When our faith in grand narratives erodes as our lives become increasingly hectic, time itself loses its direction and meaning.
Anders Dunker
Dunker is a Norwegian philosopher, and regular contributor.
Published date: May 22, 2018

The Scent of Time: A Philosophical Essay on the Art of Lingering
Author: Byung-Chul Han
Polity Press, UK, 2017

The South Korean, German-based cultural theorist Byung-Chul Han has gained renown for a series of short, philosophical books. Each one is intended as an intervention in the conditions of contemporary society, where the tendencies of our time are examined against a philosophical backdrop. In The Scent of Time the topic for scrutiny is time itself. How does the experience of time affect us as human beings and as political beings? Han anchors the discussion in the philosophy of modern thinkers like Nietzsche, Heidegger and Arendt, while also consulting postmodern thinkers like Lyotard and Baudrillard. This way the problem of our perception of time is connected to the question of grand narratives and historical myths.

Faster and faster

Time, in our traditional conception, is like a river: It floats onwards and carries us on a long journey where the life of the individual moves together with the collectives of culture. We humans alternately drift and navigate from the past towards the future. This perception of time is about to be unsettled: We are getting busier so that time squeezes us – it seems to push us from behind without opening up ahead of us.

«The problem of our perception of time is connected to the question of grand narratives and historical myths.»

However, the problem goes deeper than the qualms of everyday psychology. Historically things are obviously …

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