On Time and Archaeology

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Nikolai
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On Time and Archaeology

Post by Nikolai » Tue Aug 25, 2009 3:11 pm

We believe in the passage of time, even though we cannot perceive time’s passage, and our belief in time is so confident that we assume to assign the objects we encounter at various points along time’s passage.

Our friend hands us two objects: one is a fossil and the other a terracotta jug, freshly baked from the kiln.

When we first look at these two items there is nothing about them that reveals their age. They are just two pieces of matter, albeit different in colour and constitution. The only way we can age them is to first recall our belief in time’s passage and then assume that the objects are of different age – in this case we assume that the fossil is older than the terracotta. But there is never any justification for this: we only ever perceive things in the present; the fossil in our hand is, at this point, still as fresh or as ancient as the terracotta.

But, for no reason, we do go ahead and assume the fossil as ‘old’, and then we analyse it and discover certain attributes about it – for example we might notice varying proportions of chemical isotopes. These proportions are then also assumed to be characteristic of age, because they are associated with the ‘old thing’ – the fossil.

And henceforward, each time we encounter an object whose chemical constitution is similar to the fossil, we call that thing ‘old’ also, forgetting that the fossil’s antiquity was only ever assumed in the most arbitrary fashion.

All this is delusion.

We only perceive things in the present. The fossil in our hand is as timeless as the terracotta – both of them exist only in the here-and-now that completely transcends our arbitrary designations of age.

The age of the fossil is a story we tell…in the present. At what other time can such a story be told?

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Arising_uk
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Re: On Time and Archaeology

Post by Arising_uk » Wed Aug 26, 2009 12:56 am

Nikolai,
Whilst I like the way you write I cannot tell you how much I dislike what you imply with respect to Science and Knowledge.
Nikolai wrote:We believe in the passage of time, even though we cannot perceive time’s passage, and our belief in time is so confident that we assume to assign the objects we encounter at various points along time’s passage.
See how you sneak in the assumption that there is a passage of time, "...along time’s passage" to support why we should not believe in Time.

Can you not perceive times passage? Do you not look at yourself in a mirror? Do you not feel the aches and pains yet? Does your body not change for you? Do you not repaint your walls? Patch-up your objects? We are "times passage".
Our friend hands us two objects: one is a fossil and the other a terracotta jug, freshly baked from the kiln.

When we first look at these two items there is nothing about them that reveals their age.

They are just two pieces of matter, albeit different in colour and constitution. The only way we can age them is to first recall our belief in time’s passage and then assume that the objects are of different age – in this case we assume that the fossil is older than the terracotta. But there is never any justification for this: we only ever perceive things in the present; the fossil in our hand is, at this point, still as fresh or as ancient as the terracotta.
This sounds mad to me? One's a "fossil", one's a "jug"? What is between them is their "age" and possible function and part of it is understood as exactly the "weathering" that we experience as 'time'. What is 'perceiving in the present'? What does it consist of with respect to 'time'?
But, for no reason, we do go ahead and assume the fossil as ‘old’, and then we analyse it and discover certain attributes about it – for example we might notice varying proportions of chemical isotopes. These proportions are then also assumed to be characteristic of age, because they are associated with the ‘old thing’ – the fossil.
No! We recognise 'old' things, as we 'age' ourselves. That we know that other chemical substances 'age' at a certain rate allows us to more accurately date objects that have this chemical as a property.
And henceforward, each time we encounter an object whose chemical constitution is similar to the fossil, we call that thing ‘old’ also, forgetting that the fossil’s antiquity was only ever assumed in the most arbitrary fashion.
So not 'arbitary' at all. Based upon the fact that we 'live' a certain span and know it by having to experience it.
All this is delusion.
Personally, if you are talking about your thoughts I'd agree.
We only perceive things in the present.
And what is it we perceive? Past/Present/Future.
The fossil in our hand is as timeless as the terracotta – both of them exist only in the here-and-now that completely transcends our arbitrary designations of age.
That we use measure to rule our time and we should be loathe to forget it is a truth but to forget that it is our time and that is how things are measured is a delusion I think. So nothing 'arbitrary' about the fossil being really old and the jug being newly made.
The age of the fossil is a story we tell…in the present. At what other time can such a story be told?
None and every time after the fossil and jug have been put together, but at each and everytime after that they will be that bit 'older'.

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Re: On Time and Archaeology

Post by bus2bondi » Wed Aug 26, 2009 1:50 am

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Psychonaut
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Re: On Time and Archaeology

Post by Psychonaut » Wed Aug 26, 2009 3:23 am

Time, an artefact.

The present, only, is.

The past? Our remembrance of it occurs in the presence of the present.

Artefacts.

Nikolai has it right, to some degree.

The present is the only is, but the past is heavilly implied, much as its a huge heap of steaming.

Memory is an artefact, tell me. Do you really directly perceive the past, or the passage of time? Or do you infer it, from the present, along with the future?

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Re: On Time and Archaeology

Post by Arising_uk » Wed Aug 26, 2009 11:02 pm

Psychonaut wrote:Time, an artefact.
An artefact of being a Body in a World.
The present, only, is.
Only, if its a combination of past/present/future otherwise it'd not be the 'present'. Its what this present is and what I can do about it is where and what I'm interested in.
The past? Our remembrance of it occurs in the presence of the present.
I agree, but the "the past" and "remembrance of it" cannot be the same, so whilst 'it' does 'occur' 'in' the 'present' it's always all 'three', past/present/future, in the perception and 'experience' of remembering 'something'. What structures there are in such a system and how much a self is built upon such things, is what I call Philosophy Now.
Artefacts.

Nikolai has it right, to some degree.
Does he? In what sense? The sense that 'when I die a Universe dies with me'? If so fine. But he keeps 'hinting' at this 'knowledge' thats greater than Science, Logic and Language, so I guess its Faith, but then all I hear is how 'confused' my Science, Logic and Language is?
The present is the only is, but the past is heavilly implied, much as its a huge heap of steaming.
No, the 'present' is not some 'is' 'experience' from which one is that ones past 'implies' one. The Present is where one decides what and where ones future is to be and then tests out if 'it' is so? The 'past' are the feedback and resources that decide the 'future' for a 'present' one.
Memory is an artefact, tell me.
'Memory' is an artefact of Body.
Do you really directly perceive the past, or the passage of time?
Do I think I 'see, hear, feel, taste, touch' the 'past'? No, as it's that I did all these things that there is a 'perception of the past' and a passage of time.
Or do you infer it, from the present, along with the future?
Do you mean "inference" as in Logic's deductive inference or that we live in the past/present/future?

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Re: On Time and Archaeology

Post by Wootah » Wed Aug 26, 2009 11:12 pm

On memory as an artefact. If we take artefact in the sense of something that is left behind then I think that correlates to memory.

Suppose you have a tray with sand in it and you tilt the tray and you pour a cup of water from one point down the tray. The water will carve small rivers and so on as it flows down the tray. If you apply the water again, the water will travel down those rivulets, deepening them. The tray becomes a simple memory system.

There is a good book by Edward De Bono on this ... its' name slips my mind. I'll add it when I find it on my bookshelf.

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Re: On Time and Archaeology

Post by Arising_uk » Wed Aug 26, 2009 11:54 pm

Wootah wrote:On memory as an artefact. If we take artefact in the sense of something that is left behind then I think that correlates to memory.
Why would we take it as that? The simplest appears to be a creation of ours? Whats the 'ours'? I reckon it's the Body.
Suppose you have a tray with sand in it and you tilt the tray and you pour a cup of water from one point down the tray. The water will carve small rivers and so on as it flows down the tray. If you apply the water again, the water will travel down those rivulets, deepening them. The tray becomes a simple memory system.
Too simple a metaphor I think with respect to whatever 'memory' is. I can 'see' it as as a reasonable metaphor for how to understand what a 'neural net' is, but it should always be remembered that the 'input' and the 'output' do define the process to be used.
There is a good book by Edward De Bono on this ... its' name slips my mind. I'll add it when I find it on my bookshelf.
This one?
Wootah wrote:Edward De Bono - Simplicity
Great read for finding structures that can help simp.

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Re: On Time and Archaeology

Post by Wootah » Thu Aug 27, 2009 12:07 am

No (my memory isn't that bad :P) I've got another book of his lying around. It must be on the shelf behind me somewhere.

The Mechanism of Mind

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Psychonaut
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Re: On Time and Archaeology

Post by Psychonaut » Thu Aug 27, 2009 12:20 am

We do not experience the past, we only experience our remembrance of it, which occurs in the present.

The past, like the noumenon, is something which we can know of, but none of its details.

If you like science, then take heed of the numerous studies that demonstrate quite how fallible human memory is.

Its a story we tell ourselves.

How many arguments devolve into 'NO x is the order of events', 'NO y is the order of events'. Many arguments end up in arguing about what the argument was even about in the first place. I remember a classic scene in Father Ted when Dougal says 'I thought you might say that, so I took the liberty of taping our conversation'. He then finds he was completely wrong.

We all live in fictional narratives, its the way of the human mind and, I think, why novels hold such fascination. We manage to construct a narrative about the certainty of narrative, but there is no great tome which we can make reference to, in the end.

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Re: On Time and Archaeology

Post by Nikolai » Thu Aug 27, 2009 10:15 am

Hi Arising,

So much of my argument has been understood and elucidated already by Psychonaut, but I'll add my two penneth.
Can you not perceive times passage? Do you not look at yourself in a mirror?
Yes I do look in mirrors and I see an image - an image which is unique, fresh and ageless, but this is not through my contract with l'Oreal. The reason it is fresh is because I do not think about Fables of Time. The most common fable is that people start fresh faced and develop wrinkles over time. In the mind's eye we conjure images of of our face without wrinkles and call them 'memories' - even though these images are pure inventions appearing in the here-and-now. We even rush ahead and follow the plot into the 'future'. Here we imagine ourselves as deeply wrinkled old men, but true to the plot, we maintain that these images 'have not happened yet' even though they are happening right now - in precisely the same way as the 'memories' are. Memories and predictions are the same thing - contemporaneous imaginings - but we just think they are different becaus that is their role in the story that is being told.

Everything happens in the atemporal now. Time is an illusion - or at least a fun little story we tell to ourselves. Your unwrinkled 'youth' is not something that 'happened'; it is something that happens every time you tell that tale.
This sounds mad to me? One's a "fossil", one's a "jug"? What is between them is their "age" and possible function and part of it is understood as exactly the "weathering" that we experience as 'time'. What is 'perceiving in the present'? What does it consist of with respect to 'time'?
Two pieces of coal have different proportions of isotopes - after all nothing is identical in nature. Because we believe in time it must be the case that one piece of coal is older than the other - if only fractionally. We then look for characteristics that distinguish them and say that these differences are a product of ageing, or weathering as you call it. Actually, all we have is two objects that we perceive in the here and now - all the talk about age goes way beyond what is given and as such is completely unsubstantiated.

If you look very carefully at all the old things you know, you will see that that their antiquity is only assumed through association with other 'old' things. There is nothing whose age is immediately and necessarily apparent, and so no foundation, no benchmark exists beyond our arbitrary designations. In other words, there is never a good reason to consider anything old at all (this argument is identical to that often used with truth, morality and a whole host of other things so I'm sure you are familiar with it). But, what we can say, indisputably, is that everything - our thoughts, perceptions, explanations - all happen NOW.
No! We recognise 'old' things, as we 'age' ourselves. That we know that other chemical substances 'age' at a certain rate allows us to more accurately date objects that have this chemical as a property.
Every act of measurement is a completely unique event, without precedent. You cannot measure the same thing twice in order to determine its age. If you think that you have measured this rock before, a week ago, then that is pure illusion. Even if you have a dated record sheet before you, then that sheet is as purely contemporaneous as the rock - neither have any historicity. Your comparison between them, and the conclusions you reach are all happening in the here and now.
So not 'arbitary' at all. Based upon the fact that we 'live' a certain span and know it by having to experience it.
If you consider our life span a 'fact' then you are likely to miss the argument. It is perfectly possible that your past is as much an invention as your average daydream. As a psychologist one becomes acutely aware of just how deeply unreliable the memory is - by unreliable I mean, how it varies so much between people who are both of the belief that they experienced the same thing.
And what is it we perceive? Past/Present/Future.
None of these - what we perceive does not fit into any of of these categories. I know I use the term present, or here-and-now a lot, but I am aware that this term only makes sense with reference to past and future. This becomes easier to understand when you become comfortable with the idea that time might be a complete illusion and terms with temporal connatation must be avoided to save confusion.

Best, Nikolai

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Re: On Time and Archaeology

Post by Nikolai » Thu Aug 27, 2009 2:25 pm

Psychonaut
We do not experience the past, we only experience our remembrance of it, which occurs in the present.
While I agree with much of what you're saying I can see that my argument is even more hardcore than yours. In the above you say that some of our present experience is remembrance - but how do you distinguish remembrance of the past from prediction of the future?

I would say that there is nothing to distinguish them other than our feeling that the memory is authenticated by events that really happened, with the other just an invention of the future which is without any facticity as yet.

The trouble is, as you pointed out, our feelings can in no way offer anything by way of validation. Two different people can believe with all their hearts in opposing versions of events - even while agreeing that they shared the event.

This sceptical argument is familar to all, but paves the way for my more bold assertion. Memories and predictions are both the same thing - events that happen in the present. I am only able to call my image of me as a boy a 'memory' and my image as an old man a 'prediction' if I am indoctrinated by the fable-like belief that people change from small people into big and only in that direction. Yet there is nothing in experience itslef that would suggest this belief is true.

So here is the fascinating bit. It is just as plausible that we grow smaller with the passage of time. I'm sure people will think this is preposterous but there is absolutely no way of disputing it. All we would be doing is feeling that our predictions are memories and vice versa. The halcyon summer days of playing kiss chase in the park are hopes for the future - and as I play it I'll be thinking that I must have wished for this all my life.

That we have memories that are artefacts of the past is a compelling illusion - as is the passage of time. But Good, Truth, beauty, Free will are all pretty compelling to some people too. Many thinkers have constructed arguments able to dismantle their belief in these latter categories. But it is more rare when they realise that Time yields to eactly the same critique.

Best, Nikolai

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Re: On Time and Archaeology

Post by Psychonaut » Thu Aug 27, 2009 5:14 pm

I would say that there is nothing to distinguish them other than our feeling that the memory is authenticated by events that really happened, with the other just an invention of the future which is without any facticity as yet.
I sort of agree. For me it isn't the sensation that the memory is authenticated, but the sensation of 'from whence it comes'. This sensation can, obviously, be very much mistaken. Deja vu, for example, being the sensation that the present moment is a past moment.

Predictions also differ, usually, in the matter of their clarity and the place they reside in within our overall mental structure. While I agree that we have no real reason to suppose that one or the other is what it seems to be, plenty of case studies into mental illness have given us insights into how awry this can go and how awry our general state of affairs is, it is a fact that we have no choice but to plump with things 'as they appear'. We can hardly base our actions on things 'as they don't appear'. Damned to be fools?

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Re: On Time and Archaeology

Post by aoxomoxoa » Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:16 pm

Wow, interesting stuff. At some level, some of this conversation seems to be playing word games though, but I'll admit I haven't thought through what I think you guys are talking about.
Nikolai wrote: In the mind's eye we conjure images of of our face without wrinkles and call them 'memories' - even though these images are pure inventions appearing in the here-and-now.
How do you know they are 'pure inventions'? It seems you are dodging the possibility that our brains *are* capable of storing and retrieving past information, however imperfectly, and it seems very obvious that our brains do have that capability. I have photos of myself with smoother skin from the past; what is the explanation for the existence of these photos and the image they show?
Everything happens in the atemporal now. Time is an illusion - or at least a fun little story we tell to ourselves.
And Einstein's theories concerning the nature of time are, what? Based on illusion?
There is nothing whose age is immediately and necessarily apparent, and so no foundation, no benchmark exists beyond our arbitrary designations. In other words, there is never a good reason to consider anything old at all
I guess I don't find the thought process that results in us concluding that there have been past 'nows' to be arbitrary.
If you think that you have measured this rock before, a week ago, then that is pure illusion. Even if you have a dated record sheet before you, then that sheet is as purely contemporaneous as the rock - neither have any historicity. Your comparison between them, and the conclusions you reach are all happening in the here and now.
Just because we can only act in the present doesn't mean that everything that we assume is from the past is pure illusion. I have a dated record sheet now that someone has wrote on. I'm not writing on it now in the present; how did the writing get on the sheet?
If you consider our life span a 'fact' then you are likely to miss the argument. It is perfectly possible that your past is as much an invention as your average daydream.
I'm assuming that your basis for this statement isn't the obvious, 'anything's possible'. It's possible that there is no 'now' either. The problem I think I have with your overall argument is that I can base actions I take in the present on the supposedly fictitious illusory past and they 'work'. You put three colored balls in a hat, red, green and blue. I pull out a red one and a green one. You ask me what color the remaining ball is. I say blue and am obviously correct when you pull the blue ball out; my choice was not arbitrary nor the result of a daydream. Why is assuming there is a non-illusory past so successful?
As a psychologist one becomes acutely aware of just how deeply unreliable the memory is - by unreliable I mean, how it varies so much between people who are both of the belief that they experienced the same thing.
Just because memories are not entirely reliable does not make every memory then a fiction. What if the memory happens to be accurate? It's not just luck I'm assuming.
It is just as plausible that we grow smaller with the passage of time. I'm sure people will think this is preposterous but there is absolutely no way of disputing it.
Of course there is a way; I've got plenty of pictures, videos, etc, that do not show us shrinking with the passage of time and that do not rely on fallible memories. The plausible explanation for the existence of these photos and videos is? I'm definitely missing something (ha, more like everything I think) here.

Again, fascinating stuff, and hopefully my questions aren't too remedial, and I'll be the first to admit that maybe I've waded in over my head. I'm assuming that we're not just talking about the obvious, 'you can never know anything for absolute sure', as that fits just as well with everything you've written here.

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Re: On Time and Archaeology

Post by Psychonaut » Thu Aug 27, 2009 11:34 pm

I'm assuming that your basis for this statement isn't the obvious, 'anything's possible'. It's possible that there is no 'now' either. The problem I think I have with your overall argument is that I can base actions I take in the present on the supposedly fictitious illusory past and they 'work'. You put three colored balls in a hat, red, green and blue. I pull out a red one and a green one. You ask me what color the remaining ball is. I say blue and am obviously correct when you pull the blue ball out; my choice was not arbitrary nor the result of a daydream. Why is assuming there is a non-illusory past so successful?
People have a remarkable capacity for fitting their notion of past predictions into current events.

The most objective measures we can take, time and again, demonstrate that in peoples' personal narrative they will rewrite their past predictions to fit current events.

It helps (or doesn't?) that people generally make a great number of different and contrary predictions, then recall only those that turned out to be true.
Again, fascinating stuff, and hopefully my questions aren't too remedial, and I'll be the first to admit that maybe I've waded in over my head. I'm assuming that we're not just talking about the obvious, 'you can never know anything for absolute sure', as that fits just as well with everything you've written here.
Personally, I think the purpose is in discerning to what degree we cannot be absolutely sure.

We can, for sure, never be sure ;)
However, there is a nuanced line between 'nothing is certain, therefore nothing!' and 'everything I perceive SIMPLY is as it is', and I think the purpose of philosophy is to examine and strike that line as close as we can (always knowing its an approximation).

We should dispense with both the assured certainties that lead to metaphysical claims derived from our experience, and those claims which deny the purpose of our personal experience.

IMO, we have what we have, it is not fundamental reality, but neither is it total dust (or if it is, all we have is dust, and I'll take my shitty dust over the 'nothing' any day of the week, when it comes to guiding my actions).

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Re: On Time and Archaeology

Post by Arising_uk » Fri Aug 28, 2009 12:52 am

Psychonaut wrote:We do not experience the past, we only experience our remembrance of it, which occurs in the present.
The past, like the noumenon, is something which we can know of, but none of its details.
I understand it this way. That things happen to us means that there is 'experience', which means there is a 'past' and we can remembrance our experience of it in the 'present'. Unlike the noumenon the 'past' is something we can know of and the detail depends upon what you mean by it, but it can be done in great detail. Is it the 'actual past'? No, as its the rememberance of the experiences created by the things that happen to us, thats being 're-called'. Or something like this.

I understand the idea of "when I dies the Universe dies" but unfortunately I've seen dead bodies and things dying so its a demonstrable untruth, except to the dead. I think its more like "When I die the Universe dies too me". Given that, whats Time? For me its of the same type as the Universe as in "when I die Time stops too me", a part of being what we are is that we are 'time', I think there is a very real sense in the idea that if Man died out upon the planet then a type of Time would not exist, at least not upon the land maybe? I think we are the being that creates Time as we understand it, i.e past/present/future but its based upon being a finite thing in the world, so I think that if Man did die out the Time would not cease as there are apparently a lot of living things out there, but, question if there are any that ever bother to think that Time does not exist for them?
If you like science, then take heed of the numerous studies that demonstrate quite how fallible human memory is.
I love Science but do you mean Psychology? What is meant by "fallible" in this example? As I can understand how "fallible" human memory can look beside teraflop database capability to retrieve data, but would need to understand what they mean by a 'memory' as like you I think it occurs in the 'present'.
Its a story we tell ourselves.
If it is then we appear to be very bad storytellers?
How many arguments devolve into 'NO x is the order of events', 'NO y is the order of events'. Many arguments end up in arguing about what the argument was even about in the first place. I remember a classic scene in Father Ted when Dougal says 'I thought you might say that, so I took the liberty of taping our conversation'. He then finds he was completely wrong.
That they do, to me, points to the idea that a discussion upon what an 'event' is may be needed before ranking. It was a funny scene, I understand it as one should check ones memory before speaking?
We all live in fictional narratives, its the way of the human mind and, I think, why novels hold such fascination. We manage to construct a narrative about the certainty of narrative, but there is no great tome which we can make reference to, in the end.
Whilst I understand the metaphors of 'fictional naratives' as apllied to mind I find them lackiing as a way forward for my interest in Philosophy. I think novels generally hold such a fascination as people want to explore others thoughts and reading is seductive as a substitute for thinking at times. Plus everyone loves a good story, read or spoken. I think there are ways of referencing experiences that at least give an approximation of being able to access a 'great book' when faced by an end. Or some such.

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