Time as a subject-matter of philosophical reflection in the context of activity approach 

The article deals with the problem of interrelation of time with activity and consciousness of the person. The authors conduct a social and philosophical analysis of the main stages of establishment of philosophical category of time. The results of this analysis allow assuming the idea about conscious coordination of different time rhythms — space, biospheric, social and personal — and to determine perspectives to form new culture of time mastering in society.

Time is mastered in the activity. To master means to acquire something, learn how to use, manage and process. Is the person really able not only to take into account the amount of time and be able to measure time in his activity, but also to manage the time, to use it and even process it? According to V.I.Dal «to master» also means to make common and vernacular. M.Heidegger, paying attention to the relationship to time in the modern world (XX century), calls it «expedient» and «public time» [1; 412]. Does this statement indicate the fact that time became a fully manageable component of our activity long time ago? Is the person so confident in his abilities to manage the time? Isn’t the time rather an obstacle to achieve the objectives in the activity? «Eventually, everything is determined by the time in person’s life: limits of all desires, the basis of all interests, and the source of all goals and the ultimate meaning of his life» [2; 16]. There is a connection of time with human activity and consciousness. It is necessary to explore the essence of this connection to identify the opportunities for better use of time in human activity, in culture of conscious attitude to time.

Everyday life experience of the person, which is confirmed in the studies of experimental psychology, revealed the dependence between man’s attitude to executed activity, its emotional and axiological characteristics and individual perception of the duration of its implementation. This dependence is expressed as follows: the higher the emotional and positive perception of the executed work is, the higher the degree of personal interest in its implementation is, the higher the level of awareness and understanding of the necessity of this work for the person are the less amount of time is consumed in subjective context. And more important, from our point of view, the fact that during the work which generates the interest and which is done with desire we do not monitor the amount of time spent on it, do not regret about time expenses, we enjoy every moment of our activity [3; 144–150].

Thus, in the activity, which is executed by the person as the realization of his own skills and abilities, time is not lost, not «killed», but it is acquired, it becomes a real «space of development» of the person (Marx). In this regard the ideas of G.S.Skovoroda about natural inclination of every person to a particular kind of activity are interesting. This inclination when it is developed and realized can make him really happy. «Non-affined» activity, i.e. the activity that you have no inclination for, which is imposed from the outside circumstances, when you are forced to do it, is a source of human misery [4; 128].

In «affined» activity everything necessary is not difficult (in our interpretation, time-qualitative), but everything difficult is unnecessary (time-quantitative). One of the main obstacles for our society towards the welfare of all its members we believe that the activity of modern man in the system of social relations mostly becomes indifferent, abstract and common labor, where everyone can master any profession, but to find experts in «their» sphere is becoming increasingly difficult. The desire to use the time in its quantitative form at the expense of qualitative and apprehended fullness, «vivification» of its content lead to a reorientation from live process of co-operation, co-participation, co-experience to a faceless final result, to obtain the largest possible number of things for the shortest possible period of time. This is the principle of maximum external efficiency with a minimum of internal dedication, ontological involvement into the activity of society as integrity, solidarity and unity of working people. In such circumstances mastering the time turns into constant delay in time from natural, social and personal processes. It is wasting time in the routine of minor things which are not necessary to do. The dissonance between social regulation of time for activity and individual rhythms of human body turns into an early loss of health in social productivity. The required active participation in the historical time of society, ignoring the level of personal activity, which may still not be established in the mind, turns into social apathy, refusal to comply with the «spirit of time», leaving for the «timeless» reality (maybe we should look for the social roots of various forms of drug addiction here?). Why doesn’t social practice take into consideration the time factor precisely in its awareness? What prevents to use the subjective attitude to time towards executed activity as the defining condition to assign the man that kind of work when he does not grudge his time and does not notice its quantitative aspects? How can we fulfill the necessary social activity taking into account the personal rhythm of life as a health-saving factor?

To answer these questions it is necessary to find out the possibility of a conscious use of the time factor in the activity, which is connected both with the understanding of the nature of activity and the historical forms of man's attitude to time in his activity. The author agrees with V.S.Shvyrev that the «original defining understanding of the activity is connected with the identification of a particular type of relationships to the world, a certain type of being in the world, which is the essence of activity» [5; 10,11]. Every act of activity has the result of our impact on the world, the definition of the world in action. The world appears to us as an object of our action. Thus the acting subject carries out its purpose in this act, which is formed under the influence of life experience, but is not fully determined by the data of experience. «Activity is such a form of actions. It can revise and improve the underlying programs without any given limits from outside» [5; 13]. So the activity of the subject is defined by its ability to find new forms of known activity or to establish new kinds of activity. «To act means to deal with surrounding things or people somehow and certainly according to the plan developed during the consideration. Without consideration there is no action. And, on the contrary, there is no real consideration without proper correlation with the action and deep connection with it» [6; 494]. Constant consideration of our actions in the world, creation of ideal images of possible actions, development of the program of sequence of actions build the basis for the activity of the consciousness to overcome the time which separates our ideas from the implementation. The man, in fact, cannot do a single step in life without visualizing more or less clearly the future, the way he can realize himself in the future. All the questions about what the being of human is, how the person in general can be and what he might be are directed to the time of human existence. «The struggle with time (one-dimensionality, irreversibility) is deposited in the forms of communication. The human is given in the success of this struggle. The scope of his activity is manifested in the mass (the outer man), and the level — in the work of the individual (inner man)» [2; 16]. As a result, time becomes not only the factor of change in the external conditions of human activity, but also the factor in the transformation of inner world of man in the disclosure and realization of his potentials due to a continuing awareness of their necessity. According to the views of J.P.Sartre the man is a conscious being, in that sense that he does not acquire consciousness as a quality, added to his other characteristics, but the emergence of consciousness and the emergence of man it is one and the same act where the person is given together with his consciousness [7; 177]. We can add that such an act cannot be a one-time event in the history of man and mankind, but it requires constant assertion of consciousness in the deeds and actions of man, constant «axial age» to manifest the consciousness. The result of the researches of A.N.Leontiev is: «Human activity composes the substance of his consciousness» [8; 157]. As a result, the whole history is nothing more than an «activity of man pursuing his aims» (Marx).

The fact that the attitude to the time is a specifically human attitude appears during the analysis of the moment when the man is separated from the world of nature. L.S.Vygotskiy points out that, for example, «the life of chimpanzee takes place in a very narrow framework in the sense of past and future. The time in which it lives, in this regard is highly restricted. And all its behavior is almost directly dependent upon the existence of this situation» [9; 219]. In contrast with this direct insertion of animal into the nature, the very objective activity of primitive person, changing the existence of objects of the natural world, assumes a certain attitude to time. Even without thinking about the theoretical concept of time, a person subordinated his actions to a certain order of sequence in time. First ideas about the past, present and future as forms of purposeful man's attitude to the object of his activity were formed in this sequence. The emergence of first temporal mental images in human’s consciousness allowed «to weaken the connection with the present and mentally disconnect from it, to remember the past, deliberately to plan the future and thereby significantly to expand, in comparison with animals, the frames of time perception and use it for his own purposes» [10; 131].

Initially in the process of purposeful activity the primitive man spontaneously comprehended the recurrence of natural phenomena, nonreflexive understanding of the relationship between causes and effects though separated by long intervals. In the course of activity connected with tools production there was some kind  of «domestication» of time. According to K.Jaspers «animal devours and destroys due to instinct; labor produces tools, creates something permanent, products and handiworks. A tool breaks the direct connection between man and nature and it protects him from destruction when he recycles the object» [11; 123].

This skill to influence on the emergence of new states and objects in the world with the help of tools formed human’s concept about his special position in the world. That he is a creature able to hold in his mind the changing reality in the form of constant images. Using these images in his follow-up activity, the man reached such a result when the subject of his impact obtained its own special existence distinct from the existence of natural things. However, the concept of «time» could not appear until the sensory images of time were not supplemented by meaningful ones. For the emergence of the concept of time in its sense and to produce more or less accurate methods of its calculating there was necessary the appearance of some repeated connection of phenomena fixed by the consciousness. Such repeatability, determined by the consciousness, was apparent change of natural rhythms. If a man had not carry out the correct frequency in his activity, noticing and fixing this frequency in nature, he could not have come to the concept of time. Continuously monitored by the human periodic alternation of day and night was an important regulator of the frequency of vital processes of human in change of work and recreation. The beginning of day was a boundary that separated the rest of the work, the beginning of night was a boundary when there were rest and sleep. The main regulator of this natural rhythm was visible movement of the sun across the sky. The change of seasons regulated general nature of labor activity. However, the day being an important unit of time, could not meet as a standard measure of time growing variety of activities. Orientation of activity in time extended so much that they needed more extensive time units. From the countless aggregate of ever-changing phenomena the primitive man had to highlight those recurring phenomena, which played a significant role in his economic activity [12; 154].

Ethnographic researches show the presence in the culture of different nations such variants of time calculating as a period of ripening, the appearance and disappearance of insects, bird migration, flowering and decay of plants. However, such events did not have strict accuracy and turned out unsuitable during a higher level of practical activity. There was a need for more precise and more systematic calculation of time. The basis for such measurements was astronomical observations, where people of ancient civilizations achieved great mastership [13; 39].

Simultaneously there was a fixing of time in ideological representations of myths about the origin of space, society and man. In the texts of myths the time represents initial, early, first time, «prototime», prior to empirical (historical), «profane» time. In mythological times forefathers, demiurges and heroes created current state of the world and patterns of social behavior for the creators of myths. There were various forms of time: sacred time, time of dreams and time of «golden age» of the past [14; 6,7]. Multiple fineness of phenomena of being promoted the formation of multi-variation and incoherent concepts of time from the very beginning. Everyday consciousness of labor activity was supplemented with the mythological explanation of extraordinary, incomprehensible and non-ordinary. The gods had prophetic abilities and the gift to anticipate life situations. Anticipation of primitive man focused on the present, which has practical orientation, is enriched in the mythological time with sensual and visual intuitions of the past and future. Since conceivability of time was not separated from sensual perception, then the time acted as personified substantial beginning and was seen by the majority of peoples as the cause of birth and death, as something that manages the entire universe. We can say that the mythological concept of personified substantial time continues to dominate in modern everyday consciousness. Thus, even in the earliest forms of human activity we can find the need to regulate the practical activity in time through the correction of equal time intervals and the desire to apprehend and evaluate the time.

The origin of the natural science and social science, the emergence of philosophical outlook contributed to the categorical comprehension of time. Conceptualization of time is associated with the categories of formation and development. First contradictions between the objective existence of time and subjective attitude to time were revealed in theoretical analysis. Thus, the objective character of time was connected with its physical characteristics, and the subjectivity of time was expressed in the concept of human soul as a measurement of time. Aristotle was one of the first who proved the inevitability of such a distinction. According to Aristotle, we can only talk about the time when we distinguish different «now», separate them from each other and determine their sequence. Time is the «number of movement» in relation to the previous and subsequent. Time is the «measurement of movement» and the fixing of process of body presence in the state of movement. For the movement «to be in time» it means to be measured by time. However, as time is «the counted number but not the one by means of which we count» so it cannot exist without the one who counts. The ability to count belongs only to the «soul» or «mind of soul», so «the time cannot exist without a soul» [15; 91–97].

But how is it possible to coordinate the ability of each individual soul to calculate the time with unique time of space, which is «everywhere the same» and «everywhere is unique»? But without such harmonization the human activity loses necessary meaning because of its discrepancy with the general plan (logos) of the universe. Therefore, further efforts of West-European thinkers were aimed to find steady basis which allowed considering the time both as an objectively existing and as subjectively experienced.

Medieval philosophical thought declares the main purpose of human efforts to achieve the «kingdom of God». It clearly distinguishes the divine eternity and earth time. The end of time for earthly life contrasted with the eternity of God's existence. On the one hand it resulted in strengthening of the subjectivity of time of the human being, on the other hand, in ignoring the significance of the mundane human activity. Linear perception of time was associated with the idea of its irreversibility, although in the daily activity, typical for the dominant rural life time, the time is represented as circular cycle filled with the content of agricultural works. Historical time becomes linear and finalistic. Time of nature remains cyclic, corresponding to the nature of agricultural labor. For ordinary consciousness the world is represented in the Middle Ages as existing in once and forever given rhythms, established by god, and therefore morally justified and they do not require efforts for their change [16].

In the Renaissance movement of social activity to the city made human life more dynamic. Emerging scientific orientation of public awareness, development of art and culture, entrepreneurship of emerging bourgeoisie identified the need for a higher degree of time reflection. The idea of social and historical changes was put forward. The nature of time is understood as an active and participating in the aspirations of people to new achievements. Thus in the writings of the Italian humanist Alberti the time is assumed as «the most precious thing», if you own it then it means you are a part of all the achievements of culture. However, the feeling of finality and shortness of time generates not doom apathy, but the energy of fighter [17; 57]. Axiological reflection of time became a new stage in the outlook of the person. Not only the faith in future was proclaimed, but also the life optimism in relation to the present increased. Time ceased to be the exclusive prerogative of God, it was included into the objective picture of the world nature, knowledge of history, social and individual human activity.

In the Modern era further development of social production forms the approach to the time as a physical quantity to be accurately measured. There was made the first step towards the concept of absolute time, which exists without regard to whatever events and flows uniformly in any arbitrarily chosen system of reference. Time is separated from the duration of certain processes and is declared as an independent quantity. Thus, it expressed the need to overcome the limitations of the human to conquest previously unattainable things: the speed of movement in space and time. It was the very beginning of the age of industrial revolution, when within a comparatively short period of time mankind gets new tools — machines that allow performing within a minute the work that used to take hours or days. The philosophy of Kant initiated to consolidate theoretically this person's ability to use time as a prior condition to overcome the dependence of our knowledge of things «as themselves», i.e. obeying its own time rules. «So, the time is only a subjective condition of our (human) visual representation (which always exists in sensual form, i.e. because we are affected by the subjects) and it is nothing on its own, outside the subject... It is the transcendental perfection of time, according to which it does not exist, apart from the subjective conditions of sensuous and visual representation...» [18; 59].

An important contribution to the conceptualization of time was added by the philosophical and historical theories, and sociological ideas and achievements of the entire corpus of the natural sciences. The main result of time concept development in the middle of the XIX century should be recognized by the emerging possibility to solve the problem of time by means of scientific analysis oriented on practical time accounting in diverse human activities. Properties of objective time of natural processes, studied by natural science, form the foundation of their predictability. Time of culture and history of social-humanitarian knowledge of society become the conditions to develop public awareness and forecast social and historical processes. Psycho-physical and psychological forms of subjective time of the individual are the origins of the epistemological, artistic and everyday notions of consciousness. But what is the ultimate goal of all of these studies? We think that they expressed the desire of humanity, not only to feel, experience and fix the time, but also to influence it in various ways: «to save» time, «to overtake» time and «to win» time. When the time is not used and is not mastered in activity, it is lost and wasted. In «The fairy-tale about lost time» by E.Schwartz the evil wizards steal the time of children who are late for the lessons, get behind the school curriculum and miss the school. However, the possibility of negligent children to transform into old people becomes a reality not due to evil wizards, but due to the inexorable social demand: «the man who wastes his time does not notice how he gets older». To delay the aging process is possible only through the active efforts of human to master the time in activity.

Marx, analyzing the development trends of productive forces in capitalist society where technological progress reaches unprecedented force, regarded the man as a main productive force of society. The labor in the sphere of material production, according to Marx, is the initial basis and determinant factor in overall development of personality. And one of the most important conditions for a real implementation of the process of overall development of the individual becomes free time. Considering the free time in the light of the categories of freedom and necessity, Marx revealed the dialectical relationship between work and free time, determinacy of the second by the first one. First of all, the intensity of working time determines the quantitative increase of free time. Therefore, the more productive the labor becomes the longer free time is. In turn, the more intensively the free time is used for training, study and common development the more productive the labor is and the shorter the required working time is. Thus, the saving of working time is equivalent to an increase of free time which contributes to the full development of the individual and becomes the greatest productive force itself.

Finally, working time will change its character: shortens its duration, becomes creative and will be based on the individual characteristics of an employee. And when the social regime reaches such a level of development where the development of human personality becomes a goal in itself, then not working but free time will be the criterion to determine the real wealth of society. The development of individuality of employee, his intellectual level and the degree of mastering the latest technologies in production are the measure of public wealth, that is why the rational use of free time is necessary [19; 217].

However, in a society which has failed to create the conditions for rational use of free time by all members, free time, affecting the productivity of labor, on the one hand, leads to an increase in the surplus value that is used only to increase the free time and the development of personal capacities of representatives of the ruling class, on the other hand, helps to reduce the number of employees in production and increases unemployment in the labor market, transforms the workers into the «one-dimensional man» (H.Marcuse).

Admitting the human factor as a determinant condition for social activity, which in the modern world tries to provide everyone more freedom of action, greater efficiency, admitting the increasing intensification of social life, we agree with the need for a new style of time management in society. Why do we need to know various forms of time and the abilities to combine the rhythms of different levels of the being? The objective of society becomes a development of such a culture of time, due to which human activity would act as the organizing principle of multiple time rhythms. Human activity is possible only in social being; the existence of man and his individual subjective time have no total autonomy from the outside world. Therefore, within his transforming activity, the person not only evaluates its temporal aspect, but also realizes his efforts on the development of time. Low culture of time manifests itself in the absence of incentives for the person to create a desired future. Time as a forming beginning of human consciousness determines the attitude towards life plans, assessment of development prospects of individuality in the social system. The result of such assessment emotionally experienced as an optimistic or a pessimistic forecast, which directly determines the activity of a man. The man is able to master time in activities but only if he admits the time as his own good. The responsible attitude to the social time is formed with awareness of compliance of his activities to social and historical time scale. Aspiration of person to the desired future for himself and the desired future for the society match in case when the time becomes the factor of personality self-realization, fundamental goals of his life, but will not be a simple chronology, ordering everyday life.

Ideally, society should provide all its members time for development and self-realization, but in reality each person expresses himself in the way that he is able to open in time much more than the representation of him as a universal and indifferent to human life concrete mechanism. It is necessary to point out the question about human efforts «in social (strange) space... to find his (human) time» [2; 181]. Human consciousness from the early childhood should be filled with time images where the events of the distant history and projected ideals of the future are involved within an independent activity into the sphere of personal needs, interests and believes. «Love for the paternal graves» (A.S.Pushkin) and «Love for the future» (F.Nietzsche) will display a person from the ordinary and determine the existence of man as a creator of culture and history. The «break of time» for the person is time of the closest relationship to the world where a person breaks into the desires and is lost in everyday life. It is also dangerous to human the appliances that accelerate the pace of our activities and require an incredible activity, from which he is unable to recover. Not a single moment of life becomes a self-valuable, being a necessary condition and algorithm for the next moment. The human is requested not only creative, free and responsible decision-making, but the compliance with functional responsibilities in accordance with the faceless «quality standards».

Therefore, our thesis about mastering the time in activity from the standpoint of social and philosophical analysis was divided into several options, each of which needs more careful thought. But the general idea, offered by us, is as follows. The ever-increasing pace of human activity makes us think of a   conscious coordination of different temporal rhythms: space, biosphere, social and personal; of the involvement of individual time experience in large-scale temporal levels as a condition for the development of a conscious attitude of a man to his work. It is necessary to organize your own time to raise the level of social organization in time. To demand from social relationships careful handling with the time of each person from the moment of his birth and early socialization. To achieve in social practice that height of human relations, where without forcing a person to submit to a uniform course of abstract time, we can trust him to spend time as he (human) thinks fit, thus encouraging the creative nature of activity and maintaining a conscious responsibility for performed work.



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Year: 2015
City: Karaganda
Category: Philosophy