Philosophy Day Intrigues Students During International Day

“The sickle of Cronus is always swinging,” said Dr. David  Kilpatrick as his time ran out.

The world had come together once again for Mercy Colleges International week. For a whole week, the Center for Global Engagement and  Office of International Students puts on a series of events designed help students become more aware of the world around them.

Each day held a different event, and Nov. 16 was no exception. Nov. 16 was “Philosophy Day,” a day dedicated to exploring the human condition.

To celebrate this philosophical day, the school decided to hold a lecture about the one topic that impacts every member of society’s time.

Time, the measurement of existence, is a large topic that has been covered by the dozens of philosophers across hundreds of years. To cover this long period of time, four different speakers were in attendance to discuss the topic.

The first one was Jose Luis Fernandez, a Ph.D. candidate and adjunct instructor for the college. He actively handed out copies of his speech to the people in attendance. He opened the conversation by making time fundamentally more complicated.

“Let us now note how Augustine follows Aristotle’s philosophical method of drawing distinctions in order to complicate what seems like our commonplace opinions (endocarp) about time.”

He stated that there are three different distinctions of time: the ontological, the epistemological and the linguistic.

“Perhaps the most strikingly, the slippery task of conveying through linguistic expression one’s knowledge of what time is to another human being, for example, the intersubjective ability to communicate time itself.”

Jose quoted Aristotle and St. Augustine, flipping through their books and taking every passage he could in order to convey the multiple perspectives on time. No one denied the scientific part of time. It was what lay beyond it: the philosophical perspective.

“For Schopenhauer, time, whether cast as past, present or future presents itself as nothing but the remnants and anticipations of successive destruction.”

Some people believed that time was nothing but suffering. Some felt that time could never be explained through words. The different types of opinions were many, and they all spanned the globe. Schopenhauer was a German philosopher, Aristotle was from Greece, and St. Augustine believed in North African theologies.

International week is supposed to bring the world to the college and to let the commuter college community see the world in a way never looked at before.

After Fernandez, Kilpatrick, an English professor at Mercy since 1998, took over and discussed his views on the subject. Like Fernandez, Kilpatrick quoted many writers and philosophers of the times while also throwing in his own beliefs.

“Since I expect to be late to my own funeral, I might not be the best suited to address this topic,” said Kilpatrick in his introduction.

Instead of focusing on the types of time, however, Kilpatrick decided to talk about how infinite time can be. His best example was when he reminisced about his youth while watching sports.

“When I was a kid, the countdown clock was a second, now, it’s a tenth of a second. The more fine we try to look at time, the more infinite it becomes.”

Everyone wants either more time or more efficiency with their time. This is why clocks are able to track smaller and normally obscure measurements of time; it shows the desires of the consumer to have control over time.

What was even more interesting, however, was that according to Kilpatrick, time doesn’t always move in a linear way for some people. It can loop in a circular fashion, causing people to repeat themselves and history over and over again. This was the one aspect of time that Kilpatrick feared since nothing seemed worse to him than being stuck in never-ending repetition. Despite this, he still finished his speech with the standard “make every second count” line of thinking.

“Make it all worth it, whether it moves forward or in a circle. Either way, the sickle of Cronus swings either way.”

Dr. Josef Mendoza, a historian and philosophy professor uses his lenses to look at time through a more linear process.

“There are two types of theories on time. The A theory of time is a floating movement. The B theory is the anthological form of time. I’m a historian so I like to look through theory B.”

For Mendoza, context and conditions are mandatory when looking at anything from the past. Furthermore, Mendoza also believed in quoting history and putting in whatever historical examples he could find. He closed his speech with an answer to why it’s important to think about the future.

“It’s about thinking about the future as the present.”

The final speaker was Dr. Boria Sax, a professor at Mercy College as well as an active author of books that link the nature of human beings with those of animals. As in his literature, Sax linked the way people viewed time to the dinosaurs and the idea of “deep time.”

“As you go farther back, the old ways of looking at time don’t work.”

To illustrate this point, Sax showed a picture of a mini-golf course which has a windmill, pyramid, and a T-Rex.

“Dinosaurs didn’t exist in an old version of time. We had to discover them first and then a place had to be found for them.”

According to Sax, our view of time has been evolving over the years from what it was before. Before, it was humans at the center and everything else came later, but now humanity takes a much smaller role in the time stream. That is the general idea of deep time, a time before humans. This idea can be troubling to some people.

“In 1991, a survey was taken to see how many people thought dinosaurs once lived among humans. In the end, 41 percent of people believed we lived at the same time as T-Rex’s even though data stated otherwise. This shows the trouble we have with dealing with ‘deep time’.”

Toward the end of his lecture, Sax was asked by one of the faculty what he thought about the fact that birds are considered the ancestors of dinosaurs, to which Sax brought it back to people’s fears of time.

“The dinosaurs once ruled the earth, and then they were wiped out. Now we rule the earth, and the idea of us being wiped out is traumatizing. So if there is some way for us to continue, that would be enough to give some people peace of mind. So, people look for ways that dinosaurs could have cheated extinction by pointing out things like “they’re related to birds” as a way of hoping that one day we could take that same route should we face the end.”