By Preston King (editor)
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Extra resources for The History of Ideas: An Introduction to Method
We may instance a second, minute, hour, day, week, fortnight, month, year, decade, century, etc. as purely temporal or chronological sequences. But whereas seconds, minutes, weeks, fortnights, decades, centuries etc. have not much to be said for them, except as perfectly abstract chronological markers, the same is not quite true for the day, the month and the year — the day roughly correlating with the turning of the earth upon its axis, the month with the waxing of the moon, and the year with the earth's circuit round the sun.
I think it worthwhile none the less to risk the falseness in the tidy by plumping for a commonsensical circadian cycle, consistent with the keeping of diaries, to represent for most purposes the lower limit of p . We may say, correctly enough, that we commonly attribute to our concept of a present some body or duration, and thus conventionally allow ourselves to dilate upon this 'present' as 'history'. But having said as much, it must be clearly understood that the 'simultaneity' involved is of a kind which still in no way excludes sequence: the record, fashioned at a later time, has always as its object some activity located earlier in time.
Now, then whatever transpired or was recounted earlier in this paragraph, in this essay, in this day (and so on), is already past, is already final, is already history, including the 'now' last cited, together with the 'present' allusion to it (as soon at least as we move to consider the present parenthetical clause). One may write a history, at least some part of a history, in the instantaneous present, but it is impossible simultaneously to write a history of it. Theoretically, the history of an instant might be written.