Augustine, Confessions. Books 9–13

LCL 27: 238-239

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St. Augustine’s Confessions Book XI

surely, we understand it well enough, when wechap. xiv speak of it: we understand it also, when in speaking with another we hear it named. What is time then? If nobody asks me, 1 know: but if I were desirous to explain it to one that should ask me, plainly I know not. Boldly for all this dare I affirm myself to know thus much; that if nothing were passing, there would be no past time: and if nothing were coming, there should be no time to come: and if nothing were, there should now be no present time. Those two times therefore, past and to come, in what sort are they, seeing the past is now no longer, and that to come is not yet? As for the present, should it always be present and never pass into times past, verily it should not be time but eternity. If then time present, to be time, only comes into existence because it passeth into time past; how can we say that also to be, whose cause of being is, that it shall not be: that we cannot, forsooth, affirm that time is, but only because it is tending not to be?

XV

No Time can be said to be long

And yet we say long time, and short time: thoughchap. xv neither do we speak this, but of the time past or to come. A long time past, for example, we call an hundred years since: and a long time to come, an hundred years hence. But a short time past, we call (say) ten days since; and a short time to come, ten days hence. But in what sense is that either long or short, which at all is not? For the past is not now, and the future is not yet. Let us

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DOI: 10.4159/DLCL.augustine-confessions.1912