Kairos

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Kairos (καιρός) is an ancient Greek word meaning the right or opportune moment (the supreme moment). The ancient Greeks had two words for time, chronos referring to sequential time, and kairos, a moment of indeterminate time in which events happen. What is happening when referring to kairos depends on who is using the word. While chronos is quantitative, kairos has a qualitative, permanent nature.

See also:
Eternity
Past, present, and future
Time
Times
Timing

Quotes[edit]

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. ~ Ecclesiastes
Kairos is not measurable. Kairos is ontological. In kairos we are, we are fully in isness, not negatively, as Sartre saw the isness of the oak tree, but fully, wholly, positively. ~ Madeleine L'Engle
There are moments, as I myself have emphasized on different occasions, in which "kairos," the right time, is united with "logos," the "eternal truth," and in which the fate of philosophy is decided for a special period. ~ Paul Tillich
  • To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
    A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to pluck up that which is planted;
    A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
    A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
    A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
    A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
    A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
    A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
  • Whereas "false stories" can be told anywhere and at any time, myths must not be recited except during a period of sacred time (usually in autumn or winter, and only at night).... This custom has survived even among peoples who have passed beyond the archaic stage of culture.
  • It is not enough to be in the right place at the right time. You should also have an open mind at the right time.
    • Paul Erdős, in My Brain Is Open : The Mathematical Journeys of Paul Erdos (1998) by Bruce Schechter, p. 99
  • Chronology, the time which changes things, makes them grow older, wears them out, and manages to dispose of them, chronologically, forever.
    Thank God there is kairos too: again the Greeks were wiser than we are. They had two words for time: chronos and kairos.
    Kairos is not measurable. Kairos is ontological. In kairos we are, we are fully in isness, not negatively, as Sartre saw the isness of the oak tree, but fully, wholly, positively. Kairos can sometimes enter, penetrate, break through chronos: the child at play, the painter at his easel, Serkin playing the Appassionata are in kairos. The saint in prayer, friends around the dinner table, the mother reaching out her arms for her newborn baby are in kairos. The bush, the burning bush, is in kairos, not any burning bush, but the particular burning bush before which Moses removed his shoes; the bush I pass by on my way to the brook. In kairos that part of us which is not consumed in the burning is wholly awake.
  • As Hegel called the place at the end of philosophy the "place of truth," so Marx thought that the proletariat occupies this favored position, and the psychoanalyst attributes it to the completely analyzed personality, and the philosopher of vitalism to the strongest life, to the process of growth, to an élite or a race. There are, according to these ideas, favored moments and positions in history when truth appears and reason is united with the irrational. There are moments, as I myself have emphasized on different occasions, in which "kairos," the right time, is united with "logos," the "eternal truth," and in which the fate of philosophy is decided for a special period.
    • Paul Tillich, Inaugural address as chair of Professor of Philosophy at the University of Frankfort on the Main (June 1929), translated as "Philosophy and Fate" in The Protestant Era (1948)
  • The union of kairos and logos is the philosophical task set for us in philosophy and in all fields that are accessible to the philosophical attitude. The logos is to be taken up into the kairos, universal values into the fullness of time, truth into the fate of existence. The separation of idea and existence has to be brought to an end. It is the very nature of essence to come into existence, to enter into time and fate. This happens to essence not because of something extraneous to it; it is rather the expression of its own intrinsic character, of its freedom. And it is essential to philosophy to stand in existence, to create out of time and fate. It would be wrong if one were to characterize this as a knowledge bound to necessity. Since existence itself stands in fate, it is proper that philosophy should also stand in fate. Existence and knowledge both are subject to fate. The immutable and eternal heaven of truth of which Plato speaks is accessible only to a knowledge that is free from fate—to divine knowledge. The truth that stands in fate is accessible to him who stands within fate, who is himself an element of fate, for thought is a part of existence. And not only is existence fate to thought, but so also is thought fate to existence, just as everything is fate to everything else. Thought is one of the powers of being, it is a power within existence. And it proves its power by being able to spring out of any given existential situation and create something new! It can leap over existence just as existence can leap over it. Because of this characteristic of thought, the view perhaps quite naturally arose that thought may be detached from existence and may therefore liberate man from his hateful bondage to it. But the history of philosophy itself has shown that this opinion is a mistaken one. The leap of thought does not involve a breaking of the ties with existence; even in the act of its greatest freedom, thought remains bound to fate. Thus the history of philosophy shows that all existence stands in fate. Every finite thing possesses a certain power of being of its own and thus possesses a capacity for fate. The greater a finite thing’s autonomous power of being is, the higher is its capacity for fate and the more deeply is the knowledge of it involved in fats. From physics on up to the normative cultural sciences there is a gradation, the logos standing at the one end and the kairos at the other. But there is no point at which either logos or kairos alone is to be found. Hence even our knowledge of the fateful character of philosophy must at the same time stand in logos and in kairos. If it stood only in the kairos, it would be without validity and the assertion would be valid only for the one making it; if it stood only in the logos, it would be without fate and would therefore have no part in existence, for existence is involved in fate.
    • Paul Tillich, Inaugural address as chair of Professor of Philosophy at the University of Frankfort on the Main (June 1929), translated as "Philosophy and Fate" in The Protestant Era (1948)
  • As the Greeks devoted themselves to philosophy, obedient to the logos within the limits of the kairos; as the Middle Ages subordinated the logos to the great kairos upon which their culture was built; as modern philosophy through its kairos adapted itself to the logos of a world-dominating science and technique, so our task is to serve the logos out of the depths of our new kairos, a kairos that is now emerging in the crises and catastrophes of our day. Hence, the more deeply we understand fate — our own personal fate and that of our society — the more our intellectual work will have power and truth.
    • Paul Tillich, Inaugural address as chair of Professor of Philosophy at the University of Frankfort on the Main (June 1929), translated as "Philosophy and Fate" in The Protestant Era (1948)

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