## Circular Time Revisited

• 2.7k
This is an argument that we will experience identical lives over and over again. I am by no means fully convinced by my own argument, but I do think it’s an intriguing possibility that is worth discussing.

First off we must briefly demonstrate that time has a start. There are many arguments to do this, I will use the simplest:

1. Assume time has no start
2. Then there is no first moment
3. If there is no nth moment there is no nth+1 moment
4. But we have moments (contradiction)
5. So time must have a start

A dimension can have an open or closed topology (IE a line or a circle). There are no other options, so without considering any evidence (that is done below), there appears to be a 50% chance that time is circular.

We then introduce an axiom of Aristotle’s: before each moment there must be another moment. Now our model of time as a finite length line does not work; there is no moment before the start of time. So we bend the line around into a circle. Then we have a start of time and Aristotle’s axiom is satisfied.

Of course such a possibility as circular time is in violent disagreement with presentism, so we must briefly show that presentism is probably false:

1. Time has a start (see opening argument)
2. Assume ‘only now’ exists (presentism)
3. So before the start of time there was nothing
4. But that would require creation ex nilhilo (absurdity)
5. So [2] must be wrong - IE more than ‘only now’ exists

Also I’d point to Special Relativity - examples such as Einstein’s train and the Andromeda paradox clearly show that presentism cannot be correct. The rest of the discussion below therefore assumes that something like 4D spacetime (eternalism) is the correct model of time.

Now it is too difficult to imagine 4D spacetime, so we drop a spacial dimension and imagine 3D space-time instead. Then we can imagine the whole of spacetime as a 3D object. It can have only one of two topologies:

1. Open. So like a cone. The pointy end is the Big Bang and the cone widens as the universe expands
2. Closed. So like a torus. This possibility is expanded on below

We then consider the question ‘Where in spacetime is it possible to get all the matter and energy required for the Big Bang?’

The only answer is the Big Crunch - that has precisely the correct amount of matter and energy required for the Big Bang. So returning to the picture of the torus as spacetime, it is thin at one point where the Big Bang / Big Crunch occur. And it is fat at the opposing point, where the maximum spacial expansion of the universe occurs.

We then need to consult General Relativity. Einstein says that matter warps spacetime. We have plenty of empirical evidence that this is so (eg search for gravity lens on google images for a visual demonstration of matter warping spacetime).

There would be a tremendous amount of matter around at the Big Bang / Big Crunch so it would warp spacetime tremendously - right around into a circle maybe. This is referred to as a Closed Timeline Curve (CTC) - a class of solutions to GR (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Closed_timelike_curve). On a CTC, one always travels forward in time (backward time travel is forbidden) but you arrives back at the point in spacetime where you started out.

A final argument: I believe that the universe is a creation, implying a creator(s). So putting our God shoes on for a moment, God is bored and wants a toy. He decides to create a universe that is fit for intelligent life. He would like to include the ‘life after death’ feature if possible. He considers heaven and hell and decides it would be tough to implement. Want he wants is a Occam’s Razor solution to life after death. What is the simplest model of a universe that supports life after death? If our God is an astrophysicist and knows all about CTCs, then maybe he would create the universe such that the whole thing is a CTC - that is the simplest solution.

• 6k
Why would God, who is perfectly good, make us live our lives here over and over?

Also the proposal seems incoherent. I cannot live 'this' life again, I can at best live another life that is indistinguishable from it. Yet on your proposal that is not what happens, yes? On your proposal this present moment will be the present moment again, in the future. That's incoherent - the present can't be present again in the future, for that would make this present moment both present and future, yet these are manifestly incompatible properties.
• 2.6k
This is an argument that we will experience identical lives over and over again

I don't want to do that. I want the opportunity to do better in the next life. It would be awful to live the same life over and over.

This by the way is an objection to the idea of uploading your mind to a computer (something I don't personally believe will ever happen). Any computer is finite. You would eventually start duplicating states. You would in fact be condemned to live the same life, over and over. You would beg your technicians to stop your program.

In the future, being uploaded to a computer and forced to live the same life, over and over and over forever, will be a punishment administered to the worst offenders. Being condemned to live forever would be literally a fate worse than death. There's a sci-fi story in there if someone wants to write it.

For that matter see the Anne Rice vampire novels. At first eternal life seems like a gift. In the end it turns into a nihilistic horror.
• 923
This is an argument that we will experience identical lives over and over again.

Eternal Return - Friedrich Nietzsche
• 1.3k
This is an argument that we will experience identical lives over and over again.
— Devans99

Eternal Return - Friedrich Nietzsche

The One-Way Dead-End and/or The Eternal Return:
• 2.7k
An extreme version of reincarnation? Or is it?
• 2.4k
A final argument: I believe that the universe is a creation, implying a creator(s). So putting our God shoes on for a moment
Your argument falls down here because we can't assume that any intellectual conclusions we make from our limited standpoint have any reality other than in that we have experience of them.

I don't want to close down this question, but rather contribute an appropriate level of humility to it. For example, perhaps any kind of physical reality as where we find ourselves, including any logic, or metaphysics, is an artificial construct for some unknown (to us) purpose, for an unknown entity.

Also God might be this unknown entity, which isn't the actual creator of the universe. So can we even address God, or the universe, or understand what they are, or if they are real.
• 3.5k
2. Then there is no first moment
3. If there is no nth moment there is no nth+1 moment
4. But we have moments (contradiction)

I find this really iffy. I think 3 is straight up false though. If time ends somehow there will be an nth moment without an (n+1)th moment. Not only that but I find the use of "nth moment" problematic. There can be a moment but no nth moment. As in there can be a moment in time, but one that we cannot label with any number n, namely, if time is circular. If time is circular you can't label any point on it n without that labeling being arbitrary. However that doesn't actually mean there is no moments. You conflate not being able to count moments with them not existing at all
• 3.5k
Being condemned to live forever would be literally a fate worse than death

How though? It's not like your memories will transfer between lives. You won't notice you're living the same life for the 20 billionth time. If your memories trasferred then you're by definition living different lives
• 2.7k
Why would God, who is perfectly good, make us live our lives here over and over?

It is possible to prove God is benevolent but I don't believe one can prove him omni-benevolence?

So assuming God is just benevolent, maybe he calculates that society tends towards perfection as time goes on, so circular time would be just great for the majority of people (though it might not be 100% great for us as our society still needs to evolve further).

Heaven and hell is possible I guess (instead of circular time), but I feel it is more difficult to implement.

Also the proposal seems incoherent. I cannot live 'this' life again, I can at best live another life that is indistinguishable from it

I'm thinking of time as the eternalist moving spotlight view. So imagine the a spotlight rotating around the torus/circle of time. Wherever the spotlight shines is 'now'. So we have one life but experience it multiple times.
• 2.7k
It would be awful to live the same life over and over.

You would not remember anything so it will feel like living a whole new life.

I don't want to close down this question, but rather contribute an appropriate level of humility to it.

Great minds think alike they say. I'm not saying we have minds as great as God, I speculating that all intelligent beings would have a similar sort of mind so that it would, in a limited sense, be possible to read the mind of God.
• 2.7k
I find this really iffy. I think 3 is straight up false though. If time ends somehow there will be an nth moment without an (n+1)th moment.

All point [3] says is 'If there is no nth moment there is no nth+1 moment'. In the case of time ending, then there is an nth moment, so argument [3] does not apply to that scenario.

Not only that but I find the whole conception of "nth moment" problematic. There can be a moment but no nth moment. As in there can be a moment in time, but one that we cannot label with any number n, namely, if time is circular. If time is circular you can't label any point on it n without that labeling being arbitrary. However that doesn't actually mean there is no moments in circular time, that's absurd. You conflate not being able to count moments with them not existing at all

I am thinking of the moving spotlight view of time. A spotlight rotates around the torus/circle of time, wherever the light falls is 'now'. So the spotlight would have had to start somewhere, no doubt at the Big Bang. That would be moment zero and the nth moment can be calculated from that basis.
• 2.4k
Great minds think alike they say. I'm not saying we have minds as great as God, I speculating that all intelligent beings would have a similar thought of mind so that it would, in a limited sense, possible to read the mind of God.
Yes, I agree, but not via the route of the intellect alone, but via the route of knowing yourself, on the assumption that in some way yourself is God. This knowing is of itself not an intellectual process, but rather a knowing of someone. The intellect would then be used to process and analyse this knowing.
• 2.6k
You would not remember anything so it will feel like living a whole new life.

Ah, that's a good feature. Solves the problem.

How though? It's not like your memories will transfer between lives. You won't notice you're living the same life for the 20 billionth time. If your memories trasferred then you're by definition living different lives

Ok! No memory between lives. I get it.
• 2.4k
Repeating won't make this right:

1. Assume time has no start
2. Then there is no first moment
3. If there is no nth moment there is no nth+1 moment
4. But we have moments (contradiction)

4. so we have no such numbering of such moments
• 2.7k
I disagree, moments are arranged sequently so they must be representable by the real number line or the naturals. In either case, if you remove a previous moment, all subsequent moments become undefined. In the first case, I can argue that if there is no n.nn moment, then there is no n.nn+0.01 moment. In the second case, my proof already covers that...

One more proof time has a start: perpetual motion is impossible so time has a start.

That is about 5 proofs I've given that time has a start Vs 0 proofs you have given that time has no start.
• 1.5k
I disagree, moments are arranged sequently so they must be representable by the real number line or the naturals.
No, that only applies to distinct instants, not indefinite moments. In any case, what is the first real or rational number after zero? It straightforwardly begs the question to insist that only the natural numbers can be used here, because by definition they have a first member.
• 2.7k
No, that only applies to distinct instants, not indefinite moments. In any case, what is the first real or rational number after zero? It straightforwardly begs the question to insist that only the natural numbers can be used here, because by definition they have a first member.

If the width of 'now' is zero, time never flows. 'now' cannot be infinitesimal width because actual infinity is metaphysically and logically impossible (see https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/7379/infinite-bananas/p1) .

So 'now' must have a finite, non-zero length which we can call a moment. So it is valid to number the moments since the start of time.
• 8.4k
It is possible to prove God is benevolent
• 2.7k
Besides one 'indefinite moment' is defined by the preceding.
• 2.7k
It is possible to prove God is benevolent
— Devans99

The proof is actually all intelligent beings must be benevolent:

1. You are an evil person. You meet a good person. You are punished
2. You are an evil person. You meet a evil person. You are punished
3. You are an good person. You meet a evil person. You are punished
4. You are an good person. You meet a good person. You are rewarded

So anything (including humans, AI, aliens, gods) intelligent enough to work out the above would see that the only satisfactory outcome comes through being good.
• 1.5k
If the width of 'now' is zero, time never flows.
Agreed.

'now' cannot be infinitesimal width because actual infinity is metaphysically and logically impossible
As usual, this wrongly confuses "infinitesimal" with "actual infinity." The proper mathematical definition of "infinitesimal" in this context is having length that is non-zero, but shorter than any assignable value relative to an arbitrary unit interval. The proper phenomenological definition of "moment" in this context is a continuous span of time with duration too short for any sensible change to take place.

So 'now' must have a finite, non-zero length which we can call a moment.
What is this alleged finite, non-zero duration of "now"? On what rational principle can we go about determining it, rather than just arbitrarily defining it?

Besides one 'indefinite moment' is defined by the preceding.
No, "indefinite" quite literally means "not defined" (by anything). We directly perceive the continuous flow of time within the present moment, and then abstract distinct instants that stand in the relations of preceding (earlier than) and following (later than).
• 8.4k
That's actually pretty good! But you've proved nothing whatever about God. At most you have given a demonstration that If.... And while the "if" enables, it also disembowels what it enables.
• 2.7k
The proper mathematical definition of "infinitesimal" in this context is having length that is non-zero, but shorter than any assignable value relative to an arbitrary unit interval.

No number can have a length greater than zero and less than all reals IMO. So it must be the imaginary construct of 1/∞ that you refer to? As you know, I think ∞ is a logical impossibility so therefore 1/∞ is not possible either.

What is this alleged finite, non-zero duration of "now"? On what rational principle can we go about determining it, rather than just arbitrarily defining it?

How do we measure time? We could use light clocks. So that 'now' corresponds to some minute distance travelled by light (the Planck length maybe). So now must be finite and non-zero for the light beam to move and for time to flow.

It is worth noting that someday we maybe able to prove empirically that space/time are discrete. We will never, ever be able to empirically prove they are continuous.

No, "indefinite" quite literally means "not defined" (by anything). We directly perceive the continuous flow of time within the present moment, and then abstract distinct instants that stand in the relations of preceding (earlier than) and following (later than).

But in the second of time that started two seconds ago and finished a second ago, I experienced all possible instances of time as distinct moments - I actualised each moment. So I'd argue that belief in time as a continuum is equivalent to a believe in actual infinity (which is impossible logically IMO). Likewise, when I move my hand, I actualise all possible intermediate positions.
• 2.7k
That's actually pretty good! But you've proved nothing whatever about God. At most you have given a demonstration that If.... And while the "if" enables, it also disembowels what it enables.

Thank you Tim.

The creator of the universe (if you believe there is one) must be very smart, easily smart enough to work out my little rap on Pascal's Wager. So I believe God must be benevolent.

God cannot be sure he is the only god. Its impossible to prove that something does not exist. There could be a more powerful god out there somewhere in some alternative reality not known by our God. So all gods are bound by the argument I gave (as we are).
• 1.5k
No number can have a length greater than zero and less than all reals IMO.
No number can have a length at all. In any case, we are not talking about numbers, we are talking about time.

So it must be the imaginary construct of 1/∞ that you refer to?
No, and I have stated this plainly before. I provided the relevant definitions, so please stop trying to impose others.

How do we measure time?
Irrelevant; how we measure time does not dictate the real nature of time.

It is worth noting that someday we maybe able to prove empirically that space/time are discrete.
We cannot "prove" anything empirically, only gather evidence. What kinds of experiments could somehow demonstrate that time is discrete?

We will never, ever be able to empirically prove they are continuous.
Again, we directly perceive the continuity of time. What more conclusive empirical evidence could there be?

But in the second of time that started two seconds ago and finished a second ago, I experienced all possible instances of time as distinct moments - I actualised each moment.
No, we already agreed that "now" is not a durationless instant, and all we ever experience is "now"; so we never experience any distinct moments, let alone an actual infinity of them.

Likewise, when I move my hand, I actualise all possible intermediate positions.
No, the only actual intermediate positions are the ones that we individually mark. There is a potential infinity of such positions, but we can only mark (and thereby actualize) a finite quantity of them. Again, continuous motion is the reality, while discrete positions are our invention.
Positions are artificial creations for describing motion, not real constituents of the motion itself. Likewise for instants and any "distinct moments" that they allegedly define.
• 2.7k
No number can have a length at all. In any case, we are not talking about numbers, we are talking about time.

In our minds we can treat numbers as labels with no length. But we are talking about time; that is in reality, something must have greater than zero width to exist. So a moment of time must have a non-zero width

No, and I have stated this plainly before. I provided the relevant definitions, so please stop trying to impose others.

The only other definition of an infinitesimal I'm aware of is a number x>0 such that x^2=0. Also nonsensical in my opinion.

We cannot "prove" anything empirically, only gather evidence. What kinds of experiments could somehow demonstrate that time is discrete?

Good question, I am not sure. We could perhaps discover space is discrete through the observation of the movement of particles. Maybe we could infer from that spacetime is discrete.

I always wondered about e=mc^2. IE e/m=c^2. Energy and matter are discrete quantities so that means c^2 is discrete. But c is distance/time, so are these also discrete? My physics sucks... can't be that simple!

No, we already agreed that "now" is not a durationless instant, and all we ever experience is "now"; so we never experience any distinct moments, let alone an actual infinity of them.

You are claiming there are moments in the last second I did not experience. But I experienced all moments - all actualised. Unless you are claiming that humans are discrete and time is continuous?

But say we had greater perception. We'd experience more distinct 'nows'. If we had greater perception still, we'd experience even more distinct 'nows'. If we had infinite perception, we'd experience infinite nows... an actual infinity.

Positions are artificial creations for describing motion, not real constituents of the motion itself. Likewise for instants and any "distinct moments" that they allegedly define.

I disagree, continuous motion by definition marks out a greater than any number of intermediate positions. If you say it marks out a fixed number of positions, then that means space is discrete. I do not see how it can be an indeterminate number of intermediate positions - every possible position the hand occupies must be a distinct position and there must be a greater than any number of such distinct positions if space is a continuum.
• 6k
It is possible to prove God is benevolent but I don't believe one can prove him omni-benevolence?

But 'God' with a capital G refers to a being who is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent.

But anyway, if you think the god is just benevolent, it is still unclear why he'd make us live the same lives over and over.

More fundamentally, however, your view is incoherent. As I said, if you're proposing cycles in time, then the present moment is also a future moment. I mean, how can you deny that? It is in the future, and it is present, and it is past. It is all three. Right now. Right now, it is all three. Yet they contradict. if an event if present, it is not also future and past. If it is past, it is not also present and future.

An analysis of time that does not respect the incompatibility of past, present and future is not really an analysis of time at all, but something else.

For an analogy: if I watch a film multiple times, I am not watching it for the first time lots of times - that doesn't make sense. I am simply watching it again and again. The idea that I could watch the film 'for the first time' numerous times is equivalent in incoherence to your proposal that we live our lives over and over. It doesn't make sense. You can watch a film for the first time once and once alone. And you can live your life once, and once alone. The present moment is never going to be present again. The future moments will never be future again. And the past will only ever be increasingly past.
• 2.7k
More fundamentally, however, your view is incoherent. As I said, if you're proposing cycles in time, then the present moment is also a future moment. I mean, how can you deny that? It is in the future, and it is present, and it is past. It is all three. Right now. Right now, it is all three. Yet they contradict. if an event if present, it is not also future and past. If it is past, it is not also present and future.

I imagine a moving spotlight rotating around the circle of time. Where the light shines, that is 'now'. So all moments have a real existence but only one is present at any time.

The idea that I could watch the film 'for the first time' numerous times is equivalent in incoherence to your proposal that we live our lives over and over. It doesn't make sense.

I'm suggesting it could be that you have one life and experience it multiple times. So each time you experience it, you never remember the previous time, so it feels like the first time. If you remembered the previous experience, it would not be the same life.
• 6k
I imagine a moving spotlight rotating around the circle of time. Where the light shines, that is 'now'. So all moments have a real existence but only one is present at any time.

That doesn't make sense - you're invoking time. You're getting too caught up in a metaphor. If time is cyclical, then the present moment is also a future moment and a past moment. It is not 'presently a present moment'. That's to invoke the idea of a fixed present - the very idea your theory denies is true!

So again, on your view 'now' is also 'future' and 'past'. It is not currently now and will be past and was future. It is currently all three - which is incoherent.
• 1.5k
So a moment of time must have a non-zero width
Yes, assuming that you meant non-zero duration. Where we disagree is whether this non-zero duration must be finite, and therefore measurable.

The only other definition of an infinitesimal I'm aware of is a number x>0 such that x^2=0.
The proper mathematical definition of "infinitesimal" in this context is having length that is non-zero, but shorter than any assignable value relative to an arbitrary unit interval.

Energy and matter are discrete quantities so that means c^2 is discrete. But c is distance/time, so are these also discrete?
This once again confuses measurement with reality.

You are claiming there are moments in the last second I did not experience.
No, I am claiming that all the real moments that we ever experience are indefinite.

... every possible position the hand occupies must be a distinct position ...
This is the fundamental assumption on which we disagree--that the only possible positions are distinct positions.

... and there must be a greater than any number of such distinct positions if space is a continuum.
In fact, true continuity entails that there are possible positions exceeding all multitude, such that they cannot be distinguished; as I have been saying all along, they must be indefinite. We only distinguish, and thereby actualize, the individual positions that we deliberately mark.
bold
italic
underline
strike
code
quote
ulist
image
url
mention
reveal