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Social Philosophy

Social Time In The Life Of A Man And Society

Alexandr V.Maslikhin
Mariysk University

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ABSTRACT: The subject of this paper is social time-the peculiarities of the Past-Present-Future in social processes, and their unbreakable connection. I also focus on the necessity of taking stock of time in human activities and in the societal development. The Past in progress of society signifies the Already-happened which has become the possession of history. This Past exerts an enormous influence on the Present, determining it both directionally and functionally. The Present includes the Present itself, a part of the Past, and some elements of the Future. It represents the only reality for human beings as life is lived in the Present only. The Present creates the material and spiritual preconditions for the Future. Resolution of contemporary global problems is crucial for our Future which runs sequentially in three stages: immediate Future, visible Future and distant Future. All three exert influence on the Present by providing ideological and informational images. Time disciplines our minds and wills, organizes our actions and promotes our cognitions of the Past, the Present and the Future.

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All the scientific philosophical systems, worked out in the history of mankind, have a big methodological and educational meaning. Separate categories, like social time, having attributive qualities are not an exception.

Everyone: a scientist, a politician, an ordinary person, the whole mankind can't help taking into account the factor of time in their life and activities. We can say that they need it like the air to breath.

That is why time was investigated in the theoretical systematized form by well-known philosophers and scientists of the past centuries - Aristotle, Augustine, Kant, Newton, Hegel, Marx, and ones of the Modern Age - Einstein, Russell, Heiddeger, Spirkin, etc.

Each of them contributed to the understanding of time and its qualities. The most important issues of the past can be summarized in the following statements. Time is an attribute of the matter, its integral quality; time is indissolubly connected with space and motion; there is no "absolute" time in the material world. Time in the form of category, being abstract, can exist only in the theory and be used in scientific purposes. Time has important qualities: objectivity, that is it exists as the matter irrespective of our will and consciousness; it is characterized by the eternity of its duration - it has neither begging nor end; and it is contradictory. The latter means: from the one hand, time is eternal, on the other hand, all objects and processes exist for a certain time and have an end. So, certain temporal duration of a separate object of the eternal world is a measure of their existence. It is very important to mind the division of time: a) macro time - micro time - mega time; b) duration and moment; c) simultaneity and sequence; d) physical, biological, social, historical and psychological.

Curious cases are known about time in the history of Philosophy. They became paradoxes. For example, one of them says that time does not exist in the objective reality: the past already does not exist, the future does not exist yet, and the present is only a moment deprived of duration. There is a notion of "insidious" time in the everyday life. This "insidious" time counts off years of human life and makes non-existence closer.

We also consider those opinions to be wrong that say that time appeared at the moment of the world creation, that it exists in the human soul (he remembers the past, waits for the future, contemplates the present). These illusions do not have scientific basis, as time is a quality of a person himself, whose life duration depends on many inner and outer factors.

The subject of our research is social time, and, to be more specific, peculiarities of the past - the present - the future in social processes, their connections with each other and the necessity to take into account their role in human activities.

It is necessary to point first of all the most common quality of social time. If time in general is an attribute of the matter - of the whole objective reality that exists irrespective of consciousness and will of people, then social time is an attribute only of the socially organized matter - of the society where people live and act having different demands, interests, ideals, certain goals that they are eager to achieve.

Social time in reality is structurally connected with society, its processes; with concrete communities - peoples, nations, family, etc.; with every person. It is a measure of inconstancy, of the duration of social processes, of historical transformations in people's life.

The main phases of social time are the past - the present - the future that have their peculiarities and regularities.

The past in the evolution of the mankind means what has already happened, has changed, has become history.

The problem appears in this connection: whether it is possible to consider "the past" and "the history" to be synonymous? It is possible to say both "yes" and "no". The matter is that there is objective history and there is History as a science. The latter does not mean a real life of people and society but knowledge about this life. In our opinion, "the past" coincides with the objective history. History as a science pays attention mainly on the most important events (wars, revolutions, etc.) that influence many people. It studies the sequence of events connected with each other at least in the relation of the cause and the consequence. The real past embraces all the events, both "important" and "unimportant"; not only wars and revolutions but also family life, tools, the way of life, peculiarities of people's psychology, different beliefs, etc. irrespective of the connection between them.

Studying the past is also important in the aspect that it helps us to learn the sequence of appearing of its temporal phases: past - present - future. "Present time" was historically the first measure of time because it was the most tangible reality that a person "met" every moment, every day that is constantly. Then notion of "past time" appears and much later - the notion of "future time".

While studying the past we also learn the source of time formation. The immediate source of its formation was everyday based on the perspective sensitive perception of a constant change of events. It also reflected natural phenomena (day turns into night, winter turns into summer) and processes in the human organism (thirst is followed by it being quenched, work is followed by rest, etc). But the main condition of time cognition was the moment of a practical action of a person or his speech communication with other people.

A practical calculation of time was already very important for people in the past centuries. For example, irrigation works in the Ancient Egypt demanded to take into account the time of flood of rivers, etc.

Present time is not a moment, not a zero space; it takes not a small duration in social processes. Present time is a tangible reality, and a person lives only in the present. We can illustrate the peculiarity of present time taking human life as an example. Present time for a person is the main time; it is real and objective for him. It presses on him with real troubles and problems. Present time for a person is all life phases of his development: childhood, youth, maturity and old age. Each of them has its own positive and negative moments, its own peculiarities; a person should go through all of them in ideal. Besides, the most important, existence problems take place in the person's life at present time. Here we mean such problems as life itself, its sense, freedom, happiness, and non-existence as a notion where the life loses its sense.

The most important thing for the whole mankind now is a solution of global problems: a threat of nuclear war; ecological situation; problems of population and of countries of the Third World; crises of the mankind itself. For example, if a nuclear war breaks out the whole mankind will die and there will be no one to solve global problems and there will be no sense for it. There will be no problems and no social future.

Present time structurally is a complex phase of social time. Its complication is explained by the fact that it includes the present itself, a part of the past and some elements of the future.

There is a complicated dialectical connection between the past - the present - the future.

Realization of the present is possible through its opposition to the past and the future only. And at the same time, the past and the future for a person are known only through the present when they become the present that is on his mind at the present moment.

What is a correlation of the present and the past? Philosophers have different approaches to this problem. Most of them consider the border between the past and the present to be conditional; that the past and the present penetrate into each other: the present becomes the past and the past takes place in the present and influences it. But there are some discourteous opinions put forward while studying the dialectics of the past - the present: "the present becomes the past every second". It means the absence of "present time" as applied to the society, social time. It is necessary not to forget that duration of present time is measured not by seconds, minutes but by years, decades, and even centuries. Time called "present" is necessary for the convenience - for scientific, social needs of people. (For example, there are ideal forms in Mathematics like a dot, a straight line, a circle, etc. that do not exist in reality but are required in science).

What is a connection between the past and the present? What passes from the past to the present?

Practice, philosophy and science testify to the fact that existence and development of the modern society are only possible on the basis of achievements of the society of the past - in the engineering, science, art, etc.

Person's deeds of the past pass to the present through his material and spiritual activities:

of engineers, builders - through machines, instruments, built palaces, churches, theaters;

of scientists - through discoveries;

of philosophers (Kant, Hegel, Marx) - through classical original systems set up by them;

of writers - through their creations and works, etc.

Even the myths of the past "exist" in the present; they are studied, interpreted from the modern point of view. For example, how many thoughts are arisen by "Myth About Sisyphus" - the useless labor of people revealed in destructive wars where material and spiritual values created by millions of people are perished. (Not only labor but also the consciousness of people is depreciated in wars). So, everything useful, valuable passes from the past to the present. And in this way the past greatly influences the progress of the modern society.

It is a difficult and not solved problem what moment should be considered the beginning of present time.

The beginning of present time for a concrete person is his birth; this is the moment where he begins his life. We think that the question about the beginning of present time for a concrete nation is also solved; it begins from the big historic events that cause great changes in social life - revolutions, etc. It is more difficult to distinguish the beginning of present time for the whole society. There are different points of view on this problem. For example, October Revolution in 1917 was considered to be such a beginning in our country till recent time as it influenced the whole world, the whole mankind (the new social system appeared on the 1/6 of land - socialism; appeared socialist commonwealth of states; social and national oppression, hunger and unemployment were abolished; fraternal relations were established among more than 100 nations).

A famous English historian and sociologist A. Toinby thought that the beginning of the modern era was struggle of the Americans for independence and establishing of the USA (the end of the XVIII century). In his opinion, those events influenced all the most important social political events in the world: European revolutions of the XVIII-XIX centuries and even Russian revolutions. The XX century is considered to be the most practically used "present time" for the modern mankind. It is said in the social science and practice: "The XX century is a century of wars, revolutions, scientific and technological progress".

Future time is more complicated and more difficult for understanding. There is no future society in our time but separate elements of it. But practice, material and spiritual demands show the necessity of its cognition and prevision. Besides, 2 main events of the modern age - scientific technological revolution and global problems - underline the importance of this problem.

Social theory says that future time passes consecutively three big phases: immediate future (the end of the XX century - 2025-2030), foreseeable future (the rest of the XXI century), distant future (after the XXI century). Knowledge of the future becomes less concrete and more general while getting further from the present. This growing uncertainty in foreseeing of the future is connected with the nature of social progress: 1) social progress has alternatives and many variants; 2) it is impossible to predict all the chances; 3) concrete social phenomena have different duration.

From the point of view of more exactness, the mankind is more interested in the immediate future. Even now scientists and politicians along with philosophers make long-term programs: ecological, demographic, food, science development, etc. For example, demographers say that there will be 6 billion of people on Earth in 2000, and 10 billions - by the 30s of the XXI century. More than 80% of the population will live in Africa, Latin America and South East Asia in the beginning of the XXI century. As it is known the UN has The Conception of Stable Development for the nearest future; the basis for it is a theory of "co-evolution" - close development of society and nature and solution of ecological, political and demographic problems.

The present and the future are mutually connected in the development of the mankind: there is no future without the present, which is the basis and the source of the former. A lot of things that appear in the future exist in the present as a beginning, a tendency, an objective law; a theory about the future and ways of its development; a goal, an ideal, a plan. And the main thing is there is a basis of the future in present time: material production and a person. No future is possible without them.

At the same time, the future, which does not exist as a whole in the present, influences it through ideological, informational forms of the future. We can take as an example theories of the future society; there exist a lot of them. Marxism has a theory about the future socialist, communist society that was considered to be the most just society on Earth; the followers of the capitalism say that the best way of the society development is the Western civilization like the USA (Huntington); the theory of convergence (Aaron) says that the future society should take everything positive from both capitalistic and socialistic systems to have no drawbacks; the theory of "collotechnodemocracy" supposes to join collectivism, technics and democracy. There is the post-industrial theory (Bell) considering the future society to be more developed in comparison to the industrial one. Theories of the future society are ideal spiritual phenomena but not a real, objectively existing society. But the future existing in ideal theories influences the modern life: different parties appear that follow different theories about the future of the society and the ways of its development; there is ideological and political struggle between them that might lead to serious conflicts, revolutions ending in new social systems, democratic regimes, etc.

The time factor is very important in the life of people and the development of the society.

The necessity to take into account the time factor is demanded by natural cycles: day - night, caused by the rotation of Earth around its axis; winter - spring - summer - autumn determined by the rotation of earth around Sun. All this is taken into account in agricultural societies, agriculture and in many other spheres of human activity. But natural cycles (space factors) according to the Russian scientist A.L. Chizhevsky influence the development of the society and life of people. For example, the rhythm of the solar activity influences the dynamics of epidemics, harvests, social events (revolutions, wars, etc.). The powerful influence of Sun on the mankind is periodic (in about 10-12 years). Russian history confirms this: 1905, 1917, 1929, 1941 - those were the main evens in the life of Russia: revolutions, wars.

The theory and practice of Medicine take into account rhythms in the human organism: time of active work of certain organs and systems and time of their "rest".

Time has an important role in Philosophy itself. One of the most important principles of the dialectics is based on time - the principle of historical method. This principle in its social interpretation is important not only because it binds three times of human existence - past- present - future, but also because it shows past and future time in the present. Purposeful social historic practice and cognitive activity of people are impossible without it.

In the upshot, we want to underline the following. Time is such a category that has an educational function. It disciplines mind and will of a person, mobilizes him for activities, helps in cognition of the past, makes him appreciate the present and foresee the future. And a person should take into account time and appreciate it in everything he does.

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