Does the present exist?

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DaMunky89
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 07:25 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;161031 wrote:
The definition of the word is agreed upon, and people use the term "present" quite frequently. If you don't believe me, you ought to look the word up.

Yes, the word does have a definition. Nobody is disputing the existence of the definition, we are disputing the existence of the phenomena it purports to describe.

Zetherin;161031 wrote:
This is clearly false. Of course people can agree on events and their timings. You and I can both look at a watch and agree that X person was at Y location at Z time.

This is where that Wikipedia article you refused to read comes in. His point likely has something to do with the fact that different observers move through time at different speeds, based on their velocities. (The faster you move in space, the slower you move through time. This has been tested in real life with atomic clocks.) Einstein said that if you were to move at the speed of light, time would stop.

So, we cannot look at our watches and agree on a "Z time", because even if our watches were 100% synchronized at one point, they will not remain so. If you think we can agree on a "Z time", it's because our watches are not precise enough to show that they are now out of sync.

Zetherin;161031 wrote:
There is of course the concept of "present" which exists, but then there is also the exact moment that the person who uses the word is referring to (which is not the concept). Just as I can have a concept of an elephant, but the elephant is not my concept.

Nobody is arguing that the concept of the present is the same thing as the present itself. What we're arguing is that the present does not exist, only the concept of the present does.

Zetherin;161031 wrote:
I think you understand how the phrase "the exact moment" is used in language. You'll ask proof of what exactly? That I perceived a certain moment? I could come up with loads of evidence that I perceived something at some time, just as you can. It's obviously situational.

To be consistent, you must not believe countries, states, government or really any abstract notion exists. If I tell you Poland exists, and you responded consistent with what you were just alluding to, you would say, "Well, since there is no "exact location" which is Poland, it does not exist. Where does Poland start and end; you can provide me coordinates, but that's not enough!".

I know what Poland is, just as you do. I know what governments are, just as you do (just examples; there are plenty). And if someone says "now" or "the present", I believe you understand what they mean. More importantly, you probably could even understand what moment in time they were speaking about.


Unlike "the present", Poland is not an infinitely small interval. Poland is (approximately) 689 km E-W and 649 km N-S. We can therefore observe Poland as an existent object. If, on the other hand, you asked us "Where precisely does Poland start and end?" or "How big is Poland EXACTLY?" then we might be in trouble. But these problems do not prevent us from knowing Poland as a whole exists. -Just fuzzy on some of the details.

At least from a measurement standpoint. If we get into skepticism of the external world, then you'd have trouble logically claiming anything exists.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 07:40 pm
@DaMunky89,
DaMunky89 wrote:
But these problems do not prevent us from knowing Poland as a whole exists. -Just fuzzy on some of the details.


I believe this to be the same for the present or any other moment in time, is what I'm saying.

Just because we don't know exactly when that moment in time is, does not mean the present or any other moment in time does not exist. If someone says, "It just happened", or "It happened now", or things like "The present day", we can understand what they mean. Just as we can understand what people mean when they say things like, "I'm going to Poland next year".

Quote:
So, we cannot look at our watches and agree on a "Z time", because even if our watches were 100% synchronized at one point, they will not remain so. If you think we can agree on a "Z time", it's because our watches are not precise enough to show that they are now out of sync.


Of course there is going to be a margin of error, dude. We're not infallible, and we're of course not omniscient. But by the same token, it does not mean we can't agree on Z time. We can, and we do. I suppose the meeting I have scheduled for tomorrow at 2pm will elude people then; they simply won't know what time the meeting is (tell them good luck in regard to keeping their jobs!).
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 07:46 pm
@DaMunky89,
Zetherin, you're dumbing this discussion down to the colloquial, when the topic demands the admission of relativistic theory. You apparently have no knowledge of this, so as to your claim about the relativity of simultaneity being "clearly false", I will direct you here:

Relativity of simultaneity - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 
DaMunky89
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 07:47 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;161042 wrote:
I believe this to be the same for the present or any other moment in time, is what I'm saying.

Just because we don't know exactly when that moment in time is, does not mean the present or any other moment in time does not exist. If someone says, "It just happened", or "It happened now", or things like "The present day", we can understand what they mean. Just as we can understand what people mean when they say things like, "I'm going to Poland next year".

But here's the difference: When measuring Poland there are all sorts of criteria, and we're fuzzy on just some of the details.

With measuring the present, there is only one criteria relevant to this disagreement, that being when it is. There is only one detail, and we have no way of knowing what it is.

Furthermore, when people say something like "It just happened" or, "It happened now", they are referring to things that happened in the past. If somebody says "this is happening right now!", they are referring to something that is partially in the past and partially in the future. The present doesn't figure into it at all.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 07:48 pm
@Pangloss,
Pangloss;161046 wrote:
Zetherin, you're dumbing this discussion down to the colloquial, when the topic demands the admission of relativistic theory. You apparently have no knowledge of this, so as to your claim about the relativity of simultaneity being "clearly false", I will direct you here:

Relativity of simultaneity - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Nothing about the theory of relativity discredits, or is even contrary, to what I've stated. If you believe this to be not true, please explain how.
 
DaMunky89
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 07:53 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;161051 wrote:
Nothing about the theory of relativity discredits, or is even contrary, to what I've stated. If you believe this to be not true, please explain how.

Please see below:
Wikipedia wrote:
According to the special theory of relativity, it is impossible to say in an absolute sense whether two events occur at the same time if those events are separated in space.


Two people checking their watches do not occupy the same space.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 07:54 pm
@DaMunky89,
DaMunky89 wrote:
With measuring the present, there is only one criteria relevant to this disagreement, that being when it is. There is only one detail, and we have no way of knowing what it is.


I'm talking about a single detail in regards to Poland - its spatial detail. I'm also talking about a single detail in regards to the present - its temporal detail. For us to understand either, absolute mathematical precision is irrelevant.

I can explain to you the present, just as I can explain to you where Poland is. And I'm more than sure you would understand what I mean.

Suppose a professor says, "Hand in your tests now". What on earth would you think he/she meant? Would you consider that the professor wants you to hand in your paper next Tuesday, or wanted you to hand in your paper last Tuesday? Of course not - you'd know quite well what the professor meant.

---------- Post added 05-06-2010 at 09:54 PM ----------

DaMunky89;161053 wrote:
Please see below:


Two people checking their watches do not occupy the same space.


I've noted more than one time that us not knowing when something takes place "in an absolute sense", is irrelevant. I've also explained why. (in fact, I think I said almost exactly this).

This is one of those times that philosophers try to make complicated what is not complicated. Some people think that if something has a simple answer, or is not profound enough, it is not true or philosophical. But this is of course false.
 
DaMunky89
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 07:57 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;161054 wrote:
I'm talking about a single detail in regards to Poland - its spatial detail. I'm also talking about a single detail in regards to the present - its temporal detail. For us to understand either, mathematics is irrelevant.

Yes, you are talking about a single detail. But that does not change the fact that other details exist.

Zetherin;161054 wrote:
I can explain to you the present, just as I can explain to you where Poland is. And I'm more than sure you would understand what I mean.

You can explain to me the concept of the present. This is a distinction you were very concerned about just a few posts ago.

Zetherin;161054 wrote:
Suppose a professor says, "Hand in your tests now". What on earth would you think he/she meant? Would you consider that the professor wants you to hand in your paper next Tuesday, or wanted you to hand in your paper last Tuesday? Of course not - you'd know quite well what the professor meant.

The professor would be referring to a time shortly in the future. For however long I am handing him the test, I am experiencing an event partially in the past and partially in the future. Then, once the test is in his hands, and not mine, handing in the test is in the past.

Because the future is a duration of length 0, it might as well not exist at all.

Zetherin;161054 wrote:
Perhaps you should read my posts. I've noted more than one time that us not knowing when something takes place "in an absolute sense", is irrelevant. I've also explained why. (in fact, I think I said almost exactly this).

You asked us to show you somewhere relativity disagrees with you. Relativity isn't saying we can't KNOW what order the events occurred in. It's saying they DID NOT occur in an absolute order at all. (Relative is the opposite of absolute.)

Zetherin;161054 wrote:
This is one of those times that philosophers try to make complicated what is not complicated. Some people think that if something has a simple answer, or is not profound enough, it is not true or philosophical. But this is of course false.

If you're taking something like how time itself functions as a simple topic, that's just outright closemindedness and there's no arguing against that.
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 07:59 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;161051 wrote:
Nothing about the theory of relativity discredits, or is even contrary, to what I've stated. If you believe this to be not true, please explain how.


Did you not state this?

Zetherin;161031 wrote:
This is clearly false. Of course people can agree on events and their timings. You and I can both look at a watch and agree that X person was at Y location at Z time.


If you had read the article, you would know that it discredits that statement.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 08:02 pm
@DaMunky89,
DaMunky89 wrote:
The professor would be referring to a time shortly in the future. For however long I am handing him the test, I am experiencing an event partially in the past and partially in the future.


I thought you just conceded a moment ago that the past and future do not exist? Stop talking about the past and future existing if you don't think the present doesn't exist. That makes no sense. The past and future are comparatives, as I noted earlier; you need a starting point before saying it happened before or after.

Quote:
Because the future is a duration of length 0, it might as well not exist at all.


Not sure where you're going with this.

My friend, you're confusing yourself. This is not a complicated matter. Please don't do this to yourself.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 08:03 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;161051 wrote:
Nothing about the theory of relativity discredits, or is even contrary, to what I've stated. If you believe this to be not true, please explain how.


We never know what we are talking about until science tells us what it is. Everyone knows that.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 08:04 pm
@DaMunky89,
Pangloss wrote:
If you had read the article, you would know that it discredits that statement.


Once again, that we cannot know with absolute mathematical precision time X, does not mean either A.) Time X does not exist, or B.) That we cannot understand when time X is. Time X of course exists, and we can understand what time one is referring to.

For instance, if I tell you to be at a meeting at X time, don't you understand what I mean? You really don't believe people can plan out their schedules and arrange meetings with other people at specific times? You're really serious about this?

If you're being sincere with me, I'm astonished. And I do mean that honestly. It is a wonder to me how you function everyday, or how on earth you could even hold a job. I can imagine your manager saying "Be in tomorrow at 9am", and you sitting there with a bewildered look on your face.

I revoke your license to play dumb online, but then use reason in everyday life.
 
DaMunky89
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 08:07 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;161062 wrote:
I thought you just conceded a moment ago that the past and future do not exist? Stop talking about the past and future existing if you don't think the present doesn't exist. That makes no sense. The past and future are comparatives, as I noted earlier; you need a starting point before saying it happened before or after.



Not sure where you're going with this.

My friend, you're confusing yourself. This is not a complicated matter. Please don't do this to yourself.

Please, we're all adults here, I'd appreciate it if you don't talk down to me.

I feel that the past and future exist, but for lack of a present they might as well be the same thing. Thus, when I wish to refer to an event preceding my current perceptions of the world, I call it the past, and when the event occurs afterwards, the future.

We perceive the world in just 3 dimensions, when there is actually a fourth, time. So whichever part of time I'm currently looking at (and it's not necessarily a finite point) can be used to distinguish my own past and future. But these things are relative, and I recognize that they apply only to myself.

Zetherin;161062 wrote:
Once again, that we cannot know with absolute mathematical precision time X, does not mean either A.) Time X does not exist, or B.) That we cannot understand when time X is. Time X of course exists, and we can understand what time one is referring to.

Time X does not exist absolutely. It is different for every person who perceives it. The reason one person can convey a specific time to another person is because the differences are very very small. Please go read the article about relativity? We'll wait 'till you get back, promise.

Zetherin;161062 wrote:
For instance, if I tell you to be at a meeting at X time, don't you understand what I mean? You really don't believe people can plan out their schedules and arrange meetings with other people at specific times? You're really serious about this?

If you're being sincere with me, I'm astonished. And I do mean that honestly. It is a wonder to me how you function everyday, or how on earth you could even hold a job. I can imagine your manager saying "Be in tomorrow at 9am", and you sitting there with a bewildered look on your face.

People plan for future events. They can plan for specific times because even though time varies for each person, the differences are unnoticeably small in regular everyday life.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 08:11 pm
@DaMunky89,
DaMunky89 wrote:
I feel that the past and future exist, but for lack of a present they might as well be the same thing.


A present need exist for there to be a past and future. Like I said, what you are stating is akin to someone saying the number three doesn't exist, but yet there are numbers greater and less than three. In saying that the past and future exist, you are implying that the present exists!

Quote:
Please, we're all adults here, I'd appreciate it if you don't talk down to me.


When did I talk down to you? There was no harsh tone; I truly believe you are confusing yourself and over-complicating this matter. That is not an insult. It's not even a judgment of your intelligence. It is criticism that you should consider.
 
kennethamy
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 08:17 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;161065 wrote:

I revoke your license to play dumb online, but then use reason in everyday life.


People can speak ordinary language, and we can also speak sci-talk. But they should not mix them up. Even Copernicans can say that the Sun will rise at 5 am, and will set at 6 pm. He does not have to be a Ptolomean to do that. As Bishop Berkeley once advised, "We should speak with the vulgar, but think with the learned".
 
DaMunky89
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 08:18 pm
@Zetherin,
Zetherin;161067 wrote:
A present need exist for there to be a past and future. Like I said, what you are stating is akin to someone saying the number three doesn't exist, but yet there are numbers greater and less than three. In saying that the past and future exist, you are implying that the present exists!

I'm stating that because they are not separated, they are the same thing. Time. But you can apply labels to time, and the labels I choose to use are either 'past' or 'future' depending on my perceptions. By doing this I imply that the concept of the present exists, but I do not imply that the present itself exists.

Zetherin;161067 wrote:
When did I talk down to you? There was no harsh tone; I truly believe you are confusing yourself and over-complicating this matter. That is not an insult. It's not even a judgment of your intelligence. It is criticism that you should consider.


Things like this, for example, are wholly unnecessary, and come across as personal attacks:

Zetherin;161067 wrote:
If you're being sincere with me, I'm astonished. And I do mean that honestly. It is a wonder to me how you function everyday, or how on earth you could even hold a job. I can imagine your manager saying "Be in tomorrow at 9am", and you sitting there with a bewildered look on your face.

I revoke your license to play dumb online, but then use reason in everyday life.
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 08:32 pm
@DaMunky89,
DaMunky,

It looks like you won't be finding any philosophy on the nature of time here, unfortunately. Just preaching. But you might be interested in the following essay by McTaggart around a century ago called "The Unreality of Time". It doesn't exactly work with relativity, but it's an interesting argument:

The Unreality of Time

Time (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
 
DaMunky89
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 08:36 pm
@Pangloss,
Pangloss;161078 wrote:
DaMunky,

It looks like you won't be finding any philosophy on the nature of time here, unfortunately. Just preaching. But you might be interested in the following essay by McTaggart around a century ago called "The Unreality of Time". It doesn't exactly work with relativity, but it's an interesting argument:

The Unreality of Time

Time (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Yeah, it was kinda starting to look that way. It's been a fun discussion, but I need to get back to my work for finals anyway, haha.

I'll bookmark these for later, temporailty has always been a favorite hobby topic for me, and I haven't done any interesting reading on it in awhile. You guys have been great, and I'll look for your posts in the future, Pangloss.
 
Zetherin
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 09:26 pm
@DaMunky89,
DaMunky89 wrote:
I'm stating that because they are not separated, they are the same thing. Time. But you can apply labels to time, and the labels I choose to use are either 'past' or 'future' depending on my perceptions. By doing this I imply that the concept of the present exists, but I do not imply that the present itself exists.


There is a moment you are referring to when you say "now" or "present". I think you know that.

Quote:
Things like this, for example, are wholly unnecessary, and come across as personal attacks:


There's nothing wrong with that. Stop being so sensitive. It really would astonish me if he had no understanding of time arrangements. I'm sure it would astonish you too. The fact of the matter the both of you understand what past, present, and future mean. And you even schedule things in your daily lives.

What is so confusing?

Pangloss wrote:
It looks like you won't be finding any philosophy on the nature of time here, unfortunately. Just preaching.


If you're referring to me, what am I preaching? That people are able to follow schedules and acknowledge that there are moments of time? I guess I'm just fanatical, don't mind me!
 
Pangloss
 
Reply Thu 6 May, 2010 10:24 pm
@Zetherin,
DaMunky89;161070 wrote:
I'm stating that because they are not separated, they are the same thing. Time. But you can apply labels to time, and the labels I choose to use are either 'past' or 'future' depending on my perceptions. By doing this I imply that the concept of the present exists, but I do not imply that the present itself exists.


It would seem that Einstein agreed with you:

A.E. wrote:
"People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion".


Just curious-- have you been studying physics, or the philosophy of physics in school? Or just thinking this out on your own?



Zetherin wrote:
There's nothing wrong with that. Stop being so sensitive. It really would astonish me if he had no understanding of time arrangements. I'm sure it would astonish you too. The fact of the matter the both of you understand what past, present, and future mean. And you even schedule things in your daily lives.

If you're referring to me, what am I preaching? That people are able to follow schedules and acknowledge that there are moments of time? I guess I'm just fanatical, don't mind me!


Yea Zeth, I know how a clock works, and I know that the business world goes by its number of revolutions per day. :sarcastic: Implying that I did not understand this was obviously some sort of attempt at an insult to my intelligence, but I'm not so easily offended.

You seem to have missed the entire point of this thread. I'm wondering if you ever even read the initial post. His argument, as he clearly states, is one against the philosophy of Presentism, which holds that only the present exists in time. He shows that a conventional definition of "the present" refers to some infinitesimally small period of time, which is mathematically indistinguishable from zero.

Then his conclusion:

DaMunky89 wrote:
So, if the present is "a span of time zero seconds long", it effectively doesn't exist. Additional consequence: without the present to separate the past and the future, they become one distinguishable interval, which I choose to refer to simply as 'time'. My conclusion is that all moments in time are equally real.


He's saying that the common distinction between past, present, and future is incorrect. And he's right; that distinction hasn't been correct since Einstein's relativity theories were published and tested. Presentism was proven to be incorrect by relativity, as there must be absolute simultaneity for it to work. That doesn't mean that we won't all experience some sensation of events flooding our consciousness at all time which some might call "the present". We can call it whatever we want. The fact is, we only perceive events that have already occurred. If we can't agree on anything about the present, then, as I've already said, it's merely a subjective, abstract notion like God. Oh, and that analogy with Poland is entirely erroneous.
 
 

 
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