The Open Past challenges a view of time that has dominated philosophical thought for the past two centuries. In that view, time originates from a relationship to the future, and the past can be only a fictitious beginning, the necessary phantom of a starting point, a chronological period of "before." This view of the past has permeated the study of the Talmud as well, resulting in the application of modern philosophical categories such as the "thinking subject," subjectivity, and temporality to the thinking displayed in the texts of the Talmud.
The book seeks to reclaim the originary power and authority the past exerts in the Talmud. Central to the task of reclaiming a radical role for the past are medieval notions of the virtual and their contrasting modern appropriations, the thinking subject among them. These serve as both a bridging point and a demarcation between the practices of thinking and remembering displayed in the conversations held by the characters in the Talmud by contrast to other rhetorical or philosophical schools and disciplines of thought.