InApology, the Socratic dialogue, Platorefers 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 uncertainof, and that he can only be sure of uncertainty. Plato is arguing againstdeterminism, the philosophical school of thought that all events are caused byantecedent actions.
On ideas of chance and indeterminism,Aristotle agrees: ‘Nor is there any definitecause for an accident, but only chance, namely an indefinite cause’ (Aristotle,1933, 1025a), disagreeing with the idea that every event is the sum of pastoccurrences, and expressing that chance is also a factor in how events arise. The richness oftime allows us to understand this uncertainty: it is so intricate and complexthat it is immeasurable. This is demonstrated by artist Roni Horn’s works, ‘Still Water (The River Thames, for Example)’,(1999), and her following book, ‘AnotherWater’, (2000), both of which are a photographic series of the river Thames andexpansively footnoted. This richness is recognisedand described by philosopher Henri Bergson’s theory of duration, a school ofthought that assists us in understanding there is immeasurability that resultsin uncertainty.
A reason for theimmeasurability of time is due to it being in a constant state of flux. Horn’ works contribute tounderstanding pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus’ comparison of everything inexistence to the flowing of a river. Quantum theory allows to understand whythis constant state of flux results in probability rather than certainty, andartist Giuseppe Penone’s, ‘It Will Continue to Grow Except at That Point'(1968), recognises that everything is in a constant state of change and thateven if an entity seem stable, it is actually in the process of transformationfrom one moment to the next. This brings us to another reason for the immeasurabilityof time: the inability to unitise it.
Returning to Horn’s footnotes, with theaddition and Samuel Beckett’s short story ‘Ping’ (1967), we witness ademonstration of this non-separation. Wolfgang Iser explains this merging in’The Act of Reading: A Theory of Aesthetic’ and so does Jean-Jacques Lecerclein his ‘Interpretation as Pragmatics’. This immeasurability results in uncertainty.
Time is aqualitative multiplicity rather than a quantitative multiplicity; therefore, byattempting to quantify something that is qualitative, we lose information andcannot achieve the same certainty within it that we have in mathematics. RobinDurie’s ‘Time and the Instant’ (2000) explores the inescapable inaccuracies ofour measurements of time, and the reasons for this inevitability. Giles Deleuzeand Felix Guattari’s concept of ‘the smooth and the striated’ deepens ourunderstanding of this by reasoning that we cannot achieve accuracy byquantifying the qualitative, in other words, we cannot achieve accuracy byattempting to scientifically measure time, because it is best understoodholistically.
Artist Hanne Darboven’sworks accept this inability to scientifically measure time, and embracesrepresenting time through chaotic instructions and symbols. Philosopher Alain Badiou’s ‘set theory’ explainswhy this inability to exactly and accurately striate the smooth equals in ourincapability of achieving the same certainty in time that we have inmathematics. Time is so mobile, transformative and rich that it becomesimpossible for mathematics or science to accurately measure. This inaccuratemeasurement results in the inability to achieve the same certainty that we havewithin mathematics, thus evidencing the validity of indeterminism.