ages and other traditions in a way that shows its power and flexibility. It's a fascinating idea for a book, and it is carried out with flying colors. It will change the way you think about this enterprise of living that we all are engaged in."
“Augustine was famously perplexed by time: as the condition of our very existence, perhaps nothing is more familiar to us; as the encompassing horizon of our finitude, perhaps nothing in the created order is more difficult to think. Readers who share Augustine’s perplexity will find in this admirable collection not an easy answer to a difficult question (‘Who can explain time easily and briefly?’ asks Augustine), but rather a deepening of perplexity into wonder. Hannan, Paffenroth, and Doody have done us a great service by gathering here such varied meditations on the common theme of time. The result is a rich invitation to think time anew: from within and without Christianity; in Augustine’s historical context and in the received tradition; in light of more contemporary philosophical theories of time; in relationship to language and to melody; and as embodied both now and in the hereafter (the ‘time after time’). Augustine’s spiritual genius consists in his willingness to tarry with mystery until perplexity blossoms into praise. This volume is an invitation to journey into time with Augustine, and to find wonder redoubled along the way.”