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Boydstun

Which Eternity?

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14 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Grames, it's a fact that from now all the way to tomorrow there will be photons. You seem to confine Existence to only the present. Only to actualities in the present? What about potentials of the present actualities? Would you count them as part of Existence? Rand did count those potentials as part of Existence, though she did not write about it (ITOE Appendix). Aristotle thought it true now that a sea battle either will happen tomorrow or not happen tomorrow. That disjunction would be a fact now about tomorrow. I don't know if he would count all facts as part of what we are calling Existence, though I don't think he was confining Existence to present actualities. How do you conceive present traces and indicators of the past, such as the rings of a tree trunk? Surely they are indicators of part of Existence, indeed past actualities.

Potential is identity viewed from epistemological perspective, a mind with memory and imagination.   All that exists are particulars, doing particular definite things in accordance with their identities.   It takes imagination or memory to divert the mind's attention away from what the object of the mind's attention is doing right this moment.  

'Potential energy' is a concept taught in elementary physics classes.  Pendulum motion is described using the principle of conservation of energy such that the sum of the pendulums kinetic energy of motion and its potential energy of position must remain constant (neglecting friction for the moment).  Here the so-called potential energy is real and actual because the pendulum is a real and actual existent with a real and actual position within a gravity field at every instant.   One can avoid the potential confusion of thinking of potentials as real because it appears in an equation describing the pendulum's motion by using the term 'energy of position' instead.   

This kind of statement "a sea battle either will happen tomorrow or not happen tomorrow" is formally true because the alternatives are mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive, but it does not constitute knowledge and cannot be categorized as a fact because it does not predicate anything.  (It predicates two perfect contradictories which cancel to net zero predication.)  The grammar of the statement is correct, the logic of the posited alternatives is flawless, yet it remains entirely an exercise in method.  It is an unfalsifiable statement of the kind Popper scorned.  The statement employs the useful and valid concept of "tomorrow", but that does not transform the referent of "tomorrow" from an epistemological construct (a 'concept of method' in Objectivist jargon) into an existential fact.

Tree rings exist in the present as an effect with a cause in the past.  The cause existed, then the effect existed.  The present existence of the effect does not require the present existence of the cause.

Going back to your argument:

On 1/20/2019 at 8:57 AM, Boydstun said:

If no Existence at all, then no character-identity at all. Had Existence come into existence, it would have to do so in a specific way, yet that way would be some character-identity, which requires some existents and is an existent, and by hypothesis there were no existents. Coming to be without a way, as Parmenides realized, is nothing.[3] Moreover: Coming to be is itself an existent. Coming to be of the all that is Existence would be coming to be of any coming-to-be at all. That cannot be sensible unless there were some background existence lacking any coming-to-be. But by hypothesis there was no existent of any sort—thence no existent lacking coming-to-be—before the coming into existence of Existence.[4] Therefore, Existence has no beginning. Then too, absent power of coming-to-be of its entire self, Existence cannot come to be not. That is, Existence has no end. 

No beginning and no end can still be literally true if a finite Universe had some kind of strange asymptotic boundary conditions governing time.  For example, space and time are related such that a very high mass density implies a very high space time curvature such that time slows to a crawl relative to a lesser curvature. The Big Bang would have played out very slowly, and extrapolating backward in time beyond the Big Bang requires crossing an inflection point where time would not pass at all.   A remote future in which all matter had entered black holes and then been re-radiated as Hawking radiation until all the black holes were gone would be a perfectly static universe in which time had no meaning.

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.

Possibilities are cognitive/epistemological (or entertainments in the case of fictions). Potentials are existential/metaphysical things belonging to concrete actualities. Possibilities are run over actualities with their potentials (or they are run over formalities such as in mathematics). I’ve some significant overlap with pre-modern philosophies in these partitions. Additionally, I’ll mention again for ease of reference for interested readers the book arguing in the contemporary vernacular to the vicinity of my partition, the book by Barbara Vetter: Potentiality – From Dispositions to Modality (2015).

One book I’ve found helpful in tracing the rise, the variations, and the fall of the actual/potential partition in the history of philosophy (from Aristotle to early modern), as well as occurrences of the actual/potential distinction in contemporary science is Handbook of Potentiality (Engeland and Quante, editors, 2018). There is an excellent chapter “Potentiality in Physics” by Max Kistler in the Handbook. He sorts out what is and is not an occasion of metaphysical potentiality in the various modern physics concepts, classical and quantum, going under such names as potentials and capacities. 

Thanks to you all for sharing your conceptual organizations concerning these fundamentals.

Edited by Boydstun

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Oh please just one more response on this.

11 hours ago, Boydstun said:

Thanks to you all for sharing your conceptual organizations concerning these fundamentals.

If the potential of a human fetus to become an actual human person were to be regarded as existential, wouldn't all of us Objectivists have to change our opinion about abortion?  It would be improper thinking to let an unwanted conclusion force us away from full rationality.  I would be prepared to give up on abortion rights if potentials were proven to be existents.

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I've pursued the reference to Handbook of Potentiality (Engeland and Quante, editors, 2018) and the chapter “Potentiality in Physics” by Max Kistler.   At the risk of seeming argumentative in a petty way by responding so quickly, I will make this response because the material is fresh in my mind and the various browser tabs are still open.

Kistler makes reference to the Aharonov–Bohm effect, which is described as  "an electrically charged particle is affected by an electromagnetic potential (V, A), despite being confined to a region in which both the magnetic field B and electric field E are zero."  This is purported to prove potentials are real and more fundamental than the fields.  Kistler breezes beyond the reference, taking no notice of any possible controversy and assuming the science is settled.  It is not.

Aharonov-Bohm effect is quantum mechanical, and quantum mechanical systems exhibit non-locality.  We've had Travis Norsen here explaining the EPR Paradox and the Bell Inequality and the Aspect Experiment and follow-ons and linking to papers by Bell which I have actually taken the time to read.   I accept non-locality. It is entirely reasonable to accept that an electrically charged particle can be affected by remote electromagnetic fields in the context of a suitably designed quantum physics experiment.   By accepting non-locality there is no need to accept the reality of the potentials.

Kistler goes on about quantum mechanics, but the state of the art in quantum physics is quantum field theory where the fields are taken to be the real existents. 

I am overall dissatisfied with Kistler's treatment of the topic.  (The Vetter reference will have to wait, it's a book length treatment.)

 

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16 hours ago, Grames said:

Oh please just one more response on this.

If the potential of a human fetus to become an actual human person were to be regarded as existential, wouldn't all of us Objectivists have to change our opinion about abortion?  It would be improper thinking to let an unwanted conclusion force us away from full rationality.  I would be prepared to give up on abortion rights if potentials were proven to be existents.

This is very interesting because it brings into focus an aspect of time, potentiality, and causality, namely, free will and the "man-made".

If tomorrow a rock in my garden most likely would stay in its place.. what does it mean to speak of the "potentiality" of my deciding to move it tonight?  Does the rock possess the "potentiality" of my free will to decide to move it?  Or does potentiality only refer to the potential of the "actor" possibly acting in the future...   so then is it I who now possesses "potential" (as a present existent), in regards specifically to the possibility of my choosing to and subsequently my moving the rock tonight?  Is the potential describable in terms of my "tendencies" to "proclivities" in regards to noticing, caring about, or wanting to move rocks in a garden?  What more is there here than an identification of the present "natures" of thing and acknowledging the operation of causality to predict the future?

IF the "potential" is not merely an identification of my nature and the likelihood of the action I will take according to causality and free will, but "something more",  what meaningful difference is there in conceiving of that "something more" versus not, i.e. is the concept of a something about the future actually existing in the present necessary?  what for?

Is there a concrete experiment which could be performed which could distinguish between the two and resolve what actually is true and hence necessitate the concept?  Alternatively is there any reason why thinking about potentialities in a different way can improve one's life and interaction with reality, and hence prove "operatively" effective? [I assume here the "love of knowledge" stems from objective values and the love of life and that "philosophy" serves a living consciousness to flourishing in reality]

 

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On 1/22/2019 at 9:45 AM, Grames said:
On 1/20/2019 at 5:57 AM, Boydstun said:

One might sensibly say, in Rand’s view: Existence, the entirety of all existents, is eternal in the sense that it is outside of time, but not in the sense that it exists endlessly.[5] That is erroneous.

Is not the view actually put in the positive sense, that it is claimed time is only inside the universe?  Time is an attribute of what exists.  Outside of the whole of existence there is nothing.  Nothing can have no attributes.  Nothing can be claimed about what is not-existence.

What I still find puzzling is this notion that there is "nothing outside" of the universe. Doesn't it suggest that the universe is an actual existent with a boundary that separates the somethings from the nothing of nonexistence? When Rand says "the universe as a whole," isn't this language implying the reification of the universe? And the same for when Peikoff calls it "the total of that which exists." These phrases, "nothing outside," "as a whole," "the total of," they all depend on the existence of an actual thing. But the universe only exists as a collective noun in our minds. In reality there are only the particular existents that as a group we call the "universe." These particular things, a human or a planet or a star, are not themselves a universe, and we have no clue whether a boundary exists around all these things together. All philosophy can logically say is that the universe is all of the known existents. Beyond that is mere speculation.

Rand was adamant against reifying the zero--the nothing. But was she guilty, in this one case, of reifying the collection? I suspect so. Consider what she writes in ITOE: "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." I submit that this is not objective concept-formation. The proper units of any concept "existence" are only the particular things that a particular individual has identified himself. This cannot objectively include things he has not even experienced, such as events in the future or distant past. This mistake then caused her to think of the universe "as a whole," instead of as all the known things.

Edited by MisterSwig

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2 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Doesn't it suggest that the universe is an actual existent with a boundary that separates the somethings from the nothing of nonexistence?

Nope.

You stated there is "nothing outside the universe", when there IS no "outside the universe".

2 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

When Rand says "the universe as a whole," isn't this language implying the reification of the universe? And the same for when Peikoff calls it "the total of that which exists."

No reification.  Things ARE, and the universe is ALL of them/it.

 

2 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

But the universe only exists as a collective noun in our minds. In reality there are only the particular existents that as a group we call the "universe."

Collective noun??  Don't jettison concepts in favor of being concrete bound.  Concepts like "electron" do not apply only to those particular electrons you've met in your life...

2 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

But was she guilty, in this one case, of reifying the collection?

You cannot reify that which exists... it already IS.  We refer to things like "all the grains of sand in the world" to mean precisely those things which exist... the grains of sand, and they exist independently of your mind and your particular experiences of meeting them... you seen enough of them and have enough other knowledge (knowledge of geography, minerals, processes of erosion, surf, etc.) to form a valid concept.

2 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

I submit that this is not objective concept-formation. The proper units of any concept "existence" are only the particular things that a particular individual has identified himself.

Seriously sounds like you are trolling... have you read ITOE?  Concepts are precisely useful because we cannot keep in our minds every concrete as a concrete, nor deal with reality ONLY with our memories of the concretes we encounter... it's both highly inefficient and impossible to do so...  

speaking of reification or its obverse....

are you for real right now?

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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7 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

What I still find puzzling is this notion that there is "nothing outside" of the universe. Doesn't it suggest that the universe is an actual existent with a boundary that separates the somethings from the nothing of nonexistence?

No, there can be no boundary.  Whenever you think you might be able to imagine something outside or beyond the Universe, it expands to include it.  It is the intent of the concept Universe to encompass everything by definition.  All concepts are like that, having open-ended referents.

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12 hours ago, Grames said:

No, there can be no boundary.  Whenever you think you might be able to imagine something outside or beyond the Universe, it expands to include it.

I also don't think there could be a boundary. A boundary between existence and what? But, you see, that's exactly the problem. If there is no outside the universe, how can there be an inside? How can there be a total or sum or whole? These notions rely on there being a limit to the universe. An endpoint. A boundary. Don't they? When we talk about things like "all the humans in existence," that makes sense, because there are things outside humanity. We don't count the dogs or trees or stars in that sum or total. But when we say "all the existents in the universe," what does that actually mean? There is nothing else but existence. Where would we stop counting? What is the limit? Nonexistence doesn't exist, therefore it can't be a limit. We run into the problem of infinity and don't seem to have an answer, other than infinity is impossible. Perhaps finiteness is a sufficient limiter, but I don't see how an abstraction can limit a boundless physical reality.

And, SL, you can call me names all you want. Doesn't bother me. It just highlights your lack of an actual argument. If you need me to show you where Rand and Peikoff call Existence a collective noun, let me know.

Also, I'm not challenging how we apply the concept "existence," I'm critical of how we form it, and the units we use to form it. Obviously we must apply the concept to anything and everything that has existed or ever will exist. But that's not how we formed the concept in our own particular minds.

Edited by MisterSwig

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13 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

But, you see, that's exactly the problem. If there is no outside the universe, how can there be an inside? How can there be a total or sum or whole? These notions rely on there being a limit to the universe. An endpoint. A boundary. Don't they?

No.  The concept of Universe works just as well whether what exists is finite or infinite.  Concepts are by definition and in practical usage open ended.   Furthermore, paraphrasing Aristotle and his principle of identity, everything that exists has particular definite form.  A 'sum' or 'whole' used in reference to the diversity of all that exists then is not something that has a primary sense of existence but rather it is merely an epistemological device.   A good definition will specify a genus and differentia; but the definition of Universe can have no differentia.  Universe then is a special and problematic epistemological contrivance.   

Is it a problem that needs solving?  Can it be avoided?  I say no and no.

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10 hours ago, Grames said:

A 'sum' or 'whole' used in reference to the diversity of all that exists then is not something that has a primary sense of existence but rather it is merely an epistemological device.   A good definition will specify a genus and differentia; but the definition of Universe can have no differentia.  Universe then is a special and problematic epistemological contrivance.

In Ayn Rand Answers, she gives two off-hand definitions for "universe":

1. Everything that exists.

2. The total of what exists.

In #1 the genus is "everything" and the differentia is "that exists." The genus is the widest possible category of things, which includes things that are imaginary, such as unicorns. The differentia, therefore, makes clear that she's talking about things that are real, not imaginary. So this "universe" would include the concept of "unicorn," but not a real one, since they are make-believe.

Looking at #2, the genus is "the total" and the differentia is "of what exists." "Total" is not the widest possible category of things. It's merely the product of a calculation of things. Even in the classical, non-mathematical sense of "whole" or "entire," this genus indicates a narrower category of things that are not parts or pieces of something. Plus, the differentia ("of what exists") is not a true differentia regards the mathematical sense. It does not distinguish one kind of "total" from another kind. Rather, it tells us the sort of things to total up (things that exist). Here we have more of an instruction than a definition. And in the non-mathematical sense, "the whole of what exists" is simply another way of saying "an entire existent" (as opposed to a part of an existent), because what exists are existents. So in one sense we have a simple instruction, and in the other sense we have a simpler way of saying "entire existent."

Of the two definitions, I prefer #1 ("everything that exists"), because I think it works as an objective formulation. It begins with our mere awareness of things, whereas #2 ("the total of what exists") starts with a subjective phenomenon, either our calculation or abstraction of things into parts and wholes.

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10 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

...

Of the two definitions, I prefer #1 ("everything that exists"), because I think it works as an objective formulation. It begins with our mere awareness of things, whereas #2 ("the total of what exists") starts with a subjective phenomenon, either our calculation or abstraction of things into parts and wholes.

Well.   We were discussing the boundary between the Universe and the nothing.  Since Universe is synonymous with Existence in my mind it seems circular to differentiate what exists (Existence) from what doesn't exist by the fact of its existence.  But then, that is why "Existence exists" is axiomatic in Rand's metaphysics. 

Now consider this angle.  People come to assert or believe things some of which are true and some are false.  What makes something true or false is the correspondence between the concepts and what is predicated of them and their referents out there in Existence.  Some of the concepts people have are valid because they are reducible to percepts, some are not valid because they are not reducible.

In the statement "everything that exists" what goes on in people's heads is given serious consideration as possibly metaphysically equal to what goes on outside of people's heads.  In this attempted definition of Universe we have to be careful to separate out what exists from what some people erroneously think exists.   But I think this is a major error if we are still doing metaphysics. 

What happens in people's heads—consciousness— is entirely derivative of what exists outside their heads.  Whether the contents of consciousness are true or false they are a derivative and are a second order form of existence, a shadow of it.  It is information (information in the physical Claude Shannon sense) only and is held/exists in whatever physical forms by which short and long term memory functions.  It is actually a subjective premise known in Objectivism as the Primacy of Consciousness to hold that the contents of consciousness—true or false—have a metaphysical status. 

Sorting out what is epistemological from what is metaphysical is an act of epistemology because it requires a self-awareness of the issue of epistemology: truth and falsehood and correspondence and overall the non-automatic and fallible nature of our ideas.  A (human) mentality not aware of epistemology is difficult to imagine (for me) but it might take the form of accepting its conceptual integrations uncritically (perhaps as "revelations from God") and so be unmotivated to keep them sorted from percepts and concepts of percepts.

"Everything" used as a genus that includes both metaphysical existents and epistemological artifacts is invalid metaphysics but could be valid epistemology.  Universe is a genus without a differentia because there is no physical or metaphysical differentia and the other things which come to mind are epistemological and so should not be permitted as a differentia.

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11 hours ago, Grames said:

It is actually a subjective premise known in Objectivism as the Primacy of Consciousness to hold that the contents of consciousness—true or false—have a metaphysical status. 

Okay, this might be where we actually disagree. I've had that debate here before, so I won't derail this thread too much. But consider some of the things Rand argued about mental contents in ITOE.

"'Fact' is merely an epistemological convenience. The term 'fact' can apply to a particular existent, to an aspect, to an attribute, or to an event. An existent is a concrete. 'Existent' is a very convenient term in that it subsumes entities and attributes and actions and even mental events. They exist." [Bold added.]

That is one instance where she includes mental events with other metaphysical existents, such as entities. And this is not an anomaly. She hits this point in other sections of the Appendix. It's not primacy of consciousness to recognize the metaphysical status of mental things. It's primacy of consciousness to consider the mind as primary, as the thing on which reality depends. In Objectivism, the mind depends on existence, of which it is a metaphysical part.

Prof. B then asks whether relationships are existents too, and Rand continues.

"Yes--everything that exists on which you can focus, anything which you can isolate, whether it is an entity, a relationship, an action, or an attribute. The concept 'existent' refers to something which exists. And it is wider than the concept 'entity,' because it permits you to subsume under that concept, and focus on, attributes or relationships or actions--on that which depends on an entity but can be studied separately."

Note how she began that answer by incorporating one of her definitions for "universe." This is further evidence that Rand held the concepts of "existent" and "universe" very similarly. Universe is "everything that exists," and existent is "something that exists." Also, the end of that quote makes clear why she considers mental events to be existents. Because even though they depend on an entity, a living organism, they can be studied separately. We can focus on them.

She then moves on to "facts."

"Now, 'fact' is merely a way of saying, 'This is something which exists in reality'--as distinguished from imagination or misconception or error." (p. 241)

I include that last bit because I think it's relevant to your point about circular reasoning when appealing to the fact of a thing's existence or nonexistence in forming the concept "universe/existence." Because it is an axiomatic concept, all we can do is point to reality for examples. I'm not sure this qualifies as circular. We are dealing with an irreducible primary, to use Rand's phrase. We shouldn't try to prove existence. But in properly forming the concept we need to point to facts, such as the difference between things that are real and imaginary.

Also, I had a thought about one other Rand quote from Answers. On page 151, in the middle of her response to a question about things that have no connection to humans, she says "the universe is one; everything is connected." And my question is: connected how?

In OPAR Peikoff writes: "Nature is existence regarded as a system of interconnected entities governed by law; it is the universe of entities acting and interacting in accordance with their identities." (p. 31) It seems here that natural laws are the same thing as the identities of entities. And therefore what connects entities are their identities. But existence is identity. So essentially we're saying that entities govern themselves. They act in accordance with themselves. Why then must they interconnect and form a universe that is "one"? Maybe their identities dictate that they remain unconnected.

Edited by MisterSwig

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On 1/31/2019 at 10:45 AM, MisterSwig said:

"the universe is one; everything is connected." And my question is: connected how?

Causal connection.  Physical, material causality through direct and indirect contact or through fields or whatever else physics may discover.

On 1/31/2019 at 10:45 AM, MisterSwig said:

Maybe their identities dictate that they remain unconnected.

Then that thing would be unknowable, and it would be arbitrary to speculate about its existence.

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