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The totality of time, conceived of as having no beginning and no end. The central philosophical dispute is whether eternity should be contrasted with time, not to be thought of as an especially long quantity of time, but as instead involving a kind of timelessness. Thus eternal objects, such as numbers, enjoy a timeless existence. Plotinus and the Neoplatonist tradition insist on a nontemporal interpretation of God's existence. Boethius makes the distinction between sempiternity (everlastingness) and eternity: ‘For our “now”, as if running, creates time and sempiternity, whereas the Divine “now” stays not moving, but standing still, and creates eternity’ (De Trinitate, 4. II). Such timelessness is beyond description, but its apprehension is the goal of mystical contemplation.

Subjects: Philosophy.

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