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Eternalism and Presentism (Merged)
Posted: 03 May 2011 11:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 46 ]
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I recall, as a kid, an old man who said, when asked about something on which he’d already given his opinion, “I don’t chew my food twice.”  My approach tries to be, state my position and justifications for it, then stop.

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Posted: 03 May 2011 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 47 ]
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dougsmith - 02 May 2011 10:45 AM

Past and future “entities” are to be construed as ... fictions.

My quote from the wiki on the future was:

Past and future “entities” are to be construed as logical constructions or fictions.

You are selectively misquoting my quote to discredit me and presentism as well.

From this essay in the SEP on logical construction

Bertrand Russell described several different definitions and philosophical analyses as treating certain entities and expressions as “logical constructions”. Examples he cited were the Frege/Russell definition of numbers as classes of equinumerous classes, the theory of definite descriptions, the construction of matter from sense data, and several others. Generally expressions for such entities are called “incomplete symbols” and the entities themselves “logical fictions”.

[ Edited: 03 May 2011 05:53 PM by kkwan ]
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Posted: 03 May 2011 05:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 48 ]
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kkwan - 03 May 2011 05:17 PM
dougsmith - 02 May 2011 10:45 AM

Past and future “entities” are to be construed as ... fictions.

“Past and future “entities” are to be construed as logical constructions or fictions.”

Are “logical constructions” the metaphysical aspect of the universe? A non-physical universal matrix of logically inherent operations, some of which we have already identified as Laws of Nature. If that is the case it should not be called fiction, but probability.

[ Edited: 03 May 2011 05:48 PM by Write4U ]
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Posted: 03 May 2011 06:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 49 ]
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kkwan - 03 May 2011 05:17 PM
dougsmith - 02 May 2011 10:45 AM

Past and future “entities” are to be construed as ... fictions.

My quote from the wiki on the future was:

Past and future “entities” are to be construed as logical constructions or fictions.

You are selectively misquoting my quote to discredit me and presentism as well.

I’m not misquoting you. You’re trying to have it both ways.

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Posted: 03 May 2011 11:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 50 ]
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Occam. - 03 May 2011 11:55 AM

I recall, as a kid, an old man who said, when asked about something on which he’d already given his opinion, “I don’t chew my food twice.”  My approach tries to be, state my position and justifications for it, then stop.

I understand that. I do not necessarily want to profile myself. But when one takes science and philosophy serious on a discussion forum, and the idea that there is progress in these disciplines, then one should react when somebody proclaims wrong positions as truth. Please note I also make only tiny and funny remarks about free will in the beginning, just to show that the free will debate is not closed with a ‘free will does not exist’, or ‘we are uncaused and therefore we are free agents’. But if somebody takes it up (even after a reference to the infamous free will thread), I must decide: go into it yet again or not…

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Posted: 04 May 2011 01:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 51 ]
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dougsmith - 03 May 2011 06:49 PM

I’m not misquoting you. You’re trying to have it both ways.

You are, and I am not trying to have it both ways.

You wrote in post 12:

Under presentism, the future is exactly the same as the past: neither exist. All reference to past and future are fictional.

That was your interpretation of all reference to the past and future in presentism and I disagreed. To refute you, I quoted from the wiki on the future:

Past and future “entities” are to be construed as logical constructions or fictions.

You misquoted my quote as:

Past and future “entities” are to be construed as ... fictions.

There is a difference in meaning between fiction and logical fiction.

Definition of fiction:  “something invented by the imagination or feigned; specifically : an invented story” (Merriam-Webster online)

And logical fiction:

From this website HERE

Philosophy of language, metaphysics Also called pseudo-object. A type of logical construction according to which symbols are constructed from the characteristics of entities they do not denote. They are fictions because these symbols at first glance appear to denote some entities, but upon analysis this turns out to be false. Symbols that are logical fictions are symbolic devices only and do not denote any constituent of the world. The objects they appear to denote do not have their own being and are not constituents of reality.

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Posted: 04 May 2011 04:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 52 ]
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Sorry kkwan, it looks like you didn’t read the quote you posted. A logical fiction is a fiction. Taking your quote:

Philosophy of language, metaphysics Also called pseudo-object. A type of logical construction according to which symbols are constructed from the characteristics of entities they do not denote. They are fictions because these symbols at first glance appear to denote some entities, but upon analysis this turns out to be false. Symbols that are logical fictions are symbolic devices only and do not denote any constituent of the world. The objects they appear to denote do not have their own being and are not constituents of reality.

The objects denoted by logical fictions are “pseudo-objects” that “do not have their own being” and “are not constituents of reality”. I.e. they’re like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, created of whole cloth from actually existing things. IOW, they are fictions.

To repeat, under presentism the future is exactly the same as the past: neither exist. All reference to past and future are fictional; just as fictional as reference to Middle Earth or Heaven.

Presentism makes no distinction between future and past in that regard.

And to press the point, presentism makes a hash of Einsteinian physics, where there is no such thing as a real present outside of some reference frame or other, and the universe contains countless different reference frames. There really is no way to consistently frame a presentism that spans the universe for that reason.

What presentism does is to take one slice through one spatiotemporal reference frame (why this one and not that one?) and claim that the temporal dimension is zero while the spatial dimension is three. That’s completely arbitrary. One might as well follow it through to its logical conclusion: why not be a presentist-here-ist? All that exists is present and right here? Other places are “logical fictions”, pseudo objects that do not have their own being and are not constituents of reality.

Of course, the final refuge of this line of thought is solipsism.

Yawn.

[ Edited: 04 May 2011 04:05 AM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 04 May 2011 09:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 53 ]
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dougsmith - 04 May 2011 04:02 AM

The objects denoted by logical fictions are “pseudo-objects” that “do not have their own being” and “are not constituents of reality”. I.e. they’re like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, created of whole cloth from actually existing things. IOW, they are fictions.

Not so. They do not exist, but they are not like Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or golden mountains which are clearly imagined non-existing fiction, but they are not logical fiction. There is a crucial distinction between fiction and logical fiction which you have blatantly ignored and then dogmatically proclaim them as synonymous.

OTOH, with eternalism, if the past and future exist, where is the empirical evidence that they do exist?

And to press the point, presentism makes a hash of Einsteinian physics, where there is no such thing as a real present outside of some reference frame or other, and the universe contains countless different reference frames. There really is no way to consistently frame a presentism that spans the universe for that reason.

From this paper HERE

From the introduction:

The point of this paper is not to argue for presentism, but to defend presentism from a particular type of argument that is often taken to refute it. The form of the argument is as follows:

(1) Presentism is incompatible with relativity theory (usually the focus is on special relativity).
(2) Relativity theory is our most fundamental theory of physics.
(3) Presentism is incompatible with our most fundamental theory of physics. (From (1) and (2).)
(4) Presentism is false.

But is relativity theory the most fundamental theory of physics or of reality? There is also QM and the potential development of theories of quantum gravity. So, the conclusion that presentism is false is not justified.

From the section on Presentism and Relativity Theory:

The lesson I draw from this is that, in spite of the fact that many physicists believe that relativity theory teaches us that a good theory is incompatible with presentism, there is no compelling reason for presentists to agree. Because of the lack of data to back up the claim that a good theory is incompatible with presentism, and because of the existence of potentially viable theories of fixed foliation quantum gravity, the presentist can simply maintain that the physicists are drawing the wrong lessons from relativity theory.

I conclude that all the literature on the issue of whether presentism is compatible with special or general relativity is, while perhaps intrinsically interesting, irrelevant to the issue of whether presentism is true. Even if presentism is incompatible with special and general relativity, it in no way follows that presentism is incompatible with our most fundamental physics.

From the section on The future of Presentism:

My reply is that presentism need not require that the present lasts only an instant; instead presentism just has to require that the present cannot be divided into past and future, as St. Augustine specifies. If quantum gravity entails that the Planck time of about 10–43 seconds, for example, is the smallest interval of time, then the presentist can simply specify that that is how long the present lasts. It would be impossible to divide the present into past and future, since there would be no time intervals smaller than the Planck time.

Presentism is a theory of time, not of fundamental reality:

Some presentists might believe that time and change have to be aspects of fundamental reality for presentism to be true. I maintain, though, that this is not an essential requirement of presentism. Presentism should not be understood as a theory about fundamental reality, it should be understood as a theory about time. Thus, if time is not part of fundamental reality, presentism is true as long as the time that emerges in the appropriate classical limit is time as described by presentists.

[ Edited: 05 May 2011 12:40 AM by kkwan ]
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Posted: 05 May 2011 12:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 54 ]
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kkwan - 04 May 2011 09:42 PM

If the past and future exist, where is the empirical evidence that they do exist?

We have evidence that the past did exist and the future will exist.

Eternalism is the view that there is no special now, not that the future and past exist now. The future doesn’t exist now anymore than Paris exists here in Watford.

So the question is what is the evidence that there is no special now?

My limited understanding is that comes from the theory of relativity and simply the fact that it has no place in science, at least as yet.

I’d like to get back to the point of the thread which is your claim that an existing future would be immutable in the sense of uninfluencable.

If we define influencing the future as change it from what it would have been had the influence not happened (all things being equal), what problem does eternalism pose? And how does presentism help?

Stephen

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Posted: 05 May 2011 12:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 55 ]
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dougsmith - 04 May 2011 04:02 AM

To repeat, under presentism the future is exactly the same as the past: neither exist. All reference to past and future are fictional; just as fictional as reference to Middle Earth or Heaven.

I’m viewing the distinction between eternalism and presentism as one has a special now and the other doesn’t.

Is that correct?

Because if it is I can be a presentist and say that when I talk about the future I’m talking about what will exist, without it being fiction, it just doesn’t exist yet.

Stephen

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Posted: 05 May 2011 02:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 56 ]
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Occam. - 02 May 2011 06:02 PM

This is a silly discussion as are all the offshoots of the Determinism/Free Will argument.  Although the future does not exist yet, it will be a consequence of all of the present events as they are the consequence of all prior events.  As such, suggesting that if you do something different it will change the future is irrational.  It is a subjunctive statement, not a conditional one.  That is, contrary to fact.  No matter what you “decide” to do, it was allready determined by all of the prior events that have occurred.  As such, you cannot do something different. 

Occam

Yes but I think there are difficult underlying problems all the same. Until those are worked out the debate will roll and roll.

There are mistakes that can be ironed out but it doesn’t seem to me that the problem just evaporates once that’s done, as some believe.

What we are all doing is trying to increase the probabilty of good stuff happening in the future and decrease the probability of bad stuff.

What we believe is we have the power to do this.

The questions are what are we talking about when talking about probability? Just Bayesian probability, which is simply due to uncertainty of knowledge (if I’ve got that right) or something more objective, not just due to our uncertainty?

If what we do is already determined by prior events, the initial reaction is it doesn’t increase or decrease the probability from anything to anything.

Once we’ve overcome that and realise we are talking about increasing the probability from what it would have been had we not made that decision, it’s still unclear what this means. How could we not have done it?

The next move philosophers make is to move to another possible world with a slightly different past in which you “don’t” make that decision.

So the increased/changed probability turns out to be in comparison to this other possible world.

But does a light bulb come on at this point? Does this answer make one think, that’s it, that’s what influencing the future is?

Or does it leave you with the uneasy feeling that it isn’t it, because the difference between what happens in other possible worlds with slightly different histories and what happens in the actual world doesn’t seem to matter, it doesn’t seem to make the effort worthwhile because it doesn’t bring influencing the future to life.

I’m left with the uneasy feeling that there is more to the puzzle even once the mistakes are ironed out.

Stephen

[ Edited: 05 May 2011 02:40 AM by StephenLawrence ]
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Posted: 05 May 2011 04:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 57 ]
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kkwan it would be great if sometime you learned to put together an argument for yourself rather than snipping quotes from random places around the internet and pretending that that was a response. (Which in this case it isn’t much of one). Maybe that way you could understand better the arguments you’re proposing, and see why they are so thin.

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Posted: 05 May 2011 06:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 58 ]
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To be fair to the notion of a “logical fiction”: the quote kkwan chose was correct but misleading (you really should read carefully what you post and make sure you understand what it’s saying before posting it), and I should also back away from claiming that Santa Claus or Middle Earth are logical fictions. A logical fiction is a useful fiction that’s put together out of actually existing parts. E.g., a car is a logical fiction, but then so too is a carburetor. There aren’t really cars or carburetors in the world; cars and carburetors are human constructs out of natural materials such as atoms and molecules, or at any rate the basic constituents of matter that really exist.

If the past were a “logical fiction” that would mean that all that there were of the past was what one could find in the present. So, for example, it would mean that if an enterprising person were to destroy all evidence of the Holocaust, systematically, leaving no trace of it in the present, then the Holocaust would never have existed. There would be no Holocaust in the past. That follows because on this ‘presentist’ view, all there is to the Holocaust is its present remains. Get rid of the remains, get rid of the Holocaust. Get rid of the remains of the past, get rid of the past.

This is absurd.

To repeat my previous point, this strategy is isometric to one that claims all that exists exists in this place. (Say, where I’m sitting right now). If I can’t get any information about London where I am right now, then London doesn’t exist. If I can’t get any information about the far side of the Moon, then there’s no fact at all about what’s on the far side of the Moon; it doesn’t exist. (Since all logical fictions must be made up of what I have around me).

And that leads to solipsism, the final resting place of absurd philosophizing.

It’s all based on a fundamental confusion of metaphysics and epistemology.

It’s the kind of silly theory one tends to start out with in philosophy; very much on all fours with the sort of outlandish theorizing kkwan posts here. I know, I once tried to make presentism work when I was taking a metaphysics class at university. I wrote a rather juvenile paper about it, the sort of thing that if my teaching assistant had been a bit sharper he’d have said something like, “Don’t start off your philosophical career saying something you know is false.”

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Posted: 05 May 2011 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 59 ]
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dougsmith - 05 May 2011 06:26 AM

It’s the kind of silly theory one tends to start out with in philosophy; very much on all fours with the sort of outlandish theorizing kkwan posts here. I know, I once tried to make presentism work when I was taking a metaphysics class at university. I wrote a rather juvenile paper about it, the sort of thing that if my teaching assistant had been a bit sharper he’d have said something like, “Don’t start off your philosophical career saying something you know is false.”

I disagree that presentism must be false in this way. For what it’s worth, Quentin Smith one of my professors is one of the foremost atheist philosophers out there, and he seems to be a presentist.

On erasing evidence of the past: well, it cannot be done. not if you mean *all* evidence: and even if that could be done per impossibile, there would be evidence of the erasure. My manager at work recently closed the outer door behind me, then stuck out her tongue and waggled her hips at me. Suppose I complain to HR about it, and she erases the video tape, or throws it out, or even sends it to an expert forger to be doctored. every one of those strategies leaves its own traces.

My objection to your argument against presentism is with your premiss: it doesn’t seem obvious at all, in fact it seems false, that all evidence for some X - ALL - can ever be erased. There’s the minds of the erasers; there’s the equipment used to do the erasing; and so on.

There’s more than one version of presentism btw. Q Smith seems to hold to a mathematicized version, which is common nowadays: the present is zero temporal ‘width’. I think this is an absurdity of standard presentism.

Another version of presentism would allow for a ‘thick’ present. I once was exploring this, but other studies intervened:
Consider Major Tom talking to ground control one light-hour away. There can only be ‘causal effectivess’ (my neologism) at a minimum of one hour - or two if you consider *inter*action. That’s the fastes information can travel between the two. Suppose ground control gets a message that Major Tom’s capsule has mistakenly opened a valve, and his oxygen will run out 45minutes after it opened. Ground control cannot interact fast enough to stop the leak, since the oxygen will run out 15minutes before the signal can get to the cap0sule. Thus the Major Tom-ground control system has a kind of present that must stretch out to two hours. This doesn’t seem to depend upon subjective states like what’s on Tom’s mind or those of ground control, either: if an O-class blue-white supergiant explodes twenty light-years from us, there need be no minds around to claim that the causally-effective, interactive present for the Sol/ O star system is forty light years.

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Posted: 05 May 2011 10:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 60 ]
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I’ve already outlined a physical argument against presentism, from Einstein. That should be more than sufficient to demonstrate my point. Agreed that a notion of zero temporal width is another absurdity.

But the claim about erasing evidence doesn’t convince. Sure, any erasure might leave its own traces, but those traces might not include anything about the Holocaust itself. What we’re left with is present evidence of erasure and nothing more, and therefore no Holocaust.

And after all in any argument of this sort what we’re after is conceptual possibility, not physical likelihood. And it is conceptually possible to erase all evidence of a past event such that nothing remains. We know this is conceptually possible because it is actually true! There are plenty of past events for which we have no evidence at all one way or the other. (Viz., what color Caesar’s shoes were when he crossed the Rubicon). Indeed, one might well say that there are more past events for which we have no evidence than there are past events for which we have evidence. So to say that the past is literally constructed from the present (as opposed to its being that our knowledge of the past that’s so constructed) is simply absurd.

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