This essay addresses perceptions of time and temporality in legal rules and in legal knowledge under changing historical conditions. The first section treats the ongoing »temporal turn« in current debates (I). The second section discusses the notions of time in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries (II): Since the late 19th century, the perception of time has undergone a fundamental change. Contrary to the Newtonian tradition, time is no longer perceived as a universal and objective entity. Instead, a process of subjectivization of time has emerged. As a consequence, concepts like the idea of »social time« or »multiple times« have been discussed in the humanities and social sciences.The following section deals with the relationship between law, legal knowledge, and temporality in general (III): Legal rules and legal knowledge can only be understood with reference to temporal modes as the distinction between past / present / future. In this regard, time constitutes a sensegiving dimension of law. As a consequence, legal rules and legal knowledge serve as media of contemporary cultural practices of time and temporality. In this regard, the relationship between law and time is subject to historical change. Particular elements of temporality in the European legal tradition are dealt with in the next section (IV).
While continuity and discontinuity as well as notions of eternity all appear as historical constants, how history and its relation to law are grasped is subject to change. This seems all the more true when it comes to our understanding of
future, whereas acceleration and its impact on legal normativity show elements of stronger historical continuity.