Groundhog Day: Circular/Cyclic Time, Linear/Nonlinear Time — Işık Barış Fidaner


In the movie title Groundhog Day (1993) groundhog is an animal but ground-hog literally means “hoarding the ground”. One’s truth is one’s turf, it’s the “earth ground” on which all other layers pile up [1]. The joke of asking the groundhog about the weather is like asking the locals about the truth of nature. So ground-hog means “hoarding the truth”.

This is not to be confused with “hoarding knowledge”. Knowledge is a defense against truth, truth is the blind spot of knowledge, it’s what knowledge symbolizes by zero [2]. When there is an earthquake in ground truth, the knowledge piled up on that ground truth collapses and has to be built from scratch. Laughing at a joke brings out such a truth effect that “resets” the previous knowledge and drops some of its parts. Thus “hoarding the truth” is a paradox: You can accumulate one, two, three objects but how can you accumulate what can only be a zero?

Let’s distinguish these two operations as follows:
1) One accumulates knowledge by collecting within: This is at the level of counting/calculating and is based on the quantizing abstraction.
2) One ex-cumulates truth by throwing out: This is at the level of intuition, it’s decentred and constantly displaced.
Ex-cumulation of truth shapes knowability. Examples: ability to play a musical instrument, ability to hear allusions in speech [3].

Now let’s consider where two operations intersect: When the woman “buys” the man, the infinite loop ends. What does this mean? Sohn-Rethel distinguished two fields in the “exchange abstraction”:
1) The exchange value of an untouchable commodity in the market.
2) The use value of a commodity that’s being consumed.
Thus [4]:
1) Insofar as the man is represented as “a man” with an exchange value on the market, he constantly repeats the same day, time-symmetry is conserved, today remains without tomorrow.
2) When the man is counted by the woman’s gaze as “that man” and is represented by his use value, time-symmetry is broken and today becomes tomorrow.

Notice that the film presents these time modalities separately but they are actually always parallel = at the same time:
1) Every exchange (example: giving and receiving greetings) occurs in a circular time.
2) Every use (example: asking a question and answering it) occurs in a linear time.

One can deal with these time modalities separately (in parallel) or together (at the same time):
1) When we call them circular time and linear time, we deal with them in parallel but separately.
2) When we call them cyclic time and nonlinear/fecund time, we happen to attend their momentary dialectical trajectory.

This is how you know whether you have a dialectical approach:
1) If exchanging greetings also makes sense as questions and answers, you are aware that your time is not circular but cyclic.
2) If questions and answers also make sense as exchanging greetings, you are aware that your time is not linear but nonlinear/fecund.

Purely circular time and purely linear time certainly exist nowhere, these are just abstractions we “use” and “exchange” in order to escape the complications of cyclicity and nonlinearity/fecundity.


Işık Barış Fidaner is a computer scientist with a PhD from Boğaziçi University, İstanbul. Admin of Yersiz Şeyler, Editor of Žižekian Analysis, Curator of Görce Writings. Twitter: @BarisFidaner


[1] See “From Hogwarts to Slogwarts”, “World’s center: foothold on ground truth”

[2] See Lacan’s seminar 13 about “defense against truth” and 17 about “instinctual knowledge”: “The effect of truth is only a collapse of knowledge.” (Lacan)

[3] See “İçe Atılan Birikir, Dışa Atılan Öbürikir”, “Bilgi ve Bilebilgi: Bilen Bilemez Ancak Bilmeyen Bilebilir”

[4] See “René Girard: Symmetric Breaking and Symmetry-Breaking”; Intellectual and Manual Labour, Alfred Sohn-Rethel


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s