Present, The

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In common usage taken in its secondary sense to mean an interval of time coextensive with this minute, this hour, or today. Purged of its crudities, the so-called specious present roughly corresponds to the minimal present immediately perceivable. The present as presented event is central in the making of the triadic continuum of past-present-future. In its primary sense, present signifies the punctiform now, distinguishing and linking past and future segments on the time-line. This existential present limits past and future; beyond it lies no part of the past, within it nothing of the future. As a divisor, the present must be indivisible. Were it a divisible common term, one of its parts would include something of the past, another something of the future. Without a divisor that cannot be divided, past and future would interfuse in an irrational mèlange. The existential present both divides and continues the parts of time. It is formally divisive because from the now, precisely as other, emanates actual otherness, the distinction of part from part in time. It is materially continuative, so far as the perduring identity of the now bears no essential reference to the plurality and diversity that are the properties of time.

See Also: instant; eternity.

[j. m. quinn]