• TheGreatOne
    1
    Hi guys! First post, been a somewhat infrequent lurker here; just want to say this is a fascinating place. If you could help me with this one bothersome question that would be great. The question/argument goes like this:

    How is the "now" of our experience change? Why isn't it statically present in one spot forever? It seems to me that consciousness must be propelled forward OR time must "flow" future to present to past. Since the latter option is considered suspect due to the nature of time (block universe theory), it seems the former must be true. But you then need to present some outside explanation to consciousness moving forward. Some people say the perception of time flowing is due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but that only explains the viewing of such events in the past versus the viewing of events in the future, not "MY" consciousness moving through the block (Now, this assumption could very well be wrong, I am quite new to philosophy, being only 20...). I am having a hard time conceptualizing a way of resolving this problem without resorting to the ontological nature of consciousness having some non-physical qualities.

    Anyways, I have tried looking for some discussion to this specific question related to the B theory, but it isn't discussed (That I know of.), leading me to believe I am misinterpreting something, somewhere.

    Thanks in advance!
  • apokrisis
    6.4k
    Why isn't it statically present in one spot forever?TheGreatOne

    Our experience of time is anticipatory. The brain works by guessing what is just about to happen (which is mostly going to be a continuation of what has just happened). And so the flow of time is experienced as the degree to which things matched strong expectation while being punctuated at distinct points by various surprises.

    Thus our experience of time is inherently dynamic rather than static. If we see a falling ball, we already expect it to drop, hit the ground, bounce up.

    Psychologically, time does appear to freeze or hang suspended in moments of very great surprise when we can't effectively react in an anticipation based way. Like in a car crash. The usual smooth flow created by forward modelling gets lost and our experience of time becomes halted in a weird fashion.

    You then have the separate issue of how this relates to the block universe story on time.

    My two cents on that is the block universe is a convenient modelling fiction. Physics just models time as having time symmetry so it can do its calculations. It spatialises time so that going forward looks the same as going backwards, thus erasing the symmetry-breaking significance of moving beyond some "point in time".

    But that leaves energy and thermodynamics out of the modelling. It leaves out the fact that change in the universe has a thermodynamical arrow that is not some kind of illusion.

    So no need to take the block universe at face value. It is a model that simplifies reality in a way useful for doing calculations. Physics already knows it likely needs an emergent thermal model of time if it wants to get to a quantum gravity theory of everything.
  • SophistiCat
    2k
    The block universe is just one way of conceptualizing the universe; the fact that we can think of the universe this way by itself does not testify in favor of a particular metaphysical theory of time.

    But your question is valid and interesting, and it really comes down to the question of why we remember the past and not the future. That is the reason why all moments of your existence are not jumbled together in your mind: memory. From the B-theory's perspective you can think of yourself as your entire trajectory through the spacetime "block", but what gives you your perception of location at each point on that trajectory is this asymmetry of memory.
  • tom
    1.5k
    How is the "now" of our experience change? Why isn't it statically present in one spot forever? It seems to me that consciousness must be propelled forward OR time must "flow" future to present to past. Since the latter option is considered suspect due to the nature of time (block universe theory), it seems the former must be true.TheGreatOne

    You've spotted something very interesting. The various "arrows of time" in physics have been unified under the "thermodynamic arrow of time" or something related to the 2nd Law, and it is just assumed that the "psychological" or "epistemological arrow of time" has been captured by the same unification. You are also assuming this.

    However, it was proved in by Bennett (Bennett, C. H. 1973 IBM Jl Res. Dev.17, 525) that the epistemological arrow of time cannot be aligned with the thermodynamic, and that any alleged connection is fallacious. The epistemological arrow of time is in fact reversible.

    This leaves us in the precarious state in which the physical and psychological arrows of time are unrelated, which needs to be resolved!
  • Mr Bee
    471
    Since the latter option is considered suspect due to the nature of time (block universe theory), it seems the former must be true.TheGreatOne

    Why is the latter suspect? The fact that there is an alternate theory shouldn't make it doubtful any more than the existence of Scientology would make atheism more doubtful. Perhaps you are referring to the scientific evidence from relativity that is often used to support the B-theory of time. Although it does lend some leverage against the A-theory, it does not necessarily prove it to be false.

    It seems to me that consciousness must be propelled forward OR time must "flow" future to present to past.TheGreatOne

    In any case, your former option seems to describe the moving spotlight theory of time, which combines a block universe model with a passage of time represented as a spotlight moving through space-time. I haven't read that much about it, so I am not sure if the people who believe in it have an explanation for any propulsion going on, but it wouldn't hurt to check out some articles and books on the view.

    How is the "now" of our experience change? Why isn't it statically present in one spot forever?TheGreatOne

    I believe the B-theorist would brush off this sort of experience as an illusion that is to be explained by neurological and psychological effects in the brain more than anything. Your "now" isn't actually changing, despite the fact that you feel that it does. This feeling of the passage of time that suggests the world is dynamic is misleading.

    Anyways, I think the better question would be, if under the block universe model all times are real and you in turn are a being extended throughout the time dimension of this block, why do you only find yourself perceiving one of these block times (or as you call them "nows") over the others. To put it another way, to me, according to the standard B-theory all events in the universe's history are currently real and you are currently composed of all of the moments of your life, which in turn suggests that your current experience consists of your entire life. However, a simple look at the contents of your current experience suggest otherwise. Why then does your current experience consist of only a single moment?

    For the record, I've heard people object to my understanding of all times in the block universe as "currently existing", but for the life of me, I never understood what else it could mean. There are some people say that they all "tenselessly exist" but that makes no sense to me though it doesn't seem like I'm the only one who feels that way, if the substantiveness of the presentism/eternalism debate being under dispute is any indication.
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