Pflanzenreich bucheau alismataceae etc by A. Engler

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Augustine’s philosophical reflections on the nature of time are of enduring philosophical interest. In a famous passage in Chapter XIV of the Confessions, he says: ‘What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. ’ When he does try to explain what time is, he finds he produces paradoxes. He argues, for example, that we measure time in many ways; yet, if we think carefully about the nature of time, it does not seem to be anything that can be measured, since past time does not exist once it is past, future time does not exist since it has not yet come, and present time becomes past time as soon as it comes into existence.

And that is what we should expect from an erisitc disputant. If we meet a deep argument, we may rejoice; if we are dazzled by a superficial glitter, we are not bound to search for a nugget of philosophical gold. 4 See also: Parmenides, Plato. Notes 1 Plato, Parmenides, 128b. 2 For an interesting discussion, see ‘Achilles and the Tortoise’, in Gilbert Ryle, Dilemmas, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1954, pp. 36–53. 3 Bertrand Russell, Our Knowledge of the External World, London: Allen and Unwin, 1956, Chapter 6.

The attempt to pursue the consequences of atomism produced deeply interesting questions about perception and knowledge. 2 Thus, what we actually see, according to Democritus, depends on the particular concatenation of atoms in the object and in the seer. There is, in experience, no unvarying knowledge available independently of particular individual dispositions and no knowledge of the fundamental reality of the atoms and the void. Democritus distinguished between what he called ‘obscure knowledge’, obtained by the senses, and ‘genuine knowledge’ which, were it attainable, would be knowledge of atoms and the void.

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