Our brief barely-physical universe

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Magical Realist, Apr 21, 2016.

  1. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    Physical implies the ability to be measured and detected. To exhibit properties such as mass, energy, volume, and form that can be quantified and recorded. But when an object, say a chair, becomes a past object, how is this even possible? Is the past chair measurable? Is it even detectable as real anymore? Obviously the past is not part of physical reality. It exists in a sense, but not in the sense that present physical objects exist. Cannot the same be said for the future? The chair as it will be five seconds from now, nowhere to be found until those 5 seconds are up? We are living in a universe of happening events, physical for only the brief sliver of time between not yet existing and no more existing. And by the time we detect it, the physical has already slipped away into irretrievable nonphysical perpetuity.

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    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016
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  3. wellwisher Banned Banned

    An object will continue to exist, in the past, present and future, even if we are not aware of it. The reality of the chair is separate from our sensory perception of it.

    If a tree falls in the woods and there is nobody there to hear it fall, does it make a sound? Sound has to do with the movement of sound waves through various media, such as the air. Our perception does not control the law of physics. Our perception exists apart from the laws of physics, allowing us to observe the laws of physics and model these. The laws of physics are same in all references; exist separate apart from any perception reference. There are absolutes apart from perception.

    If you look at the chair above, the chair looks 3-D to the eyes. However, it is really an image of 3-D. The picture of the chair is actually 2-D, even though it appears 3-D. You can prove this to yourself by touching the monitor, with your finger, to feel if the z-axis has real depth. The picture of the chair will feel flat or 2-D. This illusion can fool the eyes. It requires the sense of touch to see through the illusion.

    The 3-D image of the chair is a useful learning aid, because our perception of reality is built upon our sensory perception of reality; extrapolation from sensory to thought.The 3-D picture of the chair shows it is possible to have thoughts that might appear 3-D; spatially integrated, even if they are flat; 2-D, and not integrated. I call this perception special affect a spatial illusion. Spatial illusions may appear 3-D to perception, but are not. One need an analogy for touch to prove this to themselves.

    Magical Realist, your topic is actually about nature of perception. Spatial illusions, work best in the here and now. They are not the same in the past and future; relative thinking. The spatial illusion is a type of perceptual magic trick. It needs a certain point in time to set the stage in the mind, so it appears 3-D. For example, the LGBT debate is more effective today, than 5 years ago; spatial illusion.

    If you look at political orientations, such as Democrat and Republican, each orientation approaches the needs of culture differently, yet each claims to be the solution to all social problems. How can this be possible? How can both claim to be 3-D, while often being mutually exclusive? Both are actually spatial images or spatial illusions. To see this, one need an intellectual analogy for the sense of touch. Both orientations work, today, but may not in the past or the future; cater to the time which sets the stage for the trick. ObamaCare worked like a Swiss watch when it was sales pitched, but not after it was implemented; future.

    Schools need to teach an intellectual sense of touch, so students can touch what appears to be 3-D, so they can tell the difference between real 3-D and spatial illusions. The opposite appears to be the case in education, where this skill is purposely not taught; critical thinking, so spatial illusions become easier to perform by political magicians.

    There are actual 3-D. People who have no sense of intellectual touch will assume 2-D and 3-D are relative, since the 2-D looks exactly the same as 3-D to their mind's eye. This like having two windows looking at a chair, with one really an i-Pad and other just glass. The critical thinker will sense there is something not quite right. Those who lack such skills will assume both the same.
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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    That raises the question of what 'physical' means. I'm not sure, to tell the truth. It's a more difficult question than most people recognize.

    I guess that it suggests the ability to interact with other physical objects in ways that physics recognizes. (That obviously begs some questions right there.)

    Here on Sciforums, it's widely assumed that the scope of physics equates to reality itself. That strikes me more as an article of metaphysical faith than as something that anyone can actually know.


    Maybe that's one reason why so much stress is laid on physical determinism. It's assumed that the past exists in some sense, or more accurately existed (past-tense) in such a way that its contents physically interacted with their surroundings. That interaction was causal and causality seems to extend through time in a past => future direction. So events in the past cause temporal chains of effects that extend into the the past's future (our present) that enable observers in the present to work out what the initiating events in the past might have been. That means that applying the concept of causation to currently existing states of affairs allows us to form hypotheses about what the past might have been like to cause them. Geologists examine present-day land-forms and interpret them in terms of geological processes like weathering and petrogenesis.

    But... if physical determinism doesn't hold true, or if it only holds vaguely and probabilistically for relatively short intervals, then obtaining solid information about the past becomes a lot more difficult.

    And it seems to me that we face real difficulties justifying the idea of physical determinism. We might argue that our experience (including our scientific experience) justifies it, but that's pretty clearly circular, assuming what is at question. It reminds me of the problem of induction, which involves similar difficulties.

    I think that the nature of time and the ontological status of the past, present and future are among the great unsolved mysteries.

    Of course. The future is even more problematic than the past, since not only do we have no physical traces attributable to the future, we also typically assume that the past is fixed and determined while we intuitively feel that the future consists of multiple coexisting possibilities (kind of reminiscent of some quantum mechanical ideas perhaps).

    That intuition collides headlong with the physical determinism assumption, leading to no end of heated arguments.

    I personally love speculating about time, but have no real answers.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2016
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  7. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

    I don't see how past events can continue to have an effect on the present given the fact that those events are no longer present. It makes me suspicious of causation itself, which is conceived of somehow extending over time continuously despite the temporal discreteness of the events themselves. One event leads to the other, yet this sort of inevitability seems built into time itself, along the lines of physics' notion of block time. Tomorrow follows today, but isn't "caused" by today. Events follow each other, but do not "cause" each other. I guess what I'm advocating here is a non-physical determinism wherein the continuity between events is maintained by time itself, and not by space, such that the transition itself is the force of change rather than the events it contains. It is as if we are all in a story that is already written in a book. And each event is part of the story, leading to other parts, "causing" other events but only as part of a story we tell ourselves. The car hits the fire hydrant and water bursts forth. But this was caused only from within the story. From the reader's standpoint, it is woven into the fabric of the narrative itself. And it could not have been otherwise.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2016
  8. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I'm not entirely convinced that events are instantaneous and temporally discrete. The word 'event' typically suggests something happening, a change of some sort, and changes take place over time. Does that mean that if event A is the proximate cause of event B, that they have to temporally overlap? Maybe, I'm not sure how more temporally distant cause-effect relationships work or what kind of intermediaries there need to be.

    I hope that my earlier remarks made clear that I'm a little skeptical about block time. (I'm skeptical about many things.)

    Causation is one of the countless and effectively infinite number of things that I don't fully understand and find exceedingly mysterious. (Pretty much everything turns mysterious if I think about it for more than 30 seconds.)

    I'm not convinced that today's reality is 'caused' by events yesterday, if we are talking about the fact of its being, that it exists at all. (I don't know why existence exists in the first place, the greatest of all mysteries.) But I do get the impression that a great deal about the specific details and configuration of states of affairs and events today are linked in what appear to be law-like ways to events that took place earlier.

    I don't understand that, so I can't say whether I agree or not.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2016
  9. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Interesting thread. And somewhat of a novelty. Imagine that: an actual philosophical conversation in the General Philosophy forum!

    Past, present and future are a function of one's point of view. As Einstein's relativity shows, your idea of past, present and future is not identical to my idea of past, present and future if we happen to be in motion relative to one another. Given two events separated in space, you and I may even disagree on which of the two happened first and which happened second.

    A chair is a collection of billions upon billions of fundamental particles that at some point have come together to form a chair. We can imagine each of those particles as following a path through space and time, starting right back somewhere near the big bang and eventually arriving at part of that chair. And in the future, each of those particles will continue through time and space. Their time as part of a chair will be a brief eyeblink in their existence.

    And what of this idea of movement from past to future? The opening post suggests that only the "present" exists, so that the "past chair" isn't real somehow, and the "future chair" seems even less tangible. But maybe that's just another function of perception. The state of my brain "now" is not the same as the state of my brain a few moments ago (in the inaccessible "past"). Yet right "now" I remember a chair. Why do I remember a chair? Is it because there was a chair in "the past"? Did the chair in the past cause my memory of the chair now?

    Maybe those paths through spacetime are actually fixed in place, so that there is no "real" motion from past to future - just our perception due to the changing states of the particles, signals, energies in our brains. Maybe, in fact, there's no change at all. Maybe the 12 year old "me" exists just as surely as the 87 year old me (if I live that long). I don't have the memories of the 87 year old me "now", but they are there in the 87-year-old-me time slice.

    Maybe the chair-5-second-from-now is right there. I have no current memory of it 5-seconds-in-the-future, but that's no surprise because my current brain state is the state "now" and not the one 5 seconds from "now".

    And then we have the question of free will: am I "free" to choose to break the chair "now", thus upsetting the 5-seconds-from-now chair? Or would I have done that (or not) regardless of any choice? Will I believe I made a choice? Will it feel like I made a choice? If it does feel that way, does that mean it really is that way?

    My, this is a big rabbit hole, isn't it?
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  10. wellwisher Banned Banned

    There are the laws of physics/science which are objective; same for all. There is also subjective perception, which is relative to each person's reference; POV. If the tree falls in the woods does it make a sound? In terms of the laws of physics the answer is yes. In terms of subjective perception, the answer can be yes, no and maybe.

    In terms of the chair, the law of physics tell us that the chair had to exist in the past, at least up to a certain point in the past. Matter does not just pop into reality fully assembled into household items. But we also know, by the style of chair, it did not always exist. With enough investigation we can use science to pin point when in the past, it first appeared in the factory, and when it appeared in the house.

    In terms of the chair, each of us may remember a portion of the past when the chair was there. Each of us may also remember the details of the chair, in different ways, in terms of the exact day and context of that day. This perceptions will occur apart from the laws of physics. It is connected to the filters of our minds. Someone who builds furniture would notice it the first time they were near it. Others who were thinking birthday party, may have sat on it, days earlier, but gave it no mind.

    Free will is often about human subjectivity; unable to remain fully objective. Our subjectivity alters the past, present and future in ways that allow us to depart from the laws of physics, by choice and by default. Things become relative,.We can have free will without ever knowing it.

    The laws of physics are spatial; 3-D; same for all. Our free will is more connected to spatial images and/or spatial illusions; 2.5-D. The 3-D is the same for all. But 2.5-D seems spatial but is relative.

    If you look at the ball below, the 3-D affect is created by highlights and shadowing. Without highlights and shadowing the chair will look flat or 2-D. We can also tell the ball is 2-D by touching the monitor screen, to factor out the highlights and shadows which can play tricks on the eyes. But if we only use the eyes, we might see an image of spatial. Since it is not spatial in terms of touch, I call it 2.5-D.

    In terms of an intellectual analogy of 2.5-D, the highlights are valid data points. I may remember sitting on the chair at the party.This may be true, but it is not the whole truth. The shadows are connected to the denial of truth in other POV. Others may remember something slightly different from that day. I may have been sitting on a different chair that looks the same.

    In politics, mud slinging is a traditional part of the spatial illusion. It is used to cast a shadow for the spatial illusion. A real 3-D perception, may have shadows and highlights, but what sets it appear is an actual z-axis; depth. This could be created by irrefutable evidence; same for all.

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  11. river

    Non-sense MR .

    Antiques exist .
  12. Edont Knoff Registered Senior Member

    The key term here is history. The presence is the result of the history. So even if the chair isn't here anymore, it had someinfluence in the past, and traces of this influence can be found in the presense.

    A similar idea can be created about the future - the presence (and the past) influence the future. If there is a chair now, big chances are that it still will be there in near future. The farther you "travel" into future, the weaker the traces of the chair will be and the uncertainty will grow.

    This is about the same as a chair which existed long ago - it's traces throughout history might have become so faint, that even the existence of the chair becomes uncertain.
  13. C C Consular Corps - "the backbone of diplomacy" Valued Senior Member

    If "change" is to literally be treated as slightly different versions of the universe replacing each other in continual succession and annihilation under a regulating theme of evolving development (presentism theory of time)... Then this "now" would be just that: A frozen snapshot completely alienated from what came before and what comes after. There would be nothing else but "now". Thus no metaphysical machinery is supplied for explaining how the similarities are being maintained from isolated moment to isolated moment, other than a magical "it just happens!", or the declaration of a principle regulating the process which is merely believed or justified via argument. [Such a principle itself would be immaterial, since again, no structural mechanism at another level is provided, or other dimensions, etc, to explain its power or serve as a substantive object that the governing concept represents.]

    If the universe of "this moment" was intelligent and could contradict or perversely defy its frozen state so as to analyze itself and appeal to evidence that the "world of this now" is virtually identical to the "world of the previous now", it would be purely restricted to the environmental records or "memory" of the past contained within itself. IOW, circularly confirming its relationship with the prior versions by reference to itself: "I accurately carry the history of those other universes because I say so!"

    As an analogy, imagine a person with amnesia declaring that she knows who she is and what's going on because of what she reads in the papers she finds in her coat pocket (nobody else is around to consult). That trust is tentatively warranted due to lack of anything else, but who wants to be in that uncertain situation? But that is akin to the situation which presentism deliberately places the cosmos in: This moment is all that exists. There is no "in-between" the moments where the current now and the last now co-existed and could share information or one pass on "ontological genes" to the blank newcomer. [That would be a kind of minimal version of eternalism, or maybe a minimal version of the "growing block-universe" alternative. Either way, it's not presentism where the absolute "only now is real" is the All Holy to its believers.]

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