• invicta
    I wrote the below on my phone (in my notes) I think it’s one of my only philosophical writings in it which I was musing some time back…just thought I’d share and get more perspectives here. I did this because member 180proof shared a quote by Ludwig Wittgenstein echoing a similar outlook in another thread.

    Here’s the start of my writing:

    Does the future exist?

    The present exists this is undeniable. The past whether that existed is open to doubt.

    The future does not exist but is simply the eternal present which we cannot escape from.

    So then time is the comparison of linear events from the non-linear present.

    A future event which has not occurred but which can occur then exists as a possibility of the current eternal present.

    If all that can be experienced is the present, for the past and future cannot, then the future can be said to exist in the same way as the past.

    Think of this. 5 seconds ago the previous paragraph was written in the present which is now the past and this paragraph was written in the future.

    So then what is going on with past and future but a differential present.

    So then imagine looking at a square board with 3 marbles equidistant locations in any arrangement. Label each, past present future.

    It becomes an example of how these three events can be viewed simultaneously (given that the board allows vision to perceive them as such by having the right scale, otherwise perception of the 3 occurs linearly as per the movement of attention and vision)

    Then the whole can be seen indistinguishably and non-linearly.

    Then as these 3 marbles each represent time then linearity ceases to be in terms of past present future.

    What can be seen is the separation of the 3 marbles through space (or distance). This is undeniable otherwise there would only be one marble which could be perceived if the space or distance could not.

    Further, allow this marble to move in the square in circular or any random motion.

    Is the motion happening in time or space? Have yourself a camera to snap this motion in say regular intervals. You will see different arrangements. With circular motion it repeats so that those intervals would have the same picture at some point. The same for random motion two or more snaps can be said to be identical given enough time such that within this finite square board.

    In either scenario if the snap of the arrangement was not given a time stamp then temporal linearity cannot be determined to distinguish which snap was grabbed first or second to an observer.

    However imagine the output of such snaps gets deposited say via a medium such as a printout. This printout is on a wall which can be seen all at once. With each snap against a wall in a4 paper almost.

    These frames then when viewed cannot give away time from any reference point if all states of it are captured simultaneously (or of sufficient speed to elude vision).

    Thus all states of motion exist simultaneously.

    The marble moving as it does within the square board in circular motion gives the illusion or appearance of a circle.

    The illusion disappears upon seeing the marble move in a circular motion via a snapshot which gives away the location at any given space within the circle but not time as explained above.

    The other thing that cannot be determined here is the direction of motion I.e. clockwise or anti-clockwise. All we can see is the circle and via snapshots, location.

    Consider then as you read this. Are you in the present or the past ? You can’t be in the past as that’s gone. And you certainly can’t be in the future either as that’s not happened yet. And it will never happen.

    Therefore you’re in the present. Always.

    The future never happens and the past is always gone.

    Conceptually the future is the past and the past is always the future. It was wasn’t it.

    If the past and future are so interchangeable in this way then they are relations of present thought. And if the future does not exist then neither does the past.

    Yet all this writing has a beginning. Where is that then ? was it in the present? Yes it was.

    Was it in the past ? Yes it was.

    Was it in the future? It always was. And also it was not.

    The future was and the past is, was and will be. Not just linguistically.

    When the future arrives we call it the past. We can’t call it the present for only the present can preserve its place.

    If you say this is the future. Now! You’re describing the present.

    If you say in 2 seconds we will be in the future. That statement is true. However the current future becomes the present. We cannot say this is the future as we are describing the present.

    Yet. The future does occur but it only occurs in the present.

    So what are we referring to when we say the future or future event. Is it not simply the unactualised present?

    Does the future arrive at all. Is it better to refer to it as future present but not present future ?

    Our words here simply bewitch us.

    Think this in your head as you read this. In 2 seconds I will be in the future. In 2 seconds you are actually in the present.

    Ok fine in 2 seconds you will experience the future. What have you experienced? The present still. An actual present that lasted two seconds.


    The future is 2 seconds from now. This is very close to the truth. If not the TRUTH!

    Yet all we did was make a statement. Statements can be true or false. And the one above is undeniably so.

    The question then remains. Does the future exist.

    The answer is yes and no. Conceptually it cannot be experienced. EVER! We can however PROVE that though it cannot conceptually be experienced it does exist.

    In fact two seconds from now it will exist. But only as the present. Not as the future.

    If the present then always exists then it is simultaneously the future but also the past.

    This is inescapable. And I can only confer that it has always existed, infinitely up to this point. And this point and this point.

    What then happens when I fall asleep or die. Does the present stop? Inextricably it is linked with awareness. Remove awareness and the past, present goes.

    Yet, I am unbothered. As I’m not aware that I’m not aware. Nor am i aware that I am not aware but only after the fact.

    So where do we go when we go to sleep?

    Good question

    We wake up in the morning time has certainly passed though we weren’t aware of it but only after the fact when we see the sunrise and daylight. The assumption is that time of course did pass the earth revolved in such a way that it is now facing the sun at such an angle that it’s now daylight not night when we went to sleep and gave up our awareness.

    This is deduction and a reliable that tells us time passed.

    Death then, where awareness post the fact does not occur means what exactly. The inability to perceive the present. The inability to perceive anything at all. Eternally.

    (We are then blips of awareness in eternity or … if we want to be correct we are eternity in blips of awareness)


    So we came from the past allegedly, developed the ability to perceive the present during our short life and lost it in the future. This very same ability.

    So it’s like birth akin to waking up and death to sleep.

    Gone, no more of this thought of this ever present thought.

    So then where does the present go when we are gone? Does it go with us ?

    Not really. As the future does not really occur in the present and is only a concept we rarely die or sleep for that matter.

    Yet post fact we do when we wake up we know we slept and that time passed.

    But did it really or did the hands of the clock just move and the planet revolve round the sun?

    We know it did and this can be confirmed if we’re still alive. At least deductively.

    If we are unable to confirm it then when we die we’re just stuck in the present but don’t know it. Till someone says hey buddy you’re dead. To which you reply no I ain’t though I really can’t remember the past. Who am I ? What am I ? Did I live a good life?

    That doesn’t really matter right now let me show you something really cool…

    If I stop thinking how will I know?

    Or how can I be aware that I’m not aware. I can’t when I’m not.

    Then who is aware ? You ? Me? In fact what is it that is aware ?


    I ramble on a bit more after that but I’ve decided to leave it out for now.
  • invicta
    The quote by Wittgenstein which prompted me to share my own personal musings above on the matter.

    Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits.
    — Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • Mark Nyquist
    In the physical world your three marbles in a box analogy can never exist so we are looking at past, present and future in terms of mental images that can only exist in the physical present...is that fair to say? A lot of paradoxes will show up if it isn't specified.
  • L'éléphant
    I ramble on a bit more after that but I’ve decided to leave it out for now.invicta
    Have you heard of ...editing?
  • Mark Nyquist
    Ha Ha, I only got to the marbles part....
  • invicta

    It’s a very crude analogy for sure. This was written a few months back so I’m still trying to understand it myself at least what I meant by it and how it fits in with the rest of the topic being explored. It could even be omitted entirely although some aspects of the marble thing have merit on their own right isolated from the rest of the concept regarding the present and the overall arching question.

    The 3 marble analogy in retrospect seems incorrect to me and reading back my writing I switched to a one marble analogy which appears more valid within the theme of the issue I’m discussing although this switch might not be readily apparent to the reader I must state it now as the writing remains unedited from when it was first written.
  • Mark Nyquist
    I've found reading your own notes can be very enlightening.

    It's ok. I like the thought process on display.
  • invicta

    Actually there is a logical progression there somewhere from the 3 marbles to 1 marble.

    Great! so it wasn’t just me losing my marbles.
  • 180 Proof
    Does the future exist?invicta
    Yes, it's the horizon of the present.
  • I like sushi
    Real things are real. Things that are not real are real in the sense that they ate not real.

    It is basically a semantic problem.
  • invicta

    Have you read my OP?
  • Benj96
    the only thing that is "real" in the sense that it currently exists, is the present.

    Having said that, the present is dictated by "past present moments" (history) and in turn dictates "present moments yet to be" (the future)

    Think of it like a wavefunction of certainty, where the further your scope of study draws away from the immediacy of the present, the harder it is to be certain of those states.

    We know more about the 1900s then we do about 700AD and we know more about 700AD than 4,000 BC, 100,000 BC, 4.8millions years ago etc.

    There is a natural attrition rate of information through time. Due to change. Information is lost because it is transformed.

    This attrition rate is most rapid for specific arbitrary details like names of people and words in languages. And it is slowest for geological phenomena like sediment layers - which can be stored unchanged for millions of years and give indirect account of the climate, flora and fauna of eons gone by.

    The same goes for the future. We can be more certain of very general statements due to their stability/constancy. For example there will be high tide in 200,000 years.
    But not for specific and highly changeable states like "I will feel scared on July 2nd".

    So "realness" and certainty are interlinked. Because we can only say something is real when we are "certain" it exists (in a specific state).

    The present is such a directly observable state of certainty.

    The future is not. But much of it can be accurately predicted with a large degree of certainty based on historical behaviour.
  • invicta

    I assume your comment addressed the title of the opening post rather than the contents of the post itself.

    Am I wrong ?

    Realness is actually a red herring to the matter at the crux of the post. In fact my actual title of this philosophical writing was does the future exist?
  • Benj96
    I read portions of it as it seemed a little longwinded. But yeah I agreed with a lot of what you say.

    For me what is real and what exists can be seen as synonymous for the purpose of many conversations. But for others real is what is material and what exists has larger scope (material and immaterial things/phenomena). This leads to a lot of confusion and talking cross purposes.

    What exactly is your use of the term real vs existing?
  • invicta
    What exactly is your use of the term real vs existingBenj96

    I don’t want to be drawn into a definition war right now as even if my terms are poorly defined it takes away nothing from what is being expressed in the OP.

    But the topic concerns simply the present and if the future exists without going trigger happy linguistic on definitions as most of the wording used are common agreed public definitions in everyday use.

    Apart from the word Real which is a complete red herring …it’s there in the title to catch out people like sushi who see a thread such as this and respond to the title without reading the contents of the OP
  • Benj96
    Alright i will read the full thing and get back to you. I apologise for jumping the gun, however I do find in my experience that being more concise in OPs tends to reduce the amount of skimming because with wanting to read not only the post but also as many comments as possible, and with limited time and focus, it certainly helps.

    I don't really see discussing the usage of the words as a "war" .
    I find it interesting that you see it that way.
    I'm simply trying to mitigate misinterpretation, an important part of communicating hence why I asked.

    But the topic concerns simply the present and if the future existsinvicta

    Exactly. And I am asking you what your criterion for existing is? So I can qualify an answer as to whether the "future exists" as you said above.

    I think your response airs slightly on the side of defensive/ hypercritical. And seeing as I'm not actively intending or trying to attack you, just being curious, you may want to dial that down a notch or two.
    There is no war going on here.
  • invicta
    Just want to avoid unnecessary side tracks by arguing about definitions is what I’m getting at.

    Just want to make that clear from the start as it saves both our time.
  • invicta

    Only being defensive as I’m trying to anticipate any future derailment of the topic regarding term usage.

    If I’m being defensive then it’s by necessity.

    If you actually bother to read the whole thing definitions are the least of your worries.
  • Benj96
    alright fair enough. I'll be back to this in a few hours as I've some thing to do today but I'll read the whole thing thoroughly :)
  • Manuel
    That the present exists is undeniable? It's problematic - as is the general nature of temporality. We cannot pin the right-nowness of the present, it goes simultaneously from the almost immediate future to the barely forgotten past, that exact moment of NOW is very elusive.

    I believe that something like William James concept of a "specious present" is quite sensible. We likely think about the present in something like 3 to 5 second chunks.

    As to the more remote future, it has not yet come to be, so it cannot exist in any meaningful sense of the phrase. It remains, somewhat abstractly, a possibility to be realized.
  • invicta
    We cannot pin the right-nowness of the present,Manuel

    You can’t you’re right! The reason you can’t is because you’re trying to hold on to the NOW (or pin it down if you like) which is why it can be elusive.

    However living in the present without wanting to pin it down you actually get to experience it and flow with it which is kinda nice.
  • invicta
    @Manuel Let me propose a different thought experiment for you. Please follow these instructions

    Count to 10 starting from one at a steady even pace then stop when you reach 10.


    and tell me what you are experiencing when you reach 10 after the mind/consciousness has no more tasks, calculations, thoughts to think.

    When you reach 10 and there is no more to do you are experiencing the true present, that elusive NOW.
  • boagie
    The future is not real because it never arrives, it is always the eternal moment.
  • invicta

    If it helps think of the future as a way of planning the present.
  • 180 Proof
    The future is not real because it never arrivesboagie
    Like the horizon, which is real (i.e. ineluctable)? :chin:
  • jorndoe
    Does the future exist?invicta

    Hmm There's something odd about the question.
    The term "exist" is in present tense, but about "the future".
  • invicta
    Yes very odd. Sometimes philosophy asks odd questions like that … what is the meaning of life…is that more odd ?

    Sometimes the way we frame our question affects the answers we will get

  • I like sushi
    I just thought it was - as you put it - a ramble.

    You basically end up asking a question that is more phenomenological in tone to my eyes. Take from that what you will. Semantics are tools of … just like consciousness is of … NOT some disembodied item, so to speak!
  • I like sushi
    And soon you will be accused of navel gazing ;)
  • ssu
    The future is the only thing real, along with the fleeing moment that we call present. The past, well, it's existence is defined differently.

    We are just such prisoners of our own subjectivity that we have problems to think about this, because somewhere quite close to the present we will not be anymore around to be subjects pondering this question, but decaying human remains. If our relatives (or someone) doesn't choose to cremate us, that is. And that's the problem: we can only guess what happens to our remains, because obviously that is out of our hands.

    Yet the future is quite real. Our own limitations don't make it unreal. That we don't know the future, that we can change ourselves what happens in the future creates us many deep philosophical questions, but that doesn't undermine the existence of future present moments.
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