Mechanical time is separate from organic time – Mumford.

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Lewis Mumford posits that mechanical time and organic time are polarised, whereby the former inadequately represents the latter. Mechanical, mathematical time is comprised of separate, superposable, identical instants. Conversely, organic time states are cumulative, and qualitatively differential, in the way that organic functions change tempo.

In terms of the human organism itself, mechanical time is even more foreign: while human life has regularities of its own, the beat of the pulse, the breathing of the lungs, these change from hour to hour with mood and action, and in the longer span of days, time is measured not by the calendar but by the events that occupy it. The shepherd measures from the time the ewes lambed; the farmer measure back to the day of sowing or forward to the harvest: if growth has it own duration and regularities, behind it are not simply matter and motion and the facts of development: in short, history. And while mechanical time is strung out in a succession of mathematically isolated instants, organic time – what Bergson calls duration – is cumulative in its effects. Though mechanical time can, in a sense, be speeded up or run backward, like the hands of a clock or the images of a moving picture, organic time moves in only one direction – through the cycle of birth, growth, development, decay, and death – and the past that is already dead remains present in the future that has still to he born (Mumford 1934, 15-16).

Mumford, Lewis. 1934. Technics and civilization. New York: Harcourt.



Categories: Technology

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