Nine Philosophical Quotes on Time (With References)

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This page contains a collection of philosophical quotes on time, arranged in roughly chronological order. These quotes are all genuine and details about the author, book, chapter number, and translation are included where applicable. Without further ado, here are nine philosophical quotes on time:


See you not that even stones are conquered by time, that high towers fall and rocks moulder away, that shrines and idols of gods are worn out with decay, and that the holy divinity cannot prolong the bounds of fate or struggle against the fixed laws of nature?

– Lucretius, On the Nature of Things, V, trans. H. A. J. Munro


Time is like a river made up of the events which happen, and a violent stream; for as soon as a thing has been seen, it is carried away, and another comes in its place, and this will be carried away too.

– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, IV, 43, trans. George Long


If we conceive of some point of time which cannot be divided into even the minutest parts of moments, that is the only point that can be called present: and that point flees at such lightning speed from being future to being past, that it has no extent of duration at all.

– St. Augustine, Confessions, XI, 15, trans. Francis J. Sheed


If the future and the past exist, I want to know where they are. And if I cannot yet know this, at least I do know that wherever they are, they are there not as future or past, but present. If wherever they are they are future, then in that place they are not yet; if past, then they are there no more. Thus wherever they are and whatever they are, they are only as present. When we relate the past truly, it is not the things themselves that are brought forth from our memory—for these have passed away: but words conceived from the images of the things: for the things stamped their prints upon the mind as they passed through it by way of the senses. Thus for example my boyhood, which no longer exists, is in time past, which no longer exists; but the likeness of my boyhood, when I recall it and talk of it, I look upon in time present, because it is still present in my memory.

– St. Augustine, Confessions, XI, 18, trans. Francis J. Sheed


Where does time come from, and by what way does it pass, and where does it go, while we are measuring it? Where is it from?—obviously from the future. By what way does it pass ?—by the present. Where does it go?—into the past. In other words it passes from that which does not yet exist, by way of that which lacks extension, into that which is no longer.

– St. Augustine, Confessions, XI, 21, trans. Francis J. Sheed


What then is time? If no one asks me, I know; if I want to explain it to a questioner, I do not know.

– St. Augustine, Confessions, XIV, 17, trans. Francis J. Sheed


Time heals griefs and quarrels, for we change and are no longer the same persons.

– Blaise Pascal, Pensées, II, 122, trans. W. F. Trotter


A man finds himself, to his great astonishment, suddenly existing, after thousands and thousands of years of non-existence: he lives for a little while; and then, again, comes an equally long period when he must exist no more. The heart rebels against this, and feels that it cannot be true. The crudest intellect cannot speculate on such a subject without having a presentiment that Time is something ideal in its nature. This ideality of Time and Space is the key to every true system of metaphysics; because it provides for quite another order of things than is to be met with in the domain of nature. This is why Kant is so great.

– Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Vanity of Existence, trans. T. Bailey Saunders


Time is so far from enduring the test of criticism, that at a touch it falls apart and proclaims itself illusory.

– F. H. Bradley, Appearance and Reality, XVIII


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