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Is the universe infinite in time? If no, the universe must have a beginning, which implies that something can come into existence out of nothing. This is an obvious contradiction. But if the answer is yes, then there must be an infinite regress of causal links in the past. This too seems like a problem. What does Objectivism have to say on this?

asked Dec 06 '11 at 10:32

Kjetil%20Knausg%C3%A5rd's gravatar image

Kjetil Knausgård
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edited Dec 06 '11 at 18:39

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦
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Is a circle infinite in circumference? Does a circle have a beginning in circumference?

(Note that the only thing I am saying here is that "not infinite in X" does not imply "has a beginning in X".)

(Dec 07 '11 at 06:58) anthony anthony's gravatar image

What does Objectivism have to say on this?

That the universe exists.

I know that might sound like I am poking fun at your question, but I assure you I am not. The infinite is indeed an interesting concept. However, I am not sure that Objectivism has an answer to your question other than that "existence exists." If the existence of the universe requires an infinite regress of causal links (I will leave it up to the more adept Objectivists to weigh in on that subject), then so be it; if so, then we cannot say there is a problem with an infinite regress of causal links---we cannot cling to a syllogism if it requires denying the facts before us---i.e., existence exists. Either it is not true that the regress is required, or it is not a problem.

answered Dec 06 '11 at 21:45

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ericmaughan43 ♦
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This brief answer is actually excellent.

"Either it is not true that the regress is required, or it is not a problem."

That's a brilliant formulation. Now, I'm inclined to say that an infinite causal regress is necessary but not a problem, but I admit that such a regress might not be necessary.

If it IS necessary, then the idea that it's a problem requires a first cause. That's the religious view.

(Dec 17 '11 at 10:44) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

The original question was: "Is the universe infinite in time?"

Judging by the many comments which this question has provoked, the term "universe" needs to be used extremely cautiously in philosophical discussions. Philosophers may take it to mean "existence," while others may take it to mean "physical world," with "world" interpreted broadly to include all matter (and possibly energy as well) in existence.

One comment provided an excellent reference on axiomatic concepts like "existence," namely, ITOE 2nd Ed., p. 58.

There is an even more extensive discussion of "The Physical World" and "Time" in the same book, pp. 245-251 and 256-260, respectively. Here is a sampling from the discussion of "physical world":

Prof. K: Some philosophers treat our knowledge that existence exists as equivalent to our knowledge that there is a physical world.... Is any variant of this position consistent with the Objectivist view of axioms and axiomatic concepts?
AR: The answer is: no. emphatically. Not consistent in any way whatever....It's not two perspectives on the same fact. The fact is the same, but one is a fundamental axiom applying to any level of your knowledge, and the second is not a different perspective -- it's a statement which is the result of a long and complex development of knowledge.... [A] proposition about the nature of what exists is not the same thing as the axiom [that existence exists].

Refer to the complete ITOE2 discussion for the full details of this issue and its relation to the concept of "time."

Whenever someone uses the term "universe," it is essential to be very clear about recognizing that "universe" has two different senses, and about which sense is being used in any particular context. It would be even better to use the term "existence" instead of "universe" whenever "existence" is the intended concept.

Update: The Concepts of Existence, Universe, Change, and Time

There are a number of potentially useful articles on Wikipedia concerning time and the universe, including:

  • Time
  • Philosophy of time
  • Big bang
  • Age of the universe

Here is the opening paragraph from "Age of the universe," with some ephasis added:

The age of the universe is the time elapsed since the Big Bang posited by the most widely accepted scientific model of cosmology. The best current estimate of the age of the universe is 13.75 ± 0.13 billion years[1][2] (433.6 x 1015 seconds in SI units, or 13.75 Gigayears) within the Lambda-CDM concordance model.[3] It is not known if something existed before the singularity that appeared at the moment of the Big Bang, nor if time is linear, since the expansion estimated by Hubble's law assumed a linear expansion, and later work indicates there may have been variations.[4] The estimated changes in expansion are calculated to be both positive and negative, so Hubble and later estimates broadly agree.

This is a good example of what I mean by the difference between "universe," when used in this manner, and "existence" as an axiomatic metaphysical concept. Physicists evidently have learned how to trace the history of changes in the actions and forms of matter and energy all the way back to a point referred to as a "big bang," which is described in the "Big bang" article on Wikipedia as follows (emphasis added):

The Big Bang theory is the prevailing cosmological model that explains the early development of the Universe.[1] According to the Big Bang theory, the Universe was once in an extremely hot and dense state which expanded rapidly.

Note that the Big Bang theory says nothing about whether or not any matter or energy existed prior to the "bang," although the theory certainly implies that something must have existed, namely, some kind of very hot and dense "bundle" which then proceeded to "explode." So where did the starting "bundle" come from? How did it get there? So far, the Big Bang theory doesn't have any explanation to offer, and doesn't rule out a possible future explanation. There simply isn't enough evidence so far to trace the history of matter and energy back any farther than the Big Bang. It certainly would not be valid to claim that the "universe" didn't exist prior to the Bang; the theory itself implies that it did exist, just in a very different form (hot and dense) than what emerged after the Bang (cooling and far less dense). Furthermore, to avoid confusion with the axiomatic metaphysical concept of "existence," one really should refer to "universe" in the Big Bang context as "the presently known physical universe," or some such similar designation, since the main context of the Big Bang discussion is what came into existence after the Bang and as a result of it, without saying anything one way or the other about whether or not any matter or energy may have existed before the Bang. (From time to time, I've also seen suggestions that the matter and energy in the universe may actually have been undergoing repeated cycles of expansion and collapse, and that the most recent Big Bang may have been preceded by a long period of collapsing rather than expanding, until it had collapsed into the incredibly "hot and dense" state from which the most recent Big Bang proceeded. I have no idea how credible this cyclic "expanding-and-contracting" speculation may be from a scientific viewpoint.)

It is also essential to clarify what we mean by "time" in a context in which the normal earthly frame of reference for that concept didn't yet exist, i.e., the interval between the Bang and the formation of our present solar system. Ayn Rand's explanation of "time" in ITOE2 (pp. 256-260, especially pp. 259-260) may help to clarify how man forms the concept of "time." As I understand it, the facts of reality that serve as man's basis for "time" are the changes in existents that man observes and remembers, including internal changes in matter and energy as well as motions of entire entities relative to each other. All man needs is a succession of changes to form at least a rudimentary concept of "time" (along with the related concepts of present, past and future). Highly cyclic changes are most helpful, such as the earth's rotation on its axis or revolutions around the sun, or man's own heartbeat (which can vary significantly), or invented devices of all sorts, including electronic oscillators that generate highly periodic electrical pulses which other electronic devices can then count and display (as in a digital clock).

When physicists reach conclusions about the "age" of the presently known physical universe, they are doing so by tracing the succession of changes which they can observe and/or infer as far back (sequentially) as the evidence and theoretical understanding will allow. This is entirely a process of integrating available evidence, including inferred rates of change as well as the various types of change that matter and energy undergo as the universe (i.e., the presently known physical universe) develops.

Update: The "Bang," before and after

As of the moment of this update being posted, there have been 24 comments on John's first answer, and another 24 comments so far on his second answer -- mostly from Anthony and (in response) John. I, for one, have found it extremely difficult to discern exactly what Anthony's position is, although the comments have gradually made it more clear, if I understand Anthony's formulations correctly (and I am absolutely certain that he will quickly object most vigorously if I have misunderstood anything he has said in any way).

The essential claims seem to be (a) that physicists are probably correct in concluding that all of the presently understood matter and energy in the universe came from the explosion of an incredibly "hot and dense" bundle of some kind about 13.75 billion earth years ago, and (b) that that event was literally the beginning of "time" as we presently know and understand it. Point (b) evidently is based on the principle of time as relative to motion, and the apparent view (implicit and taken for granted) that no motion existed prior to the explosion in question (known as "The Big Bang").

I see problems with (b), however, and my observations are physics issues, not specifically philosophical issues, except insofar as philosophy underlies all the special sciences. (I can hear in my mind Anthony objecting already, although I can't project what his objections might prove to be.) First, the Big Bang theory in physics, as I understand it (and I grant that my understanding may be inaccurate) says nothing, so far (from the available evidence), about the initial starting "bundle" -- how it came to exist and what might have preceded it. The theory says only that something existed and exploded, and that the initial "something" was incredibly "hot and dense."

Now, being "hot" generally implies motion -- motion of something -- even if the mass is so great that the aggregate gravitational forces are too strong to allow light to escape (as in a "black hole"). The "bundle" that started the Big Bang was apparently teeming with internal motion ("hot"); it was not like a cold, dense rock. (I suppose some might try to claim that it was cold first, but then spontaneously became very hot as the Bang began. In that case, where could the energy have come from to make it get hot? And if we extrapolate backwards before the heating, from the concept of time and rates of change that we form from evidence available after the Bang, how long might the starting "bundle" have been "cold" before it became "hot"? The "time interval" thus inferred may be impossible to quantify without a greater history of change, but at least it would probably be far longer than the interval in which the Bang itself occurred. Again, constructive, knowledgeable clarification would be welcome, if anyone can provide it.)

The Big Bang theory says nothing one way or the other about whether or not the starting "bundle" may have had a prior history (as a black hole does, for instance). Physicists so far don't have enough evidence to say that there either was or was not any prior history for the starting "bundle." But physics certainly can project, from what is known, that an initial something surely must have come from somewhere, somehow, and was not a spontaneous ex nihilo creation. While physics has insufficient evidence and theoretical understanding to affirm the existence of a prior history before the Big Bang, neither can physics rule it out, nor deny that the existence of a prior history preceding the Big Bang must logically be regarded as a definite metaphysical possibility. Such prior history almost certainly would have included change of some kind, potentially leading to a trail of evidence that might eventually be correlated to the passage of time as it has become known to us subsequently to the Bang.

This isn't mysticism; it is a logical projection from existing knowledge, if I understand the physics correctly. (Anthony is welcome to enlighten us, here, if he can do so in an understandable, explanatory manner for what is basically a lay audience.) One must not confuse that which exists with that which man has any means of knowing (if anyone is doing that). Existence exists independently of man's awareness of it, as the history of man's knowledge has demonstrated repeatedly. In many cases, man eventually discovers ways of knowing, and makes startling new discoveries about existence as well as man's methods of observing it.

And if there was a prior history before the Big Bang, which included a "trail" of changes in matter and energy, then one would expect that eventually physics would be able to quantify methods of measuring time intervals prior to the Big Bang without simply assuming the presence of a hypothetical pre-Bang and post-Bang observer who somehow escapes being part of the Bang himself. Again, I welcome constructive enlightenment here from a physics expert.

(Incidently, in answer to Anthony, I had understood Wikipedia's usage of "singularity" to mean basically just a very unique event, which the Big Bang is generally considered to have been. It turns out that in the Wikipedia formulation that I quoted, the term "singularity" is actually a link to an entire Wikipedia article titled, "Gravitational singulatiry," which explains Wikipedia's intended meaning in far greater detail. Those who are interested can check it out. Anthony also challenged the meaning of "moment of the Big Bang." My understanding is that the meaning of "Big Bang" isn't in question. That leaves the term "moment" as the essential issue in question, probably because it tends to imply a time measurement of some kind. Any such measurement would have to be made by means of the history of changes in matter and energy from the Bang to the present, along with projections of rates of change, including projections into the past, prior to the Big Bang. Man's conceptual faculty makes projections possible where no specific measurement methodology yet exists, but potentially could be discovered someday as physicists continue to learn more about the likely nature of the starting "bundle" and how it likely came to exist, i.e., its prior history, in a form capable of exploding.)

Update: Relation of Physics to Philosophy

After extensive additional discussion back and forth in the comments, both recently and two years ago, the most dominant physics claim that I have discerned is the claim that "time," as that term is used by modern physicists, had a specific "beginning," which occurred just a tiny fraction of a second before the "big bang," and that prior to this alleged beginning of time there was nothing that could be called "time," or from which to measure the passage of time, i.e., no motions or changes of any kind in any existents that may have existed prior to the "bang." If any existents did exist prior to the "bang," they must not have been moving or otherwise changing in any way, since such motion or change presumably would give rise to a means of measuring time prior to the "bang."

This claim about a "beginning of time" evidently is an implication from modern theories of physics. The key issues for Objectivists, then, are: is there anything in this claim that is inherently (provably) impossible on purely philosophical grounds, and did the physicists follow a valid cognitive methodology in reaching this claim?

Here are some examples of what modern physics reportedly claims, according to comments by Anthony.

... the question which provoked most of the discussion, is whether or not there is a limit to the measurement in time between past events and the present.
... how do you propose to factor in the effects of time dilation? Or do you reject the notion of time dilation as well?

Anthony did not explain what "time dilation" refers to, but I would tend to assume it refers to the effect of strong gravitational fields, and/or velocities of travel approaching the speed of light, on dramatically slowing the rate at which time passes.

I don't reject the notion that no matter how much we discover about the earliest known time period of the universe, we will always be able to discover something previous to it. But that does not imply that something existed 15 billion years ago. The time periods, according to the definitions of time, would get progressively smaller and smaller.

Elsewhere, Anthony explains that "15 billion years ago" is a non-existent length of time, since time began only about 13.75 billion years ago.

The theories state that "the explosion" (I assume you mean "inflation") occurred about 10^-33 seconds after what the theories refer to as the beginning of time.

Anthony didn't explain the difference between "explosion" and "inflation." I used "explosion" as referring to a very sudden and violent "inflating," with emphasis on the suddenness and violence of it.

My understanding is that time didn't start with "the explosion", but started about 10^-33 seconds before "the explosion".

In response to some of the comments by John two years ago, Anthony wrote:

Your comments about "time passing" and “its clock didn't run” seem to stem from a misunderstanding of what time is. Specifically, it seems to me you are treating time as absolute and universal. Have you ever taken an introduction to modern physics class?

I can't speak for John, but I certainly never took an introduction to modern physics class myself. I don't think they had one when I was in school (decades ago). I suspect many other readers of this website may be in a similar situation and, like me, will need further elaboration on what modern physicists are actually saying. Over the years, I've certainly heard of the "Big Bang," but I've never heard the claim that time didn't exist prior to a tiny fraction of a second before the "bang." To me, it also seems entirely consistent with general knowledge and the laws of physics to expect that when the "pre-universe" exploded, something must have existed in order for it to "explode." I haven't heard "big bang" proponents claim that the "bang" was an ex nihilo event, nor has Anthony claimed it. Apparently, then, the "stuff" that preceded the "bang" must have been totally motionless and changeless until it went "bang." That, in turn, doesn't seem consistent with the known laws of physics, as far as my own understanding currently extends. Do the equations of physics really predict that the sum total of all the matter in the entire known universe could have been packed into a tiny volume for a potentially prolonged (or at least unknown) duration without any motion or other change whatsoever? And what about the energy in the universe today? Did it all come from previously existing, motionless matter (perhaps in accord with Einstein's famous E = mc^2 relation)? Did conservation of energy and conservation of matter apply just as they do today (with Einstein's modifications) at the time of the "bang"?

Also, I haven't seen any explanation so far of how it is possible to establish time intervals like 13.75 billion years or 10^-33 seconds if "time dilation" means that the rate at which time passes was subject to radical change at about the time of the "bang," as compared to today. I see these as basic questions for the physicists to sort out (if they haven't already done so), not specifically questions for philosophy to affirm or deny, other than by reviewing the methodology of the physicists and helping to identify any contradictions or other methodological errors.

Update: More on fundamental concepts

In the comments, Anthony was asked the following question and gave a corresponding answer:

[Question:] Just what definition of "year" are you working from?

[Answer:] 1 year = 31,557,600 seconds.[*] 1 second = the time it takes light to travel 299,792,458 meters. Frame of reference = the frame of reference in which the cosmic microwave background radiation of the universe is isotropic, and applying general relativity to calculate the effects of time dilation accordingly.

I believe this Q&A illustrates, unusually succinctly, the difference between concepts like "universe" and "time" as used in modern physics, versus their more general and philosophic usage. Philosophy, especially Objectivist philosophy, does not necessarily view those concepts in exactly the same way that modern physics evidently does, nor does philosophy necessarily mandate that modern physics can't properly offer more precise and delimited definitions for technical terms according to the needs of scientists' observations and discoveries. Many specialized sciences offer specialized definitions of key terms, definitions that are perfectly valid and useful within the scope of those sciences. But endless confusion can arise if the narrow scientific definitions are suddenly substituted for the basic philosophical definitions without clearly denoting which definition is being used.

Consider time, for instance. As a fundamental concept in general usage and in Objectivism, time is a very broad concept that depends primarily on changes of some kind in existents (not necessarily restricted to motion). Ayn Rand offered a very useful description of time in ITOE 2nd Ed., p. 260:

"Time," as the widest or parent abstraction of all subsequent and narrower measurements of time, is a change of relationship. You observe that certain relationships are changed, and you form the concept of "time." Then you can subdivide it into speed or duration or any other measurements. Speed and duration are really two aspects of the same type of measurement.

On page 274, Ayn Rand also reiterates the source of man's concepts:

The whole trick [principle] in talking about anything is to remember what it is you are talking about and where your definitions came from, and are they correct. You always look back at reality -- what do we mean by a given concept, or how did we get it?

Applying the broader, philosophical view of time to the modern physics view, an observer can very appropriately ask: what about the state of existence that preceded the state of "cosmic background radiation" being "isotropic"? If physics has nothing to say about that prior state of existence, then so be it. Maybe an updated theory of physics in the future will fill that deficit. Modern physics does, at least, seem to acknowledge that something must have existed prior to the Big Bang; the "Bang" didn't simply occur out of total nothingness. (The commenter has hinted at times that he doesn't necessarily accept the modern physics idea of a "Big Bang," but other comments by him certainly do seem to endorse the idea of a "Big Bang" of some kind happening just a fraction of a second after the "beginning of time.")

There is also the issue of how "big" in volume the BBM (Big Bang Mass, the "stuff" that subsequently went "bang") was prior to the bang. Modern physics, if I understand it correctly, seems to say that the size may actually have been quite small compared to its size today. Prior to the Big Bang, the BBM may have been an extremely dense mass, more dense than any known black hole.

I do not see why one couldn't perform a "thought experiment" hypothesizing a tiny "observer" existing prior to the "Big Bang," perhaps orbiting around the "Big Bang Mass" (BBM) at a safe distance allowing his own time clock to function and without being swiftly pulled into the BBM cloud. The very process of orbiting around and around could provide a basis for time measurement, if the "observer" has some way to recognize a reference position in its orbit based on non-uniform features of the BBM. One would think that a hypothetical observer of that kind would readily be able to sense the presence of the BBM before and after the "Big Bang," perhaps by gravity if not by light, and perhaps even be able to measure how long the pre-bang BBM existed in that pre-bang state. (Such an observer would be totally blown away by the "Bang," of course, probably leaving no discernible trace that it ever existed. This kind of thought experiment tries to adhere to the laws of physics, but projects what they would mean under physical conditions that may never actually have existed.) Modern physics might say that such a pre-bang observer is impossible because it or he would be "outside the universe." But modern physics would be using a specialized, modern physics view of "universe" in that case; the observer would be outside the BBM but not outside of existence.

Modern physics may also try to claim that such an observer is impossible because modern physics starts out in the "era" in which "cosmic microwave background radiation" is "isotropic," then works backward from that and simply cannot go any farther back than a point which modern physics calls "the beginning of time." But it is not valid to conclude, from that process, that such state of existence can't exist, but only that if it did exist, it isn't reachable (identifiable or analyzable) by the currently known methods of modern physics. It remains as an open challenge for physics to explore further when it become more feasible to do so.


  • There is also a technical point about the quoted comment: 31557600 seconds per year comes from 356.25 days in a year, on average. The actual value is slightly less, however, closer to 365.2425 days, which is why we don't add a leap day when the year is divisible by 100, unless the year is divisible by 400. And even that formula isn't absolutely exact, nor necessarily even constant over a timespan of 8000 years or more. An ordinary, generic definition of "year" would simply be the time it takes the earth to make one revolution around the sun. Such a definition treats "time" as a more fundamental concept on which the definition of "year" depends. Historically, there was probably an earlier generic definition of "year," as well, having to do with the cycle of the seasons and possibly the alignments of the sun and stars, preceding the more modern realization of how the earth and the other planets in the solar system revolve around the sun, and how that correlates to weather patterns on earth. Similarly, "day" can be formed from the repeating cycle of night and daylight that man observes and is affected by. The fact that there are about 365 such days (cycles) in a year is then a later discovery, as is the refinement of that number to 365.25 or 365.2425 (still not exact).

answered Dec 11 '11 at 03:40

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
467718

edited Dec 09 '13 at 23:17

The answer to the original question of "Is the universe infinite in time?" is simple. The universe is not in time, time is in the universe. The same answer applies to the question of "Is existence infinite in time?". The universe is eternal. Existence is eternal.

However, the question which provoked most of the discussion, is whether or not there is a limit to the measurement in time between past events and the present.

(Dec 11 '11 at 11:02) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"to avoid confusion with the axiomatic metaphysical concept of 'existence,' one really should refer to 'universe' in the Big Bang context as 'the presently known physical universe,'"

Absolutely not. That's exactly the game the mystics play when they try to say that we don't know that there is no life after death, we only know that it is the end of "life as we know it" (there's probably even a Wikipedia quote which says some nonsense like this). "Time as we know it" is what is meant by "time".

Beware the fallacy of the stolen concept. Define in your own words "the moment of the Big Bang".

(Dec 13 '11 at 14:07) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"My understanding is that the meaning of 'Big Bang' isn't in question."

Sure it is. It is exactly the question. If "Big Bang" means the beginning period of time, then time has a beginning. If the "Big Bang" means "inflation", then 1) it would be less confusing to refer to it as a "period" of time rather than a "moment" in time; and 2) of course something came before it. If "Big Bang" means something else, in the context "the moment of the big bang", then you need to define it, because I can't come up with any other possibly meaningful definition.

(Dec 23 '11 at 10:02) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"Now, being 'hot' generally implies motion -- motion of something -- even if the mass is so great that the aggregate gravitational forces are too strong to allow light to escape (as in a 'black hole')."

And how do you propose to factor in the effects of time dilation? Or do you reject the notion of time dilation as well?

(Dec 23 '11 at 10:04) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"one would expect that eventually physics would be able to quantify methods of measuring time intervals prior to the Big Bang"

Two points. 1) Any time intervals which are discovered prior to the time intervals which we already know about would be part of the Big Bang, not prior to it. 2) According to our present definitions of time, the total length of all such intervals would only be a small fraction of a second (less than 10^-33 seconds).

(Dec 23 '11 at 10:19) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I don't reject the notion that no matter how much we discover about the earliest known time period of the universe, we will always be able to discover something previous to it. But that does not imply that something existed 15 billion years ago. The time periods, according to the definitions of time, would get progressively smaller and smaller.

(Dec 23 '11 at 10:23) anthony anthony's gravatar image

As for your description of what you see as my essential claims:

a) I wouldn't say that matter and energy "came from the explosion". And I don't think you would either.

b) No. The theories state that "the explosion" (I assume you mean "inflation") occurred about 10^-33 seconds after what the theories refer to as the beginning of time.

(Dec 23 '11 at 10:35) anthony anthony's gravatar image

By time you mean the measurement of the expansion of the Big Bang, but that does not rule out more time before the Bang. The theory itself accepts motion before the time of the explosion, maybe not as expansion but contraction, maybe another type of motion, but as far as scientists are able to go back, it is the Big Bang. This does not mean time started with the explosion, but rather that the time we can account for, going back in the links we are able to follow, end in the Big Bang. Maybe in the future we will find more evidence, and maybe not, of what was before, but existence exists.

(Dec 01 '13 at 23:48) Juan Diego dAnconia Juan%20Diego%20dAnconia's gravatar image

My understanding is that time didn't start with "the explosion", but started about 10^-33 seconds before "the explosion".

As far as there being no disproof that the Big Bang was actually a Big Bounce, this is only in the same sense that we can't disprove that prior to the Big Bang the universe rested on the back of a giant tortoise. If you want to call arbitrary baseless speculation "possible", then you want to call anything "possible".

(Dec 02 '13 at 06:39) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Elsewhere, Anthony explains that "15 billion years ago" is a non-existent length of time, since time began only about 13.75 billion years ago.

"10 billion years ago" is a point in time, not a length of time. "10 billion years" is a length of time. Perhaps by "length of time" you meant "point in time", but it's kind of important when discussing this stuff to be accurate.

(Dec 08 '13 at 16:39) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I can't speak for John, but I certainly never took an introduction to modern physics class myself. I don't think they had one when I was in school (decades ago). I suspect many other readers of this website may be in a similar situation and, like me, will need further elaboration on what modern physicists are actually saying.

To start with, one needs to understand that time (and space) are relative. There is no universal clock. What one observer measures as 1 second, another observer might measure as 1.1 seconds, and both might be right in their own frame of reference.

(Dec 08 '13 at 16:45) anthony anthony's gravatar image

It's important to understand that this is not to say that time is subjective. Within any given frame of reference there is an objectively correct answer. It is much the same as the measurement of value (which is also relative). It is not intrinsic. It is not subjective. It is objective.

I got the feeling based on some of your comments that you didn't understand that. If I was wrong, then I apologize.

(Dec 08 '13 at 16:46) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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Recognizing a contradiction is a good start. It provides the opportunity to examine one's knowledge for the error.

It is also important to note that in your identification, "which implies that something can come into existence out of nothing.", you are using the concept "universe" in the context of "all that exists", which is synonymous with the concept of "existence".

The application of infinite to time presents a couple of issues. Infinite gets its roots from the Greeks. The 'problem' of the infinite arises first in continuous quantity. Take a line, divide it in half. Divide the half in half. Aristotle points out that the infinite is a potential. No matter how many times you divide the line in half, you are left with something specific. (Note, if you physically cannot divide the line in half, you are done.) In the counting numbers, it is applied a little differently. You count 1,2,3 . . 8, 9 and when you add 1 more to it, you start another column and start with 1 again. If you have a hundred columns and they have all reached 9, you add 1, take the completed group of 10 and treat it as a unit, and add 1 to the next column and so on. If you are left with a 1 to carry, you begin another column. In this case, infinite is "bigger than any specific number", i.e. it is no number, rather it is a symbol for the method.

Time, is touched upon in this thread. If you wish to know how much time has passed, you need to additionally specify between when and when. An useful analogy may be in the consideration of distance. "How much distance is there?" You would also have to ask "How much distance is where?" You have to specify between what two locations.

To address the causal links, we keep in mind that causality links an action to the entity which acts. Leonard Peikoff in his book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand writes on page 16, "An entity may be said to have a cause only if it is the kind of entity that is non-eternal; and then what one actually explains causally is a process, the fact of its coming into being or another thing's passing away."

Time, in this regard, applies to that which is temporal. From the lexicon, to conclude, The universe is eternal in the literal sense: non-temporal, out of time. Harry Binswanger stated it in a slightly different way: "Time is in the universe, the universe is not in time."

answered Dec 06 '11 at 17:57

dream_weaver's gravatar image

dream_weaver ♦
663214

edited Dec 11 '11 at 11:43

The key to the answer of this question is the fact that time is an aspect of the universe, and does not exist outside the universe. Nothing exists outside the universe. The universe is everything, including all time.

Time is a measurement of motion, and motion, is, of course, in the universe.

With this recognition of the nature of time, it's clear the universe was never created, and that it will never stop existing. This is because the universe is whatever is.

The "duration of the existence of the universe" is an invalid idea, for it implies the existence of a time-keeper outside the universe. Nothing exists outside the universe.

The universe has actually existed for all time. There is no need to confuse things by bringing in any notion of the infinite, because the infinite, properly understood, represents a potential, as opposed to an actual quantity.

answered Dec 07 '11 at 10:25

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦
1002956310

"The 'duration of the existence of the universe' is an invalid idea, for it implies the existence of a time-keeper outside the universe."

Why can't you measure something from inside it? If time is a measurement of motion, and motion is, of course, in the universe, then why can't you measure the amount of motion in the universe?

What's wrong with taking the expansion rate of the microwave background radiation and extrapolating backwards? That gives you a result which is relative to the motion of the earth, but the age of the earth is similarly relative, and you agree we can measure that?

(Dec 10 '11 at 09:10) anthony anthony's gravatar image

The idea which is invalid is that there is an observer-independent duration of anything. That assumes the existence of a time-keeper outside the universe. But determining the age of the universe relative to our frame of reference. That's "easy". 13.75 ± 0.13 billion years.

(Dec 10 '11 at 09:13) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Regardless of what the cause of the background radiation is, study of and extrapolation from that only gives you an idea of when something happened in the past -- something which is generally called "the big bang". But the universe existed before the big bang. The universe was, at that time, whatever existed before the big bang. Neither God, nor the big bang created the universe.

I make no claims as to the nature of the universe before the big bang, but, philosophically speaking, it is invalid to claim that the universe ever did not exist.

(Dec 10 '11 at 09:20) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

"But the universe existed before the big bang. The universe was, at that time, whatever existed before the big bang."

Why do you say this? And specifically, what part of Objectivism implies this?

"I make no claims as to the nature of the universe before the big bang"

You are claiming that there was a universe before the big bang. You are claiming that “before the big bang” is meaningful.

“but, philosophically speaking, it is invalid to claim that the universe ever did not exist."

I agree with that.

(Dec 10 '11 at 09:34) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Also, what do you mean by "the big bang"? Are you sure you're not stealing a concept? You say that this term is generally defined as "when something happened in the past"? What "something" are you referring to? Given any "something" you can come up with, I will agree with you that something else happened before it.

But that doesn't imply that something happened 13.89 BYO. If the time of "the big bang", as in the time when something particular happened in the past, is 13.75 BYO, yes, something happened before that. But it may have been 13.75000000001 BYO. It wasn't 13.89 BYO.

(Dec 10 '11 at 10:39) anthony anthony's gravatar image

If you agree that it is invalid to claim that the universe ever did not exist, then that implies you consider "before the big bang" to be meaningful.

(Dec 10 '11 at 10:42) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

"You say that this term is generally defined as "when something happened in the past"". No. I do not and did not.

The Big Bang is the theoretical cause of the background radiation.

I don't deny that the Big Bang might have happened. I DO deny that it was the creation of the universe. I hold that the universe has always existed, and that The Big Bang, if it happened, was an event that happened in the universe.

(Dec 10 '11 at 10:45) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

"No. I do not and did not." Then what does "before the big bang" mean? "Before X" refers to "before time T", does it not? When is T? (By reference, if not by date.)

"I hold that the universe has always existed, and that The Big Bang, if it happened, was an event that happened in the universe."

I agree. At all times in the past, the universe existed. If X was an event that happened, then it was an event that happened in the universe. But this does not contradict that there has been a finite amount of time in the universe, and that the amount of time is between 13.62 and 13.88 billion years.

(Dec 10 '11 at 11:57) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"The Big Bang is the theoretical cause of the background radiation."

Which cause are you referring to? Wasn't the background radiation caused by many things?

Which theory are you referring to? There are many theories, many of which are themselves meaningless.

In order for "before the big bang" to be meaningful, you need to define yourself much more carefully than "before the theoretical cause of the background radiation, which may or may not have actually happened".

(Dec 10 '11 at 12:02) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Another question, which perhaps might explain why we're talking past each other.

Do you believe that time had a beginning? And if not, do you believe that this follows from Objectivism? (And if so, can you point me to a quote from Rand from which it can be derived?)

(Dec 10 '11 at 12:12) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Look at Rand's comments on existence/non-existence (ITOE2, pg 58). What would prior (a concept of time) to existence mean? Explore that in conjunction with where she derives the concept of time from in the appendix (pg. 258).

(Dec 10 '11 at 13:03) dream_weaver ♦ dream_weaver's gravatar image

"Prior to existence" doesn't make sense. I don't think John is disputing that. I certainly am not.

This has nothing to do with whether or not time had a beginning. And nothing to do with whether or not the time between each prior event and the present is limited (finite) or limitless (infinite). I say it is limited. I say that nothing occurred more than 13.88 billion years ago. I say given any past event which ever occured, the event occurred X years ago, and X<13.88 billion. I say that 13.88 billion years ago is meaningless. And I say there is nothing in Objectivism that contradicts this.

(Dec 10 '11 at 16:18) anthony anthony's gravatar image

13.88 billion years ago means 13.88 billion years ago at the point in time it is considered. Determining what may have occurred at that point in time would be a tremendous undertaking at best. That is a far cry from asserting that nothing occurred 13.88 billion years ago or even 100 google years ago.

(Dec 10 '11 at 16:29) dream_weaver ♦ dream_weaver's gravatar image

"13.88 billion years ago at the point in time it is considered" does not have a meaning (if I say it "has no referent" is that more clear?). Time is a measurement of motion, and there haven't been 13.88 billion years of motion.

"Determining what may have occurred at that point in time would be a tremendous undertaking at best. That is a far cry from asserting that nothing occurred 13.88 billion years ago or even 100 google years ago."

But I am asserting the latter. Furthermore, I am asserting that the latter is a question of science, and that it does not contradict Objectivism.

(Dec 10 '11 at 17:37) anthony anthony's gravatar image
1

To say "existence exists, but only recently" is a contradiction.

It's a contradiction even if "recently" means "within the last 13.88 billion years".

To say, instead, that the universe has always existed, and therefore existed 15 billion years ago, is no such contradiction.

The universe, qua universe, has always existed. Science, properly conceived, cannot contradict proper philosophy.

Yes, many, many things in the universe may have come into existence 13.88 years ago. But the universe, as such has always existed.

The existence of the universe is unbounded.

(Dec 10 '11 at 17:48) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I have not said either of the things you say are contradictions. In fact, I agree that the universe has always existed (i.e. at all times, the universe has existed).

But that doesn't mean that the universe existed 15 billion years ago. There is no 15 billion years ago. 15 billion years ago is not a time. 15 billion years ago makes as much sense as 12,000 miles due North of the equator. And nothing in Objectivism contradicts this.

Existence exists. Existence has existed for all time. But the amount of such time has been finite.

(Dec 10 '11 at 18:35) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Well, I think I've exhausted my ability to argue this point. I think that the claim that time as such is finite is senseless. Any claim that only X amount of time has ever passed strikes me as nutty. Someone else will have to argue the point for me, since I'm exhausted on this point.

(Dec 10 '11 at 19:06) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

"Existence does not exist in time, rather time exists within existence." Exactly.

"To determine any specific amount of time, requires the extent of what is being measured, i.e. and starting and ending point in time of consideration." Yes!

"Even 12,000 miles due North of the equator establishes the relative criteria needed to establish another plane of consideration parallel to it, albiet, 12,000 miles away." You lost me on that one. What does 12,000 miles North of the equator mean? Once you reach the North pole, you can't go North any more. You can go up, you can go down, you can go South.

(Dec 10 '11 at 19:10) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Existence does not exist in time, rather time exists within existence. To determine any specific amount of time, requires the extent of what is being measured, i.e. a starting and an ending point of the time being considered. Even 12,000 miles due North of the equator establishes the relative criteria needed to establish another plane of consideration parallel to it, albiet, 12,000 miles away.

(Dec 10 '11 at 19:10) dream_weaver ♦ dream_weaver's gravatar image

All this said, can we please get back to Objectivism? Is there anything in Objectivism which says that something happened more than 15 billion years ago?

(Dec 10 '11 at 19:13) anthony anthony's gravatar image

There is nothing in Objectivism which tells you specifically that something did, or did not happen more than 15 billion years ago. However, since '[t]he units of the concepts "existence" and "identity" are every entity, attribute, action, event or phenomenon (including consciousness) that exists, has ever existed or will ever exist' (which includes time), it does leave you to do the math.

(Dec 10 '11 at 20:24) dream_weaver ♦ dream_weaver's gravatar image

"There is nothing in Objectivism which tells you specifically that something did, or did not happen more than 15 billion years ago."

Right. And in fact, there is nothing in the world which tells you this either. So the speculation that something existed more than 15 BYO is completely arbitrary.

Nothing in the universe bears a relationship to the present which is greater than 15 BYO. I don't see what's so awful about that. You measure, til you run out of stuff to measure, and then you stop.

The problem only comes if you try to speculate about what came before the beginning. Nothing did.

(Dec 11 '11 at 09:40) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"...it does leave you to do the math."

The math comes to 13.75 ± 0.13 billion years. Prior to that, so far as we can tell, there are no entities, attributes, actions, events, or phenomenons, including time (and of course consciousness). "Prior to that" has no referent. There is no such time.

But maybe there was? Maybe [this]? Maybe [that]?

The theories are all arbitrary. The only theory that makes sense and fits the observations, is that motion, and hence time, which is a measurement of motion, begins 13.75 ± 0.13 billion years ago.

(Dec 11 '11 at 09:59) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Truth is arrived at via a process which also includes how you choose to derive the concepts you use to formulate your propositions. This also includes the recognition that one cannot cognatively process the arbitrary.

(Dec 11 '11 at 10:22) dream_weaver ♦ dream_weaver's gravatar image

As I understand it, Anthony is equating the phrases "the universe has always existed" with "the universe has existed since the beginning of time." And since one cannot ask "what was before the begging of time" then, according to Anthony, this does not contradict the fact that existence exists: one could not argue about what was before, or if the universe was or not, before time—there is no "before time." But it seems to me this position is vulnerable to the Unmoved Mover argument of Aristotle, in which God caused motion without ever moving, which would not contradict Anthony's idea.

(Dec 01 '13 at 23:23) Juan Diego dAnconia Juan%20Diego%20dAnconia's gravatar image

I would think that the Objectivist position is that because existence exists, and there exists motion, time must be infinite since there is no First Cause. Moreover, even if one can not ask "what existed before time," one could certainly say that since time started, the universe came to be with it, i.e., it was created—and this also implies there is something outside the universe. The answer is that the universe has always existed and that time is infinite. The regression in the causal link is infinite because existence exists.

(Dec 01 '13 at 23:28) Juan Diego dAnconia Juan%20Diego%20dAnconia's gravatar image

This "time is infinite" argument sounds to me like Zeno's Achilles and the Tortoise in reverse.

If by "time is infinite" you mean that there are an infinite number of points in time between now and the beginning of the universe, then this is correct. But there are only an infinite number of points because the distance between points can be infinitesimally small.

(Dec 02 '13 at 06:51) anthony anthony's gravatar image

The universe did not begin. Period. The term "beginning" implies the existence of a time before the beginning. All beginnings are in the universe.

Anthony's argument inverts the relationship between science and philosophy. He accepts the idea that science can tell you how old the universe is. That idea is false, because the universe has existed forever. Forever means forever, which is certainly longer than even 100 billion years or 10000000000000000000000 billion years.

Again: the universe did not begin. Science cannot prove otherwise.

(Dec 02 '13 at 09:34) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Nothing existed 15 billion years ago. Period. Nothing can prove otherwise.

Yes, the universe exists forever. It also exists everywhere. And it encompasses everything.

As for whether or not "forever...is...longer than...100 billion years", I'm not even sure what that's supposed to mean, let alone how it contradicts the fact that nothing existed 15 billion years ago.

(Dec 02 '13 at 18:22) anthony anthony's gravatar image
Nothing existed 15 billion years ago...

Yes, the universe exists forever. It also exists everywhere. And it encompasses everything.

Are you saying that "forever" isn't necessarily forever, i.e., "forever" has a beginning? Or that "universe" can be nothing, as in not existing?

(Dec 02 '13 at 22:04) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

"Nothing existed 15 billion years ago. Period. Nothing can prove otherwise."

And nothing can prove that God doesn't exist either.

(Dec 02 '13 at 22:59) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image
Are you saying that "forever" isn't necessarily forever, i.e., "forever" has a beginning? Or that "universe" can be nothing, as in not existing?

I believe by "forever" John meant for all time. Usually the term is used as a statement about the future, but clearly that's not the way John was using it.

I'm not sure what it means for the universe to be nothing, or not to exist.

My statement that nothing existed 15 billion years ago is a statement that "15 billion years ago" doesn't exist. If you read above, I compare it to "12,000 miles due North of the equator".

(Dec 04 '13 at 14:05) anthony anthony's gravatar image
And nothing can prove that God doesn't exist either.

It's up to the person claiming that something exists to offer the proof, whether that something is "God" or "15 billion years ago".

(Dec 04 '13 at 14:09) anthony anthony's gravatar image

It's up to the person claiming that something exists to offer the proof, whether that something is "God" or "15 billion years ago".

At the very least they need to define their terms. What does "God" mean? What does "15 billion years ago" mean?

Give me a definition of X, and I very well might be able to prove that X doesn't exist.

(Dec 04 '13 at 15:44) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I could say "five minutes ago" doesn't exist either -- it stopped existing over 4 minutes ago. So yes, 15 billion years ago doesn't exist, in the same sense.

I say the above to demonstrate that there's a problem going on here, with our language. I don't think it makes sense to talk about whether or not a particular moment in time exists, or even existed.

Time, in its fundamental sense, refers to durations rather than instants. Instants are durations taken as relative to certain events, like "three seconds after I press this button".

(Dec 04 '13 at 21:35) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Time is a measurement of the durations of the actions and motions of what exists. If things exist, they exist across time. Therefore, the nonexistence of time (whatever that means) implies the nonexistence of things. The nonexistence of things contradicts "existence exists".

Again, the claim that nothing existed (including time, as if that's possible) 15 billion years ago IS arbitrary in the face of all that exists. It raises the question: where did all this stuff come from, then, and gives no answer.

(Dec 04 '13 at 21:47) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Anthony is attempting to make it look like I'm making arbitrary statements, based on his acceptance of ideas derived from modern physics.

I'll just say that just because a particular event happened a certain amount of time ago cannot and should not cause us to reject the idea that anything happened before that event.

To say "time began less than 15 billion years ago" is either meaningless, or is using a narrowed meaning of the term "time".

It's like saying: "time began when Christ was born." Ok. Yes, for some definition of "time".

(Dec 04 '13 at 21:57) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

You could say "five minutes ago" doesn't exist, but I wouldn't say that. Five minutes ago has a definite referent, at least given a certain frame of reference. "15 billion years ago" doesn't. Not in any frame of reference any human being has ever lived in, anyway.

Saying that time is a measurement of "duration" is circular. Time is a measurement of relative motion. See http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/time.html for a more complete explanation. See a textbook on Special Relativity for an even more complete one.

(Dec 05 '13 at 22:08) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Clearly when one says "15 billion years ago" one is not referring to 15 billion revolutions of the Earth around the Sun. The Earth just hasn't revolved around the Sun that many times, and I don't think anyone here is denying that. So one needs a different standard. As I understand it, under the modern definition, which is based on the motion of light, there's simply nothing which fits the relationship of "15 billion years ago". Light simply hasn't travelled far enough for anything to bear that relationship. If someone thinks I'm mistaken on this, I'd like to hear an explanation of how.

(Dec 05 '13 at 22:12) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Peikoff's entry in the Lexicon doesn't show time measuring motion, but uses a motion (of the earth around the sun) as a unit of time.

So, to say "time is a measurement of motion" is to say that "time is an attribute of motions, enabling us to use motions as standards for the measurement of time."

This is analogous to "mass is an attribute of entities, enabling us to use entities as standards for the measurement of mass."

(Dec 07 '13 at 12:44) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Clearly, for times before the sun and earth existed, we can surmise that some other motion existed, with a duration that existed in some definite ratio to the duration of Earth's revolution around the Sun. And for times before THAT motion existed, we could pick another motion with another ratio. So, our notion of "year" can be extended arbitrarily far into the past.

So, the only real question, here, is one that almost cannot be asked: "Was there ever no motion?"

(Dec 07 '13 at 12:52) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

It's basically a contradictory question, because "ever" implies time, and time implies motion happening somewhere.

Time not existing means motion not existing.

So, it seems the only difference between Anthony's view and mine is that he thinks nothing was moving 15 billion years ago.

But I think he'd also say that nothing existed at that time, including "that time" itself.

I'll just say that I find Anthony's view counter-intuitive -- and even inconceivable. I cannot conceive of a time when time doesn't exist.

Yes, I CAN conceive of a time when motion didn't exist . . .

(Dec 07 '13 at 12:58) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

. . . but I don't believe such has ever existed.

(Dec 07 '13 at 12:58) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

This is a strawman, John. I have never implied that there is a time when time doesn't exist.

There is not a time when time doesn't exist just like there is not a place outside the universe. See http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/space.html "'Space,' like 'time,' is a relational concept...."

As far as "for times before THAT motion existed, we could pick another motion with another ratio", this has already been answered repeatedly. Yes, we can. But as we approach the time of the big bang the ratios get closer and closer to 0 (or 1 over 0 if you're putting the later duration in the numerator).

(Dec 07 '13 at 20:00) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"Yes, I CAN conceive of a time when motion didn't exist"

Can you conceive of a period of time when motion didn't exist?

I can't. That would be self-contradictory.

Time is a relational concept. It is a measurement of motion.

(Dec 07 '13 at 20:14) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Anthony writes:

I have never implied that there is a time when time doesn't exist.

The comment hastens to explain that if time doesn't exist, then it can't be called "a time."

Perhaps it would be more precise to state: "There was a state of existence when time did not exist, but matter (evidently 'cold' and unmoving) did exist."

In ordinary usage of the term "time," we would refer to that state of existence as "a time" (or time interval). It came before the beginning of time in physics, and "before" in this context simply refers to the sequence of changes in the universe without specifying how rapidly or slowly the changes occurred.

Modern physics, as described by Anthony, apparently can't account for any notion of "how long" the "pre-time" state of existence may have lasted, or what led it to change so as to give rise to the "beginning of time."

(Dec 08 '13 at 13:08) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

In response to Ideas for Life's recent comment, I imagine Anthony saying "No, no, no! There was no time or state of existence before the universe expanded. It's not that existence didn't exist, it's that time and existence began (well, not really) together, without any precedent for either. There was no 'beginning', and there was no time before what one might mistakenly think of as a 'beginning'. The universe began without a beginning, a finite time ago."

I don't mean the above as a parody, Anthony. Would you indulge me and shoot it down?

(Dec 08 '13 at 13:54) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

"There was a state of existence when time did not exist, but matter (evidently 'cold' and unmoving) did exist."

I don't know if that's true or not. I'm not even sure I understand what it means. If a state of existence is an instant in time, like a snapshot of the universe, then nothing moves during any such instant. Matter only moves over periods of time, and over any period of time matter is moving.

In ordinary usage of the term "time," we would refer to that state of existence as "a time" (or time interval).

Something moves during all time intervals. By definition.

(Dec 08 '13 at 16:52) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Modern physics, as described by Anthony, apparently can't account for any notion of "how long" the "pre-time" state of existence may have lasted, or what led it to change so as to give rise to the "beginning of time."

More than that. The question is meaningless. It's like asking how big the area outside the universe is.

You accept that the universe is finite in size, right?

(Dec 08 '13 at 16:58) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I don't mean the above as a parody, Anthony. Would you indulge me and shoot it down?

It's not what I said, nor is it something I would say. Does that count?

(Dec 08 '13 at 17:01) anthony anthony's gravatar image
showing 2 of 50 show all

I'm unsatisfied with my first answer. It raised more questions than it answered.

Here's my new answer: The universe is infinite in time.

Time, as such is a potential -- the actual is now. Tomorrow does not actually exist yet, and the past doesn't exist any more. There is no problem with having an infinite amount of that which doesn't exist any more, nor an infinite amount of that which is yet to exist.

The actual, as in the actual amount of mass or energy in the universe, is finite. Anything which is actual is finite.

Time however, as in the progression from the past into the future, is infinite. If you specify any moment in the past, there was a moment beyond it. Likewise for the future. People may live and die, and therefore only experience a particular range of time, but the universe, i.e. existence, i.e. all that there is and was and will be is infinite in time.

That we have evidence that the physical world as we know it underwent a "big bang" in the past is irrelevant, philosophically. Philosophically, the fact that existence exists means that it never started existing. It has always been here. I'll just say that before the big bang, if it happened, the universe was whatever it was. Perhaps big bangs and crunches are cyclic. I don't know. But no physical science of any kind can argue that existence has ever not existed. "The universe" is existence.

The only alternative to "existence has always existed" is the idea that some consciousness existed at some time in the past when no physical form existed. That's the notion of "without form, and void", from the Bible. It's the idea that something non-existent brought the universe into existence.

The version of the Big Bang theory which holds the big bang as the cause of existence is simply secular creationism. The universe was not created, neither by a god, nor by anything else.

answered Dec 11 '11 at 17:33

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦
1002956310

edited Dec 13 '11 at 11:03

"The units of the concepts “existence” and “identity” are every entity, attribute, action, event or phenomenon (including consciousness) that exists, has ever existed or will ever exist."

(Dec 11 '11 at 18:34) anthony anthony's gravatar image

So, Anthony, what is your point in making that quotation?

(Dec 11 '11 at 21:38) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

It was a last ditch attempt to help you realize where you're incorrect, since my comments in the other threads didn't manage to do so.

(Dec 12 '11 at 11:26) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I didn't mean "what is your purpose". I meant "how is that quote relevant"?

(Dec 13 '11 at 10:49) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

http://www.atlassociety.org/existence-time-and-big-bang

I think this is a pretty good explanation. I don't generally advocate interpretations by the Atlas Society, but I think they are correct, here.

Notably, they indicate that big bang theory doesn't necessarily contradict Objectivism -- only some fringe interpretations of it do.

Anthony's, however, is one of these fringe interpretations.

(Dec 13 '11 at 10:59) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I haven't even mentioned "big bang theory". You are the one who brought up the "big bang" (without even defining it).

If you think I'm interpreting something in a fringe way which contradicts Objectivism, point it out, don't just lay out a groundless accusation.

I agree that existence didn't emerge from non-existence. I agree that existence has always existed.

But time is a measurement of motion. It is a measurement of the motion of entities which are within the universe. There is no hyperuniversal clock reading 15 BYO, before entities started moving. There simply is no 15 BYO.

(Dec 13 '11 at 13:34) anthony anthony's gravatar image

The idea that "something very different from matter as it exists today, and perhaps operating by physical laws different from physical laws as they are today, existed before the Big Bang, and caused the Big Bang", is quite simply, mysticism. The fact that one calls this mystical-existence part of the universe is irrelevant.

Time is a measurement of motion. If you want to theorize that things existed when things started moving, that's one thing. But if you want to say that things existed a billion years before things started moving (or one year, or one millisecond), that's nonsensical.

(Dec 13 '11 at 13:35) anthony anthony's gravatar image

In any case, I want to reiterate, if you are going to claim that I am contradicting Objectivism, which you have, then you ought to point out 1) what I said which contradicts Objectivism, 2) what in Objectivism it contradicts, and 3) what evidence you have that 2 is part of Objectivism.

That means, most likely, quoting Rand. It doesn't mean making your own arguments. And it certainly does not mean quoting the Atlas Society.

If you can't do this, I ask that you retract your statement that I hold "one of those [Objectivism-contradicting] fringe interpretations".

(Dec 13 '11 at 13:39) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Anthony's claim that the universe started existing some finite time ago contradicts Objectivism.

I will find a specific quote to support this claim of mine -- but not at this instant.

(Dec 13 '11 at 14:08) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Here's one quote: "To grasp the axiom that existence exists, means to grasp the fact that nature, i.e., the universe as a whole, cannot be created or annihilated, that it cannot come into or go out of existence."

That's from "The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made"

A hat-tip to Eric Maughan43 for his short answer, above, which is essentially correct.

(Dec 13 '11 at 18:53) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

When did I say that the universe as a whole could be created or annihilated and/or that the universe as a whole could come into or go out of existence? I did not.

The universe as a whole cannot be created or annihilated. It cannot come into or go out of existence. The units of the concepts "existence" and "identity" are every entity, attribute, action, event or phenomenon (including consciousness) that exists, has ever existed or will ever exist. Existence exists. Existence always exists. 15 BYO does not exist.

You still have not shown what I said which contradicts Objectivism.

(Dec 13 '11 at 19:01) anthony anthony's gravatar image

When did I "claim that the universe started existing some finite time ago"? The universe did not start existing some finite time ago. The universe existed at the beginning of time. Time is a measurement of motion, and you can't have motion without existents. Please stop attributing things I did not say to me. Again, you need to show 1) what I said which contradicts Objectivism, 2) what in Objectivism it contradicts, and 3) what evidence you have that 2 is part of Objectivism.

Start with 1. 1 is what I said, not some strawman which you attribute to me.

(Dec 13 '11 at 19:03) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I just looked back, and the only things I can find that you might have mistaken for "the universe started existing some finite time ago" are when I said "there has been a finite amount of time in the universe", and when I said "time, which is a measurement of motion, begins 13.75 ± 0.13 billion years ago".

These are not equivalent. Time began X years ago does not mean the universe started existing X years ago. There has been a finite amount of time in the universe does not mean the universe started existing some finite time ago.

Time presupposes existence. Not vice-versa.

(Dec 13 '11 at 19:16) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I'm not going to argue with you over whether time existed more than 15 billion years ago. For you to claim it did not is incoherent and arbitrary.

The hair you choose to split is the idea that existence could exist without time passing. The universe, then, never came into existence -- it's just that its clock didn't run at all until X years in the past.

Explain how such is possible. It sounds nuts to me.

To exist is to persist -- across some period of time.

(Dec 13 '11 at 21:27) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

"I'm not going to argue with you over whether time existed more than 15 billion years ago. For you to claim it did not is incoherent and arbitrary."

I agree it's incoherent. There is no 15 billion yrs ago. But that figure isn't at all arbitrary. And I think you know that it's not arbitrary, even if you don't understand the physics behind it.

Your comments about "time passing" and “its clock didn't run” seem to stem from a misunderstanding of what time is. Specifically, it seems to me you are treating time as absolute and universal. Have you ever taken an introduction to modern physics class?

(Dec 14 '11 at 00:29) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Anyway, if you don't want to argue about it, that's fine. What I'm asking is for you to retract your accusations that I am contradicting Objectivism.

If you want to change it to an accusation that I sound nuts to you, I guess that'll do. I know I'm not nuts, so I'll shrug that off. But if I am contradicting Objectivism, this is something I want to examine very closely before possibly accepting. So far in my life every time I've thought I might hold a belief that contradicted Objectivism, I've discovered that either I was wrong, that I was misinformed as to Objectivism, or that I misread Rand.

(Dec 14 '11 at 00:31) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Anthony, I think that you are trying to claim that your idea of modern physics is consistent with Objectivism.

I'll be straight with you: contradicting Objectivism accidentally is easy. Lots of people do it. I've done it (I used to be a physical determinist). Objectivism can sound nutty from many perspectives which are widely held, including perspectives on physics -- especially modern physics.

Philosophy underlies physics. If your physics causes you to contradict Objectivism, it means something needs straightening out in your philosophy. (Note, I'm staying hypothetical here.)

(Dec 14 '11 at 22:37) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

My main point is that the question of whether the universe has always existed (and that means before any time T that might be specified) is a philosophical one, not a physical one.

If one refers to physics to try to answer the question, one has already erred, trying to steal the conceptual framework of physics while denying its necessary philosophical base.

It's not just stealing a concept -- it's stealing a science.

(Dec 14 '11 at 22:40) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

And I want to honestly add: are there any knowledgeable Objectivists here who think I'm wrong? If I am wrong, I'd like to be set straight. I'm just not, at present, likely to accept a physical argument, and that's what I think Anthony is offering.

(Dec 14 '11 at 22:44) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

"I think that you are trying to claim that your idea of modern physics is consistent with Objectivism."

Stop trying to guess what I am trying to claim and start reading what I actually say.

"If your physics causes you to contradict Objectivism, it means something needs straightening out in your philosophy."

If I find that my understanding of physics contradicts Objectivism, I will check my premises – all my premises, including the premise that Objectivism was correct.

(Dec 15 '11 at 07:38) anthony anthony's gravatar image

In the case of “big bang theory” and the principle of Objectivism that the universe has always existed, the seeming contradiction is easily resolved. “Always” means at all times, and 15 BYO is not a time. (And for you to dispute that, you need to define 15 billion years ago. I assume we agree what 15 billion means, so your next step is to define “year”.)

“It's not just stealing a concept -- it's stealing a science.”

What concept am I stealing? You are the one stealing concepts, including the concept of the year as it applies to cosmology.

(Dec 15 '11 at 07:38) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"And I want to honestly add: are there any knowledgeable Objectivists here who think I'm wrong?"

I think you're wrong. What's your definition of "Objectivist"? I'm obviously not Ayn Rand, but apparently your concept of "Objectivist" includes more than just Ayn Rand. What is it?

(Dec 15 '11 at 07:39) anthony anthony's gravatar image

“I'm just not, at present, likely to accept a physical argument, and that's what I think Anthony is offering.”

What physical argument have I presented. My two main points are 1) Until you define “the moment of the big bang” without referring to “the beginning of time/the universe”, you are stealing the concept of big bang. 2) Until you define “15 billion years ago”, your assertion that something happened 15 BYO is meaningless.

Hint: There is no Earth rotating around the sun 15 BYO. There are no cesium-133 atoms 15 BYO. How do you define "year"?

(Dec 15 '11 at 07:39) anthony anthony's gravatar image

By the way, if you truly want me to "explain how such is possible", you need to stop ignoring my questions.

(Dec 15 '11 at 08:11) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I have been reading what you've been saying. And I believe that it makes no sense to say that "Before time X, there was no time."

Please don't claim that you've not been saying that.

I could tolerate a statement that before time X, there was no motion, but not no time.

I have not been ignoring your questions, but I'm not going to let you monopolize this discussion by considering myself duty-bound to address every issue you raise. I'm trying to focus on the fundamental issue.

Please ask one question at a time -- and forget the backlog.

(Dec 17 '11 at 09:52) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

If the earth were suddenly to start rotating faster around the sun, would our current definition of "year" instantly change to match? No. We'd measure the new rate in terms of the old rate. If the sun disappeared and Earth started hurtling through space, would we (immediately) dispense with the idea of "year"? No.

What actually existed before the big bang (and for how many, yes, years) is irrelevant regarding the fundamental issue, whether it be the Earth, the Sun, or cesium-133 atoms.

(Dec 17 '11 at 10:09) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Consider two viewpoints:

  1. "Given all of our physical evidence, it is arbitrary to assert that anything existed 15 billion years ago."
  2. "Existence is an axiom. something has always existed -- because "nothing" cannot exist."

That's the issue here.

But we then get into splitting hairs about the existence of time -- that it's possible for nothing to exist if time also doesn't exist.

I maintain, though, that a rational conception of the nonexistence of time is not possible. Any idea of a time T has, implicit in it, the existence of a time before T.

(Dec 17 '11 at 10:27) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I'm sorry, but I don't believe I have said "Before time X, there was no time." What is X? A number?

"If the earth were suddenly to start rotating faster around the sun, would our current definition of "year" instantly change to match? No."

Not instantly, but eventually the IERS would notice the change and declare a negative leap second.

In any case, you need to stop stealing concepts. I am asking what is your definition of "year", for which something existed 15 BYO.

"Any idea of a time T has, implicit in it, the existence of a time before T."

Has anything I've said contradicted that?

(Dec 17 '11 at 11:52) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"I could tolerate a statement that before time X, there was no motion, but not no time."

I couldn't. Time is a measurement of motion. Do you deny that?

(Dec 17 '11 at 12:04) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Time is indeed a measurement of motion -- effectively of how quickly something changes.

If, however, something is changing only very slowly, that doesn't imply a stop in time. If it changes EVEN MORE SLOWLY, that's still not a stop in time. So how, if it stops completely, is time to be considered to stop?

Regardless, the absence of motion PRESUMES A TIME INTERVAL ACROSS WHICH TO DETECT THE ABSENCE OF MOTION. If you have no interval over which to make an observation of motion, you cannot claim an absence of motion.

"Stillness" presumes time.

(Dec 21 '11 at 21:17) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

"Time is indeed a measurement of motion -- effectively of how quickly something changes."

Changes with respect to what?

"If, however, something is changing only very slowly, that doesn't imply a stop in time. If it changes EVEN MORE SLOWLY, that's still not a stop in time. So how, if it stops completely, is time to be considered to stop?"

Is this some version of Zeno's paradox?

(Dec 23 '11 at 10:51) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"Regardless, the absence of motion PRESUMES A TIME INTERVAL ACROSS WHICH TO DETECT THE ABSENCE OF MOTION. If you have no interval over which to make an observation of motion, you cannot claim an absence of motion."

The presence of an interval of time presumes the motion of something with which to measure that interval. There is no interval of time during which nothing in the universe is moving.

If you can tolerate a statement that before time X, there was no motion [in the entire universe], then you should tolerate a statement that there was no time before time X. No motion = no time.

(Dec 23 '11 at 12:11) anthony anthony's gravatar image
1

Anthony, your error, as it seems to me but sure of its validity, is that you are equating the phrases "there is no evidence of what existed 15 billion years ago" with "there is no evidence of existence 15 billion years ago," which is senseless. Moreover, and as I have already stated in some previous comment, the theory of the Big Bang accepts existence before the Bang. What the Bang supposedly created is the known universe, which is not the same as the philosophical universe—which is the existence axiom.

(Dec 02 '13 at 00:06) Juan Diego dAnconia Juan%20Diego%20dAnconia's gravatar image

"the theory of the Big Bang accepts existence before the Bang"

Define "the Bang" (without stealing the concept). If by "the Bang" you mean inflation, then I accept existence before the Bang too.

As far as evidence of existence 15 BYO, if you think there is some, what is it?

(Dec 02 '13 at 06:54) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Anthony, the evidence for existence, as such, 15 BYO, is all around you, every day. The claim that all of this stuff wasn't here 15 BYO is what is arbitrary. Now, please don't pick on me regarding the meaning of the word "here" in this context.

(Dec 02 '13 at 09:54) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

If I perceive something today, that means it existed 15 billion years ago?

The claim that nothing existed 15 billion years ago is not arbitrary, it is based on observations and a very specific definition of "year".

(Dec 02 '13 at 18:23) anthony anthony's gravatar image
1

Are you claiming that there is no meaning for the term "year" that applies to times prior to the existence of the Sun and the Earth?

Just what definition of "year" are you working from?

I believe that one cannot reason from existence today to nonexistence in the past.

I predict you'll say: "No. I'm not talking about the past. I'm not talking about a point in time. I'm saying that 15 BYO is NOT a point in time."

That TIME (and EXISTENCE) came to exist a FINITE time ago makes no sense to me.

What physicists have observed cannot inform this issue. It's philosophical, not physical.

(Dec 02 '13 at 22:56) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Are you claiming that there is no meaning for the term "year" that applies to times prior to the existence of the Sun and the Earth?

No.

Just what definition of "year" are you working from?

1 year = 31,557,600 seconds. 1 second = the time it takes light to travel 299,792,458 meters. Frame of reference = the frame of reference in which the cosmic microwave background radiation of the universe is isotropic, and applying general relativity to calculate the effects of time dilation accordingly.

(Dec 08 '13 at 16:27) anthony anthony's gravatar image

That TIME (and EXISTENCE) came to exist a FINITE time ago makes no sense to me.

Clearly.

What physicists have observed cannot inform this issue. It's philosophical, not physical.

What exactly is the philosophical issue?

(Dec 08 '13 at 16:28) anthony anthony's gravatar image
showing 2 of 39 show all

Anthony, please fully state your position, clearly.

I'm not going to argue it out of you. Put your cards on the table for all to see.

answered Dec 23 '11 at 11:15

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦
1002956310

The universe is not infinite in time. The universe is not in time. Time is in the universe.

Time is relative. Time is not absolute. Time is a measure of motion. Specifically, it is a measure of relative motion - a measure of the motion of one thing with respect to another. Time without motion is nonsensical.

The measure of time, in the universe in the past, is bounded. It is less than 15 billion years. There is no 15 billion years ago. Anything which happened in the past, happened less than 15 BYO.

While some of the above is a question of science, it is all compatible with Objectivism.

(Dec 23 '11 at 11:45) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Furthermore, it is my position that you were wrong when you said that I hold "one of those [Objectivism-contradicting] fringe interpretations", and that you should retract that comment and apologize for making it.

(Dec 23 '11 at 12:08) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I can't retract my claim about your interpretation of big bang theory. My claim was essentially that you believe time itself began with the big bang. Some people would characterize this belief as "fringe". Note that "fringe" is not an insult. Objectivism itself is a fringe philosophy. Correct, but fringe -- meaning "not widely held".

Big bang theory does not claim that time in the past is limited to 15 billion years. Also, as far as I know, Objectivism is not consistent with the idea that there was some first of all events less than any specific amount of time ago.

(Dec 23 '11 at 16:54) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Also, I apologize for making this yet another "answer". I find myself accidentally entering answers frequently when I intend to write a comment.

(Dec 23 '11 at 17:57) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I didn't even bring up "the big bang" except to ask you what you meant by it. So once again you are criticizing me for things that I never said.

And my issue is not that you called my beliefs "fringe", it is that you referred to it as "one of those fringe interpretations" that "necessarily contradict Objectivism".

And you have yet to show something that I've said which contradicts Objectivism. However, I think you might be getting close to presenting your point. See below:

(Dec 23 '11 at 19:19) anthony anthony's gravatar image

You say "Objectivism is not consistent with the idea that there was some first of all events less than any specific amount of time ago."

Now, first of all, I'd like to say that "nothing happened more than 15 billion years ago" does not imply "there was a first of all events less than 15 billion years ago". Look up a discussion of Zeno's paradox. The latter is a much stronger statement, and I'm not sure if it's correct.

But with that said, I don't see what in Objectivism contradicts that there might be some first of all events less than 15 billion years ago. So out of curiosity, what is it?

(Dec 23 '11 at 19:29) anthony anthony's gravatar image

It is that existence exists. To say that "existence exists, but only recently" is a contradiction. That is, implicit in "existence exists," as Ayn Rand uses the phrase, is that existence never began to exist.

"Time is in the universe" implies exactly the above.

It does not imply that "There is a lifetime of the universe" (such as some amount less than 15 billion years). To infer such from "time is in the universe" is a mistake. "Time is in the universe" means "time, a particular measurement of existents, cannot exist outside the universe, and so the universe has always existed."

(Dec 27 '11 at 20:04) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I give up. We're going around in circles.

Time, a particular measurement of existents, cannot exist outside the universe, and so the universe has always existed.

I agree with that statement completely.

(Dec 28 '11 at 07:46) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I'm not happy you've given up. My goal here is not to frustrate.

I think, perhaps, our essential difference is that I do not think it is possible for time as such, not to exist, whereas it seems from some of your statements that you think time came into existence less than 15 billion years ago.

For me, such a claim seems incoherent.

Have I misrepresented your essential claim?

(Dec 31 '11 at 12:26) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I think so. Time, like space, is a relationship, not an entity (*). You seem to be treating it as though it is an entity.

(*) This is pretty much a direct quote from Leonard Peikoff (http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/space.html). As far as I can tell (but please correct me if I am wrong), it is from a lecture given by Peikoff while Rand was alive, and the lecture series was explicitly endorsed by Rand.

(Jan 01 '12 at 12:04) anthony anthony's gravatar image

If I claimed that there is no object in the universe farther than 150 billion light years away from the Earth, would you agree that statement is coherent? (Not necessarily correct - I'm not claiming that it is correct, but at least coherent.)

Such a statement would not be equivalent to a statement that it is possible for space, as such, not to exist. And a statement that this implies that space "comes into existence" less than 150 billion light years away would be misleading at best.

(Jan 01 '12 at 12:08) anthony anthony's gravatar image
1

"Nothing is more than 150 billion light years away from the Earth" does not mean "there is an object 150 billion light years away from the Earth called nothing".

And "nothing happened more than 15 billion years ago" does not mean "something happened more than 15 billion years ago called nothing".

(Jan 01 '12 at 12:20) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Of course. "Nothing is there" doesn't mean "'nothing' is there".

"If I claimed that there is no object in the universe farther than 150 billion light years away from the Earth, would you agree that statement is coherent?"

Only if you are talking about matter as such. "Empty" space is, in fact, not really empty. It's full of fields. Perhaps very weak fields if it is extremely far from any matter, but fields, nonetheless.

Does the above claim presume there is a place where there is nothing?

(Jan 01 '12 at 23:37) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Are you saying that fields are existents?

Are you saying that the universe is unlimited in size?

(Jan 02 '12 at 19:17) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Fields are existents. Fields are not entities, but they are existents.

I believe the universe is limited in material content, and in content of energy.

However, I believe the universe is everywhere -- I have a hard time escaping the idea that if the universe is limited in volume, that this means there are places where the universe is not -- which is contradictory.

So, yes, I think the universe is unlimited in volume. To those who think the universe is expanding, I ask: "what is it expanding into?".

I suspect I may be disagreeing with Dr. Peikoff, here.

(Jan 03 '12 at 20:23) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I'm also trying to be consistent. In a similar fashion, I don't believe there were times when the universe was not.

If I'm reifying time and/or space, I don't quite see it. But I do acknowledge that time (and place) are relationships.

(Jan 03 '12 at 20:31) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

"I suspect I may be disagreeing with Dr. Peikoff, here."

In a lecture which was endorsed by Rand, I believe.

"Fields are existents. Fields are not entities, but they are existents."

What kind of existents are they?

(Jan 03 '12 at 22:03) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"I have a hard time escaping the idea that if the universe is limited in volume, that this means there are places where the universe is not"

Potential places, or actual places?

(Jan 03 '12 at 22:10) anthony anthony's gravatar image

A field is a means by which the presence of one material object can impact the behavior of another material object at a distance. There are magnetic fields, and gravitational fields, and electric fields. There may be other kinds of fields, but I don't know about them. I might go so far as to say that each material object affects other objects only by means of fields.

I don't know what you mean by an "actual place" as opposed to a potential place. Every place is where some particular kind of thing might be. Every place is a potential place.

(Jan 04 '12 at 14:38) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

OK, I think I see what you're saying.

What about the present universe? Is it meaningful to talk about the actual, present universe?

(Jan 05 '12 at 07:59) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I think so. The universe right now is the present universe. But that's not as opposed to any other "potential" universe.

I'm not sure I see where you are going with "present universe".

(Jan 05 '12 at 20:56) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Okay, I guess I'm lost again.

You say it is contradictory that there are places where the universe is not. I asked if you meant potential places, or actual places. I think you answered that you meant potential places. So then I ask what about the actual, present universe. I think you answer that this is what you mean by the universe.

So, filling in the blanks, you are saying that it is contradictory that there are potential places where the actual, present universe is not?

(I'm sorry if I'm misinterpreting what you're saying.)

(Jan 07 '12 at 00:35) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Where I thought I was going with "present universe" was the presently-existing universe as opposed to existence ("every entity, attribute, action, event or phenomenon (including consciousness) that exists, has ever existed or will ever exist.")

(Jan 07 '12 at 00:37) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Also, going back to fields, are fields attributes, actions, events, phenomena, or none of the above?

(Jan 07 '12 at 00:51) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I don't think you are misinterpreting. I think perhaps I'm a bit confused myself. This is hard stuff.

For me, "existence" and "the universe" are the same thing. As I see it, existence exists across time. A thing no longer existing or not yet existing is a thing not in existence. I don't think that Ayn Rand meant "existence" as such to encompass all times.

I think she meant that existence exists now, always did exist, and always will exist.

(Jan 09 '12 at 16:01) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

A field is certainly a phenomenon, and it's probably also properly considered an attribute of the entity which causes it. A field is not an action or an event. A change in a field is an event. To change a field is an action.

(Jan 09 '12 at 16:01) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

As for locations, they are locations of physical things. The location itself it not a physical thing. In fact, to be physical is to have a location. (Note that to be physical it is not necessary to be an entity. A field is a physical non-entity.)

I believe there is no place where the actual, present universe is not. In other words, the universe is not just a collection of entities. There might be a point beyond which there are no more entities, but that's not the (physical) end of the universe.

(Jan 09 '12 at 16:07) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

"A thing no longer existing or not yet existing is a thing not in existence. I don't think that Ayn Rand meant 'existence' as such to encompass all times."

I've looked at that before, and I don't see how one can reconcile Objectivism with presentism. This is worthy of a new topic/question, though, and I don't have time right now to start it.

(Jan 11 '12 at 07:28) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Here's a quote:

"A concept is like a mathematical series of specifically defined units, going off in both directions, open at both ends and including all units of that particular kind. For instance, the concept “man” includes all men who live at present, who have ever lived or will ever live—a number of men so great that one would not be able to perceive them all visually, let alone to study them or discover anything about them."

(Jan 11 '12 at 07:29) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Interestingly, Rand says "open at both ends", which suggests that the past is open. I don't think from that one can conclude that she meant that the past is unbounded - open and unbounded are two different things, but it is interesting that she suggests it is open.

In any case, we should probably answer the presentism question first. Is Objectivism compatible with presentism. I don't see how it is.

(Jan 11 '12 at 07:33) anthony anthony's gravatar image
showing 2 of 30 show all

The universe (meaning everything that exists) just IS. It has no cause, because that cause would have to exist, which means it would be part of the universe. The universe is the metaphysically given. It just IS.

Does that mean "infinite time"? Who knows? Time in the physics world is an odd thing. Time certainly can't exist separately from the universe.

answered Jan 07 '12 at 09:51

Rick's gravatar image

Rick ♦
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Asked: Dec 06 '11 at 10:32

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Last updated: Dec 09 '13 at 23:17