The Present.

  • Thread starter Mentat
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  • #1
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Main Question or Discussion Point

There has been a little debate on the subject of "the present", and I'd like to try and clear that up (since I myself am a bit confused), if possible.

There are some here, who believe that there is no such thing as the present, because there is no smallest incriment of time (or there is a smallest incriment, but our brains move way too slowly to actually concieve of it).

However, my counter is that if there were no present, then we would all be in the future, and that is illogical. In fact, the very sentence "I am in the future" is semantically and logically retarded (since "I am" refers to your present state, and reference to the future would require a statement of the form "I will be").

Now, that just shows that there must be a present, it doesn't explain what it is because, frankly, I'm not really sure.

My current idea (off the top of my head) would be that the present is a complete memory of the revisions of experienced phenomena (which is what consciousness is) in the brain. IOW, all that the "present" really is is our memory (no matter how recent) of phenomenological experiences that happened in the past.

Of course, this idea is probably way off - I have already found one flaw (namely, memories of the past must take place in the present, and so you still have no actual definition of the "present") - so I need some help on this.

Any/all participation will be appreciated (note: not "is" appreciated :wink:).
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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"There is no how Mr. Pilgrim. There is no why. The moment simply is."
From the movie, Slaughterhouse-Five, based upon the novel by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. This is one of my favorite movies, and comes highly recommended! If you follow the link it gives a general breakdown of the movie. If you get a chance rent it!

While the following are a couple of book reviews from https://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/...7595076/sr=2-2/ref=sr_2_2/103-5540589-4350261 ...

Aliens and Predestination? Oh My!!!, December 10, 1998
Reviewer: A reader from United States

Kurt Vonnegut creates an intricate and creative story of science fiction while still writing an anti-war novel. " Slaughterhouse-Five " focuses on an incredibly silly character named Billy Pilgrim. After a series of tragic events, aliens called Tralfamadorians abduct Pilgrim. These aliens have the ability to travel to any moment in time whenever they wish. They teach Pilgrim how to travel through time and we find him constantly traveling back and forth through his own life at random. We find Pilgrim one moment reliving the firebombing of Dresden and on the very next page teeing off at a country club ten years later. Incidents exactly like this can be found adorned through the book along with Vonnegut's distinct wit and black humor. One of the stronger points in the book deals with free will and predestination. Billy Pilgrim and the aliens believe that everyone's life is set in stone and everything that we do was destined to happen. One Tralfamadorian tells Pilgrim, I've visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will." If such a thing were true then obviously the notion of free will is nothing more than human imagination used to fool ourselves. Thought provoking subjects such as this grab the reader's attention and never lets go. Although the writing style is a bit strange and takes time to get used to, Vonnegut manages to weave an intricately detailed world of laughter, war horrors, and moral issues. Slaughterhouse-Five is a truly creative and incredibly entertaining read which comes highly recommended.


Belongs in the Top 10 Greatest books of all time..., June 25, 2003
Reviewer: Clint Mosso (see more about me) from San Jose, CA United States

Not only is Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse five his greatest achievment, it should also be considered one of the greatest novels ever written. The journey of Billy Pilgrim is such a tragic, depressing, and yet totally hilarious trip, only Vonnegut could pull it all off. It's one of the few books that I've read multiple times, and always manages to entertain me as though I was reading it for the first time. If you have never read this novel, you are missing out on one classic piece of literature, satire, and commentary on war and the meaning of life. And if you've never read Vonnegut, this is an outstanding introduction to one of the greatest literary minds of ours, or any other, time.
 
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  • #3
Zero
I'd say most of you is in the past.
 
  • #4
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Originally posted by Mentat
There has been a little debate on the subject of "the present", and I'd like to try and clear that up (since I myself am a bit confused), if possible.

There are some here, who believe that there is no such thing as the present, because there is no smallest incriment of time (or there is a smallest incriment, but our brains move way too slowly to actually concieve of it).

However, my counter is that if there were no present, then we would all be in the future, and that is illogical. In fact, the very sentence "I am in the future" is semantically and logically retarded (since "I am" refers to your present state, and reference to the future would require a statement of the form "I will be").
If you think about it Mentat, the moment is all we have. We can only have our "beings" in the moment. The moment is Ever-Present and, "simply is." :wink:
 
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  • #5
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the present is only 3 dimions no time...or no time movement

but seriously you have to be on maryjane to argue that the present dosent exist...or we dont exist either and acid to enjoy it...whoa my hand is purple and shifting...

yea well the present is just a concept it is just now...no wait now. but really the present is just the corse of a few years or moments it's all realtive much like currancy it holds no actual value but us not existing that is a diffrent story
 
  • #6
vedder
For humans there is a human present. Anyone who says there is not is living in a conceptual dreamland. Arise my friends! Feel the now.
 
  • #7
steppenwolf
i would agree with many here to say that not only does the present exist it is all that exists.

i did a course in french literature a few years back called 'poetry of the instant' which was a big thing for late 19th century poets, they believed that only the instant, or absolute present, can define your life in any meaningful way. they were so into it they defined all time and eternity as a reflection of the instant.
 
  • #8
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Originally posted by Mentat
My current idea (off the top of my head) would be that the present is a complete memory of the revisions of experienced phenomena (which is what consciousness is) in the brain. IOW, all that the "present" really is is our memory (no matter how recent) of phenomenological experiences that happened in the past.
So you are talking about purely human perception of present. Then it'd be imo natural to think about simple latency between actual events and when they get 'decoded' by our senses. Memory imo would be secondary storage that would get carbon copy for later reference.
It is natural that pain in your toes will reach your mind later than pain in chest. Interestng is that thoughts and awareness of them should also have a latency. Thats quite a kick for idea of free will.

Another interesting thought may be to consider that we as complex bodies fill specific quite large volume of 3D space. Now if we live in 4D spacetime, would that mean that we must also fill quite some larger portion of space and time also?
 
  • #9
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Many of you have responded that the present must exist, and I agree, but what is the present? We can't exist in the future or the past, as I have proven to myself logically, and can defend if one should wish to argue it, but it seems that most of you accept that we exist in the present. So, now that we all agree on that point...what is this present, that we exist in? And how long does it last?
 
  • #10
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Originally posted by wimms
So you are talking about purely human perception of present.
Sort of. Actually, I'm talking about the present itself, which is what the human should be percieving. I mean, I know that phenomenologically experienced time is not the same as actual time, but I should assume that there must be a present, otherwise our brains would not be conscious of phenomenological time "right now" but would have to be conscious of it in the future or in the past (and both of those possibilities are out of the question, for obvious reasons).

Then it'd be imo natural to think about simple latency between actual events and when they get 'decoded' by our senses. Memory imo would be secondary storage that would get carbon copy for later reference.
Sure, but memories are not actual things in the past, but are memories of the past, that are "brought up" in the present.

It is natural that pain in your toes will reach your mind later than pain in chest. Interestng is that thoughts and awareness of them should also have a latency. Thats quite a kick for idea of free will.
How so?

Another interesting thought may be to consider that we as complex bodies fill specific quite large volume of 3D space. Now if we live in 4D spacetime, would that mean that we must also fill quite some larger portion of space and time also?
Well, we don't necessarily fill a "large" volume of space (it depends on your reference point), but (as I've shown in other threads) each point in time must correspond (or "run into") every point in space, otherwise things in one part of the Universe - spacially - might "not have happened yet".
 
  • #11
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Originally posted by Mentat
Many of you have responded that the present must exist, and I agree, but what is the present? We can't exist in the future or the past, as I have proven to myself logically, and can defend if one should wish to argue it, but it seems that most of you accept that we exist in the present. So, now that we all agree on that point...what is this present, that we exist in? And how long does it last?
Did you know that we have to be conscious in order to remain in "the present?" Therefore it suggests it has something to do with consciousness, specifically. Perhaps it has something to do with "God's Presence," in the sense that He remains "Ever-Present?"
 
  • #12
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Originally posted by Iacchus32
Did you know that we have to be conscious in order to remain in "the present?"
No, and that is definitely not true (a rock is in "the present", isn't it?).

Therefore it suggests it has something to do with consciousness, specifically. Perhaps it has something to do with "God's Presence," in the sense that He remains "Ever-Present?"
Well, I can always depend on you to provide these kind of possibilities :wink:. Of course, they cannot be disproven, but we should - perhaps - leave them out for the time being, eh?
 
  • #13
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Originally posted by Mentat
No, and that is definitely not true (a rock is in "the present", isn't it?).
Says who? The rock?


Well, I can always depend on you to provide these kind of possibilities :wink:. Of course, they cannot be disproven, but we should - perhaps - leave them out for the time being, eh?
Actually I could care less outside of this forum. But you know what they say, "Credit where credit is due."
 
  • #14
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Originally posted by Mentat
I'm talking about the present itself, which is what the human should be percieving.
Interestingly, maybe there is no present then. We can imagine one, that implies simultaneity, but GR says theres no such thing. Given that we are in same reference frame with same timeflow, we can think about syncronicity ;)

I should assume that there must be a present, otherwise our brains would not be conscious of phenomenological time "right now" but would have to be conscious of it in the future or in the past (and both of those possibilities are out of the question, for obvious reasons).
Why? Does not 'approximately now' do? What you see is past. What you hear is hopelessly old stuff. You can perfectly deal with that. Why is then that concious right now should be more strictly defined? Don't think of it that strictly in terms of future or past. We can say, what happens now, you'll be aware of "later", and will perceive it as "right now".

Interestng is that thoughts and awareness of them should also have a latency. Thats quite a kick for idea of free will.
How so?
quantum processes flow magnitudes faster than chemical reactions, and by the time chemistry is done, alot of time passes. By the time you get aware of your thoughts later, huge 'masses' of matter have already moved. That doesn't exclude free will, of course, but hints that by the time you 'decide', it might have already been decided. Human reacts quickest when its automatism. Training gives that. After, reactions to external events happen without conciousness. When you have to 'think' how to drive formula-1, you'll 100% crash.

Well, we don't necessarily fill a "large" volume of space (it depends on your reference point), but (as I've shown in other threads) each point in time must correspond (or "run into") every point in space, otherwise things in one part of the Universe - spacially - might "not have happened yet".
Haven't seen it, and don't understand you. Maybe link to your post would help?
 
  • #15
drag
Science Advisor
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Greetings !

What is this thread meant to ask/determine precisely ?

Is there an eccepted definition of "the present" that
we can all use here ?

"Experiments can't prove something which is logically flawed."


Live long and prosper.
 
  • #16
steppenwolf
Originally posted by Iacchus32
Says who? The rock?
that's the nail hit on the head, it would seem that the present or any notion of time at all is only relevent to conscious beings, it's like asking a rock whether it's feeling cold. without the human measure of time everything might as well have already happened, it's the old idea that the universe uses humans to 'know itself'.

is it not illogical to take this one step further, instead of saying we experience time/the present because we are conscious, maybe we are cosncious because we experience time
 
  • #17
vedder
Time is a measure of change. What is the one constant change in everything? Entropy. If you can prove that the rock posesses no entropy, then you have proved the rock posesses no change, thus, no time. If you cannot prove this then the rock does posess change, meaning time.
 
  • #18
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Originally posted by Iacchus32
Says who? The rock?
"Says who?" is an irrelevant question, since 1) I said it; and 2) things have existed since the Big Bang, but consciousness (even primitive forms of it) is just a few million years old.
 
  • #19
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Originally posted by wimms
Why? Does not 'approximately now' do? What you see is past. What you hear is hopelessly old stuff.
There is a flaw in what you are saying: When different parts of your brain are processing the sound, it is the present. The light that enters your eyes is entering them in the present. Of course, your consciousness is rather "smeared" over time (because of the time it takes for the different operations of processing to take place), but that doesn't mean that there is no "present", wherein (for example) a beam of light hits your eye.

You can perfectly deal with that. Why is then that concious right now should be more strictly defined? Don't think of it that strictly in terms of future or past. We can say, what happens now, you'll be aware of "later", and will perceive it as "right now".
That makes sense. I had been thinking of that myself, and I can't find a way around the fact that, if you are not conscious, you cannot percieve the present (that's not to say that the present doesn't exist, though that is possible), and consciousness doesn't really take place at any one given time...so perhaps "present" is an illusion.

Haven't seen it, and don't understand you. Maybe link to your post would help?
Well, all I explained (in so many words) was that time itself (the dimension of time) must intersect with all points of space, otherwise there would be only one point in space that was at all affected by time. Of course, I can't really conceive of what I'm saying, it just appears that it must be so.
 
  • #20
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Originally posted by steppenwolf
that's the nail hit on the head, it would seem that the present or any notion of time at all is only relevent to conscious beings, it's like asking a rock whether it's feeling cold. without the human measure of time everything might as well have already happened, it's the old idea that the universe uses humans to 'know itself'.
Oh, so now rocks have absolutely no temperature at all, until conscious beings evolve, right? Puh-lease! I agree that "the present" may be an illusion of time itself, but not things that have been shown to exist (like time itself, temperature, space, etc).
 
  • #21
steppenwolf
Originally posted by Mentat
Oh, so now rocks have absolutely no temperature at all, until conscious beings evolve, right? Puh-lease! I agree that "the present" may be an illusion of time itself, but not things that have been shown to exist (like time itself, temperature, space, etc).
silly silly boy, i'm not saying rocks don't get hot or cold, just like i'm not saying rocks aren't affected by time (that would be dumb, what do you take me for?) what i am saying is rocks don't experience temperature, just like they don't experience time. i'm sure time exists, but without consciousness it is irrelevent.
 
  • #22
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Originally posted by Mentat
"Says who?" is an irrelevant question, since 1) I said it; and 2) things have existed since the Big Bang, but consciousness (even primitive forms of it) is just a few million years old.
No, I think it would be fair to say that everything "exists" in the moment, but not everything "knows" that it exists, i.e., consciously.
 
  • #23
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Originally posted by steppenwolf
silly silly boy, i'm not saying rocks don't get hot or cold, just like i'm not saying rocks aren't affected by time (that would be dumb, what do you take me for?) what i am saying is rocks don't experience temperature, just like they don't experience time. i'm sure time exists, but without consciousness it is irrelevent.
You said that "it might as well have already happened" unless some conscious being is making the distinction between the present and the past. This is not true, since (as you've admitted (above)) time goes on whether anything is conscious of it or not.
 
  • #24
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Time is a perception factor. The present is defined in how we percieve it. Technically speaking, all the time we experience is always just in the past, due to the passage of time it takes to process it. "THE PRESENT" can be anything from a split second to a perid of months, even years depending on your point of reference. Time passage is a matter of human context. It's like asking "how hot is hot?". You can describe it, you just have to experience it.

If there were a smallest division of time, the human mind could not percieve it, and time would appear to "stand still".
 
  • #25
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Originally posted by Zantra
Time is a perception factor. The present is defined in how we percieve it. Technically speaking, all the time we experience is always just in the past, due to the passage of time it takes to process it. "THE PRESENT" can be anything from a split second to a perid of months, even years depending on your point of reference. Time passage is a matter of human context. It's like asking "how hot is hot?". You can describe it, you just have to experience it.

If there were a smallest division of time, the human mind could not percieve it, and time would appear to "stand still".
Yeah, this coincides with my more recent thought (see 5 posts above yours, second paragraph). I guess this is one part of Cartesian reasoning that stuck with me, inspite of my having believed myself to be exorcised.
 

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