This text examines a crucial aspect of conceptions of time - the present - as it has developed in 18th and 19th century thought, from Nietzsche to Bachelard, from Bergson to Levinas, from Heidegger to Eliade. Firstly, the author considers the tendency to "live in the present" that navigators and missionaries observe among primitive peoples, but which is also shared by naive people, children and the bourgeois. He then explores the Epicurean view of "carpe diem", from ancient times to libertines and the 20th century; the Stoic concept of the present; the evangelical present (from Pascal to preachers); the progressive perspective according to which, as Hugo said, the present is only "the anvil on which the future is forged". The book's final chapters draw attention on the positive connotation that our culture places on the present; the author investigates those testimonies that - in both religious and secular terms - speak of the ecstasy of the moment and of the moment as a gateway to eternity.
Lionello Sozzi teaches French Literature at the University of Turin.09909