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12-08-2009, 04:58 PM   #1
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on Clocks...

from Niel Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death:

....each medium, like language itself, makes possible a unique mode of discourse by providing a new orientation for thought...

.... What is peculiar about such interpositions of media is that their role in directing what we will see or know is so rarely noticed. A person who reads a book or who watches television or who glances at his watch is not usually interested in how his mind is organized and controlled by these events, still less in what idea of the world is suggest by a book, television or a watch. But there are men and women who have noticed these things, especially in our own times. Lewis Mumford, for example, has been one of our great noticers. He is not the sort of a man who looks at a clock merely to see what time it is. Not that he lacks interest in the content of clocks, which is of concern to everyone from moment to moment, but he is far more interested in how a clock created the idea of "moment to moment." He attends to the philosophy of the clock, to clocks as metaphor, about which our edcuation has had little to say and clock makers nothing at all. "The clock," Mumford has concluded, "is a piece of power machinery whos 'product' is seconds and minutes." In manufacturing such a product, the clock has the effect of disassociating time from human events and thus nourishes the belief in an independent world of mathematically measurable sequences. Moment to moment, it turns out, is not God's conception, or nature's. It is man conversing with himself about and through a piece of machinery he created.

In Mumford's great book Technics and Civilazation, he shows how, beginning in the fourteenth century, the clock made us into time-keepers, and then time-savers, and now time-servers.

In the process, we have learned irreverence toward the sun and the seasons, for in a world made up of seconds and minutes, the authority of nature is superseded. Indeed, as Mumford points out, with the investion of the clock, Eternity ceased to serve as the measure and focus of human events. And thus, though few would have imagined the connection, the inexorable ticking of the clock may have had more to do with the weakenin of God's supremacy than all the treatises produced by the philosophers of the Enlightenment; that is to say, the clock introduced a new form of conversation between man and god, in which God appears to have been the loser. Perhaps Moses should have included another Commandment: Thou shalt not make mechanical representations of time.



12-08-2009, 06:43 PM   #2
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Nice paragraph. A lot of things to be said... There's some truth to that. Still, a clock is not a representation of time, not does it do 'actively' represent time. It measures time--but it's true, I think, that that measure conceals the nature of time, which isn't primarily objectified and measurable. It's first of all psychological and inter-subjective, related to the individuals' stress in completing the tasks of existence, addressing needs, etc. 'Objective' time, or the need for an objective measure, arises from the inter-subjective transactions aimed at the satisfaction of needs. Yet time is not objective per se... (There is a sphere of experience that's beyond existential transactions, needs, wishes, beliefs, values--beyond stress; hence, beyondtime. In religious terms, it's called something lie 'paradise'.) But 'objective' time isn't simply an invention, or the 'product' of the clock. Rather, the clock--the most primitive, solar one--is the result of the need to measure time under the stress of existential need. (So to speak, 'clockness' is the measurability of time.) Initially, clocks were solar, because human needs were largely related to the solar cycle. The precision our watches are capable of today is directly proportional to the needs, stress and craziness of our lives. (Although the luxury of living by the sun is in principle within reach.) Too long a comment--sorry.

Last edited by causey; 12-09-2009 at 01:01 PM.
12-08-2009, 07:17 PM   #3
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as of late i have been trying (on purpose?) to not rely on a watch.. the batteries in my wrist watch have long died, and teh bios battery in my mobo is dead too so my comptuer never quite knows what time it is...

its quite liberating actually... just kind of go with the flow.

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