• unenlightened
    3.9k
    I think that anticipation has a greater effect on my overall psyche than memory does, hence I tend to be an anxious person.Metaphysician Undercover

    I can relate to that. But what could you anticipate without memory? Excuse the Pavlovian, but one salivates in anticipation of dinner because one remembers dinner following the dinner bell. I don't think we'd be anxious without at least some memory of bad stuff having happened before.
  • Galuchat
    659
    So how does semantic information tell us that the past is different from the future?Metaphysician Undercover

    Check out Concept Learning.
  • sime
    401
    I would be interested in knowing more about Ayer's rejection of memory as a means of distinguishing between past and future. Could you elaborate, or cite a reference?

    It seems to me that experience (which happens in the present) is more than capable of distinguishing between before and after (e.g., cause and effect), and designating the measurable change: time (per Aristotle).
    Galuchat

    I'm not particularly knowledgeable about Ayer's particular ontological views regarding the relationship between memory, phenomena and time, and I am certain that Ayer, like all of us, had no problem acknowledging the practical role that memory serves as (unreliable) testimony to the truth of past-contingent propositions- i'm only referring to his general acknowledgement that the doctrines of logical positivism and verificationism failed -see for instance his interview with Bryan Magee. We still do not possess a theory spelling out what we mean by meaning, evidence and truth, especially in relation to past-contingent propositions for which there cannot exist direct observation or immediate testimony:


    Is it logically consistent to be an empiricist who accepts a hard ontological distinction between past and future?

    Is the semantic distinction between the past and future somehow reducible to appearances or to relations between appearances, or to potential appearances as a function of potential experiments?

    How should physics and computer science categorize "future-directed" behavior in humans and other agents?

    How can this be reconciled with the causal theory of reference which identifies the meaning of an utterance with it's causes?
  • Galuchat
    659

    Cheers. That takes the discussion in several more interesting directions.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6k
    Any question of what 'really' is must have within it your means by which you propose to establish how we'd know such a thing.Isaac

    Actually that's what I'm asking, the means by which we'd establish what really is. So it would be kind of silly to include a proposal of that within the question, unless the question was rhetorical.

    But what could you anticipate without memory?unenlightened

    This would be anxiety, a general anticipation without anything particular which is anticipated. In severe cases I think it's called an anxiety attack.

    But that's the extreme, and I agree with you in the general sense that the two, memory and anticipation go together. That's why I rejected Janus' description of knowing the difference between future and past as a matter of orientation. Either we're oriented toward the past, or toward the future, but we cannot be oriented in two opposing ways at the same time. Janus suggested that it's not at the same time, but I think memory and anticipation come together at the very same time.

    But once we reject this as a mistake, as did Ayer, we realize we are then unable to provide an experiential distinction between past and future, even while we continue to insist on it.sime

    Right, this is one of the key points of the op, we cannot claim to have any empirical knowledge which would justify the conclusion that there is a difference between past and future. However, the other key point is that we tend to consider it as self-evident that there is a difference between them.

    There is of course, a big difference between an eaten Hamburger and a Hamburger sitting in front of us; if an object is called 'destroyed', then there does not exist a direct and local reference to the object that we can point at. There is instead a potentially infinite and interlinked fabric of facts called "the evidence of the destroyed object" together with our investigatory sense of anticipation. Hence an empiricist might be able to equate the past with our current sense of inferential expectation together with today's appearances taken holistically as an inseparably entangled whole. But this of course is too vague to constitute an empirical "theory" of any description.sime

    But the difference we are considering is not the difference between past and present, but past and future. So your example of the hamburger would have to be phrased differently. Consider a hamburger which could possibly be destroyed in the future, and a hamburger which actually was destroyed in the past. Now the situation at the present is as you say, an eaten hamburger (destroyed) and a hamburger in front of us (possibly to be destroyed in the future). From the situation of there being no hamburger now, one has to take the hypothetical situation of there being a hamburger now, project that situation into the past, at which point there would exist the possibility of the hamburger being destroyed, and then conclude that the hamburger was destroyed. So understanding the past is much more complex than understanding the future. Understanding the future requires observing what is present and considering the possibility that it might be destroyed. Understanding the past requires taking the idea of possibility for the future, which exists at the present, projecting it into the past to determine possibilities in the past, and then determining which possibilities were actualized. Whereas understanding the future requires only determining which possibilities exist now.

    It seems to me that experience (which happens in the present) is more than capable of distinguishing between before and after (e.g., cause and effect), and designating the measurable change: time (per Aristotle).Galuchat

    Before and after is a completely different concept from future and past. The former requires an ordering of events on a temporal scale, the latter requires a present.

    Is it logically consistent to be an empiricist who accepts a hard ontological distinction between past and future?sime

    No, I think it is clearly not consistent. But the distinction between past and future is obviously "the present", and most modern empiricists seem to deny the reality of the present, so there is consistency there. Yet some empiricists might agree that it is self-evident that there is a difference between past and future, so this is where there would be inconsistency. Perhaps it's the case that what is self-evident cannot be demonstrated empirically. If this is the case, then what does "self-evident" mean? Is it completely semantic?
  • charles ferraro
    85
    Human consciousness, when it pays attention, experiences that its present is always transitioning into its past at exactly the same rate as its future is always transitioning into its present. All is movement, nothing lasts!

    The distinction between past and future does not appear to be the present. Instead, human consciousness, when it pays attention, appears to be that which constantly distinguishes between the three (past, present, and future) phenomenologically, as described.

    It is also interesting to note that when one's consciousness is totally absorbed in certain activities, like reading a book, his/her consciousness becomes timeless, so to speak. The consciousness, as we say, loses track of time, is not paying attention to the past, present, or future. It, in a sense, has transcended time while absorbed in the activity.

    But, how is this possible? How can it happen? Are we not all prisoners of time?
  • jajsfaye
    18
    All we know is our experience of the past (as memories) and the future (as anticipation) in this current moment. We don't know that either the past or the future exists, has existed, or will exist. It is possible that there is no other moment of time then right now, and in this moment of right now, we are structured to have memories that appear to be of previous times, and we have thoughts that appear to anticipate a future. Also, it is possible that all moments of time are currently happening, and at each slice in time, our experience is of that slice as "now", the past as memories (with some fuzziness, and the future as anticipated). There are other possibilities (e.g. our experience of "now" could be at an endpoint in the time line). All of those possibilities allow for us to experience this current moment as we do, with it looking like time is flowing from past to future, so we cannot prove one over the other.
  • Isaac
    1k
    Actually that's what I'm asking, the means by which we'd establish what really is. So it would be kind of silly to include a proposal of that within the question, unless the question was rhetorical.Metaphysician Undercover

    Then I've misunderstood your question (as has everybody else it would seem). You've phrased it in a very weird way. If what you mean to ask is "by what measure can we know if some knowledge indeed corresponds with 'reality'?" then why make this about past and future, that just confuses things.
  • unenlightened
    3.9k
    That's why I rejected Janus' description of knowing the difference between future and past as a matter of orientation. Either we're oriented toward the past, or toward the future, but we cannot be oriented in two opposing ways at the same time.Metaphysician Undercover

    In a way, I think the whole question is misguided. How can I tell the difference between the posts that come before this one, and the posts that come after it? Well I can read the ones that come before. and the ones that come after are blank. In terms of orientation, one faces the past and walks backwards into the future, anxious that the next post will be unkind or make one look foolish, or worst of all, that there will be none. Spatially, one can look where one is going, but temporally one sees only where one has been, so I think one is oriented one way and travels the opposite way.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6k
    Human consciousness, when it pays attention, experiences that its present is always transitioning into its past at exactly the same rate as its future is always transitioning into its present. All is movement, nothing lasts!

    The distinction between past and future does not appear to be the present. Instead, human consciousness, when it pays attention, appears to be that which constantly distinguishes between the three (past, present, and future) phenomenologically, as described.
    charles ferraro

    I can't agree with this charles. If when paying attention, human consciousness experiences these things, and it is only human consciousness which produces a difference between past present and future, then my present should not transform into the past when I am not paying attention, yet it does.

    If what you mean to ask is "by what measure can we know if some knowledge indeed corresponds with 'reality'?" then why make this about past and future, that just confuses things.Isaac

    If the only way that we can know things is by measuring them, then I might be asking that. But I think that we can know things by means other than by measuring them, like intuition for example. So I am not asking "by what measure" can we know this. But some people might not consider intuition as knowledge. The reason I made this about past and future is because it appears extremely obvious that past is different from future, yet we cannot measure these things.

    In a way, I think the whole question is misguided. How can I tell the difference between the posts that come before this one, and the posts that come after it? Well I can read the ones that come before. and the ones that come after are blank. In terms of orientation, one faces the past and walks backwards into the future, anxious that the next post will be unkind or make one look foolish, or worst of all, that there will be none. Spatially, one can look where one is going, but temporally one sees only where one has been, so I think one is oriented one way and travels the opposite way.unenlightened

    The question might be misguided, and I think that's what Isaac is getting at, but I like your answer in this post. However, you haven't mentioned the other option. Perhaps we are actually facing into the future, walking that way, and oriented in that direction, and we only look backwards into the past. That would explain why anxiety is common. This is what I feel, like the vast majority of my "being", all my internal systems, which are mostly operating in the non-conscious level, are all oriented toward the future, and these systems create anxiety which is not produced by my conscious being. It appears like it might be only my consciousness, which comprises a very small part of my overall being, which is oriented toward the past. For some reason my brain has an extensive memory system and my consciousness is supported by this activity of looking at the past.

    Now my consciousness is misguided, thinking that I, as a being, am facing the past, and walking backward into the future, when in reality my being is facing the future and only a small part of it, my consciousness, is looking backward at the past. So I have a serious inconsistency between my being and my consciousness with respect to orientation, and this is causing me to be completely disoriented, and probably the reason why I ask misguided questions.
  • Isaac
    1k
    it appears extremely obvious that past is different from future,Metaphysician Undercover

    Well, there you go. Your intuition tells you they are different. The fact that we can't measure that difference is unproblematic for you because you already believe that not all knowledge is measurable. I'm not seeing the problem you're trying to resolve.
  • sime
    401
    No, I think it is clearly not consistent. But the distinction between past and future is obviously "the present"Metaphysician Undercover


    From SEP
    "
    McTaggart distinguished two ways of ordering events or positions in time. First, they might be ordered by the relation of earlier than. This ordering gives us a series, which McTaggart calls the B-series. A second ordering is imposed by designating some moment within the B-series as the present moment. This second ordering gives us a series that McTaggart calls the A-series. According to McTaggart, in order for time to be real both series must exist,although McTaggart holds that, in some sense, the A-series is more fundamental than the B-series."

    Yet aren't "the past", "the future", "the present" etc, indexicals that refer to different things on each occasion?

    Supposing that each of us always carried a mobile phone and that we agreed to eliminate "the present", "now", " currently" etc. from public discourse by replacing each of their uses with the exact current reading of the International Atomic Time supplemented with the Gregorian calendar. Likewise, we respectively do the same for "the past" and "the future" by replacing their use with time-intervals that are before or after the exact current TAI time.

    Doesn't this elimination of temporal indexicals also eliminate all talk of change, and therefore reduce MacTaggart's A series to his B series?
  • charles ferraro
    85
    The fact that there can be so many varied and equally interesting opinions regarding the nature of time and the nature of the dimensions of time indicates to me that time will always remain an unresolved yet, somehow, familiar mystery. Perhaps we are best advised to simply accept Plato's opinion that "Time is the moving image of eternity," and leave it at that.
  • Number2018
    273
    it might be only my consciousness, which comprises a very small part of my overall being, which is oriented toward the past.Metaphysician Undercover
    My consciousness can function just through its temporality, which
    has existed as an organized structure. The three so-called dimensions of time: past, present, and future, should not be considered as a collection of isolated "givens." The only possible method by which to study temporality is to approach it as a totality, as an original synthesis, which dominates its secondary structures and which confers on them their meaning.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6k
    Well, there you go. Your intuition tells you they are different. The fact that we can't measure that difference is unproblematic for you because you already believe that not all knowledge is measurable. I'm not seeing the problem you're trying to resolve.Isaac

    I don't really think it's known by intuition, I used intuition as an example of knowledge without measurement. If it's intuition, then what type of knowledge is intuition? I think many would say that intuition doesn't even qualify as knowledge. Do you think that intuition qualifies as knowledge? Why is it so often wrong if it's knowledge? I said it was self-evident. And self-evidence gives us certainty, intuition does not.

    Supposing that each of us always carried a mobile phone and that we agreed to eliminate "the present", "now", " currently" etc. from public discourse by replacing each of their uses with the exact current reading of the International Atomic Time supplemented with the Gregorian calendar. Likewise, we respectively do the same for "the past" and "the future" by replacing their use with time-intervals that are before or after the exact current TAI time.

    Doesn't this elimination of temporal indexicals also eliminate all talk of change, and therefore reduce MacTaggart's A series to his B series?
    sime

    I see a problem with this scenario. If it eliminates talk of change, then it denies us the capacity to talk about, and understand, this aspect of reality, change. Furthermore, it creates a very artificial "time" which is not consistent with what we experience. What we experience is that if we want to be precise, then by the time we say what time it is, it is no longer that time. And if we limit ourselves to very vague designations of the time, like "it's a little after six", or, "it's Tuesday", we rob ourselves of the precision which is needed in some instances. So doing this would be making a move away from understanding time.

    Actually, it is my opinion that looking at this as a question concerning "time" is a mistake. I am not looking at any type of series, as described by McTaggart, what I am looking at is what is evident to us, and this is that there is a past, and there is a future. If it is the case, that we have to turn to a series, some sort of ordering of events, to understand this future and past, then I would like to see the logic behind that. But right now I see no need for this. I understand that there is a future for me and a past for me, and I apprehend these as radically different, so this necessitates an assumption of something that separates them, that is the present. Until I validate this difference between future and past, I have no claim on any "present", and no principles for talking about the present being extended in "time". Isn't that all that "time" is, the extension of the present?

    The only possible method by which to study temporality is to approach it as a totality, as an original synthesis, which dominates its secondary structures and which confers on them their meaning.Number2018

    My method for studying things is analysis, dividing things into parts and trying to see what makes the parts fit together as a unity. What makes you think that this method is not suited for studying temporal issues?
  • Isaac
    1k
    Do you think that intuition qualifies as knowledge? Why is it so often wrong if it's knowledge?Metaphysician Undercover

    No, I don't think intuition provides us with knowledge, for the reason you gave. Which is why I remain baffled by your question. How are you going to demonstrate that anyone has the answer right?

    Past and future are just words. We can use them to describe whatever phenomenon we like, so long as we're understood. There's no thing they 'really' are because we made the words up they weren't handed to us for us to decrypt.

    Sensations, incongruous feelings, memory, anticipation, planning, the observed passage of cause and effect... These are all what past and future 'really' are because they are all what we use the terms 'past' and 'future' to describe.
  • Shamshir
    701
    The difference is as simple as the hands of a clock. The mouth determines where the head and tail of the Ouroboros lay.

    It's all in the angle, dear observer.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6k
    Sensations, incongruous feelings, memory, anticipation, planning, the observed passage of cause and effect... These are all what past and future 'really' are because they are all what we use the terms 'past' and 'future' to describe.Isaac

    This is randomly composed nonsense. The observed passage of cause and effect refers to the past only. That is the point of the op, empirical knowledge, knowledge based in observation, refers only to the past. If we want to apply this knowledge to the future, through the application of prediction, we must employ some other principles. These principles are not derived from observation. This is because there is a difference between future and past which cannot be understood through observation.

    Past and future are just words. We can use them to describe whatever phenomenon we like, so long as we're understood.Isaac

    This is blatant contradiction. If being understood is a condition which restricts how we use these words, then we cannot use them however we want.

    How are you going to demonstrate that anyone has the answer right?Isaac

    This is philosophy, why must one be looking to find "the right answer"? I'm looking for suggestions, possibilities, not the right answer. I don't believe that any human being is capable of giving the right answer because I believe that this is something unknown to all human beings. But why should this prevent me from investigating, looking for ways to proceed into the unknown. Isn't that what philosophy is?
  • 180 Proof
    21
    ... what type of knowledge allows us to say that there is a difference between future and past ...? — Metaphysician Undercover

    Doesn't 'knowledge' itself presuppose "a difference between past and future"?

    Also, more precisely, the empirical / computational concept of Entropy ... :death:
  • TheMadFool
    3.8k
    Surely it is self-evident that there is a difference between future and past. However, we cannot really claim to experience the future, and though we say we've experienced the past, it is not as the past that we've experienced it. So the question is what type of knowledge allows us to say that there is a difference between future and past, or is there really no difference between them and what appears as extremely self-evident is just a deep delusion?Metaphysician Undercover

    Nice question. Makes you question old and entrenched assumptions about reality. How do we distinguish between the past and future? A very simple technique would be memory. We don't have memories of the future but we can remember what has happened. The part of reality that is now in the past imprints itself onto our memory and we can recall certain events with varying degrees of clarity. The future, being unexperienced, hasn't had a chance to imprint itself on our memory and so can't be remembered. This would be a simple method of distinguishing the past from the future.

    Another thing would be entropy which I don't claim to understand fully but from my readings its supposed to increase in a given closed system and our universe is a closed system. Therefore, hypothetically, given two points in time we could measure the entropy of a system and the arrow of time would point from the low entropy state to the high entropy state. This may be a very simplistic interpretation of the true theory but this is how I understand it.

    If time is cyclical then the entire notion of past-present-future breaks down because on a circle there's no definite past or future. Each moment of time leads to the next and then circles back to where it began. It's like 3 people, call them A, B, C, standing in a line on Earth.

    A is after B
    B is after C
    A is after C
    So
    C is before A
    But, because the earth is a sphere/circular C is after A

    So we have the paradox C is before A and C is after A
  • javra
    827


    I’ll give it a try – here borrowing ideas from some of the previous posters.

    Experientially speaking, the past is composed of memories, both long-term and short term. The future is composed of both expectations (anticipations) and intentions. The present is where we use our memories to a) construct expectations of what will be so as to b) best appraise how to optimally satisfy our wants via intentions.

    Some caveats: Other than that not all of this occurs consciously, we are not sole selves. Hence all three when experientially addressed - past, present, and future – are contingent on a multitude of selves co-existing and, nearly always for almost all, interacting.

    The past as memory is grounded in coherency between all memories. This is applicable both intra-self and between selves. When memories result in logical contradictions, something is amiss and we infer that something about our specified set of memories is wrong. Its only when all recalled memories flow effortlessly into themselves that we hold confidence in them. This applies just as well when we interact with each other. Our history is, experientially, composed of intersubjective memory. To the same extent that our memories, both personal and interpersonal, are found to be fluidly coherent and, thus, devoid of logical contradictions, our past is then determinate for us – unchangable.

    Intentions are all goal driven. In Aristotelian terms, telos guided. Add the premise of limited freedom of will to a) choose between different alternatives toward that goal(s) aimed for and b) to choose between different goals and the intention facet of the future becomes to the same extent (semi-)indeterminate. Add the fact that the future is partly created by the intentions of multiple selves, and this same indeterminate aspect of the future becomes even more so.

    Expectations hold their own reasoning. They are grounded in that which our memories tells us to be determinate. Given facts and causations of the past, the future will then be inferred to be in this way and not that. This will apply to everything from expectations that one will successfully recall a memory at will when so intending to expectations that tomorrow not all leaves of all trees worldwide will be fallen to the ground. I’m inclined to say this inference of future events is no more “imagined” than are our memories—both, when trusted, are thoroughly steeped in reasoning and justification (tacitly so if not otherwise). But unlike our memories which ground us in a determinate past, expectations, being best inferences, are endowed with far greater degrees of uncertainty (but not necessarily doubt: “the future is uncertain” always works, but not “the future is doubtful/dubious”). Experientially, this uncertainty of inferences (most of which will be explicitly inductive) will likewise make the future indeterminate. When conjoined with the indeterminacy of intentions on the part of all selves, this will hold even more so.

    So the past, when we are (and hold good reason to be) certain of it, will be experientially determinate for us. The future will, however, be experientially semi-indeterminate (for it is still bound to the determinate facts and causations of the past which we hold in our memories). And the present is where we hold awareness of the past and of the future, as well as where we actively intend (edit: with intentions always extending from the present to the future wherein the goal dwells).

    To (again) quote a little jingle that I like from a Tom Waits song, “Time is just memory mixed with desire.” This, at the very least, when experientially addressed.

    Of course, all this imo.
  • TheMadFool
    3.8k
    Experientially speaking, the past is composed of memories, both long-term and short term. The future is composed of both expectations (anticipations) and intentions. The present is where we use our memories to a) construct expectations of what will be so as to b) best appraise how to optimally satisfy our wants via intentions.javra

    :up: :up: :clap: :clap:

    It seems that we learn from the past and plan for the future in our present!
  • TheMadFool
    3.8k


    I noticed something interesting and would like your views on it.

    SPEED. A very basic concept. Some are fast, some are slow and some don't move at all. Speed of objects differ and so we have some objects ahead of us, some behind and some at the same position as us.

    Now, in the context of time divided into the 3 classical divisions - past, present and future - consider speed and the different divisions of the world's nations. Some nations are labeled advanced, some developing and some underdeveloped. These divisions of nations can be framed in terms of speed. The advanced nations are faster than the other two groups. Therefore we can say that the advanced nations represent the future of the developing and underdeveloped world. In other words the three divisions of time (past, present, and future) exist simultaneously on earth, visible through the differences in the stage of development of the world's nations.

    If you want to visit the future you can do so in Europe and USA. If you want to go back to the past then you can go to one of the underdeveloped nations.

    Isn't that strange that we can time-travel through space?
  • javra
    827
    Therefore we can say that the advanced nations represent the future of the developing and underdeveloped world. In other words the three divisions of time (past, present, and future) exist simultaneously on earth, visible through the differences in the stage of development of the world's nations.TheMadFool

    I’m currently seeing this as mismatch of ideas. For instance, from the pov of some aboriginal society, our modern western societies might be considered to be over-developed, in a negative sense of the term. Not ripe but spoiled, kind of thing. As argument (myself being firmly planted in ‘over-developed’ societies as a constituent), many facets of the developed world are arguably poisoning the world to the point of us nearing a global suicide of sorts, unless things change. Our glutinous dependency on thing such as fossil fuels – powering this conversation as we speak – being an important cause for global deforestation, some 200 species of life going extinct per day (last I heard), us entering a sixth mass extinction, global climate change, lack of resources needed to sustain future human life, etc. (Its a bummer to talk about, but its not a bad thing to explicitly address.) So, in this example, more and less developed, or advanced, or beneficial becomes very contextualized on points of view held. So we can’t affirm a necessity that advanced nations represent the future state of undeveloped nations.

    Aside from which, what you address is closer to notions of B-series time than to A-series time. And I’m under the impression that MU was interested in the latter.

    Otherwise I like the twilight-zone thought process to the idea.
  • TheMadFool
    3.8k
    I understand your point but notice it doesn't matter whether the aboriginal society is advanced or a European society is advanced. The labels "future", "present" and "past" may be switched and you still have ALL three existing at the same time.

    Thank you for the reply.
  • sime
    401
    If "the present" refers to the specific context in which it is used,i.e. it is an indexical, referring to different things on each and every occasion that it is uttered, then to speak of the present as 'changing', is merely to point out that we can remember using the words "the present" differently. The idea of a "changing present" might be eliminated if we instead uttered unique indexicals in place of it on each and every occasion.

    On the other hand, whereas we ordinarily speak of the "the present itself as changing", as if "the present" was a rigid designator, for some reason we tend to merely think that our knowledge and remembrances of an immutable past has changed, which indicates that we tend think of "the past" as partly an indexical in relation to our present state of knowledge and remembrance, and partly a rigid-designator referring to an immutable and transcendental temporal object.

    Now the main point of contention here, as i see it, is whether or not the concept of the past deflates to our interaction with "present" appearances, including memories. If it does, then we can eliminate "the past" in the sense of an immutable entity that transcends phenomena, and as with 'the 'changing present', we would merely be grammatically wrong to speak of the "the past" as changing.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    6k
    Also, more precisely, the empirical / computational concept of Entropy ... :death:180 Proof

    I don't think Entropy provides us with a principle to distinguish between future and past. It may distinguish between before and after, but this is insufficient to distinguish future from past.

    A very simple technique would be memory. We don't have memories of the future but we can remember what has happened. The part of reality that is now in the past imprints itself onto our memory and we can recall certain events with varying degrees of clarity. The future, being unexperienced, hasn't had a chance to imprint itself on our memory and so can't be remembered. This would be a simple method of distinguishing the past from the future.TheMadFool

    We touched on this briefly already. It's true that we remember past things, yet we might imagine future things. How do you think we distinguish, within our minds, remembered past things from imagined future things?

    The past as memory is grounded in coherency between all memories. This is applicable both intra-self and between selves. When memories result in logical contradictions, something is amiss and we infer that something about our specified set of memories is wrong. Its only when all recalled memories flow effortlessly into themselves that we hold confidence in them. This applies just as well when we interact with each other. Our history is, experientially, composed of intersubjective memory. To the same extent that our memories, both personal and interpersonal, are found to be fluidly coherent and, thus, devoid of logical contradictions, our past is then determinate for us – unchangable.javra

    OK, this is good, consistency, lack of contradiction, corroboration, personally and publicly is an indication that what is in the mind is a memory, and not imaginary.

    Intentions are all goal driven. In Aristotelian terms, telos guided. Add the premise of limited freedom of will to a) choose between different alternatives toward that goal(s) aimed for and b) to choose between different goals and the intention facet of the future becomes to the same extent (semi-)indeterminate. Add the fact that the future is partly created by the intentions of multiple selves, and this same indeterminate aspect of the future becomes even more so.javra

    This is the future part, goals and expectations, and I think it is much more difficult than the past, because of the doubt and uncertainty which you mention. But maybe this uncertainty is key to recognition of the difference between past and future.

    Let's say that with respect to the past, it is easy to establish consistency and certainty in relation to what has happened, but in relation to the future it is more difficult due to uncertainty. This produces the distinction between determinate and semi-determinate which you referred to. But why do you think that the future is semi-determinate, not completely indeterminate? Doesn't this confuse the distinction, making it unclear? What produces the idea that the future is in some way determinate?

    Returning to the consistency and lack of contradiction which we find in past memories, we find this also in our predictions for the future. However, predictions are very different from memories, and to be true they rely on the fulfilment of certain conditions. These are conditions of continuity. It is this continuity which gives determinateness to the future. If things continue to be in the future, the way they have been in the past, the predictions will be true. So the determinateness of the future is distinct from the determinateness of the past, because it relies on the condition of continuity, whereas the determinateness of the past is based in a corroboration of memories.
  • javra
    827
    This produces the distinction between determinate and semi-determinate which you referred to. But why do you think that the future is semi-determinate, not completely indeterminate? Doesn't this confuse the distinction, making it unclear? What produces the idea that the future is in some way determinate?Metaphysician Undercover

    Yes, unclassified semantics can get in the way. Just checked and wikipedia has this to say:

    Indeterminism is the idea that events (or certain events, or events of certain types) are not caused, or not caused deterministically.
    (emphasis mine)

    So indeterminism proper seems to serve as an umbrella term for any category that is not (full) determinism. This gets further complicated by the semantics of determinate and indeterminate, which are not the same as determinism and indeterminism, respectively. What I was alluding to is that the future is always partly determinate and partly indeterminate, rather than fully indeterminate - as in "not possible to determine" or else "not of a fixed state of affairs".

    One example: flick a rock from the top of a mountain onto the mountain side. Its future will be partly determinate: it will move downward along the mountain side. Its future will also be partly indeterminate: whether it will stop descending in a few yards distance, lead to an avalanche, moves leftward or toward the right, etc., are things that cannot be epistemically determined and, contingent on ontology, might themselves be ontologically indeterminate. Nevertheless, either way, because the rock will never move upward once flicked (nor sideways), some aspects of its future will remain determinate. And we justify that it will never move upward via a mixture of coherent memories and reasoning that is applied to this former experience (i.e., to memories).

    By "semi-(in)determinate" I basically wanted to emphasize that not all future events are fully indeterminate.

    I'm a self-labled compatiblist in a Humean sense of the term, so I'm very comfortable with this perspective - though I can apprehend how others might not be: In truth, for the record, I don't take the past to be *fully* determinate either. Via discovery of new info in the future, on occasion our knowledge of our past changes. On an intra-personal level, false memories can be discovered to so be via new info acquired - again, issues regarding coherency of both personal and interpersonal memory. On an inter-personal level, what we once "knew to be historically true" sometimes changes due to new info: take, for example, our once knowing that the story of Troy was fiction and, after discovering ancient city ruins that correlate very well to the city, now knowing that the city of Troy, at least, was real.

    But as generalities go, yes, the past is determinate, fixed, and, hence, unchangable - whereas our future is indeterminate. The further into the future we try to predict, the more indeterminate the details of the future become. Upon seeing a cat walking before me, I can easily predict where it will be in ten second's time - not so in ten hours time, and even less in ten day's time.

    Nevertheless, my prediction of where the cat will be in ten seconds time pales in degree of certainty when compared with my memory based certainty of where it was ten second's past. And, as per my first post, I think this distinction epitomizes the difference between memory stored past and the expectation stored future.

    So the determinateness of the future is distinct from the determinateness of the past, because it relies on the condition of continuity, whereas the determinateness of the past is based in a corroboration of memories.Metaphysician Undercover

    I very much agree.
  • TheMadFool
    3.8k
    We touched on this briefly already. It's true that we remember past things, yet we might imagine future things. How do you think we distinguish, within our minds, remembered past things from imagined future things?Metaphysician Undercover

    We can verify memories but imaginary things can't be corroborated. For example everyone remembers the 9/11 tragedy but someone's imagination lacks this kind of universal corroboration.
  • creativesoul
    6k
    Knowing how to use the words in a coherent manner.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal
youtube
tweet
Add a Comment