• substantivalism
    113
    Popular in philosophical discussions about the universe and thusly also factoring into apologetics/counter-apologetics has been talk about whether the universe is finite in time or without beginning. Usually the arguments for time/casual chains without beginning play on the possibility or logical coherency of such ideas as they aren't logically incoherent (see William Lane Craig for objections to this) so it's at most possible such a series lead to our universe as we know it. There have been other varied renditions of these concepts which play on different philosophical convictions or traditions.

    Such as:
    • In neo-thomism or scholasticism, which has begun to gain traction recently in a modern formulation, such philosophers make a distinction between accidental versus essentially ordered series. The first has it, almost as a trick of our need to find patterns in the world, that a series of events would still occur even if one entity in the series was erased. Essential series require it to be the case that if you removed one previous element or in this case for the universe we can speak of events then the whole series would fall a part right then and there. Here is a video that goes over it.
    • Another concept involved in this is the idea of super-tasks or that despite not having a beginning an infinite amount of time could have traversed until we were met with the current moment.
    • As I was discussing in another thread, whether you accept time realism or anti-realism also greatly affect the way we formulate or understand the beginning of time. Incorporating the philosophy of time into this discussion including questions of its fundamental nature such as whether we adopt A vs. B theories of time, the relationship to change itself, and its discreteness.

    What are your thoughts on this concept?
  • tim wood
    5k
    Not fit for print. What are your thoughts/arguments?
  • Gregory
    1.2k
    An infinite series of, say, dominoes going into the past does indeed need a prime mover or movers (Aristotle) or a Trinity (Aquinas) to keep it well ordered. I'm a little stricter and think there can't be an infinite past. Try if you can to imagine humanity with all the births and deaths going back forever with no first human or evolution. It verges on the illogical. So I say potentiality flung into actuality along Heideggerian lines.
  • Gregory
    1.2k
    If the model is an infinite casual past, you should be able to plug in any accidental figures to see if it works. An infinity of humans with no start. That's too crazy for me. I think set paradoxes which are only resolvable by an unmechanized mind proved an infinite past would require a divine mind, but I still think it's impossible
  • jgill
    730
    Think of going back in time one year, then from there back 1/2 a year, then from there back 1/3 a year, etc. At each stage there is "causation" before that point in time. However, the sum 1+ 1/2 + 1/3 +.... tends very slowly to infinity (the first six million terms add up to less than 21, if I recall correctly). So, we have an infinite chain of causation that has no starting point, no beginning of time.

    Just idle chatter . . . pay no attention to that men behind the curtain. :nerd:

    The first has it, almost as a trick of our need to find patterns in the world, that a series of events would still occur even if one entity in the series was erased.substantivalism

    This more or less coincides with Stanislaw Lem's Ergodic theory of history. Some movements in society are so powerful that changing bits here and there have no appreciable effect. On the other end of the spectrum is the Butterfly effect.
  • Relativist
    1.5k
    I don't think metaphysical analysis can provide definitive answers about time. On the other hand, physics may develop insight into its nature.

    The Page-Wooters mechaism is a fascinating phenomonen. It suggests time is a local phenomenon associated with quantum entanglement. An elapse of time is experienced by observers within a quantum system, but external observers to not observe the elapse of time within the system:

    In 1983 theorists Don Page and William Wootters suggested that quantum entanglement might provide a solution to the Wheeler-DeWitt “problem of time”. When quantum objects are entangled, measuring the properties of one changes those of the other. Mathematically, they showed that a clock entangled with the rest of the universe would appear to tick when viewed by an observer within that universe. But if a hypothetical observer existed outside the universe, when they looked in, everything would appear stationary. -source

    I'm aware of no metaphysical analysis that would have predicted this, nor that even attempts to account for it. Hence, I suggest metaphysics is futile for understanding it.
  • jgill
    730
    When quantum objects are entangled, measuring the properties of one changes those of the otherRelativist

    Is this exactly the case? I thought it was a bit more complicated than that, but I am not a physicist and could be mistaken. Kenosha Kid? :chin:

    It's easy to drift into quantum mysticism with topics like this.
  • substantivalism
    113
    An infinite series of, say, dominoes going into the past does indeed need a prime mover or movers (Aristotle) or a Trinity (Aquinas) to keep it well ordered.Gregory

    Why?

    Try if you can to imagine humanity with all the births and deaths going back forever with no first human or evolution. It verges on the illogical.Gregory

    As does creatio ex nihilo or a beginning for a universe on my end. Both circular repetitive cycles of creation, infinite casual chains, or creatio ex nihilo are equally illogical.
  • substantivalism
    113
    The Page-Wooters mechaism is a fascinating phenomonen. It suggests time is a local phenomenon associated with quantum entanglement. An elapse of time is experienced by observers within a quantum system, but external observers to not observe the elapse of time within the system:Relativist

    Time as an abstraction you mean. Change is rather fundamental to reality as we know it, especially in quantum mechanics, and time (as in its ordering, simultaneity, asymmetry, the future/present/past existence) could be emergent from such an analysis.

    I'm aware of no metaphysical analysis that would have predicted this, nor that even attempts to account for it. Hence, I suggest metaphysics is futile for understanding it.Relativist

    As carrol once said, I believe, "our metaphysics must follow our physics." Recall that we, however, should not postulate mechanisms or theories that may outright contradict our experience. Also, metaphysics may not have discovered it but it damn will analyze the hell out of it. Interpretations of scientifc theories don't come out of experiments but our formed afterwards and preemptively.
  • substantivalism
    113
    I think set paradoxes which are only resolvable by an unmechanized mind proved an infinite past would require a divine mind, but I still think it's impossibleGregory

    There is no mechanized or unmechanized minds in your sense. Only what part of reality is from you and that which isn't.
  • Relativist
    1.5k
    Is this exactly the case? I thought it was a bit more complicated than that,jgill
    Yes it's the case, and yes, it's more complicated than that. It's not mysticism, it's confirmed physics.
  • Relativist
    1.5k
    I agree with everything you said.
  • jgill
    730
    Yes it's the case, and yes, it's more complicated than that. It's not mysticism, it's confirmed physics.Relativist

    OK. I take it you are a physicist.
  • Dan Cage
    12
    I’d like to suggest a review of exactly what “infinity” is. Since time and space are inextricably linked, another way of saying this is, you can’t have one without the other. As finite “material” beings we exist in a finite material universe. Since when is it correct to assume the universe - made up of matter which has finite properties - is in and of itself infinite?

    If we’re calling into question “The Big Bang”, indeed “where” did the singularity from which the creation of all matter sprang come “from”? If “where” didn’t exist before The Bang occurred, then neither did “when”. This implies time has a beginning and is therefore finite. Perhaps the term “forever” applies, but that is a time reference. Eternity is not equal to infinity.

    Why? Back to our definition of infinity, and I’d appreciate feedback on this. I interpret infinity as “boundlessness”. Expressed in terms of spacetime, no matter how large something gets, it can still get larger; no matter how small, still smaller. No matter how far back in time you go, you can still go back farther; no matter how far forward, still farther.

    We know material objects, such as humans, have beginnings and endings. By extension, so do planets and solar systems and galaxies and galactic clusters... ad infinitum. We know “all times exist all the time”. Again, by extension, would that not imply all “places” exist “everyplace”?

    Time and space, as we finites experience them, don’t adhere to the same physical “laws” at the quantum level as what we consider immutable in our macro realm. If time, as Albert Einstein suggested, is a “stubborn illusion“, and reality, as Werner Heisenberg suggested, is dependent upon the observer, then the entirety of existence, in all its forms, is interpretive.

    Spacetime is a finite system. Infinity, by the “boundlessness” definition, renders space and time meaningless. The only absolute is infinity. And if indeed infinity is a thing, then its definition not only implies, but insists, that everything MUST exist.

    Any and all, please weigh in...
  • Gregory
    1.2k
    Eternity is infinite. But if you can't make sense of the beginning of time, pushing it back forever doesn't give you a more logical explanantion. There are illogical things in this world, but the logical is prior. How a physical timeless universe goes from being still and then into the flow of time without outside causality is a question scientists are breaking their heads over. They have no forrm of natural faith so they can't see creation out of nothing. I reject the idea of God for certain reasons but if there was a God I can perfectly well see him creating our of nothing. I do have natural faith but I reject supernatural faith as the dreams of trolls
  • Gregory
    1.2k
    .

    Your post is Spninozian. But I object to the ending when you say infinity implies necessity
  • Pfhorrest
    2.9k
    When quantum objects are entangled, measuring the properties of one changes those of the other — Relativist

    Is this exactly the case? I thought it was a bit more complicated than that, but I am not a physicist and could be mistaken. Kenosha Kid? :chin:
    jgill

    It's close enough. If you have two entangled electrons for example, one is guaranteed to be spin-up and the other to be spin-down, but it's not defined which is which until you observe them. As soon as someone observes one of them to have one spin, it's guaranteed that the other will be observed to have the opposite spin. Regardless of distance or who observed which first, which itself is not even well-defined because from different reference frames either observation event could be considered "first".

    Thinking of it in terms of one observation causing the other to change isn't quite accurate though, because what's actually happening is that by observing one particle, you're now entangled with it, and when you observe the other particle, or someone telling you what they observed the other particle to be, you're guaranteed to see a universe consistent with the other particle having been the other way, because the whole universe that you observe, containing both particles and anyone who's interacted with any of them, has to be entangled with you and the rest of everything you're entangled with, and so consistent with one particle being one way and the other particle being the other way.

    (But actually, on any reasonable, non-Copenhagen interpretation, the particles are each really both ways, and you and the rest of the universe that are entangled with them are in a superposition of states corresponding to having observed the particles being one way or the other, but in every state the particles are consistently opposite each other).
  • Dan Cage
    12
    Gregory, thanks!

    I was 8 years old in 1963 when, while watching the premiere of The Outer Limits, the “Galaxy Being” said, “Infinity is god”. That has resonated with me since. Like you, I tend to dispense with the strictly-human (read: religious) definition of God as a single entity, or Trinity. My definition of the universe is, a multi-dimensional holographic projection of consciousness. Whose consciousness? ALL! Erwin Schrodinger said, “There is only one Mind”. That needn’t be “God”, though humans seem to need to believe they were “created” by a so-called higher power. Why cannot we all revel in the idea that consciousness, and not physicality, is the foundation of existence? And, being infinite, said consciousness is not limited in form.

    I agree with you that human science is stuck in a rut. If we can’t perceive something with our five physical senses or extensions thereof, we cannot rely on its existence and, at best, it becomes a variable in our equations; at worst, it is ignored. Belief - faith - isn’t necessary if you KNOW “the secret of life, the universe, and everything” (Douglas Adams) resides within all of consciousness, of which we as humans share access. How much access? As much as one seeks. Some use science, others religion. Both are inadequate even when combined, in my opinion.

    So, my suggestion to anyone willing to consider, question everything you’ve been taught, be the unique individual you are and revel in that uniqueness, and devise your own perspective rather than subscribe to a collective way of thought. That contributes to the expansion of consciousness rather than echoing the same thoughts as others.

    As a clarification, I am not familiar with Baruch Spinoza, but thanks for the reference.

    Also, please elaborate: WHY do you object?
  • Gregory
    1.2k


    I agree partially with your stance. Even many scientists, as you said a couple of times, say we create the world. But I don't believe anything is necessary. If thoughts of necessity are Platonic in nature, I consider that spiritual but not realistic. You know that feeling you get when your with a romantic partner early in the courting, kissing in the dark at a park, and watching the stars? You can feel the contingency of everything. Sinatra captured that feeling in some songs. I think that is reality. Every thing is contingent and there is no reason for the necessary except as a mental escape. There is some book on Amazon, I think it's called Necessary Being... But I don't buy it (pun intended)
  • Gregory
    1.2k
    Hawkings solution is like jgill's above. Imagine the sequence of events as a segment (not a line). You go back further and further towards a limit but the fractions go on forever. Hawking said time becomes more and more like space as this happens, and basically everything gets lost in fuzziness. It's a nice try but it's not satisfying. Penrose said it was wrong, but he keeps going on circles with the circular universe stuff. The fact, the reality, is you can't avoid using the mystical part of your mind in thinking about "the beginning". All you need to do is imagine pure potentiality flowing or falling, or however you like, into actuality. I really have no problem doing this, and so the whole God thing doesn't matter to me anymore
  • jgill
    730
    Thinking of it in terms of one observation causing the other to change isn't quite accurate thoughPfhorrest

    Yes, that's what I was getting at. Thanks for your comments. :cool:
  • Gregory
    1.2k
    There is no mechanized or unmechanized minds in your sense. Only what part of reality is from you and that which isn't.substantivalism

    Douglas Hofstadter I think argues in his books that we can avoid paradoxes in set theory (and Godel too of course) by realizing we are not mechanized thinkers. Our intellects seem to have something substantial about them that avoids strict mechanism. This might be connected to the mystical part of the mind. (It's all quite complicated) Also, like I said, physicists are never going to find the physical mechanism by which the world started. They are starting with the wrong basics. Time and again they have tried to drive the truck around the turn but it always turns over, as a Thomist once told me. Thomas Aquinas's argument was that an infinity of past events cannot stand on it's own. It needs to rest in a mind. That makes sense, but I don't believe in an infinite universe anways. As I said, I take a more Heideggerian approach to the beginning of the universe. Think with primordial thinking, as he says
  • Gregory
    1.2k
    An accidental infinite just means "one with God supporting it". An essential one is one without God. Thomists make it easier for people to think of this by saying the accidental is one where the effect doesn't need to cause to exist. But God could actually create a series where each effect is supported by the previous, according to Aquinas's thought. This really is not always explained very well. Aquinas thought he could avoid the argument which goes "how can there be an infinity of effects when each motion in the series is intermediate" by saying God holds it together from the outside. Again, I don't buy that argument either. The universe had a beginning in the primal realm of potentiality, which you might describe as halfway between nothing and something
  • substantivalism
    113
    I’d like to suggest a review of exactly what “infinity” is. Since time and space are inextricably linked, another way of saying this is, you can’t have one without the other. As finite “material” beings we exist in a finite material universe. Since when is it correct to assume the universe - made up of matter which has finite properties - is in and of itself infinite?Dan Cage

    There is nothing to say that it's necessarily infinite or finite. These are epistemological questions concerning the nature of our universe.

    If we’re calling into question “The Big Bang”, indeed “where” did the singularity from which the creation of all matter sprang come “from”? If “where” didn’t exist before The Bang occurred, then neither did “when”. This implies time has a beginning and is therefore finite. Perhaps the term “forever” applies, but that is a time reference. Eternity is not equal to infinity.Dan Cage

    The singularity didn't ever come into existence because if take on a bastardized substantivalist perspective spacetime then there was never a time when matter didn't exist. Also it's not a big bang its a big everything got really close to everywhere else but didn't pop out of existence at any time because for all the time that existed it also existed. Eternity implies that "for all time" it existed which could mean while time existed or given an infinite past. You are making quick use of a substantivalist perspective of time here though, use change instead to justify these perspectives.
  • substantivalism
    113
    Eternity is infinite. But if you can't make sense of the beginning of time, pushing it back forever doesn't give you a more logical explanantion. There are illogical things in this world, but the logical is prior. How a physical timeless universe goes from being still and then into the flow of time without outside causality is a question scientists are breaking their heads over. They have no forrm of natural faith so they can't see creation out of nothing. I reject the idea of God for certain reasons but if there was a God I can perfectly well see him creating our of nothing. I do have natural faith but I reject supernatural faith as the dreams of trollsGregory

    I agree science cannot deal with creatio ex nihilo but nor can philosophy/metaphysics as such a concept is to me rather illogical. The problem for you here is assuming there was some time when stuff just didn't change (like before the big bang) then it started to change at t = 0 which isn't what a substantivalist interpretation of general relativity is implying. There are no times before t = 0 and no time when the universe went from timeless to changing which would mean some meta-time existed before the singularity, that's adding on more physics than is present within the theory. By all means go on to do so but you're now dipping into theoretical/experimental physics which requires an inductive verification or falsification.
  • substantivalism
    113
    That makes sense, but I don't believe in an infinite universe anways.Gregory

    Do mean extension or temporally? If temporally that's fine but to assume a finite scale to the universe either puts us in the direction of a curved 3-sphere (curvature we have measured means it's close to being rather flat) or is literally finite in extension in all directions but this is rather strange.
  • substantivalism
    113
    All you need to do is imagine pure potentiality flowing or falling, or however you like, into actuality. I really have no problem doing this, and so the whole God thing doesn't matter to me anymoreGregory

    Are you partial therefore to process philosophy or a modern rendition of Heraclitus perspective of the world as in constant flux.
  • Gregory
    1.2k


    I love Heraclitus. Someone can regard a jungle as entity, or a branch of a tree. It's all about one's personal perspective. The world has all the reality it needs to exist on its own while remaining contingent. That's what I meant when I said the world is neither contingent nor necessary in the Thomistic sense. Also, I feel like using curves at the beginning of the universe is no more useful than string theory. One leads to circular regression while the other leads to infinite past universes. I doubt you can demonstrate the mechanism of the origin using only science.

    Finally, I wanted to say I smoked some bud a few minutes ago and it immediately accord to me that time goes on forever and should reach an infinity but cant. Therefore logic says the universe will end
  • Gregory
    1.2k
    I think the whole is prior to the parts (in order to avoid Zeno's paradox and establish the unity of the object against complete Shunyata), and yet from another perspective the parts are prior because they compose the whole unity. This metaphysical balance has to take into account the geometry of magnitude, where infinity meets finitude. I personally think it not a contradiction to say those opposite principles merge to form objects. Maybe material things cannot be either completely finite or infinite. Finitude and the infinite come from the prior world of the Potential. I don't see how you can have a bird's eye view of the universe's history and have no problem at its start with regard to physical mechanics
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    7.4k
    I don't think metaphysical analysis can provide definitive answers about time. On the other hand, physics may develop insight into its nature.Relativist

    I think this is actually the opposite of reality. Analysis of the problems which physics encounters with its representations of time, juxtaposed with the firmly established metaphysical conceptions of causation, is what develops insight into the nature of time. Physicists do not value metaphysical conceptions, metaphysicians do.
  • Relativist
    1.5k
    I think this is actually the opposite of reality. Analysis of the problems which physics encounters with its representations of time, juxtaposed with the firmly established metaphysical conceptions of causation, is what develops insight into the nature of time. Physicists do not value metaphysical conceptions, metaphysicians do.Metaphysician Undercover
    I'm open to considering the value of metaphysical analysis in this regard, but it was physics - not metaphysics- that showed time is not absolute, that it is relative to a reference frame (i.e. special relativity). It is physics that showed space and time are coupled, and identified the "problem of time". And it's physicists who are exploring what may be the fundamental basis of time.

    What specific insights have metaphysicians provided regarding time?
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