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Tricks of Time

Bergson, Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur in Search of Time, Self, and Meaning

By Mark S. Muldoon

Publication Year: 2006

If there is a topic that sends chills up the spine of serious philosophers, scientists and poets alike, it is the topic of time. Simone Weil once wrote that time is the most tragic subject human beings can think about. Time is tragic on two counts. First, philosophically, we are unable to conceive of time in its totality. Second, our need to understand time beyond a mere speculation of its nature is driven by the undeniable reality of our mortal lives. It is the bane of human existence to see our lives as finite when contrasted to the age of stars and cosmic realities. This contrast fuels much of our existential angst to question our nature, understand ourselves and search for meaning.

Tricks of Time invites readers into the labyrinthine discussions of time, self and meaning under the auspices of three thinkers: Henri Bergson, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Paul Ricoeur. Dubbed by Mark Muldoon “the masters of disruption,” the work of each philosopher is highlighted to show how each “disrupts” “clock time,” drawing out and reclaiming aspects of our humanity neglected in systems that treat time merely as chronology. Outside of Augustine perhaps, no other set of philosophers in any particular school or epoch has offered us such a diverse and unique series of attempts to respond to the question: “What is time?” While not working in tandem, or even necessarily following one another’s leads, but sharing the same French cultural and philosophical climate, Bergson, Merleau-Ponty and Ricoeur aptly reveal how interrogating the present constantly intercepts any neat and efficient closure to defining the self and meaning.

Following the lead of Ricoeur’s central thesis, that time only becomes human to the extent that it is articulated through a narrative mode, Muldoon identifies unquestionable hints of the link between time and narrative in both Bergson and Merleau-Ponty. While the struggle with language is evident in each of these thinkers, the importance they accord it is striking. Each of their contributions is novel and unique, leading us to take Ricoeur’s claim seriously—namely, that time cannot, ultimately, be thought, it can only be lived and our lives recounted.

Published by: Duquesne University Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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CONTENTS

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pp. vii-viii

ABBREVIATIONS OF WORKS CITED

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pp. ix-xi

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Introduction

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pp. 1-22

Modern academic philosophy has often been criticized for losing its original inspiration in struggling with first order questions that torment and haunt the human spirit, questions about why we exist and how we should live confronted by the brevity of life and its seeming meaninglessness.1 Today, students of philosophy are no longer ...

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One - The Aporias of Temporality

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pp. 23-66

Thinkers of all sorts, from scientists to philosophers, have attempted to give a final account of time. Time has been portrayed in a multiplicity of forms, hypostatized in a thousand metaphors, and described through a plethora of symbols. However, when separated from theogonies, genealogies, and mythologies, the human desire to understand ...

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Two - Bergson and Time as Duration

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pp. 67-118

A review of the history of Western philosophy finds the French philosopher Henri Bergson (1859–1941) a curious anomaly. Almost 60 years after his death, Bergson’s works have yet to be definitively assimilated into one movement or school.1 Their originality and style have prevented them from being eclipsed and forgotten. ...

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Three - Merleau-Ponty and Temporality

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pp. 119-178

Upon close reading, one sees that Bergson’s ideas cast a long shadow over much of Merleau-Ponty’s thinking, even though the latter is understood to have been typically influenced by Husserl.1 Like Bergson, Merleau-Ponty’s thought begins with a critique of science and rationalism. In fact, there is some truth to the argument that ...

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Four - The Historical Presentand Narrative Identity

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pp. 179-227

For Bergson, a specifically human time was differentiated from ordinary time by concentrating on the immediate data of consciousness; his thesis was decisively psychological. By way of intuition, Bergson thought he had discovered a characteristic of human existence (pure duration) that could not be determined by empirical science ...

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Five - Creative Time

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pp. 228-255

This chapter consolidates the tripartite theme of time, self, and meaning by looking for the points of convergence and divergence throughout the thought of Bergson, Merleau-Ponty, and Ricoeur. The aim here is not to work toward a specific model but, rather, to understand how the three themes hold each other together in a ...

Notes

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pp. 256-282

Bibliography

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pp. 283-294

Index

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pp. 295-299


E-ISBN-13: 9780820705590
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820703794
Print-ISBN-10: 0820703796

Page Count: 310
Publication Year: 2006

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Bergson, Henri, 1859-1941.
  • Ricœur, Paul.
  • Self.
  • Meaning (Philosophy).
  • Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, 1908-1961.
  • Time -- Philosophy.
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