TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr.
Juni 2010

Sektion 7.2. Zeit, Verlauf und Bestimmung
Sektionsleiter | Section Chair: Arnold Groh (TU Berlin, Deutschland)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

Deutsch | English

Section Report 7.2.

Time, Process, Determination

Arnold Groh (Technische Universität, Berlin) [BIO]



The section targeted at elaborating the aspect of time with regard to processes of knowledge, creativity and transformation of societies from the perspectives of different disciplines.

In his introduction, the chair pointed out that existence is always linked to time. With regard to the categorisation of past, present and future, as formulated by Augustine, the problem of non-existence arises, since the past is not present any more, the future is not present yet, and the present is a point on the timeline without diameter. Whereas, within our scope of action, we can manipulate the position of objects on the axes of space, we are being moved along the time axis with a given speed. This fact, by itself, implies a proof of God in the classical sense. Also, the fact that we can communicate about time on a meta-level, shows that the human mind, in a certain way, is not subject to time.

Since the astrophysicist Erwin Sedlmayr (Technische Universität Berlin, Germany) was not able to attend the conference, his colleague Hans-Eckhart Gumlich kindly gave a presentation on Zeit in der Physik (Time in Physics). The speaker gave an overview of concepts of time in the course of history, from Newton to Einstein and then to Heisenberg. Today, there is agreement in physics that there was a beginning of time, and that time flows unidirectionally. However, physicists cannot explain why time is directed. It became evident that, with regard to the laws of nature, the perspectives of Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics are somewhat close to Theology, with God being the programmer of those laws, of space and time.

Apparently also engaged in stars, Itzik Manger published his final collection of Yiddish poems in 1967, titled “Stern in Stoib“, Star(s) in the Dust. Madeleine Cohen (Hampshire College, USA) gave a lecture on Manger’s Last Songs, showing that the position in time is a central motif in those poems. Though rather surreal in form, they focus on the Shoah in quite a concrete way. At the same time, the volume’s title contrasts to Manger’s first collection of poems, Stern oifn Dach, Star(s) on the Roof, which he had published in 1929. Cohen analysed the functions of the symbols that the author used by means of examples from the poems, and by also referring to Manger’s own theoretical explications and comments.

A different view on texts was cast by Stephanie Kelter (Technische Universität Berlin, Germany) in her presentation on Kognitionspsychologische Befunde zur mentalen Repräsentation von Geschehen (Results of Cognitive Psychology on Mental Representations of Events). The speaker elaborated the cognitve processes that take place when people read texts, in which temporarily coherent events are described. Human distinction of memory and perception leads to a conception of time flowing in one direction. This can be further extended to the anticipation of future events. Mental processes of this kind are essential components of mental simulations of events, thus also of the cognitions related to the planning of actions.

The next presentation also related to time in texts, yet in a different way. While it is already difficult to understand the cognitive processes underlying the use of past perfect, future II, or even their interrelatedness in narrative speech, the functions of non-European languages that work without the pattern of past, present and future seem quite mysterious, at least from a European perspective. Hans-Friedemann Richter (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany), who spoke about Zeit in der althebräischen Sprache (Time in the Ancient Hebrew Language) explained to the audience that and how these functions even work very well, giving some examples from the Bible.

But how do individuals deal with time personally? How much activity do people try to fit into a certain span of time? Apparently, people have different points of view with regard to being short of time or not, and they plan their time in different ways. Likewise, the achievement or non-achievement of a goal is experienced differently from person to person. Florian Klapproth and Yvonne Strack (Technische Universität Berlin, Germany) gave some insight into these problems, when they reported about the “Development of a Personality Questionnaire for Measuring Time Urgency”.

The next presentation dealt with the handling of time as well. Arnold Groh (Technische Universität Berlin, Germany) presented Eine kulturvergleichende Untersuchung der alltäglichen Zeiteinteilung (Comparing Cultures with Regard to Structuring Every-Day Life). Subjects of various cultural backgrounds in South East Asia and in West Africa had been interviewed with regard to their daily routine. The results, on the one hand, reflected different degrees of globalisation. On the other hand, there also were strong differences between indigenous societies, in terms of life quality being much lower in a postcolonial agrarian society than in a hunter-gatherer culture. Whilst in the former, most of the day has to be spent to do hard field work, only a small portion of the day has to be dedicated for subsistence in the latter.

The final presentation by Reinhard Krüger (Universität Stuttgart, Germany), „Unendlichkeit und Kosmos in Spätantike und Mittelalter“ (Infinity and Cosmos in Late Antiquity and Middle Ages) gave a historical retrospect with some impressive evidence of popular misconceptions. According to that, the alleged ideas of former epochs of a flat earth bearing the firmament like a bubble cap are mere inventions of modern times. Already in Antiquity, the Earth’s sphericity, and even the distance from Earth to Sun were known with astounding precision. Also, some of the reputed burning of heretics due to those persons’ rather modern cosmological concepts apparently are just legends.

It was especially the multidisciplinarity of the approaches, which yielded some enrichment to the participants of this section, who became acquainted with perspectives that cannot be taken within one discipline alone. This, altogether, brought about impulses for fruitful exchange.

7.2. Zeit, Verlauf und Bestimmung

Sektionsgruppen | Section Groups | Groupes de sections

 Inhalt | Table of Contents | Contenu  17 Nr.

For quotation purposes:
Arnold Groh: Section report 7.2.: Time, Process, Determination - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW:

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