Class Time3 December 2015
At a site whose content seems intended to entertain, I read of a teacher who is said to have challenged his or her students to
explain time and to
time. The words
define are treated in the narrative as if referring to the same task, which suggests something about the sort of answer sought. None of the students succeeded in doing what the teacher asked.
While we might perhaps have different conceptions of time, the essential concept of time is not one that we assemble from and with other concepts. Time is fundamental in our experience. Thus, when we seek to define
time, the best that we can do is to find synonyms that might seem to put us into loops. For example, The Oxford Shorter English Dictionary defines
time. But to define a term is to coördinate it with a concept; so either definition actually works just fine as a definition, on the assumption that we have a concept for the complementary term.
Definitions often involve conveying a concept by showing how to assemble it from and with other concepts; that is perhaps what one expects when asked to
explain a concept or a word. But disassemblies that somehow never reached an end would never reach a concept. We must at some stage somehow point to a concept without further use of definition. In the case of time, we have reached a concept that we cannot disassemble; in the case of
time, we have found a word for which we can find only either simple synonyms or assemblies in which its concept lurks undisintegrated, even if unrecognized.