Does the past exist ?

So what's really going on?

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Obvious Leo
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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by Obvious Leo » Wed Apr 06, 2016 9:15 pm

duszek wrote:Caesar crossing the Rubicon.

When did this event exist exactly ?

When he put one foot into the water ? When he was in the middle of the river ? When he stepped out on the other shore ?

Did this event exist as long as his sandals were still wet ?
You make a good point. That Caesar actually crossed the Rubicon is something that we can reasonably accept as a historical fact but exactly WHEN this event occurred is not so easily nailed down when we start chopping our units of time into ever smaller bits. However the fact that this event is no longer still occurring is a complete and adequate proof that time is not infinitely divisible.

Compliments of Zeno of Elea.

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Greta
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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by Greta » Thu Apr 07, 2016 5:34 am

Obvious Leo wrote:
duszek wrote:Caesar crossing the Rubicon.

When did this event exist exactly ?

When he put one foot into the water ? When he was in the middle of the river ? When he stepped out on the other shore ?

Did this event exist as long as his sandals were still wet ?
You make a good point. That Caesar actually crossed the Rubicon is something that we can reasonably accept as a historical fact but exactly WHEN this event occurred is not so easily nailed down when we start chopping our units of time into ever smaller bits. However the fact that this event is no longer still occurring is a complete and adequate proof that time is not infinitely divisible.

Compliments of Zeno of Elea.
Yes, those moments of being, the "now" have passed and gone. What's more interesting to me is what's left behind. How would today's world be different had Julius Caesar not crossed the Rubicon? The ramifications (or relative lack) of everything that's every existed are indelibly infused into, and expressed in ever more diluted form in the ever shifting present.

Theoretically, future AI-enhanced archaeology (quantum computing?) will be able to approximately recreate the "fossil skeletal remains" of our minds and through those models gain a far better understanding of us than we did of our forebears. The information lives on and, based on the informational template, it might even be possible to reproduce past entities energetically as well. Just the experiential "now" is gone.

Obvious Leo
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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by Obvious Leo » Thu Apr 07, 2016 6:16 am

Greta wrote:Yes, those moments of being, the "now" have passed and gone. What's more interesting to me is what's left behind. How would today's world be different had Julius Caesar not crossed the Rubicon? The ramifications (or relative lack) of everything that's every existed are indelibly infused into, and expressed in ever more diluted form in the ever shifting present.


The informational evolutions of any events are ordinarily diluted over time but this is not exclusively so. In the chaotically determined reality which is our universe there are occasions when the cascade of effects are raised in significance to a power of their cause. The Rubicon example is a good case in point but the idea of some lazy but clever hunter-gathering bloke deciding to build a fence around some animals was an even better example of a dramatic change in the evolutionary trajectory of our species. . Maybe if I just wander down to the pub for a beer I might accidentally change the entire course of human history. In all likelihood it won't but I'll try it just in case.

duszek
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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by duszek » Mon Apr 11, 2016 6:11 pm

Leo drinking a glass of beer on April 7, 2016, at about ... 6.30 am (GMT) is a fact that existed in the past.

Does this fact exist still because there is a record of this event on this thread on this forum ?

Has the fact existed until now ?

Obvious Leo
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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by Obvious Leo » Mon Apr 11, 2016 7:43 pm

duszek wrote:Leo drinking a glass of beer on April 7, 2016, at about ... 6.30 am (GMT) is a fact that existed in the past.

Does this fact exist still because there is a record of this event on this thread on this forum ?

Has the fact existed until now ?
This is a nicely phrased way to set out a very simple yet profoundly important metaphysical proposition. If we accept the original proposition as true on the grounds of its likelihood then the event took place and the beer was consumed. This is an event which once existed but now exists no longer. However the fact that the event occurred, more formally known as its information content, continues to exist long after the event itself has ceased to exist and indeed can continue to initiate a cascade of causal consequences for a long time into the future.

Believe it or not this sublime statement of the bloody obvious marks me as a scientific heretic because it utterly contradicts the models used in modern physics, which unsurprisingly describe a universe which makes no sense.

duszek
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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by duszek » Wed Apr 13, 2016 2:00 pm

So the event of drinking a beer existed.
The fact of having been drinking a beer at a particular moment in the past exists still and will exist for ever.
But if everybody forgets about this fact and there will be no records of it, where and how will this fact exist ?

Obvious Leo
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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by Obvious Leo » Wed Apr 13, 2016 9:37 pm

duszek wrote:But if everybody forgets about this fact and there will be no records of it, where and how will this fact exist ?
The information of the event will continue to exist regardless of whether the event is recorded or remembered because ALL events in physical reality are causal agents which initiate a cascade of causal consequences which resonate indefinitely into the future. These consequences might appear to be trivial, and in this example they probably are, but effects can be raised to a power of their causes in a self-determining universe.

Try this example. You have a plane to catch and you get a flat tyre on the way to the airport. Because of this delay you miss your plane and it subsequently crashes killing everybody on board. The bloke that dropped the object that punctured your tyre has saved your life although as far as the truth is concerned he was simply littering the highway.

We live in a chaotically determined universe where the only law of nature is that shit happens. The past is truly dead but the events of the past inform the present and the events of the present inform the future. Those with a reasonable working knowledge of modern physics will be aware of the fact that this blindly obvious truth is one which cannot be accommodated within the mathematical models currently being used to describe the universe, which is why these models are mutually exclusive and collectively make no sense.

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attofishpi
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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by attofishpi » Fri Apr 15, 2016 10:10 pm

Good explanation Leo. I saw an advert the other day for a tiny non intrusive camera that pins to your clothing and takes snapshots every so many seconds. As technology develops and more of the present is captured we are 'carrying' the past with us to a certain extent into the present. This means that the ramifications of past events in a causal universe can once again cause further 'ramifications'. Not sure i explained that very well.
Take virtual-reality for example. It is now possible to immerse ones self into the reality of a past event - well to the extent of sight and sound, eventually i believe further tapping into or interfacing to the human brain will permit all sensory appreciation of the past event..except for the knowledge that one is indeed 'experiencing' the past.

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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by Obvious Leo » Fri Apr 15, 2016 10:57 pm

Atto. The important point to be kept in mind is that ONLY the past is accessible to our senses and that the real present must ALWAYS lie tantalising beyond the reach of our senses. In the philosophy of the bloody obvious it is accepted as a given that we cannot observe something until after it's happened, by which time it's too late to do anything about it. Once again modern physics manages in QM to ignore this self-evident truth.

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attofishpi
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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by attofishpi » Sat Apr 16, 2016 12:22 am

Sure, this is more obvious on the scales physicists are dealing with, but to the average joe (me) the present is what i am experiencing via my senses. (even though it is the past...mmm ok)

Obvious Leo
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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by Obvious Leo » Sat Apr 16, 2016 12:38 am

attofishpi wrote:Sure, this is more obvious on the scales physicists are dealing with, but to the average joe (me) the present is what i am experiencing via my senses. (even though it is the past...mmm ok)
Actually the fact that the observer of physical reality can only observe a reality which no longer exists is a fact which is completely ignored by physicists, which is why physics describes a universe which makes no sense. Special Relativity is modelled on a fixed and immutable background "space" in which objects move according to precise physical "laws" but the background space somehow just "is". On the other hand General Relativity is modelled on a dynamic background "space" in which objects once again move according to precise physical laws but so too does the background. Obviously these models can't both be right because they are mutually exclusive but the problem of physics actually runs far deeper than that. Neither of these models can possibly be right because in both cases the so-called background "space" simply doesn't fucking EXIST any longer. It is only the observer who is projecting his perception onto a spatial background but this spatial extension is entirely illusory. The space ain't there.

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Greta
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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by Greta » Sat Apr 16, 2016 9:08 am

Obvious Leo wrote:... the observer of physical reality can only observe a reality which no longer exists ...
So, ironically, the past - which does not have an actual current ontic existence - is all that matters to us.

Reality comes to us only in the faulty moments we manage to briefly grasp as myriad changes pass us by. Our consciousness is akin to being in a car and pointing out landmarks while being unable to discern all the fractal detail between and in those landmarks.

Obvious Leo
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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by Obvious Leo » Sat Apr 16, 2016 9:49 am

Greta wrote: So, ironically, the past - which does not have an actual current ontic existence - is all that matters to us.
Exactly. We might like to imagine that we're living in the real world but in point of fact we're actually living in the wake of it. Because the speed of light is so mind-numbingly fast this has a negligible effect on the way we comprehend reality because of the "distance" scales at which we live our everyday lives. However, negligible is not synonymous with irrelevant when it comes to applied metaphysics and when it comes to the ontological status of our observations we cannot ignore the fact that the "distance" scales which we observe are nothing more than holographic representations of a reality which no longer exists. When the science of physics finally grasps this blindly obvious truth then the path to the unification of its models will be self-evident.


"Behind it all is surely an idea so simple, so beautiful, that when we grasp it - in a decade, a century, or a millennium - we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise? How could we have been so stupid for so long?" - John Archibald Wheeler, PhD
Greta wrote: Reality comes to us only in the faulty moments we manage to briefly grasp as myriad changes pass us by. Our consciousness is akin to being in a car and pointing out landmarks while being unable to discern all the fractal detail between and in those landmarks.
Yes. Ontically the universe must be a fractal continuum because only such a model can account for the self-organising complexity which we observe, even though the way we choose to model such complexity is entirely arbitrary.

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Gary Childress
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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by Gary Childress » Tue Apr 19, 2016 3:04 am

duszek wrote:And if not:

Did it exist ?

And if so: where does it exist ? or where did it exist ?
Definitely some mind bending questions. What do we mean when we say "the past"? As though the past is some sort of place somewhere in another "dimension" or something which we could travel to if we just had the right technology. Common sense prejudices typically tell me that the past *does* not exist. This could be true in more senses than one.

1. All the states of affairs which were true in the past but no longer true in the present tense do not exist. But they did exist at the time when the past was the present. Now they are simply memories burned into our consciousness. But they no longer possess spatial or temporal existence.

2. "The past" (as a singular entity) is not a thing which possesses what could be called "existence" but rather a word or concept which we use to refer to all the states of affairs that were previously the case.

I believe there has been speculation about "worm holes", faster than light travel and the ability to go backward into time but that remains to be seen, I think. If it is/were possible to travel backward into time then all the common sense notions of time mentioned above would of course utterly come apart. It would also yield a rather bizarre notion of the self. If I go back in time to see myself then which one of them is really "me"? If I time travel to see myself standing over in the distance then I'm not really that person standing off in the distance am I? So in a sense it is not really "me" that I'm looking at. Unless of course I come to somehow simultaneously inhabit both the body that went back into time AND the body that was already "me" in that past dimension. I wonder how that could work. Would I start seeing two different perspectives simultaneously? For example suppose I travel back into time and I'm standing on a hill looking down at myself in the past. Myself in the past is looking up the hill at myself from the future. Presumably, we each see two different perspectives. I see the valley where my past self is standing and my past self sees the hill where I'm standing. In order to be a unified self, I would need to somehow see both the hill and the valley perspectives at the same time. Otherwise there would be two different people standing there. One of them would be "me" and the other would be someone else.

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Lawrence Crocker
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Re: Does the past exist ?

Post by Lawrence Crocker » Wed May 11, 2016 9:32 pm

The problem may be more with the word "exists" than with "the past." The past does not exist in the way that the present does; so for some purposes we want to say that it does not exist. The past, however, is not like the round square or the eggplant that ate Chicago, or a massless electron. There is something makes it true that Caesar crossed the Rubicon a while back and that I crossed the room not so long back. That there are truth makers for these commits us to the existence of the past in some sense of "existence."

I would not want to tie the existence of the past to memory or any other sort of verification procedure. It is either true or false that the last dinosaur of weight greater than two tons to die was female. I am pretty sure, however, that we will never know which -- unless there is time travel or some time travel like way of getting information from the past.

Gary's case of meeting yourself through time travel seems to show an ambiguity in "same person" that we may not show itself short of such exotic voyaging.

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