• Truth Seeker
    644
    Which theory of time is the most evidence-based?

    Presentism: This theory posits that only the present moment is real, and the past and future are simply constructs of human consciousness. According to presentism, the past no longer exists, and the future has not yet occurred.

    Eternalism/Block Universe Theory: This theory suggests that all moments in time, past, present, and future, exist simultaneously. Time is viewed as a sort of block, where every event that has ever occurred or will occur already exists, similar to how all the frames of a movie exist on a film strip.

    Growing Block Universe: This theory is similar to the block universe theory but adds the idea that time is "growing" or expanding as new events come into existence. The past and present exist, but the future does not yet exist.

    The Block Time Theory: A variant of eternalism, this theory suggests that time is a dimension similar to space, and just as we can move through space in any direction, we can also move through time.

    Transactional Interpretation: In quantum mechanics, this theory suggests that the past, present, and future are all interconnected, and events in the future can influence events in the past.
  • noAxioms
    1.4k
    While you're busy listing variants of presentism, you forgot moving spotlight.

    On the surface, they all make the exact same predictions, so from that standpoint, there is zero empirical evidence one way or another.
    Some of the views conflict with other philosophical assumptions (free will being probably the biggest one), so one might choose a compatible view so one doesn't need to challenge other beliefs.

    You have not represented the views well. Eternalism does not posit that all events exist simultaneously, which means at the same time. The events all exist with equal ontology, but they have frame dependent time coordinates that are not all the same, so they're not 'simultaneous'. For instance, any time-like separated pair of events is objectively ordered 'this one, then that one'. They can not be simultaneous or ordered the other way around.

    Block Time theory as distinct from eternalism? Something you move through? That sounds like a different name for moving spotlight, so perhaps I withdraw my initial comment. It's a dualistic epiphenomenal view.
  • Truth Seeker
    644
    I thought Moving Spotlight was the same as Block Time Theory. Sorry, I have not presented them well. I did the best I could. Reality gives me a headache. I don't understand so many things. Apparently, Einstein subscribed to Eternalism/Block Universe Theory. Why did he do that? Here is a link on Eternalism
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eternalism_(philosophy_of_time)
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    Growing Block Universe: This theory is similar to the block universe theory but adds the idea that time is "growing" or expanding as new events come into existence. The past and present exist, but the future does not yet exist.Truth Seeker
    This interpretation seems to me both the most evidence-based and consistent with human experience.
  • Truth Seeker
    644
    Growing Block Universe: This theory is similar to the block universe theory but adds the idea that time is "growing" or expanding as new events come into existence. The past and present exist, but the future does not yet exist.
    — Truth Seeker
    This interpretation seems to me both the most evidence-based and consistent with human experience.
    180 Proof

    I agree with you. If the past still exists, why can't we visit it and change it?
  • noAxioms
    1.4k
    I thought Moving Spotlight was the same as Block Time Theory.Truth Seeker
    It is. I say as much in my prior post. I've just never heard it called Block Time 'theory' before. The view cannot be logically argued for since it is epiphenomenal.

    Apparently, Einstein subscribed to Eternalism/Block Universe Theory. Why would he do that?
    Because it's the only one that allows relativity of simultaneity, something that derives directly from the premises of special relativity. Black holes don't exist except in eternalism and moving spotlight, and the latter is kind of a solipsistic view.

    None of them are theories. They're all interpretations, and being interpretations, they cannot have empirical evidence.


    If the past still exists, why can't we visit it and change it?Truth Seeker
    You can visit it. If you look at last year, you'll find yourself there. Of course the same goes for 2025, except that a view of that is not available in 2024.


    This interpretation seems to me both the most evidence-based and consistent with human experience.180 Proof
    You acknowlege that they're interpretations, which is means there cannot be evidence. Perhaps you feel otherwise. I know at least one that does, and cannot conceive of any other view.

    Any presentist model (they all are except eternalism) is more consistent with biological intuition since an assumption of such is extremely advantageous for being fit. So it's built into living things at a very fundamental level. But that doesn't make it true.
  • Truth Seeker
    644
    Black holes don't exist except in eternalism and moving spotlight, and the latter is kind of a solipsistic view.noAxioms

    I have seen photos of black holes online - doesn't that prove they exist? Why would they only exist in eternalism and moving spotlight? I don't understand. Please explain. Thank you.

    You can visit it. If you look at last year, you'll find yourself there.noAxioms

    How do I visit last year?
  • noAxioms
    1.4k
    I have seen photos of black holes onlineTruth Seeker
    No you have not. Light cannot escape from one, so they cannot be photographed. What you see is probably X-ray radiation coming from the accretion disk.

    The one presentist interpretation of relativity that I know about (an alternate theory that denies all the postulates of SR) calls them frozen stars because all the matter piles up around where Einstein would put the event horizon. Nothing can fall in in finite time, and the black hole will evaporate before the matter does, so no black hole.

    That makes for an interesting way to prove to yourself that presentism is true or not, similar to a way to prove an afterlife. You fall into a large black hole. If you find yourself in there unharmed as Einstein suggests, then all forms of presentism are false. Problem is, just like the afterlife test, you cannot report your findings to the rest of the universe.

    Moving spotlight allows them because there isn't a present time, only a present event (a single point in all of spacetime), and that point can be inside a black hole, so there's no contradiction. The other views posit a present moment in the universe, and no foliation of spacetime covers all events, so there are places (black holes) that cannot exist since the present will never get to them.

    How do I visit last year?
    You're already there.
  • Joshs
    5.3k
    None of the theories of time listed here get to the root of time from a philosophical standpoint. What is missing is the phenomenological experience of time , which involves a different notion of evidence than empirical naturalism makes use of.
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    If the past still exists, why can't we visit it and change it?Truth Seeker
    We do it all the time – the "visits and changes" are our memories.

    Also, all the starlight that reaches Earth is years-to-millennia millennia old and would require us to travel faster-than-light (backwards in time according to Einstein's GR) in order to reach those past stars.

    Some reasons why a "Block Time Theory" doesn't make as much sense to me as the "Growing Block Universe".
  • Richard B
    368
    agree with you. If the past still exists, why can't we visit it and change it?Truth Seeker

    A problem I see here is what would we call “evidence” to either confirm or deny one of these theories. What would that look like? When I go “back to change” something existing in the past, when I get there, am I changing something which is presently in front me that is supposedly in the past. Is this evidence of presentism or block theory?

    It seems this idea of “going back to change” edges in being nonsense.
  • Truth Seeker
    644
    How do I visit last year?
    You're already there.
    noAxioms

    I am in the present continuously, not in the past. I am living the 12th of May 2024 today, not some day in 2023. What you said doesn't make any sense to me.
  • Truth Seeker
    644
    If the past still exists, why can't we visit it and change it?
    — Truth Seeker
    We do it all the time – the "visits and changes" are our memories.
    180 Proof

    I am not talking about our memories. I am talking about physically visiting another point in the past and changing events e.g. going back in time and preventing the murder of John Lennon. Can we do that? If so, how do we do that?
  • 180 Proof
    14.3k
    I am talking about physically visiting another point in the pastTruth Seeker
    Like I said in my previous post ...
    travel faster-than-light (backwards in time according to Einstein's GR) in order to reach [the] past ...180 Proof
    :nerd:

    e.g. going back in time and preventing the murder of John Lennon.
    Well, I suspect that that sort of 'temporal change' would branch-off into another timeline (i.e. 'parallel' version of this universe) in which JL lived at least one more day ... but in y/our native (original) timeline JL would still have been murdered.
  • RussellA
    1.6k
    Which theory of time is the most evidence-based?Truth Seeker

    Perhaps the same could be said about space. In a similar way to Presentism, it could be said that only the space that I exist in is real, and any space outside is simply a construct of my consciousness.

    This approach has the advantage of treating space and time as two aspects of the same thing, ie, space-time.

    Perhaps any theory of time is dependent upon a prior theory of space-time.
  • Truth Seeker
    644
    I understand. Thank you.
  • noAxioms
    1.4k
    I am in the present continuously, not in the past.Truth Seeker
    OK, you are a presentist then. Under raw presentism, the past doesn't exist, and you can't 'change' what is nonexistent.

    The eternalist view there is no 'the present' or 'the past'. There is a worldline that is 'you' and that worldline is as much a part of 2023 as it is 2024 or 2025. 2024 is not special in any regard. Hence my comment that 'you're already there', It was an eternalist statement, not a statement that makes sense given your interpretation of choice.

    Under moving spotlight and growing block, you have a worldline very much like eternalism. You are there in 2023 as well as in the present. Your assertion above indicates that you don't buy into any of these worldline views.

    Holding a strong belief in one of the options is just fine. But you can't critique the others if you don't understand them.

    A problem I see here is what would we call “evidence” to either confirm or deny one of these theories. What would that look like? When I go “back to change” something existing in the past, when I get there, am I changing something which is presently in front me that is supposedly in the past. Is this evidence of presentism or block theory?Richard B
    Much of this topic seems to have revolved around the concept of 'time travel', which is defined differently from one interpretation to the next. In presentism, there is no past to go to. Under growing block, if you go to a place that isn't the present, how can you 'do' anything since you are no longer at the present? Do you bring the present with you? Such travel is very incoherent in growing block.
    Under eternalism, time travel is any worldline that doesn't progress into its own future light cone.

    Under any interpretation, time travel seems to be a state where the object is in a state that is causally a function of subsequent events: People having memories of future events for example. This is impossible under classical physics, so discussion of it will not yield any "evidence" about which interpretation is more likely.

    preventing the murder of John Lennon. Can we do that?Truth Seeker
    Classical physics does not allow reverse causality. No physics allows non-local information transfer, and saving John would very much constitute non-local information transfer.

    Well, I suspect that that sort of 'temporal change' would branch-off into another timeline (i.e. 'parallel' version of this universe) in which JL lived at least one more day180 Proof
    Case in point. No known physics supports that. It again would constitute non-local information transfer. The branching is allowed under some interpretations of QM. The cause of it coming from subsequent events is not.


    What is missing is the phenomenological experience of timeJoshs
    The phenomenological experience of time is identical for every interpretation. That's why they're called interpretations.
  • Truth Seeker
    644
    I am experiencing the present continuously. As are all living things. None of us can time travel to the past or the distant future. We are all moving forward at 1 second per second. If we can't visit the past or the future the way we can visit another city or country, then how do we know that the past and the future exist?
  • Joshs
    5.3k


    What is missing is the phenomenological experience of time
    — Joshs
    The phenomenological experience of time is identical for every interpretation. That's why they're called interpretations.
    noAxioms

    By phenomenological I meant phenomenological
    philosophy ( Husserl, Mwrleau-Ponty.) This does not mean mere introspection, but a method of
    reflection on experience that brings out structures unavailable to empirical third person models.
  • noAxioms
    1.4k
    By phenomenological I meant phenomenological philosophyJoshs
    I looked up the SEP article on this, and I don't think I used the term incorrectly. It doesn't seem to presume any particular interpretation of mind. It says:
    "In its root meaning, then, phenomenology is the study of phenomena: literally, appearances as opposed to reality."
    This is what I am talking about. The phenomenal experience of say a person does not vary depending on which interpretation of time is 'reality'. The experience is the same, and has to be, else there very much would be an empirical test to falsify some of them.
    That said, I do realize that some interpretations of mind are incompatible with some interpretations of time. Perhaps this is where you are coming from. My description of one of the interpretations of time conflicts with your beliefs about the nature of mind. That doesn't disprove anybody's view of either.

    I am experiencing the present continuously.Truth Seeker
    I already acknowledged your stated opinion in this matter.

    None of us can time travel to the past or the distant future.
    SEP says otherwise, but I agree here. What most people think of as time travel is impossible. SEP for instance considers time dilation to be time travel, meaning all of us do it just by crossing the street and back. I disagree with this qualifying as much as you probably do.

    how do we know that the past and the future exist?Truth Seeker
    They're all interpretations. By definition you can't know this. Only one view (spotlight) says the future exists, and its proponents cannot run a test to confirm the premise.
  • Truth Seeker
    644
    Thank you for clarifying.
  • Michael
    14.4k
    According to this, "many philosophers have argued that relativity implies eternalism. Philosopher of science Dean Rickles says that, "the consensus among philosophers seems to be that special and general relativity are incompatible with presentism." Christian Wüthrich argues that supporters of presentism can salvage absolute simultaneity only if they reject either empiricism or relativity."
  • Tom Storm
    8.5k
    By phenomenological I meant phenomenological
    philosophy ( Husserl, Mwrleau-Ponty.) This does not mean mere introspection, but a method of
    reflection on experience that brings out structures unavailable to empirical third person models.
    Joshs

    Can you say some more in simple terms about what this might be? Do you mean that time is also an aspect of consciousness and therefore located in our cognitive apparatus (but that may be closer to Kant?).

    This bit about 'evidence' below interested me:

    What is missing is the phenomenological experience of time , which involves a different notion of evidence than empirical naturalism makes use of.Joshs
  • Joshs
    5.3k


    By phenomenological I meant phenomenological philosophy
    — Joshs
    I looked up the SEP article on this, and I don't think I used the term incorrectly. It doesn't seem to presume any particular interpretation of mind. It says:
    "In its root meaning, then, phenomenology is the study of phenomena: literally, appearances as opposed to reality."
    This is what I am talking about. The phenomenal experience of say a person does not vary depending on which interpretation of time is 'reality'. The experience is the same, and has to be, else there very much would be an empirical test to falsify some of them.
    noAxioms

    The definition you found refers to the ordinary conception of ‘phenomenological’. What I had in mind is a specific meaning of phenomenology unique to philosophers like Husserl and Merleau-Ponty. This IEP snippet may give you a sense of what I mean:

    Husserl believed that every experience for intentional conscious has a temporal character or background. We experience spatial objects, both successive (e.g., a passing automobile) and stationary (e.g., a house), as temporal. We do not, on the other hand, experience all temporal objects (e.g., an imagined sequence or spoken sentence) as spatial. For the phenomenologist, even non-temporal objects (e.g., geometrical postulates) presuppose time because we experience their timeless character over time; for example, it takes time for me to count from one to five although these numbers themselves remain timeless, and it takes some a long time to understand and appreciate the force of timeless geometrical postulates.

    To this point, common sense views of time may find Husserl agreeable. Such agreement ceases, however, for those who expect Husserl to proclaim that time resembles an indefinite series of nows (like seconds) passing from the future through the present into the past (as a river flows from the top of a mountain into a lake). This common sense conception of time understands the future as not-yet-now, the past as no-longer-now, and the present as what now-is, a thin, ephemeral slice of time. Such is the natural attitude’s view of time, the time of the world, of measurement, of clocks, calendars, science, management, calculation, cultural and anthropological history, etc. This common sense view is not the phenomenologist’s, who suspends all naïve presuppositions through the reduction.

    Phenomenology’s fundamental methodological device, the “phenomenological reduction,” involves the philosopher’s bracketing of her natural belief about the world, much like in mathematics when we bracket questions about whether numbers are mind-independent objects. This natural belief Husserl terms the “natural attitude,” under which label he includes dogmatic scientific and philosophical beliefs, as well as uncritical, every-day, common sense assumptions.
  • noAxioms
    1.4k
    According to this, "many philosophers have argued that relativity implies eternalism. Philosopher of science Dean Rickles says that, "the consensus among philosophers seems to be that special and general relativity are incompatible with presentism." — Michael
    Relativity does give a strong suggestion, but it is going too far to assert full incompatibility.
    The two premises of SR is where the trouble is. I googled "premises of special relativity"

    PBS came up first: "the same laws of physics hold true in all inertial reference frames and that the speed of light is the same for all observers"
    This suggests a metaphysical assumption. If the laws actually are frame independent, then presentism is wrong since it requires a preferred frame.
    But if the same two premises are more loosely worded, then presentism works:
    The same laws of physics appear to hold true in all inertial reference frames and that the speed of light appears the same for all observers.

    Now it's about appearances, about empirical evidence, about science, not philosophy. This is fully compatible with presentism since all it says is that there may be a preferred frame, but there's no way to figure out which one. The one-way speed of light is not c in any frame but the preferred one, but there's no way to measure the one-way speed of light.

    The rest of the theory is unaltered since the only difference between the interpretations of time is that eternalism assigns identical ontology to all spacetime events and presentism assigns different ontology to them (each getting one of four values). None of relativity theory rests on the ontology assignment given by some abstract theory, so there is no incompatibility with relativity theory.

    I have found fault with any posted falsification of presentism or eternalism, and I've seen plenty of both.



    Do you mean that time is also an aspect of consciousness and therefore located in our cognitive apparatus (but that may be closer to Kant?).Tom Storm
    There are three kinds of time, and those that ask "what is time" never seem to realize it.

    1) Proper time. This one is very much physical and real, and is what a clock measures. Proper time is frame invariant.
    2) Coordinate time: This one is the abstract assignment of time coordinates to spacetime events and is thus very frame dependent. A calendar is a decent example of one.
    3) Phenomenological time, which is the phenomenological experience of the advancement of the present. It is part of consciousness, yes, but also part of pretty much any system that interacts with its environment in real time, but the word phenomenological only seems to apply to the conscious cases. This one seems to be frame independent, and the various interpretations of time differ as to whether the phenomenon corresponds to any physical noumenon.


    This IEP snippet may give you a sense of what I meanJoshs
    I read it all, and while I think it fairly clearly conveys what the common sense view is, it then declares itself to not be that, and what it is (the last paragraph) kind of lost me. I could not, from that, summarize what Husserl is trying to get at.
  • Joshs
    5.3k


    I read it all, and while I think it fairly clearly conveys what the common sense view is, it then declares itself to not be that, and what it is (the last paragraph) kind of lost me. I could not, from that, summarize what Husserl is trying to get atnoAxioms

    Can you say some more in simple terms about what this might be? Do you mean that time is also an aspect of consciousness and therefore located in our cognitive apparatus (but that may be closer to Kant?).Tom Storm

    Maybe this from Dan Zahavi will help:

    What is time? In daily life time is spoken of in a variety of ways. The universe is said to have existed for many billions of years. In geology one can say that the Permian period, the most recent period of the Paleozoic period, lasted around 41 million years. One can also speak of the medieval age; one can refer to the German occupation of Denmark which began on April 9, 1940; and one can announce that the train will leave in twenty-two min-utes. In other words, in daily life it is taken for granted that there is a dat-able, measurable, historical, and cosmic time. Husserl's analysis, however, is not primarily concerned with these forms of time, though by no means is he denying that one can speak of an objective time.

    Rather he claims that it is philosophically unacceptable simply to assume that time possesses such an objective status. The phenomenologically pertinent question is how time can appear with such a validity, that is, how it is constituted with such a validity: In order to begin this analysis, it is, however, necessary to perform an epoche. We will have to suspend our naive beliefs regarding the existence and nature of objective time, and, instead, take our point of departure in the type of time we are directly acquainted with. We have to turn to experienced or lived time.

    The central question is: How can I experience such objects as melodies? Husserls fundamental claim is that our experience of a temporal object (as well as our experience of change and succession) would be impossible if our consciousness were only conscious of that which is given in a punctual now, and if the stream of consciousness consequently consisted in a series of isolated now-points, like a line of pearls. If this were the case, were we only able to experience that which is given right now, we would, in fact, be unable to experience anything with a temporal extension, that is, anything that endured. This is obviously not the case, so consequently we are forced to acknowledge that our consciousness, one way or the other, can encompass more than that which is given right now. We can be co-conscious of that which has just been, and that which is just about to occur.

    However, the crucial question still remains, how can we be conscious of that which is no longer or not yet present to our consciousness? According to Brentano, it is our imagination that enables us to tran-scend the punctual now. We perceive that which occurs right now, and imagine that which is no longer or which has not yet occurred. Husserl, however, rejects this proposal since he considers it to imply a counterintuitive claim: We cannot perceive objects with temporal extension, we can only imagine them. Thus, Brentanos theory seems unable to account for the fact that we are apparently able to hear, and not simply imagine, a piece of music or an entire conversation.

    Husserls own alternative is to insist on the width of presence. Let us imagine that we are hearing a triad consisting of the tones C, D, and E. If we focus on the last part of this perception, the one that occurs when the tone E sounds, we do not find a consciousness that is exclusively conscious of the tone E, but a consciousness that is still conscious of the two former notes D and C. And not only that, we find a consciousness that still hears the first two notes (it neither imagines nor remembers them). This does not mean that there is no difference between our consciousness of the present tone E and our consciousness of the tones D and C. D and C are not simultaneous with E, but, on the contrary, we are experiencing a temporal succession. D and C are tones that have been and are perceived as past, for which reason we can actually experience the triad in its temporal duration, rather than simply as iso-lated tones that replace each other abruptly.l We can perceive temporal objects because consciousness is not caught in the now. We do not merely perceive the now-phase of the triad, but also its past and future phases.
  • Tom Storm
    8.5k
    According to this, "many philosophers have argued that relativity implies eternalism. Philosopher of science Dean Rickles says that, "the consensus among philosophers seems to be that special and general relativity are incompatible with presentism."
    — Tom Storm
    Relativity does give a strong suggestion, but it is going too far to assert full incompatibility.
    The two premises of SR is where the trouble is. I googled "premises of special relativity"
    noAxioms

    You have accidentally quoted @Michael as me.

    There are three kinds of time, and those that ask "what is time" never seem to realize it.noAxioms

    I am not asking what is time, I was specifically interested in @Joshs comment about phenomenology and time.

    Seems complicated. Thanks.

    This is obviously not the case, so consequently we are forced to acknowledge that our consciousness, one way or the other, can encompass more than that which is given right now. We can be co-conscious of that which has just been, and that which is just about to occur.

    This seems to be the nub of it.

    We can perceive temporal objects because consciousness is not caught in the now. We do not merely perceive the now-phase of the triad, but also its past and future phases.

    Interesting. I never thought about music in such terms before but it is fascinating that we can experience and make sense of a melody or a recurring motif and counterpoint in a composition. Our awareness may not be located in the present.
  • noAxioms
    1.4k
    @Joshs Just some side comments on the Zahavi quote
    The universe is said to have existed for many billions of years. — Zahavi
    That comment (the verb 'exist for', not to mention the tense, implies a universe contained by time. Physicist probably say this all the time, but accepted physics doesn't word it that way. Most people don't reach for B series speak except for explicit need. But the prevalence of A-series in common language goes a long way toward reinforcing the A view.
    So are we going to say "the temporal size of the universe is bounded only on one side, and fuzzily bounded on the other"? Who wants to hear that?
    All this commentary of mine seems irrelevant to why you posted this.

    Husserls fundamental claim is that our experience of a temporal object (as well as our experience of change and succession) would be impossible if our consciousness were only conscious of that which is given in a punctual now, and if the stream of consciousness consequently consisted in a series of isolated now-points, like a line of pearls. If this were the case, were we only able to experience that which is given right now, we would, in fact, be unable to experience anything with a temporal extension, that is, anything that endured. This is obviously not the case, so consequently we are forced to acknowledge that our consciousness, one way or the other, can encompass more than that which is given right now. We can be co-conscious of that which has just been, and that which is just about to occur.
    OK, but none of this seems revolutionary. Yes, being conscious of what has just been is what short term memory is for. Being conscious of what is about to occur is the ability to predict, a critical ability if one is to be more fit. The quote calls it imagination, not memory. 'Imagination' probably better describes the predicting end and not so much the direct perception of temporal objects. I suppose imagination is a term that can be used to describe the recall of some immediate memory.

    I see a reported conflict between the Brentano view and Husseri's, or rather I don't see a conflict. The seem to be slightly different words for the exact same thing, a difference being at a level that, well, seems irrelevant at least to this topic.

    Also, there is no perception of a punctual 'now'. There is process to be had, which delays it a fraction of a second, give or take. Anything perceived is already past.

    And not only that, we find a consciousness that still hears the first two notes (it neither imagines nor remembers them).
    Good example. I don't see the difference between the 'this' and the 'not that'. It seems like being nitpicky about the words to describe the psychological experience of temporal things. None of the article seems to in any way be relevant to this experience being different from one interpretation of time vs another, which is why I thought the topic was brought up.


    You have accidentally quoted Michael as me.Tom Storm
    So I have. Fixed, sort of. Sorry about that.

    You seem to get what Josh is conveying more than I. All I see is different words that don't really contract each other. I agree with both sides, and that's probably wrong in some way.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2k


    , "many philosophers have argued that relativity implies eternalism. Philosopher of science Dean Rickles says that, "the consensus among philosophers seems to be that special and general relativity are incompatible with presentism." Christian Wüthrich argues that supporters of presentism can salvage absolute simultaneity only if they reject either empiricism or relativity."

    I think that is vastly overstating the case. Often, a Newtonian version of presentism is hauled out as a strawman to make this case, but there is nothing in modern physics that precludes local becoming.

    Richard T. W. Arthur has a great book on this topic called "The Reality of Time Flow: Local Becoming in Modern Physics." It does a very good job explaining how the debate is largely grounded in philosophy, not "science."

    The preference for eternalism itself is partly the result of historical accident and positive feedback loops. Many physicists became convinced of eternalism based on philosophical arguments. Some of these were not good, particularly bad interpretations of the Twin Paradox were quite influential. This led to many physicists teaching and repeating these arguments in their books. For instance, Paul Davies, who is a favorite of mine, nonetheless uses one of the deeply flawed versions of the Twin Paradox to argue that eternalism "is what science says must be true," in one of his books. Then, because physicists wrote this sort of things in books, and analytical philosophy has had a tendency to preference to statements of scientists, you get philosophers pointing to arguments grounded in philosophy that have been repeated by scientists and saying "see, this is what the scientists say, it's not your role to disagree."

    Russell's push for presentism, which is tied up in his whole agenda, was another influential thread. But his arguments on the elimination of cause have essentially been rejected, even by those who consider themselves "neo-Russelleans" who want to salvage some of his insights. And yet arguments from that period still tend to haunt physics.

    I am not even sure how this is a question that could be empirically resolved.

    At any rate, it does seem to affect how science is done. For example, because eternalism is popular, there is this tendency to think that physics MUST be time reversible, since that has become an argument for the position. But currently, it doesn't seem to be. The discovery of the Higgs boson overshadowed a major breakthrough showing asymmetry back in the 2010s. And of course, physics isn't at all reversible at macro scales. Nor is decoherence and collapse reversible. So, eternalism, at least of the variety that relies on arguments from "the time symmetry of physics," also seems to require picking specific theories in quantum foundations and ruling out others, even though they all produce empirically identical results. If collapse actually happens, it appears to define the directionality of time in one of the most profound ways imaginable.
  • Count Timothy von Icarus
    2k


    Yes, these are all dealt with in detail in the book I mentioned. Wheeler's stuff on "many fingered time," and retrocausality would be another relevant avenue. Objections related to these arguments can all be made consistent with local becoming. In particular, the Andromeda Paradox is a weak argument for eternalism and fits fine with local becoming.

    One of the fun things about Arthur's book is that it shows how Gödel and Robb anticipated a lot of these later arguments, but ultimately rejected them (not unlike how Aquinas toys with the ideas of Locke and Berkeley). For Gödel, and I'm inclined to agree with him, the idea of every moment existing "all together," makes the very thing we're trying to explain incoherent to us. Events exist exactly where and when they occur and nowhere else. To ask if the future "already exists," is to have already abstracted yourself out of the manifold, such that you are no longer at a specific where and when within it. Whether or not the future is "already contained" in the present or not, is of course a different question, one of determinism, and there isn't a clear answer on that one either since different interpretations of quantum mechanics will have different things to say to us about this.

    If becoming is local, as it seems it must be if it exists at all, then it seems obvious that light from the same location will reach different locations at different times, causing disparate effects on what seems "simultaneous." This is no problem.

    Gisin makes an interesting argument that the preference for eternalism in physics is grounded in the Platonist assumptions in mathematics in Einstein's day. He has some interesting ideas about intuitionist mathematics being a better model for the sort of indeterminacy we actually see in physics, that, at first glance, would seem to flow well with local becoming.
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