With the development of perspectival depiction in the Renaissance, events and things of painting were determined by the constructed space. Space was no longer formed by the meaning of the contents.

A painting did not have its own beginning any more.

The venture of beginning out of nothingness could be calculated and regulated with perspectival construction. This was connected with the unfolding world view, that things and events are placed in an already existing space and in a presupposed time and are determined by the laws of space and time.



This ideology was the precondition of scientific thinking which conceived of events as deterministic events of preceding causal events in a presumed time. The world as what Descartes later called Ideal machine.



In painting, one could now create on the pictorial surface an illusionistic, three-dimensional plane with first one, then two or three vanishing points, into which, as determined by the laws of perspective, the objects to be painted were placed.

Colors and shapes became filling material.

Either they faded, as with Masaccio, or they appeared in the sterile arbitrariness of calculated harmony, as with Dürer. The Italians called Dürer a palliator.


In the course of this development in 1425 it comes to a hitherto unprecedented depiction of the Trinity by Masaccio, in which God appears to be determined by space and time and is depicted as a phenomenon: God the Father, the hitherto unfathomable primal foundation of being, as a bearded old man.

With the perspectival construction as well as with the anatomical representation of the human body, the painters of the Renaissance took up the ancient Greek and Roman art, which were rediscovered at that time.

Once, in pre-Christian times, an early form of the perspectively illusionistic representation had been developed, yet without vanishing points and calculation, e.g. in the murals in the Casa dei Vetti in Pompeii.




In late antiquity and in the Middle Ages, however, this was abandoned in favour of anti-perspectival representations.

From a modern point of view, this change is often seen as a loss of a once-existing knowledge and in this sense as a technical step backwards.

Regarding the continuity with which the technical achievements of Greco-Roman culture were maintained and continued in later Christianized East-Roman Constantinople (such as the sewerage or the Greek fire, the weapon whose composition nobody elsewhere understood and which secured the supremacy of the Byzantine fleet for centuries, the view that the maintenance of the arts would have had a regression only in the technical mastery of perspective seems absurd.


Rather, in the Byzantine renunciation of perspectival illusionism in painting, a spiritual development becomes visible which, due to the spread of Christianity and the associated conception of the individual, is accompanied by a new understanding of the person and the Gestalt.


Three outline drawings of Russian icons. The first, on the previous, shows Christ, who frees the deceased from the Limbo. The second depicts the Evangelist Marc writing. The third shows the angel and the two women at the empty tomb after the resurrection. The table and footstool of Marc are shown in reverse perspective. Also the coffin and coffin lid of the thumb


Here the figures and events in painting begin to form the space. Through them, the space is created.

Significant persons do not only appear greater according to their meaning, represented objects are often in a reverse perspective; they become bigger instead of smaller as is the rule with the perspectival construction.


In contrast to central perspective, the vanishing lines do not collapse in a center but strive to the periphery. This would be the view of the angels, was an explanation in the later Russian icon painting.

Not only had late-antique illusionistic perspectival attempts not been further pursued – despite other technical innovations – but a counter-perspective developed: the centrifugal vanishing lines that enlarged toward the background.

In reversal perspective the vanishing point, i.e. the spatial orientation, is not located in an illusionistic space within the picture, but in front of the picture, in the viewer.



The image addresses the person of the beholder and turns him into a counterpart.

The renunciation of the illusion of a three-dimensional space at the plane creates a space of sensation between image and viewer.


This way of painting does not trick the plane, but creates the things within the plane. It unfolds them there. Thus they acquire a spatial simultaneity and find a presence that is possible only in the pictorial plane.

With the reversal perspective, an impulsation arises: ebb and flow, what is peripheral becomes close, what is close becomes peripheral: the rhythm of the periphery and the middle.

The word time comes from tide, which names the rhythm of ebb and flow.

This is the event, the Ereignis.


The constructed perspective with collapsing (centripedal) vanishing lines corresponds to the mapping / measuring of the space in the sign Gemini.

It is in the service of the sign Taurus, which is pulled toward the centre. (Wolfgang Döbereiner, Astrologisch definierbare Verhaltensweisen in der Malerei, Delacroix)


What in the sign of Taurus appears like the pull to the centre, becomes in the Sign of Gemini a mirroring, spatial illusion which creates a suction.


Central perspective and the illusionistic depiction are opposed to the concern of painters of the sign Aquarius. They aspire to the periphery.


The image of the reverse perspective leads to the periphery. The periphery becomes close.


When, in the representations of things, vanishing lines became larger towards the background, the obtaining causa, the causa finalis was seen behind everything: The background is of greater significance, and in the magnifying lines the experience of the presence of heaven as effecting causa behind all phenomena is expressed.


In the depiction of persons this agent became presence, got close.

But in spatial representation it is the background which is familiar and more important. This is the effecting causa, the real closeness.

The earlier, ancient form of perspectival representation, as it appears in the Pompeian murals, was not oriented towards a vanishing point, but on a vertical axis in the centre of the picture. The vanishing lines to the right and left of this central axis remained parallel in their inclination and ran without further tapering.

The development of a constructible perspective with one, later two and finally three vanishing points, corresponding to the three spatial dimensions, occurred more than a thousand years later with Bruneleschi and Masaccio.

To this, the influence of the Arab scholar Al Haitham, who had manifested the rules of optics around the turn of millennium, and whose Book of optics was available in Latin translation since 1240, had contributed significantly.


One of the philosophical preconditions is the work of Ibn Ruschd, or Averroes, which was more appreciated in Europe than in the Islamic world. In the 12th century, in his interpretation of Aristotle's works, he concluded that time had no beginning.

The concept of an a priori time in which events occur – the basis of the scientific world view as it developed in the course of perspectival construction – implies that time itself is not an event, and thus has no beginning.

Here, time is not understood as an evolving of the Gestalt but as a function of space, as causality circling in itself, like in the image of Leviathan.


The contemporary agreement regarding the nature of time is, for example in the German Wikipedia:

"The word time in philosophy describes the form of changes or the sequence of events perceived by human consciousness."

The English version is similar: “Furthermore, it may be that there is a subjective component to time...”



This definition is based on Aristotle, who linked the experience of time with change:

for that is time: the number of changes regarding the before and after.

Time and change are not the same, but are interrelated, and time reveals the movement.


But change is: the final "to-the-reality-coming" of that, what only as possibility is available - that is change.

Physics, Book IV, chap. 11 and 12


It is noticeable that in Aristotle the concept of time is not reduced to a “form of change perceived by human consciousness” or is consider as a “subjective component” .


Regarding the encyclopedic formulations the question arises as to how a form of change not perceived by consciousness would be different and how it should be experienced at all.


In fact, such statements about time reveal traits similar to those contained in the scientific definition of color: there color is defined as a certain wavelength range of light that is perceived as color by the human eye.


This attempt to separate the object of perception from the subject-object relation and thereby abstracting it from perception is based in a division made in nominalism, later by Kant and the natural sciences: the realm of subjectivity, encompassing sensation, perception and denomination, and the realm of what is outside of direct human perception, accessible only through calculation, measurement and instruments and assigned to the concept of objectivity (a conception that leads to an obvious epistemological dilemma.)


To this Hannah Arendt states: The modern astrophysical world view, which began with Galileo, and its challenge to the adequacy of the senses to reveal reality, have left us a universe of whose qualities we know no more than the way they affect our measuring instruments, and-in the words of Eddington-"the former have as much resemblance to the latter as a telephone number has to a subscriber."" Instead of objective qualities, in other words, we find instruments, and instead of nature or the universe - in the words of Heisenberg – man encounters only himself.

Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, Page 261.



Specifying time as perceived by human consciousness as form of change negates itself conceptually, since time is part of our encounter with the object, which manifests itself in the fact that we do not experience any change that our perception is not directed to.

This tempted Kant to set time a priori.

Newton had already established the idea of a presupposed time as the container of events, so to speak.

This has determined the worldview of classical physics.


Although the idea of an absolute time was abandoned in the course of the development of relativity, quantum physics and thermodynamics, it still represents the attitude of modern science, e.g. when the beginning of space and time is understood as a big bang, as a sudden expansion the Urknall. The concept of the “sudden” as well as of the “expansion” are nullified when neither time nor space can be assumed, but are supposed to be the result. Trying to justify such concepts by means of illustrative clearness leads astray because they suggest a sensual perception that presupposes time and space.


The question of the beginning of time and the ensuing question of the beginning of movement are interrelated according to Aristotle occupied his interpreters in the course of centuries.

It was a crucial part of the debate between Thomas Aquinas and Islamic philosophy, represented by Ibn Ruschd.


In contrast to Ibn Ruschd, Aquin argued that the beginning did not happen in time, but that through the beginning, which he equated with theWord, time became - that the Event thus puts forth time and does not happen in a presumed time.‬‬


Therefore, according to Aquin, in the first verse of Genesis we read: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth ... and not At the beginning ..., for that would mean that time had already existed before.

If the time would precede the event, it would negate itself terminologically, since time without an event is unthinkable.


Ibn Ruschd had tried to do this justice by starting assuming an infinite time and an infinite movement without beginning.


An infinite time without beginning, however, would negate the experience of the flow of time, since there could be no development from something to something else.


Cultures that hold the conception of an eternal time, e.g. those influenced by Vedanta or Buddhism do not comprehend time as a flow: Here, on the one hand, time is understood/perceived as a an ocean of possibilities, the continuity of events, and on the other hand as a circle or a wheel.

Change is seen as a mandala, as an ever-recurring cycle, that must be left behind.

The experience of time, the presence, is regarded as an illusion - and consequently one's own identity.

But the Jewish philosopher Saadja ben Josseph argued:

When the time would be infinite, the past would be infinite. In this case the past could not be limited by the present.

So if time has no beginning, there would be no present.

But as we all are experiencing the present, Saadja concludes, the time has a beginning.


Similarly, in citing human experience, Ilya Prigogine contradicts Richard Feynman.

Feynman fosters the physical view according to which every temporal sequence is fundamentally reversible. Whereas Prigogine argues that this would contradict the human experience of life, of becoming and passing away.


The idea of a time-flow and a temporal development first appears in Greek philosophy and is connected to the emerging comprehension of personal identity as a realization his or her presence as an individual.


Everything is in flow. into the same floods we step and we do not step; we are it and we are not it, says Heraclit


The statement of Heraclit captures the identical of identity (from idem - the same), just that what makes it possible to experience change: only those who are same can tell that today other waters are flowing than yesterday.

Henceforth time was understood as a flow, in contrast to a history of ideas a circle or a sea.

Stepping into the river means the experience of the present: the Now is and yet cannot be ascertained.

From this paradox the identity of the experiencer emerges as a continuous one, as the same.


In this sense, Heraclits picture of the flow seems comparable to that of the burning bush, which was on fire it did not burn up.


Identity as the essencing but not ascertainable, not graspable being of the individual.







(C) Herbert Antonius Weiler 2015