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What is the nature of "time"?

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I began thinking otherwise after listening to you try to wiggle out of the actual infinity of an infinite past. If time is metaphysical and has no begining, then infinity is what you are stuck with, and no amount of entrenched dogma can obscure it.

Time is concept whose referents are relationships. These relationships are metaphysical. Though time may be infinite, that infinity is a concept of method, and not a metaphysical existent. Every relationship subsumed under the concept time is finite.

Obviously we are not on the same page, but, it seems that when I am not comprehended it is "word salad" and when you are not comprehended it is ignorance.

Proofread. I bet Mr. Speicher does.

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I hope I am wrong, but this sounds like deliberate misrepresentation! At the very least it is obscurantism not Objectivism.

We can conceive of a chair independent of other things because it has intrinsic characteristics. A characteristic is a part that can be used to distinguish one thing from another. Identity, by the way, is a part, but not a characteristic, because all A is A.

Identity cannot be used to distinguish one thing from another?

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Identity cannot be used to distinguish one thing from another?

Precisely! Is someone actually thinking about what I have to say about identity?

The notion that the axiom says nothing is false and shallow. If one says "a chair is a chair" one has said something which is true but not distinguishing because all A is A. "A is A" asserts something about "A"; it declares the existence of self-sameness. Identity is a part but not a characteristic because it is part of all else that exists. Obviously this thing, identity cannot be conceived by virtue of intrinsic characteristics. It is the most fundamental thing that exists. It mus be comprehended extrinsically as part of a greater whole. Self-sameness is more fundamental than extensionless objects and space/time. Both derive there existence from identity. Self-sameness is the thing which exist from axiomatic necessity. It is the only given. Identity is primary!

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Time is concept whose referents are relationships. These relationships are metaphysical. Though time may be infinite, that infinity is a concept of method, and not a metaphysical existent. Every relationship subsumed under the concept time is finite.

I am not addressing the concept of time. I am addressing the actual existent thing to which this concept refers. What ever actual real individually finite things one may be counting, if they are real and they have no beginning or no end, then you have to many. This is getting back to the ontological undecidability of tree-dimensionalism. Does not everything exist? Does not history refer to something real? Can we make a true or false statement about the past, but yet, deny its actual existence? If Ayn Rand being born is something actual, if the last Neanderthal dieing is something actual, and there is no beginning of these actual things, then you have actual infinity. And infinity is to darn many.

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W A Dunkley,

Apparently, you didn't register the utter shock and horror embodied in my question. Though I have dashed your wildest hopes, I am not very sorry.

Existence is identity. The identity of a thing is the sum of its characteristics - ie, it is the thing itself: a thing is all of its attributes. Entity and identity are different concepts capturing different aspects of the same thing.

The human mind operates by differentiating things, naturally by their identities, and then finding similarities between select objects, enough to regard them as units. In fact, every organism with a neuron operates its faculty of perception by differentiating things (though apparently no organisms but people can progress beyond that). Differentiation, the recognition that different entities are different, is the most fundamental aspect of consciousness, from the lowest kind to the most advanced kind.

What you actually say in that post is incomprehensible; forgive me for not commenting on it. But chuck the ideas of self-sameness, the existence qua existent of spacetime, and intrinsic identity.

There is no existent qua entity to which the concept of time refers. The referents of time are, one and all, relationships among existents. Time is not a real thing in its own right; you are reifying the concept. Counting relationships as entities is troublesome; infinities you arrive at may not be existential or metaphysical infinities; often they are epistemological infinities. So long as you are careful what you are doing, you shouldn't run into trouble.

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Obviously we are not on the same page, but, it seems that when I am not comprehended it is "word salad" and when you are not comprehended it is ignorance.

Yes, I agree. That is a pretty accurate factual assessment. And, considering that most of the thoughts you express are so muddled, I will leave you here on whatever planet in your "four-dimensionalism" that you reside.

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It is a logical truth that a thing is all which constitute it. It is true, however, because it is an assertion of self-sameness and in and of itself, all that it asserts and proves. The failure to acknowledge the existence of self-sameness would imply that the axiom and all logical truth is meaningless. This is a contradiction!(see The Primacy of Identity)

" Time is not a real thing in its own right; you are "

This is ridiculous! Ultimately, the only thing that is completely total, completely independent, is the totality of existence. But, if a thing is, then, it is! Being is not a degree. If relationships exist then they have the same ontological status as "entities." One cannot avoid the absurdity of infinity by lowering the ontological status of "relationships." So, for me, a three-dimensional eternity still adds up to infinity. And that is unacceptable!

The repeated claim that what I say is incomprehensible is, well, incomprehensible. But how convenient for you. Four-dimensionalism is just incomprehensible silliness, that just happened to be embraced by the greatest natural philosopher of the last century.

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it is an assertion of self-sameness

It is not. "Self-sameness" is the metaphysical collectivist's interpretation of the law of identity. But, a thing is not the same as itself. A thing is itself. Make this easier on yourself and disabuse yourself of the faulty concept.

If relationships exist then they have the same ontological status as "entities."

Not really. That's why we've got different words for them. Only entities exist, ie, independently: relationships not between entities is a contradiction.

The repeated claim that what I say is incomprehensible is, well, incomprehensible. But how convenient for you. Four-dimensionalism is just incomprehensible silliness, that just happened to be embraced by the greatest natural philosopher of the last century.

When I say that something you wrote is "incomprehensible", I mean that I could not comprehend it, and that I like to think that the fault for it lies on the far side of me. Does this clarification help?

Four-dimensionalism is not incomprehensible silliness. It is silliness, but not incomprehensible. When explained clearly, it is open to the understanding. Sometimes though, the way you phrase things is incomprehensible, in that even though (I like to think) I am reasonably bright, I could not understand what you wrote. When you write an incomprehensible paragraph and throw in the words "four-dimensionalism" a couple times, guess which one, among the paragraph and the philosophic approach, is incomprehensible.

Baseless appeal to authority at the end, there. He also thought God was a fan of games lacking dice, and that Kant's general approach was correct; but though he may have been the greatest natural philosopher, he failed to realize that Kant was evil and nonexistent things don't play games with or without dice.

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a thing is not the same as itself.

A thing is not the same as itself? Well I suspect its pretty darn similar! I can't believe I here this from an Objectivist! A thing is not the same as itself? Well I suspect its pretty darn similar. I can't believe I here this from an Objectivist! I hope this statement doesn't make its way into any Objectivism literature. Are you sure you don't want to rethink this one and edit your post. I wonder if the brilliant Mr Spencer could support this assertion. Actually, I am sure you are both quite bright. But your wiggling like a worm on a hook with this one! Since I have far greater affection for Objectivist that they have for me, I don't want to embarrass you, so let me just say I find it "incomprehensible."

You or me can be grasped independently, but we do not have the kind of metaphysical independence that you seem to be implying.

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W A Dunkley,

Interesting collection of fallacies you've put together. I don't believe you make one logical point. You can't believe you hear this from an Objectivist? Then open your eyes. And who is Mr. Spencer?

Similarity and sameness are concepts from the field of conceptual epistemology. There are no similarities or samenesses inherent in reality. Suggesting that there are is akin to suggesting Plato's forms. In metaphysics, only existents exist. There are various objects with different attributes, and that is all.

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W A Dunkley,

Interesting collection of fallacies you've put together. I don't believe you make one logical point. You can't believe you hear this from an Objectivist? Then open your eyes. And who is Mr. Spencer?

Similarity and sameness are concepts from the field of conceptual epistemology. There are no similarities or samenesses inherent in reality. Suggesting that there are is akin to suggesting Plato's forms. In metaphysics, only existents exist. There are various objects with different attributes, and that is all.

Sorry, about the mix-up, but I was having so much fun with the last post. Spencer is not the same as Speicher... I do hold nonetheless, with the most supreme certainty, that Spencer is the same as Spencer. The rejection of the existence of self-sameness is fundamentally absurd. If you can't acknowledge this, you surrender the grounds on which to prove anything. You are left with noting but unhinged logic asserting an imaginary concept with no reference to reality.

Self-sameness is not an idea in some platonic realm. It is, nevertheless, an existent part that is more fundamental than things which are tangible or material.

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The repeated claim that what I say is incomprehensible is, well, incomprehensible. But how convenient for you. Four-dimensionalism is just incomprehensible silliness, that just happened to be embraced by the greatest natural philosopher of the last century.

Like has been said before, it is not four-dimensionalism that is incomprehensible, it is you that are incomprehensible. I understand four-dimensionalism, and I reject it, your appeal to unnamed authority notwithstanding.

y_feldblum's characterization of your theories as platonic is the same one that I gave you when I said rationalistic word salad. I am serious, you should consider whether you are operating on a mistaken epistemology.

Of course, if experience tells me anything, you won't and will take offense, and shrug it off.

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Like has been said before, it is not four-dimensionalism that is incomprehensible, it is you that are incomprehensible. I understand four-dimensionalism, and I reject it, your appeal to unnamed authority notwithstanding.

y_feldblum's characterization of your theories as platonic is the same one that I gave you when I said rationalistic word salad. I am serious, you should consider whether you are operating on a mistaken epistemology.

Of course, if experience tells me anything, you won't and will take offense, and shrug it off.

I take no offence and my love for Ayn Rand, her philosophy and Objectivist remains.

However, it is not I who have appealed to authority when every issue I raise is met with almost plagiarized Objectivist talking points, scarcely relevant to the issue.

Your platonic interpretation of self-sameness may be a result of an epistemology that is imposing more on it that is really there. I am not sugesting that Rover posesses dogness, but I am insisting that he possesses self-sameness! Self-sameness is what is described and asserted by the axiom, any axiom. It is the only description; it is a perfect description. This is identity. To make more of self-sameness than this, would indeed make it platonic.

Epistemologically speaking the axiom is the absolute. But after this, rather than requesting reality to conform to the accepted method by which we comprehend, it is more fruitful to adopt ones method, with inventiveness, to the demands of reality. All we can expect of reality is to be what it is. When we cease to expect the world to be rational, however, and blame our theoretical inconsistencies on reality, then we become little more than spoilt children masquerading as scientist and philosophers.

Metaphysically speaking, I cannot embrace (or to be more precise, I tried to embrace and then had to reject) a metaphysics which states or implies:

Existence is everything and then it is not.(?)

A thing is not a thing unless it is an "entity." Real is only real, if it is real in an of itself.(???)

"A thing is itself", but, a "thing is not the same as itself." (???????) And I hope that I bring this one up in jest, but at the very least, it demonstrates that (some) Objectivism will defend there position dogmatically to the point of evading an incontrovertible truth! This is misplaced loyalty.

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Dunkley,

"Self-sameness" is an horrendous concept to be using in metaphysics. Similarity, of which sameness is but an extreme, is a concept from epistemology. Moreover, it denies the primacy of existence in favor of a primacy of sameness - which is just another variant of the primacy of consciousness. In metaphysics, there are no referents of similarity or sameness.

Very many who want to attack Objectivism reinterpret the axiom of identity to be an axiom of self-sameness. Their shorthand is: "A is A" is reinterpreted to "A = A". And that is the basis for all kinds of arguments against Objectivism.

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Dunkley,

"Self-sameness" is an horrendous concept to be using in metaphysics. Similarity, of which sameness is but an extreme, is a concept from epistemology. Moreover, it denies the primacy of existence in favor of a primacy of sameness - which is just another variant of the primacy of consciousness. In metaphysics, there are no referents of similarity or sameness.

Very many who want to attack Objectivism reinterpret the axiom of identity to be an axiom of self-sameness. Their shorthand is: "A is A" is reinterpreted to "A = A". And that is the basis for all kinds of arguments against Objectivism.

I have given “professional academic,” who specialist in trying to prove that metaphysics is played out and no new ideas are possible, the opportunity to prove their claim that the primacy of identity does not represent a new idea, and they have failed. “Academic philosophers” call it rehashed Parmenides, Objectivism calls it platonic, and laymen call it Objectivism.

The primacy of identity does not maintain that “A is A” the same as “A = A.”

If you are maintaining that the sameness asserted by the statement “ Rover and spot are the same (i.e., dogs)” is epistemological, then I agree. Rover and spot are different members of the same mentally unified group. Nonetheless, the self-sameness asserted by the statement "rover is rover” is metaphysical! To ask for proof is to ask for proof of the axiom that asserts it.

This assertion proves itself!

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I've been trying to read through this thread, but it's quite impossible, given that none of you is making any sense, for which the cause is that you actually bother to answer someone who works with undefined concepts, floating abstractions and even resorts to argument from intimidation in one of his posts (which fails because wrong word was used).

P.S. If this message is incomprehensible to you, I'll try to bring in a young philosophy major to explain it.

Furthermore, he posts under false pretenses, claiming that he has deep respect of objectivism, yet departs far from its ideas, and I doubt he's even bothered to learn it.

This discussion has long gone off topic and my reading it was a waste of time.

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  • 3 months later...

Hi there. Im Craig, studying Philosophy at Heythrop, University of London.

Im wondering about Time.

It seems to me that our understanding of time does not require anything empirical. Through thinking alone, we realise the idea of succession, by virtue of the fact that one thought comes after an other. Succession is, it seems to me, impossible without time.

But does this make time a priori? Im not so sure, if so, then certainly not in the way that 1+1=2 is a priori.

But its not a posteriori either, like objects are.

One objection from a friend of mine, is that time is a posteriori, because an understanding of time requires "experiencing thought," and that experience, acts as sense-data, and through such sense-data we become familiar with time, therefore it is a posteriori.

Im not sure i agree, surely it then becomes a debate about what constitutes the concepts of a priori and a posteriori. Through my friends reasoning, surely you can describe anything as experiential, and therefore everything is a posteriori.

I think one problem is, that you can describe time as being an inherent consequence of thinking (succession), but when u start to talk about it, or observe it, u enter the realm of a posteriori.

Can anyone help me clarify the pre-philosophical epistemological status of time?

Thanks kindly.

Craig French

Heythrop College, University of London

Heythrop.ac.uk

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Hi Craig,

In Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Rand writes that "'Time', as the widest or parent abstraction of all subsequence and narrower measurements of time, is a change of relationship." (emphasis mine)

The gist of the idea is this: it's evident that we have memory (since memory is a prerequisite to concept formation), and this allows us to notice that things don't stay the same-- we remember that things in the past are different than how they are now.

It's from this that we get the concept of Change, and from there, the concept of Time. So there's no need to bring in the idea of a priori concepts at all (as indeed there never is a need), since time has a referent in reality.

Also, as Bowser correctly points out, there really is no good reason to distinguish between a priori and a posteriori concepts. Even grasping that 1 + 1 = 2 requires concepts that have referents in reality.

If Rand's concept theory is unfamiliar to you, you should definitely check out Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology as a primer.

Nate T.

[edited to correct spelling error]

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In Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Rand writes that "'Time', as the widest or parent abstraction of all subsequence and narrower measurements of time, is a change of relationship." (emphasis mine)

On which page did Ayn Rand make this statement? The wording is puzzling and I would like to doublecheck.

[Edited to insert "to."]

Edited by BurgessLau
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It seems to me that our understanding of time does not require anything empirical. Through thinking alone, we realise the idea of succession, by virtue of the fact that one thought comes after an other. Succession is, it seems to me, impossible without time.

But does this make time a priori? Im not so sure, if so, then certainly not in the way that 1+1=2 is a priori.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), in his Critique of Pure Reason, B46, says: "Time is ... not an empirical concept that is somehow drawn from an experience. ... Time is ... given a priori."

The a priori vs. a posteriori dichotomy, which is a false dichotomy (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, pp. 93-94), involves a fundamental issue: the origin of ideas.

Ayn Rand, whose philosophy, Objectivism, sets the context for this whole forum, rejected Immanuel Kant's philosophy. She said, "On every fundamental issue, Kant's philosophy is the exact opposite of Objectivism." ("Kant," The Ayn Rand Lexicon, p. 235, first entry.)

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