Time & Eudaimonia: a Philosophical Presentation “in” Athens

Earlier this week, I presented my research on the relationship between eudaimonia & temporality at the Reception of Plato from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages conference, hosted (virtually) in Athens.  My paper focused mainly on Plotinus’ argument in Ennead 1.5 (“On Whether Eudaimonia Increases Over Time”), although I began with a brief reading of Timaeus 37-43 (on the moralization of the cosmology of time) & concluded with three reasons why Augustine would be unlikely to agree with Plotinus’ present-minded (& almost Stoic-sounding) account of eudaimonia. While the paper as a whole should come out in some future conference proceedings volume, I’ll leave here for now a grotesquely oversimplified table tracking the various temporal modes of eudaimonia in Plato, Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Plotinus, & Augustine.


Virtual Kalamazoo 2021


This year’s International Congress on Medieval Studies will be held online, rather than in Kalamazoo. While going to Michigan in person is what makes the ICMS the unique event that it is, I’m still looking forward to a slate of awesome conversations this week.

On Tuesday at 1 p.m. EDT, I’ll be co-chairing the Re-Centring North Africa session alongside Éric Fournier (West Chester). Later that day, I’ll be helping out with the American Cusanus Society’s business meeting in my capacity as Secretary of that august organization.

On Thursday at 9 a.m. EDT ( 7 a.m. Mountain — ouch!), I’ll be presenting my own paper on Nicholas of Cusa as part of the first three ACS sessions scheduled for that. The title of my paper is: “Through a Clock Darkly: the Time of the Eye in Nicholas of Cusa’s De visione Dei.” My goal with this project is to figure out what’s going on with Cusanus’ philosophy of time, which combines an emphasis on simultaneity (as figured by the concept of the clock) with a sensitivity to temporal duration (as assumed in the structure a call & its response).

Augustine & Time: Off to the Presses



Earlier this month, we sent Augustine & Time off to the presses. Co-edited by John Doody, Kim Paffenroth, & myself, Augustine & Time is the latest entry in Rowman & Littlefield’s Augustine in Conversation series.

I was really excited when Dr. Paffenroth gave me the chance to play a part in helping put this volume together. The theme of temporality permeates Augustine’s corpus, from his interrogation of the philosophical depths of time in Confessions 11 to his treatment of time & death in City of God 13. My own monograph, too, dealt with these topics of timeless interest that crop up again & again throughout his writings.

Here’s a description of what we were trying to do in this particular volume:

This collection examines the topic of time in the life and works of Augustine of Hippo. Adopting a global perspective on time as a philosophical and theological problem, the volume includes reflections on the meaning of history, the mortality of human bodies, and the relationship between temporal experience and linguistic expression. As Augustine himself once observed, time is both familiar and surprisingly strange. Everyone’s days are structured by temporal rhythms and routines, from watching the clock to whiling away the hours at work. Few of us, however, take the time to sit down and figure out whether time is real or not, or how it is we are able to hold our past, present, and future thoughts together in a straight line so that we can recite a prayer or sing a song.

Divided into five sections, the essays collected here highlight the ongoing relevance of Augustine’s work even in settings quite distinct from his own era and context. The first three sections, organized around the themes of interpretation, language, and gendered embodiment, engage directly with Augustine’s own writings, from the Confessions to the City of God and beyond. The final two sections, meanwhile, explore the afterlife of the Augustinian approach in conversation with medieval Islamic and Christian thinkers (like Avicenna and Aquinas), as well as a broad range of Buddhist figures (like Dharmakīrti and Vasubandhu).

What binds all of these diverse chapters together is the underlying sense that, regardless of the century or the tradition in which we find ourselves, there is something about the puzzle of temporality that refuses to go away. Time, as Augustine knew, demands our attention. This was true for him in late ancient North Africa. It was also true for Buddhist thinkers in South and East Asia. And it remains just as true for humankind in the twenty-first century, as people around the globe continue to grapple with the reality of time and the challenges of living in a world that always seems to be to be speeding up rather than slowing down.

And here’s a sneak preview of the table of contents:

Part I: Interpreting Augustine On Time

Chapter 1: Time, Eternity, and History in Augustine’s Early Works by Thomas Clemmons

Chapter 2: Keeping Time in Mind: Saint Augustine’s Solution to a Perplexing Problem by Alexander R. Eodice

Chapter 3: Time After Augustine by James Wetzel

Part II: Time, Language, And Song

Chapter 4: Living as Singing: Augustine’s Understanding of the Voice of Creatures in the Confessions by Makiko Sato

Chapter 5: Time, Mirror of the Soul by Cristiane Negreiros Abbud Ayoub

Chapter 6: The Inner Word and the Outer Word: Time, Temporality, and Language in Augustine and Gadamer by Matthew W. Knotts

Part III: Time, Embodiment, And Gender

Chapter 7: Augustinian Temporality and Resurrected Bodies by Paul Ulishney

Chapter 8: Love in the Time of Augustine: Rape, Suicide, and Resurrection in the City of God by Patricia Grosse

Chapter 9: Augustine and the Gendered Self in Time by Megan Loumagne Ulishney

Part IV: Augustinian Temporality in The Middle Ages

Chapter 10: Augustine and Avicenna on the Puzzle of Time Without Time by Celia Hatherly

Chapter 11: The Timing of Creation: Aquinas’s Reception of Augustine by Daniel W. Houck

Chapter 12: Augustine’s Dilemma: Divine Eternity and the Reality of Temporal Passage by Brendan Case

Chapter 13: Thomas Bradwardine: A Fourteenth-Century Augustinian View of Time by Sarah Hogarth Rossiter

Chapter 14: Time After Time: Gregory of Rimini, Contingents Past and Future, and Augustinian Critique by Matthew Vanderpoel

Part V: Augustinian And Buddhist Temporalities

Chapter 15: Non-Presentism in Antiquity: South Asian Buddhist Perspectives by Sonam Kachru

Chapter 16: Breaking the Stream of Consciousness: Momentariness and the Eternal Present by Davey K. Tomlinson

Chapter 17: Out of the Abyss: On Pedagogical Relationality and Time in the Confessions and the Lotus Sutra by Joy Brennan

I’m especially pleased that we were able to expand outside of intra-Christian debates about Augustine with this volume. The concluding section on Augustinian & Buddhist temporalities will, I feel, contribute something really new & worthwhile to our collective appreciation of time’s riddles.

One-Year(-ish) Book-iversary

On Time, Change, History, and Conversion

It’s hard to believe it, but this April marked the one-year anniversary of the release of my book On Time, Change, History, & Conversion (Bloomsbury, 2020), released as part of the Reading Augustine series.

Here’s the blurb describing my approach when writing the book:

“Dr. Sean Hannan offers a new interpretation of Augustine of Hippo’s approach to temporality by contrasting it with contemporary accounts of time drawn from philosophy, political theology, and popular science. Hannan argues that, rather than offering us a deceptively simple roadmap forward, Augustine asks us to face up to the question of time itself before we take on tasks like transforming ourselves and our world.

Augustine discovered that the disorientation we feel in the face of change is a symptom of a deeper problem: namely, that we cannot truly comprehend time, even while it conditions every facet of our lives. This book puts Augustine into creative conversation with contemporary thinkers, from Pierre Hadot and Giorgio Agamben to Steven Pinker and Stephen Hawking, on questions such as the definition of time, the metaphysics of transformation, and the shape of history. The goal is to learn what Augustine can teach us about the nature of temporality and the possibility of change in this temporal world of ours.”

And here are some snippets of feedback about the book & what I was trying to do with it:

“For Augustine of Hippo, time is a difficult and yet indispensable beloved. Sean Hannan deftly takes us into the soul-stretch that defines Augustine’s ambivalence toward time and complicates the finality of his final things. This book is witty, insightful, and relevant.”
– James Wetzel, Villanova University

“This is one of the most engaging and insightful recent books on Augustine of Hippo. Sean Hannan’s precise treatment unfolds the vast implications of Augustine’s understanding of time.”
– Thomas Clemmons, Catholic University of America

“Sean Hannan sketches Augustine of Hippo’s tensive view of time as indecisive yet activist, distended yet eschatological. This timely book makes a lasting contribution to one of the perennial problems in Augustine scholarship.”
– Willemien Otten, University of Chicago

“Working at the juncture of historical and contemporary thought, Sean Hannan offers a provocative and insightful examination into the enduring philosophical and theological problem of human temporality. This book draws our attention to Augustine of Hippo’s enduring ability to illuminate a range of issues we continue to debate today.”
– Matthew Drever, University of Tulsa

If anyone’s interested, you can still order a copy on the Bloomsbury site, as well as on Amazon. Now to get back to work on the next book…

History Bites Book-Launch Event: an Academic & Culinary Success

A book & a cake

I am now in possession of a cake with an edible image of the cover of my own book on it. As part of the launch-event for my recent monograph On Time, Change, History, & Conversion (part of Bloomsbury’s Reading Augustine series), my colleague Dr. Aidan Forth surprised me with this astonishing culinary creation. The idea of cutting into & consuming my own intellectual output is a bit daunting, but I think I’ll give it a try this weekend.

We saw a fairly impressive turnout for our (aptly named) History Bites event on Google Meet, including scholars from Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia, Illinois, & even the U.K. It was also cool to be joined by MacEwan folks from outside of the Humanities, from the Sociology Department and Student Affairs right on up to the Office of the President. Maybe this is one of the unexpected benefits of going virtual in the era of COVID: it means folks who otherwise might not have made it to a workshop in person can still engage remotely.

My thoughts now turn to anticipating our next History Bites book-launch, where I’ll be aiming to pay this “book-cake” business forward to one of my other colleagues in MacEwan’s Humanities Department.

E-Print of New Article: “The Camp of God”

My forthcoming article in the journal Political Theology, “The Camp of God: Reimagining Pilgrimage as Migrancy in Augustine’s City of God 1,” can now be viewed as an e-print (or electronic pre-print) on the Taylor & Francis website.

Check it out here:

This article represents the fruit of about four years of labour, since I first began workshopping these ideas back in 2016. After presenting the initial stages of my work at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in November 2016, I turned to other projects, like my recent book on temporality & change in Augustine.

In 2019, I returned to my reinterpretation of Augustine in light of recent theories & theologies of migration. Thanks to some Twitter encouragement from James K.A. Smith, I redoubled my efforts, expanding my original attempt at retranslating Augustine to include a more sustained engagement with thinkers like Agamben, Thomas Nail, Ilsup Ahn, & Peter C. Phan.

In the future, I aim to build on this article by launching a lengthier project rooted in (what I see as) the still-fruitful connections to be drawn between a thoughtful reading of Augustinian peregrinatio & the figure of the migrant today. Given the ongoing plight of many migrant communities around the world, this strikes me as a topic more worthy of pursuit than ever before.

New Publication Piece for AJR

Sundial on Christ Church, Oxford, England (Image courtesy of the author).

I’ve written a new “publication piece” for AJR (Ancient Jew Review), a wonderful website & forward-thinking academic project run by a consortium of scholars & students of religion from around the globe. AJR is run by incredibly careful & competent folks, which meant that my piece was really tested by their keen editorial eyes. It was a privilege to have my writing receive that kind of diligent consideration.

The piece itself is partially an overview of my recently published book On Time, Change, History, & Conversion (still available from Bloomsbury itself, as well on Amazon). Part of the Reading Augustine series, edited by the intrepid Miles Hollingworth, the book aims to put Augustinian temporality into conversation with a wide range of different thinkers, both ancient & modern. That takes the reader from the Manichaean cosmographers of the fourth century to the Belgian priest-physicist Georges Lemaître in the twentieth, as well as from the Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius all the way up to the controversies of twenty-first-century psychology, including both Steven Pinker’s evolutionary overreach and the rise of the mindfulness movement.

My AJR article allows me to run through some of the major themes animating the book, while also pointing out some possible future connections between my own work & other burgeoning areas of research into the ancient Mediterranean world. I’d be especially excited to learn more about the relationship between cosmology & temporality in Syriac Christianity, for instance. Somehow, along the way, I’ve also managed to cram in here a reference to an Audi Spyder ad from years ago, just to keep things weird. Anyway, I suppose I just better let the piece speak for itself.

Article Published by Religion News Service


I was pleasantly surprised to learn that RNS (Religion News Service) has just picked up the article I’d originally written for the University of Chicago’s Sightings nearer to the beginning of this Coronatide season. In this piece, I tried to push back in a critical yet light-hearted way against some “hot takes” on how COVID-19 was radically transforming our experience of temporality. Those hot takes became something of a sub-genre in venues like the AtlanticNew Yorker for a few months earlier this year. You can check out the new & improved (because slightly edited) version of my article by clicking right here.