I read St. Augustine a lot. First for class and then just because I like to read St. Augustine. I love the way that religion and philosophy work in harmony in his writings. Lately book XI of Confessions has been on my mind. (Just a side note, the title of the post is not a quote from this book I know, I just find this quote amusing). The ideas covered in this book are things I don;t really like to think about because they get to complex and make me question things that I thought to be transcendent are not. But then when I get thinking about such topics as what is time and what is actually transcendent in this world, I can't stop until I have come up with a satisfactory answer. Of course with philosophy, one seemingly satisfactory answer leads to even more complex questions, so I never win. Nevertheless, here are some of my recent thoughts (really my way of trying to understand what Book XI is saying) on St. Augustine's writings.
When St. Augustine says the present only tends towards non-being is that time may not actually exist. We have divided time in to three different section: past, present and future. The past is no longer, the future is the expectations of what is to come but is not in existence yet, and the present is not measurable because it is in existence only for a moment. That moment can not be measured because there is nothing to compare it to since it is the smallest division on can think of for time. The present lasts for this indivisible moment and then proceeds into the past and we can only recall it through memory, but yet it is no longer in existence. If the present moment is such a short amount of time (which we can’t say it is because time is relative to other things) that it can only be thought of as past of future, it does not exist because these things no longer exist. Or it could be that the moment is such that it can not be measured and the moment there fore is eternal. We can not comprehend the eternal because eternity is without beginning or end, without time. Being only human with only so much brain capacity, we can not fully comprehend a world without time. Either way, the idea of the ‘present’ leans towards non-existence than towards existence.