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William O

How do Objectivist intellectuals explain the fact that most physicists deny the objective reality of change?

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To start off, I'm not arguing that change isn't objectively real. I think it is. I'm asking how Objectivist intellectuals explain the sociological fact that most physicists are confused on a particular philosophical point.

From what I understand, most physicists accept the B-theory of time, which denies the objective reality of change, on the grounds that it is supposedly implied by Einstein's theory of relativity. (I don't have a source for that other than anecdotes, so if I'm wrong then by all means let me know, but this is what I've consistently heard.)

I'm curious whether any Objectivist intellectual has given an explanation of the fact that most physicists accept the B-theory of time.

The type of explanation I'm looking for is the same type of explanation given of a-causal interpretations of quantum mechanics by Harriman in The Logical Leap, where he points out that the physicists who accept these interpretations of quantum mechanics are logical positivists. I found that satisfying, and I'm curious whether anyone has provided a similar explanation of the widespread acceptance of the B-theory of time among physicists.

Thanks in advance.

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Consider nominalism. To arrive at the conclusion that time is an illusion, what line of reasoning is not being pursued? Like distinguishing dreams, hallucinations, illusions, etc., as contrasted against what?

Calendars are produced identifying the cycles of the moon, equinoxes, solstices. Time keeping devices were brought about to overcome navigational difficulties in determining time from the position of celestial bodies at sea. Which constellations are dominant in the night sky, when  planetary alignments are to occur . . . for time to be an illusion, a comprehensive integration with the rest of one's knowledge need be brushed aside.

To consider that time passes differently under different contexts does not negate this either. If travel at the speed of light returns a twin older or younger (I don't recall off the bat), the constellations, moons, equinoxes etc, would have passed regularly for the other twin, and when rejoined, both would experience the continuation under the context derived on earth.

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It looks like belief in the B-theory is not synonymous with denial of objective reality or change. A certain type of B-theorist rejects them, but many attempt to have their B-theory and change too.

I suspect that belief in B-theory stems from subjectivism. Basically, you want the past and future to exist with the present, and so they do. The rest is silly rationalizing.

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Hi William. I have a shelf of books on physics and philosophy of time in my personal library, but so far, the time has not been right for taking a deep plunge into their contents. Three seem most closely related to your interests in this post:

McTaggart’s Paradox (2016) by R. D. Ingthorsson, a philosopher.

NOW – The Physics of Time (2016) by R. A. Muller, a physicist. (clip)

The Order of Time (2018) by Carlo Rovelli, a physicist.

Rovelli thinks twentieth-century physics show that an objective global present does not exist. Presentism, the view that there is an objective global present, is false. He thinks that simply from special relativity, in which he rightly takes reference frames, relative velocities between them, clocks, and light beams to be objective things in terms of which SR is cast and tested. He moves from objective frame-relativity of simultaneity of distant events with local events to lack of any such thing as an objective global present without explanation for that move. Perhaps that move can be made smooth, perhaps not. His conclusion is that presentism is false and “the world should not be thought of as a succession of presents. / What alternatives do we have?” [Unger and Smolin pose an additional alternative “inclusive time” in their book The Singular Universe and the Reality of Time (2015), which seems unnecessarily extravagant to me, at least in all they try to hitch up to it.]

“Philosophers call ‘eternalism’ the idea that flow and change are illusory: present, past, and future are all equally real and equally existent. Eternalism is the idea that the whole of spacetime, as outlined in the above [SR] diagrams, exists all together without anything changing. Nothing really flows.* –p. 108

((* “In the terminology of a celebrated article by John McTaggart (1908), this is equivalent to denying the reality of the A-series (the organization of time into ‘past-present-future’) The meaning of temporal determinations would then be reduced to only the B-series (the organization of time into ‘before-it, after-it’). For McTaggart, this implies denying the reality of time. To my mind, McTaggart is too inflexible: the fact that my car works differently from how I’d imagined it and how I’d originally defined it in my head does not mean that my car is not real”.)) –pp. 221–22

“The distinction between past, present, and future is not an illusion. It is the temporal structure of the world. But the temporal structure of the world is not that of presentism. The temporal relations between events are more complex than we previously thought, but they do not cease to exist on account of this. The relations of filiations do not establish a global order [linear sequence of presents self-same across all material frames, i.e., for all bits of non-zero rest mass]), but this does not make them illusory. If we are not all in single file, it does not follow that there are no relations between us. Change, what happens—this is not an illusion. What we have discovered is that it does not follow a global order.” –p. 110

So Rovelli has it that even though A-series is shown false, as objective structure, by SR, the relation past-present-future remains objective temporal structure, just not the A-series one presumed before SR.

William, I don't know how many physicists follow along Rovelli's lines in this area of philosophical wider view taking in SR spacetime and kinematics. However, I doubt that any of them who have thought about it so much as the authors I've mentioned in this post have needed or relied on any particular schools of philosophy in their quest for wider understanding. 

 

 

Edited by Boydstun

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