Eternity, in common parlance, means infinite time that never ends (or the quality, condition or fact of being eternal). Classical philosophy, however, defines eternity as what exists outside time - as in describing supernatural beings and forces, whereas sempiternity corresponds to the infinitely temporal, non-metaphoric definitions, as recited in requiem prayers for the dead.[clarification needed] Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and many others in the Age of Enlightenment drew on the classical distinction to put forward metaphysical hypotheses such as "eternity is a permanent Now".
Eternity as infinite duration is an important concept in many religions, where the god or gods are said to endure eternally. Religious views of an afterlife may speak of it in terms of eternity. Some thinkers, such as Aristotle, suggest the eternity of the natural cosmos in regard to both past and future eternal duration - Christian theologians may regard immutability - like the eternal Platonic forms - as essential. Today cosmologists, philosophers, and others look to analyses of the concept from across cultures and history. They debate, among other things, whether an absolute concept of eternity has real application for fundamental laws of physics - compare the issue of the arrow of time in entropy.
Aristotle argued that the cosmos has no beginning. In Aristotle's Metaphysics, eternity is the unmoved mover, understood as the gradient of total synergy ("produces motion by being loved"). Boethius defined eternity as "simultaneously full and perfect possession of interminable life".
Eternity is often symbolized by the endless snake, swallowing its own tail, the ouroboros (or oroboros). The circle, band or ring is also commonly used as a symbol for eternity, as is the mathematical symbol of infinity, . Symbolically these are reminders that eternity has no beginning/end.
Infinity symbol variations
An allegorical classical woman c.1670s, representing eternity. She holds up an hourglass, her elbow above a human skull and in her lower hand two flowers in maturity, one of which is a dandelion blowball or clock (seed head), reminders of transience. An Ouroboros, snake swallowing its own tail, floats above her head as a halo - symbols of eternity.
- "eternity, n." 1. and 2. OED Online. September 2019. Oxford University Press. https://www.oed.com/view/Entry/64704 (accessed October 26, 2019).
- Mr. Hobbes Considered in his Loyalty, Religion, Reputation, and Manners. By way of Letter to Dr. Wallis (English autobiography) T. Hobbes, 1662 at p.50.
Bassali, Maurice (2008). Where Will You Spend Eternity?. Xulon Press. p. 138. ISBN 9781606473276. Retrieved April 30, 2021.
In the next life, there will be two places only - heaven and hell. [...] In heaven, you will spend an eternity of bliss, light, and glory with God. In hell, you will spend an eternity of woe, darkness and torment apart from God. Which of these two places whould you prefer to spend your eternity?
- "Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Eternity in Christian Thought". Plato.stanford.edu. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
Augustine connects God's timeless eternity to God's being the cause of all times and God's immutability.
- Yu, Jiyuan The Structure of Being in Aristotle’s Metaphysics Springer, 2003, p. 188
- Boedder, Bernard. "Natural Theology". University of Notre Dame. Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved March 15, 2015.
Aeternitas est interminablis vitae tota simul et perfecta possessio
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