Elemental Times

 In his novel Vendredi ou Les limbes du Pacifique, Michel Tournier opposes the time of the Earth which can be measured, numbered and which accumulates, and the time of the Sun, which does not pass in the same way. The time of the Earth, as Tournier describes it, is the kind of time, which, in Max Weber’s essay, The Spirit of Capitalism and Protestant Ethic, it is a sin to waste, a view that Weber considers as being at the origin of capitalism. But there would different ways to describe both the time of the Earth and the time of the Sun. After all, time was first measured with the help of a sundial.

In the same way, in La poétique de la rêverie, Gaston Bachelard refers to water, as an “element”, to describe the “dreamer’s cogito”, a state of being that, precisely, is not a cogito in Descartes’ sense and in which there is no time. But water, the river in which we only bath once, can also be the image of time. In his book L’eau et les rêves, Bachelard himself investigates this image and this view of water.

These examples raise several questions. Why do we refer to elements, water, earth, fire or, at least, the Sun, when we want to describe these unusual times, times that would not pass as the time of the clock? Why do these elements support such various views of time? To try and answer these questions, I will discuss Bachelard’s analysis of “elements”, and the role they may be given in an imaginary metaphysics.

Communication at the SLSA Conference, Atlanta, November 2016th

Les limites imaginaires du monde de la raison

Quatre conférences au CUF Saint Petersbourg 9-18 février 2016


La plage du Moulleau                                     (Jean-Paul Alaux, 1909)


Conférences I et II. Introduction. Descartes, ou comment le rationalisme prend l’eau

Conférence III. Le bord de mer

Conférence IV. Le cas Gödel