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In
Apology, the Socratic dialogue, Plato
refers to Socrates as stating: ‘that what I do not know I do not think I know either’
(Plato, 1966, 21d), accepting that he cannot be certain of that he is uncertain
of, and that he can only be sure of uncertainty. Plato is arguing against
determinism, the philosophical school of thought that all events are caused by
antecedent actions. On ideas of chance and indeterminism,
Aristotle agrees: ‘Nor is there any definite
cause for an accident, but only chance, namely an indefinite cause’ (Aristotle,
1933, 1025a), disagreeing with the idea that every event is the sum of past
occurrences, and expressing that chance is also a factor in how events arise.

The richness of
time allows us to understand this uncertainty: it is so intricate and complex
that it is immeasurable. This is demonstrated by artist Roni Horn’s works, ‘Still Water (The River Thames, for Example)’,
(1999), and her following book, ‘Another
Water’, (2000), both of which are a photographic series of the river Thames and
expansively footnoted. This richness is recognised
and described by philosopher Henri Bergson’s theory of duration, a school of
thought that assists us in understanding there is immeasurability that results
in uncertainty.

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A reason for the
immeasurability of time is due to it being in a constant state of flux. Horn’ works contribute to
understanding pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus’ comparison of everything in
existence to the flowing of a river. Quantum theory allows to understand why
this constant state of flux results in probability rather than certainty, and
artist Giuseppe Penone’s, ‘It Will Continue to Grow Except at That Point’
(1968), recognises that everything is in a constant state of change and that
even if an entity seem stable, it is actually in the process of transformation
from one moment to the next.

This brings us to another reason for the immeasurability
of time: the inability to unitise it. Returning to Horn’s footnotes, with the
addition and Samuel Beckett’s short story ‘Ping’ (1967), we witness a
demonstration of this non-separation. Wolfgang Iser explains this merging in
‘The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic’ and so does Jean-Jacques Lecercle
in his ‘Interpretation as Pragmatics’.

This immeasurability results in uncertainty. Time is a
qualitative multiplicity rather than a quantitative multiplicity; therefore, by
attempting to quantify something that is qualitative, we lose information and
cannot achieve the same certainty within it that we have in mathematics. Robin
Durie’s ‘Time and the Instant’ (2000) explores the inescapable inaccuracies of
our measurements of time, and the reasons for this inevitability. Giles Deleuze
and Felix Guattari’s concept of ‘the smooth and the striated’ deepens our
understanding of this by reasoning that we cannot achieve accuracy by
quantifying the qualitative, in other words, we cannot achieve accuracy by
attempting to scientifically measure time, because it is best understood
holistically. Artist Hanne Darboven’s
works accept this inability to scientifically measure time, and embraces
representing time through chaotic instructions and symbols. Philosopher Alain Badiou’s ‘set theory’ explains
why this inability to exactly and accurately striate the smooth equals in our
incapability of achieving the same certainty in time that we have in
mathematics.

Time is so mobile, transformative and rich that it becomes
impossible for mathematics or science to accurately measure. This inaccurate
measurement results in the inability to achieve the same certainty that we have
within mathematics, thus evidencing the validity of indeterminism. 

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