Talk:Eternalism (philosophy of time)

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Eternalism only restricted to B-series theorists?[edit]

Is it possible to reconcile Eternalism with an objective flow of time? I have heard that there are some people such as Quentin smith who reportedly adhere to Eternalism while at the same time the A-theory of time. Though I don't find Mctaggart's argument to be wholly convincing, it is not my main contention. Perhaps a mention should be made about the possible compatibility of the A-series and the theory of eternalism (at least in the fact that some people attempt to do so like Smith)? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 99.234.246.112 (talk) 23:37, 6 September 2010 (UTC)

Quentin Smith does favor the A-theory of time (see here, especially the last sentence), but where are you getting the claim that he favors eternalism over presentism? This book seems to identify him as one who argues against eternalism, saying "For many years, eternalism seemed to be as philosophically secure as a position can be, but increasingly, presentists have developed new arguments and strategies. The most sustained defense of tenseless approaches to time may be found in Mellor 1981 and Mellor 1998, whereas the most sustained defense of tensed theory thus far is Smith 1993".
But Quentin Smith aside, my googling did turn up some arguments in favor of your suggestion that some philosophers advocate both eternalism and the A-theory--see this paper, in the section 'Understanding the debate' on pp. 5-10. If anyone wants to take a stab at summarizing how the A-theory is different from presentism so that it might be possible to be both an A-theory advocate and an eternalist, perhaps using that paper as a reference, I think it'd be a good addition to the article. Hypnosifl (talk) 23:41, 8 November 2010 (UTC)
I read the paper you referenced by Michael Rea (and thank you for a very informative and interesting link!). He does not appear to maintain that one may adhere to eternalism and the A-series of time. Rather, he is lumping eternalism and variations—with the most popular being the growing block theory—into what he refers to as “four-dimensionalism.” He seems to maintain that one may be an adherent of both four-dimensionalism and of the A-series in regard to the growing block theory and less popular variations of eternalism, but not of eternalism itself.HistoryBuff14 (talk) 12:38, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
Thanks for the comment, I hadn't realized that Michael Rea was talking about the growing block universe, an interesting variation which falls into the category of the "A-theory" but is non-presentist since it says the past is just as real as the present (and it's also non-eternalist, since it says the future is not real). So while the A-theory doesn't necessarily imply presentism, it seems as if the B-theory always implies eternalism. Hypnosifl (talk) 14:50, 27 July 2012 (UTC)

Eternalism and Idealism[edit]

Although I wrote a philosophical proof of a creator based upon eternalism as implied by STR, I am not completely convinced of the theory. The reason is that I cannot comprehend how even an illusion of motion can be generated by a static material realty. My proof and Western scientific eternalism assumes a material paradigm. Therefore, I was wondering if the Eastern metaphysical view that matter is an epiphenomenon of consciousness (“Brahman”) rather than visa versa as in the Western scientific and religious view might be compatible with what we deduce as eternalism from the apparent validity of STR. Could such a paradigm account for an illusion of material eternalism?

My favorite Zen anecdote is: “Two Zen students were arguing about a flag blowing in the wind. One argued the flag was moving while the other the wind. The master happened along and settled the matter with: ‘Mind Moves’” [Mind = Brahman (consciousness) in Zen terms.]

By way of analogy, consider consciousness (in this view) to be as a Rubik’s cube constantly moving and changing its faces and resulting patterns (yet retaining its structural integrity as one.) From the vantage point of humans who only (except perhaps through mysticism) perceive the illusion of material realty would this seem to us to be compatible with material eternalism? Does anyone know of any works regarding this consideration?HistoryBuff14 (talk) 19:31, 26 July 2012 (UTC)

There may well be philosophers who argue this way, though I don't know much about the subject (the book Time and Mind might have relevant information, though it's an expensive academic book so you'd probably have to order it through an interlibrary loan). I know there are also some idealist philosophers who accept eternalism though, see this article on Timothy Sprigge, particular the section towards the end with a paragraph that starts "For Sprigge, time is unreal." And the eternalism article also has a brief section on ideas in Buddhism that seem to suggest eternalism, see Eternalism (philosophy of time)#Relation to Eastern body of thought. Also see p. 68 of "What is Zen" by Alan Watts, about Dogen and Kumarajiva and the idea that "contrary to appearance, events in time are eternal, and that each event 'stays' in its own place.' Hypnosifl (talk) 15:28, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
Hypno, thanks much for your response. It’s most appreciated. I shall investigate your suggestions presently. I answered your last message on the conflict board, though perhaps not in an entirely satisfactory manner for you. I put it just after your last posting. Thanks again!HistoryBuff14 (talk) 23:24, 27 July 2012 (UTC)
Also perhaps worth looking into on how Buddhism can contain at least some aspects of the B-theory is this essay about Dogen's philosophy of time, this page of the book "Nonduality" by David Lowe which also discusses Dogen (and says his view is not the same as the totally static "block universe", though Lowe's explanation of an eternal present which is in continual flux seems more mystically paradoxical than rationally comprehensible), and this page of the book "Foundations of Buddhism" which says "One of the most intellectually creative explanations of these related sets of questions is expounded by the Sarvastivadins. Their theories are in the first place based on a radical understanding of the nature of time, the view that all three times—present, past, and future—exist (sarvasti-vada). According to this view, to say of dharmas that they are future or past is not to say that they do not exist; they exist, but they happen to exist in the past or the future, just as other dharmas happen, for a moment, to exist in the present. Time is thus conceived as a kind of dimension through which dharmas travel. Four different ways of understanding this are associated with the names of four Sarvastivadin theorists of the early centuries CE. From the perspective of modern philosophy Buddhadeva's suggestion that a dharma can be said to be 'present', relative to simultaneous dharmas, 'past' relative to dharmas that come after and 'future' relative to dharmas that come before—like a woman who is daughter and mother—is perhaps the most philosophically subtle." The reference after that comment about Buddhadeva is to the paper "Buddhadeva and Temporality" by Paul Williams which appears in the volume reviewed here. Hypnosifl (talk) 07:03, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
Found two more sources relating to your question about consciousness and time. The first is "Time and Reality of Phenomenal Becoming" by Sergio Galvan which argues that our experience should lead us to favor the A-theory, you can read it on google books here (it's fairly technical, involving a lot of logical notation). The second is "The Phenomenology of B-Time" by Clifford Williams which argues that are experience is consistent with the B theory, you can read the first two pages here. Also might be worth looking at the "metaphysics" section of The Experience and Perception of Time at the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy website. Hypnosifl (talk) 22:44, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
"[...] I cannot comprehend how even an illusion of motion can be generated by a static material realty."
Is movement necessary for the illusion of movement though? I think that is the question everyone misses.
For example does a person feel like there's movement during an instant of time? Or do they require a period of time. If you say they need a period of time then you are saying they feel nothing during each instant yet when all those instants are put together they do feel movement.
Eternalism says the 'illusion' is there for an instant or a series of instants, it doesn't matter. The illusion is created purely by the person's memory at an instant. i.e. the person's memory contains a collection of images from the previous timeslices. So at any given time their brainstate is set up with the illusion fully in progress. LegendLength (talk) 04:38, 15 September 2012 (UTC)

Debate over whether any philosophers define "block universe" to mean something different than "eternalism"[edit]

[comment summarizing debate as part of a request for comment removed because Machine Elf has said I have misrepresented his position in the debate, so I want to try to get that cleared up first]— Preceding unsigned comment added by Hypnosifl (talkcontribs) 16:56, 1 August 2012

Correction, Hypnosifl keeps removing it despite my objections.[1][2][3][4] I've had to restore it three times.—Machine Elf 1735 17:35, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
The rationale for not removing your own comments at WP:REDACT is entirely about the possibility that others will have responded to it so their responses will no longer make sense; in the case of my newly-posted RfC summary, no one had responded at the time I removed it, so this issue doesn't apply (and the reason I removed it was because Machine Elf elsewhere called my characterization of his/her position a "misrepresentation", so I wanted to clear that up in case my RfC summary would be seen as a misrepresentation of Machine Elf's position too; if Machine Elf OKs my summary I'm happy to reinstate the RfC exactly as it was). In addition, WP:REDACT does say it's acceptable to replace a comment with a bracketed "placeholder", which is what I did above in response to Machine Elf's complaint about my removing it. I don't think there is any basis in the rules for saying I must leave up the original comment if Machine Elf demands it, even though Machine Elf had not responded to the comment at the time I took it down. Hypnosifl (talk) 17:59, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

I made an edit suggesting that "block universe" was synonymous with "eternalism", MachineElf reverted it, so I changed it to reflect the language of the sources, saying that "Eternalism, defined as the view that there are no ontological differences between past, present and future, is also known as the "block universe" theory". Here are the sources I found, two of which use almost identical wording to describe the relation between the two ("also known as eternalism" and "also called eternalism"), and all of which giving the definition of both terms purely in terms of the ontology of different times:

'The third and more popular theory is that there are no significant ontological differences among present, past, and future because the differences are merely subjective. This view is called “the block universe theory” or “eternalism.”' (source)
'Block universe theory: Metaphysical theory that implies all of the past, present, and future is real. The name derives from the fact that a Minkowski diagram would represent events as points in a block if space and time were to be finite in all directions. Also called "eternalism."' (source)
'It is commonly held that relativity favors the "block universe" view (known also as "eternalism"), according to which all events enjoy the same ontological status regardless of their location' (source)
'It does not help, either, that there is a tendency to conflate eternalism — the four-dimensional "block universe" view — with causal determinism.' (source)

MachineElf changed it back to "sometimes", apparently reflecting his view (elaborated at Wikipedia:Dispute_resolution_noticeboard#Eternalism_.28philosophy_of_time.29.2C_Talk:Four-dimensionalism) that the meaning of the term "block universe" involves 20th century concepts like Minkowski diagrams from special relativity, so that it would not be appropriate to refer to a pre-20th century philosopher as an advocate of the "block universe" even if they did hold the eternalist view that all times are equally real (none of the sources above seem to say that Minkowski diagrams are part of the definition of the block universe view, even if one says that the name "block universe" is inspired by Minkowski diagrams). He used as a source for the "sometimes" comment a quote from Sean Carroll that simply described a view in which past, present and future all have the same status, and then said that this is "sometimes called the block time or block universe perspective". I didn't think this quote supported the idea that eternalism only "sometimes" means the same thing as "block universe"--since he hadn't actually introduced the term "eternalism" yet, I think Carroll probably used the phrase "sometimes called the block time..." because it is also "sometimes" known as eternalism (Carroll does introduce the term "eternalism" later in the book, but nowhere does he state that the meaning is different from block time/block universe). Anyway, and this led to a back-and-forth series of edits, leading to a discussion on the dispute resolution board at Wikipedia:Dispute_resolution_noticeboard#Eternalism_.28philosophy_of_time.29.2C_Talk:Four-dimensionalism as well as a discussion on my talk page at User_talk:Hypnosifl#Edit_Warring. On the talk page and in one of my edit notes I had asked MachineElf to start a discussion on the eternalism talk page if he wished to keep reverting my "also known as" to "sometimes known as", since I thought it would be good to have the discussion in a place where others can weigh in; I still like that idea better than having a discussion on my personal talk page, so with MachineElf's permission I'm moving the discussion from there over to here:

I pointed that out, curious that you wouldn't realize it, and still won't... He introduced the concept with a popular example from fiction. He most certainly did name "this lofty timeless Tralfamadorian perch", sometimes called "block time" or "block universe", and in due course, he went on to say that he had been speaking about eternalism. It's WP:TENDENTIOUS to claim there's nothing in Carroll 'that clearly contradicts the idea that "eternalism" and "block universe" are understood by [ALL] philosophers to refer to the selfsame philosophical theory'.
Why do you think it's tendentious? Do you think my reading, where he only said "sometimes called the block time or block universe perspective" because it is also "sometimes" known as eternalism, is wildly implausible? I don't say that this is definitely his meaning, I simply point out that this is a reading that's perfectly consistent with what he writes, so if you want to introduce the idea that there is "sometimes" a difference in meaning between the two terms, then you need to find a reliable source that actually states that explicitly.

Hypnosifl (21:59, 30 July 2012 (UTC)), — (continues after insertion below.)

Carroll does not ‘also’ say ‘"sometimes" known as eternalism’, he says ‘The viewpoint we've been describing, on the other hand, is (sensibly enough) known as "eternalism..."’.—Machine Elf 1735 07:39, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
I'm not suggesting he has any hard-and-fast rule about when to use "sometimes". The basic question I thought we were disputing is whether anything in Carroll's wording suggests he thinks there is a difference in meaning between "eternalism" and "block time". Pick two terms we can both agree have exactly the same meaning, like "The Moon" and "Luna". If describe the moon without naming it and say "this body is sometimes known as Luna" (analogous to Carroll describing the Tralfamadorian perspective and saying it's "sometimes known as" the block time/block universe perspective), then continue describing it and eventually say "the body we have been describing is, of course, called The Moon" (analogous to Carroll's statement about eternalism), this inconsistent use of "sometimes" would be understood as just an idiosyncracy of everyday speech, and not an indication that Luna is only "sometimes" defined to mean the same thing as The Moon. Hypnosifl (talk) 08:51, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
WP:OR Carroll says nothing about "The Moon" and "Luna"... it has nothing to do with the dispute. He says eternalism is sometimes called the "block universe" or "block time" perspective. Deal with it.—Machine Elf 1735 14:46, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
This isn't WP:OR since I'm not trying to insert this analogy into the article, I'm just using it to explain to you and other readers why, #1, there is nothing about Carroll's comments that clearly suggests he believes there is a difference in meaning between the two terms, and #2, why his statements cannot be treated as exactly equivalent to "eternalism is sometimes called block universe/block time", just as in the analogy the person didn't say "The Moon is sometimes called Luna". Of course, we can imagine someone saying "The Moon is sometimes called Luna" or "eternalism is sometimes called the block universe/block time" without actually meaning to suggest any difference in meaning between the terms, but it's still my understanding that your reason for being insistent about replacing "also known as" with "sometimes known as" in the eternalism/block time case is because you do want to suggest that Carroll may have been indicating the terms are not always interchangeable. If Carroll had said "eternalism is sometimes called the block universe/block time", that might have supported a suggestion of non-equivalence a little more strongly than his actual words, which is why I object to your using Carroll as a reference for a different wording than he actually used. Hypnosifl (talk) 16:56, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
It's a real pity you can't hold a discussion without making up some nonsense and claiming that's what I believe.
Have I done so? If so, please state specifically what belief I have attributed to you that is incorrect.

Hypnosifl (21:59, 30 July 2012 (UTC)), — (continues after insertion below.)

You say: ‘If your reason for being insistent on the "It [eternalism] is sometimes known as block time" edit has to do with your beliefs that at least some professional philosophers would assign the terms somewhat different meanings, you need to find a reference that clearly supports this belief--Carroll's does not, it is consistent with my interpretation.’ And doing a complete 180°, you claim: ‘But the context in which he uses it again does not clearly indicate that he thinks the term has even a potentially different meaning from "block time"... Again I can't be sure that my interpretation of his meaning is correct, but nothing in this quote is a good cite for the idea that it is only sometimes correct to refer to eternalism as the "block universe" perspective, if that is what you are trying to suggest.’ WP:IDHT ‘In the philosophic literature, this [eternalism] is sometimes called the "block time" or "block universe" perspective...’ emphasis added. And see below...Machine Elf 1735 07:39, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
How is that a "complete 180°"? Perhaps you are misreading me somehow, in both cases I am saying that Carroll's quote gives no indication he thinks eternalism has a different meaning than "block universe". Also, you offer quotes of mine, but you don't give a direct answer to the question of "what belief I have attributed to you that is incorrect". Is it incorrect of me to say that you think the meaning of "eternalism" is sometimes taken to be different from the meaning of "block universe", so that it might be inaccurate to refer to a pre-20th century philosopher as an advocate of the "block universe" but correct to refer to them as an "eternalist"? If I am incorrect in attributing that belief to you, please say so clearly. If I am not incorrect about that, then what aspect of your beliefs am I incorrect about, if any? Hypnosifl (talk) 08:51, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Not a "complete 180°"? Pure nonsense then? You didn't even know he had referred to eternalism... Figured that out all by yourself did you?—Machine Elf 1735 14:40, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Not a 180° because I never said he didn't use eternalism anywhere in the book, I just said he didn't use it in the referenced quote you had put in the cite for the "eternalism is sometimes known as" edit, and in this edit note I requested that if you wanted to use him as a cite for a claim about eternalism, you should point out in the cite what section you were referring to (and when you did, I said "Thank you for providing the quote showing Carroll does use the word 'eternalism', which is what I was asking for in my edit note"). As I said above, although I agree he would use both "eternalism" and "block universe" to describe the Tralfamadorian perspective he discusses initially, if he had actually written "eternalism is sometimes known as the block time/block universe perspective" it might suggest to readers that there is more ambiguity about the question of whether the terms are equivalent than what he actually did---namely describing the Tralfamadorian perspective, saying this is "sometimes known as" the block time/block universe perspective, and then a few paragraphs later saying "The viewpoint we've been describing, on the other hand, is (sensibly enough) known as 'eternalism'". Since I understand the heart of our dispute as this question of equivalence, I'm not cool with your recasting Carroll's words into a form that might suggest ambiguity about equivalence more strongly than his actual words (in a different context I might be OK with this reshuffling of his words). Hypnosifl (talk) 16:56, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
It's perfectly obvious that no philosopher who claims Parmenides for eternalism would seriously claim him for modern "block time" or "block universe".
Why is that obvious? If the definition of block universe has absolutely nothing to do with relativity or Minkowski diagrams as I have been saying (and as verified by sources I provided), then it's irrelevant if the name was inspired by such 20th century concepts, it would still be perfectly appropriate to say something like "Parmenides was an early advocate of what is now called the block universe perspective". There are many technical terms whose names contain allusions to things that are not part of their definitions (latin names for animal species may contain the name of the biologist who discovered them or their contemporaries, for example, but that wouldn't prevent anyone from using the same latin name in a discussion of how some person living in an earlier time had spotted the same animal). If you can find a source written by a philosopher that clearly says that concepts such as Minkowski diagrams are part of the definition of block time I would have no problem with an edit saying that some philophers define "block universe" solely in terms of all times being equally real, while others define it in terms of Minkowski diagrams or whatnot.

Hypnosifl (21:59, 30 July 2012 (UTC)), — (continues after insertion below.)

I've explained the anachronism more than once, it is obvious because no philosopher who traces eternalism back to Parmenides would seriously claim Minkowski "block universe/block time" originated in the 5th century BC... Ancient Greek geometry stops short at 3D solids, for example... See next...Machine Elf 1735 07:39, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
And as I've explained more than once, I don't think the definition of "block universe" has anything whatsoever to do with Minkowski, so although I would agree that no one would claim Minkowski spacetime originated in the 5th century BC, it is perfectly reasonable to say that the philosophical view currently denoted by the term "block universe" originated in the 5th century BC, assuming it's also reasonable to say that "eternalism" originated then (actually, I think most philosophers would avoid saying Parmenides was an "eternalist", since although he denied that things come into existence it's not clear whether he was saying "the different states of the world at different times are equally real" or "the idea of the world having different states at different times is an illusion", but that's a separate issue irrelevant to this debate). Hypnosifl (talk) 08:51, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Who cares if you think the definition of "block universe" has nothing whatsoever to do with Minkowski? Personally, I think you're right about Parmenides, but I'm not an WP:RS either...—Machine Elf 1735 14:33, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
If you aren't saying the definition of block universe has anything to do with Minkowski, then your argument above, "it is obvious because no philosopher who traces eternalism back to Parmenides would seriously claim Minkowski 'block universe/block time' originated in the 5th century BC", doesn't make any sense to me. A philosopher who traces eternalism back to Parmenides might well claim the "block universe/block time" view originated in the 5th century BC, the fact that Minkowski's ideas didn't exist back then would be wholly irrelevant to this if the definitions of block universe/block time have nothing to do with Minkowski or other relativistic ideas. So if the definition of block universe/block time has nothing to do with Minkowski, then there is no "anachronism" in attributing a "block universe" perspective to Parmenides, as Popper did for example. Hypnosifl (talk) 16:56, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
You are ‘saying the definition of block universe has [nothing] to do with Minkowski’, not me.—Machine Elf 1735 17:45, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Yes, but you said "who cares if you think the definition of 'block universe' has nothing whatsoever to do with Minkowski?" by which I thought you meant you didn't see the relevance of my view to the issue of "anachronism". If you understand that I believe that "block universe" is not defined in terms of Minkowski, then you should also be able to easily understand why your argument about "anachronism" wouldn't be convincing to me, since your argument presupposes that calling Parmenides a "block universe" advocate is equivalent to saying he had anticipated Minkowski's notions about spacetime. As such, when I said Why is that obvious? If the definition of block universe has absolutely nothing to do with relativity or Minkowski diagrams as I have been saying (and as verified by sources I provided), then it's irrelevant if the name was inspired by such 20th century concepts, a less confusing response would have been to say something like "yes, it is only obvious if you accept that "block universe" is defined in terms of these concepts, as I strongly believe it is" rather than just saying "I've explained the anachronism more than once" and repeating it as if I was stupid and not getting something, when I had just shown pretty clearly that I understood the argument perfectly well but disagreed with one of its essential premises. Hypnosifl (talk) 18:18, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
You agree he's talking about eternalism, yet you deny ‘this is sometimes called the "block time" or "block universe" perspective’.
No, I just deny your reading that "sometimes" indicates that the two terms only "sometimes" have the same meaning, while "sometimes" they have different meanings (is this not your reason for continually reverting my "also known as" to "sometimes known as"? If not, please explain why you object so strenuously to my "eternalism ... is also known as the block universe", which directly reflects the language of two of the sources I added) He describes a view which I think can be named with two completely equivalent terms, "block universe" and "eternalism". Since both terms are used, it is correct to say the view he describes is "sometimes" known as the block universe perspective, and "sometimes" known as eternalism.

Hypnosifl (21:59, 30 July 2012 (UTC)), — (continues after insertion below.)

I'm not the only user who objects to your attempt to equate eternalism and "block universe" in an unqualified sense. Carroll does not say ‘the view he describes is "sometimes" known as the block universe perspective, and "sometimes" known as eternalism’. He says he's been describing eternalism, which is sometimes called "block time" or the "block universe" perspective. You're being WP:TENDENTIOUS.—Machine Elf 1735 07:39, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Do you deny that two of the sources I quoted say the block universe is "also known as" eternalism, with the terms both included in the same sentence? Why are you insistent on replacing my "also known as" version with "sometimes known as", is it not because of a belief that "block universe" sometimes means something different from "eternalism"? (and why is your consistent reversion of my "also known as" edit not tendentious?) Carroll's words don't clearly suggest anything of that sort, they appear consistent with the possibility that he would regard the terms as having the same meaning, as with my Moon/Luna analogy. Hypnosifl (talk) 08:51, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Still misrepresenting what I "deny"... see below. I'm not the only user who had a problem with changing "sometimes called" to "also known as". It's WP:TENDENTIOUS to claim "Carroll's words don't clearly suggest anything of the sort..." absent any mention of Moon/Luna, etc. etc. etc.—Machine Elf 1735 14:25, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
It's "tendentious" to say that Carroll's words don't suggest he thinks "'block universe' sometimes means something different from 'eternalism'"? Even though he never points to any difference whatsoever between the terms? Or are you referring to something different when you called my statement "tendentious"? Hypnosifl (talk) 16:56, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Minkowski appears in two cites you added, and it's apparent you need to pay more attention to your sources.
I included Peterson/Silberstein specifically for the Minkowski reference (to show that Minkowski's mathematical treatment of space and time and a single four-dimensional manifold is an inspiration for some modern eternalists, perhaps somewhat distinct from the relativity of simultaneity issue), but nowhere do they suggest that the basic definition of "block universe" as understood by philosophers involves anything more than the idea of all times being equally real, or that there is any difference in meaning between the terms--see the sentence Thus arose the notion of a 4D “blockworld” (BW) in which the past, present, and future are all equally real. This view is called eternalism... As for Dowden, he gives a succinct definition of "block time" in the first sentence, then goes on to talk about where the name derives from: Block universe theory: Metaphysical theory that implies all of the past, present, and future is real. The name derives from the fact that a Minkowski diagram would represent events as points in a block if space and time were to be finite in all directions. Also called "eternalism." Do you really think the second sentence is meant to be part of the definition, even though he specifically says he's talking about the derivation of the name? When he says a Minkowski diagram would represent spacetime as a block if space and time were finite, for instance, it's pretty obvious that this hypothetical assumption is just to make things easier to visualize, actual Minkowski spacetime in special relativity is usually assumed to be infinite in spatial and temporal extent. Hypnosifl (talk) 14:13, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

Hypnosifl (21:59, 30 July 2012 (UTC)), — (continues after insertion below.)

Again, you're arguing against claims I don't make... For whatever reason, you WP:DONTLIKE Dowden's second sentence, which you seem to be arguing against based on pseudo-etymological WP:OR, because you were ‘just googling for sources that equate eternalism with the block universe, that's really the only aspect of the sources [you] paid attention to’. And yet, splitting hairs, you WP:TENDENTIOUSLY misrepresent the dispute: ‘If you can find a source written by a philosopher that clearly says that concepts such as Minkowski diagrams are part of the definition of block time I would have no problem with an edit saying that some philophers define "block universe" solely in terms of all times being equally real, while others define it in terms of Minkowski diagrams or whatnot’.—Machine Elf 1735 07:39, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Why do you think I "don't like" Dowden's second sentence? I like it just fine, I just don't think it has anything to do with how he defines the term "block universe". It's not OR to read that sentence as not being part of the definition, any more than it's OR to say that it is part of the definition--he doesn't clearly specify "this is part of the definition" or "this isn't part of the definition" (although I would say he comes close to the latter in saying "The name derives from the fact..."). And if you think I am "misrepresenting the dispute", again I think it's reasonable to ask that you politely specify what specifically I am misunderstanding, and what specifically are your reasons for insisting on repeatedly reverting my "also known as" version which directly reflects the wording of the sources. As it says on Wikipedia:Etiquette, "Do not ignore reasonable questions." Hypnosifl (talk) 08:51, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Albeit a freak coincidence that it just so happens to appear in his glossary immediately following the sentence you call his "definition"? How is it not WP:OR to exclude part of the paragraph? How is not a straw man to claim the part you like best is the "definition" because ‘he doesn't clearly specify "this is part of the definition" or "this isn't part of the definition"...’ In fact, he doesn't say anything about a "definition" does he? "The name derives from the fact..." is not even remotely similar to "this isn't part of the definition". I'm being only too polite, too indulgent, of this non-stop WP:TENDENTIOUS nonsense. Yes, you invariably misrepresent the issue: you want to change the sourced statement "sometimes called" for the more ambiguous "also known as". No one disagrees eternalism is "also known as"... and apparently no one except you disagrees that it's "sometimes called". It was far less disingenuous when you owned up to your WP:OR outright: ‘I suppose as long as you don't plan to edit the statements in the opening paragraph of Eternalism_(philosophy_of_time) saying that eternalism is synonymous with the 4D block universe view, then your opinion on this issue doesn't have any further relevance to editing, so in that case I'm happy to drop it.’Machine Elf 1735 14:07, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
I didn't "exclude" anything, I included the full quote in the citation. I just don't draw the conclusions that you seem to do. And I asked if I had misrepresented your position or your reasons for wanting to replace "also known as" with "sometimes known as", it's changing the subject now to start talking about how I am "misrepresenting" what the references say. If you think I am misrepresenting your positions/views/reasons for reverting "also known as", as you have accused me of doing in several comments ("It's a real pity you can't hold a discussion without making up some nonsense and claiming that's what I believe", "Still misrepresenting what I 'deny'...", and "Again, you're arguing against claims I don't make..."), then please explain precisely what this misrepresentation consists of. Along these lines, please look over my original attempt at a synopsis of the debate for the Wikipedia:Request for comment, which I deleted after the accusations I was misrepresenting you, and tell me if you think the synopsis misrepresents your position, and if so how: Summary of comment request: Question about the metaphysical view known as Eternalism (philosophy of time), namely, whether the given sources justify the statement "Eternalism, defined as the view that there are no ontological differences between past, present and future, is also known as the "block universe" theory", or whether this should be changed to a weaker statement that eternalism is only "sometimes known as" the block universe theory, because of the possibility that some philosophers define the meaning of the term "eternalism" differently from the meaning of the term "block universe".
In fact, he doesn't say anything about a "definition" does he?
No, but the quote is from a glossary, so I think it's obvious from the context that at least some part of the words after "block universe" are going to be an attempt to define the term. However, there is nothing unusual about including some additional information beyond the definition in a glossary entry, and "The name derives from the fact..." certainly suggests he has transitioned into talking about the eymology of the term rather than the definition. There is also the additional argument I made above for not considering the second sentence to be part of the definition, which you didn't respond to: he says "The name derives from the fact that a Minkowski diagram would represent events as points in a block if space and time were to be finite in all directions", but although Minkowski diagrams do show chunks of spacetime of finite spatial and temporal extend as a diagrammatic convention, the actual theory of special relativity normally assumes that the space and time dimensions are infinite. So, it would be very strange indeed if space and time being finite in all directions was part of the definition of a "block universe", in spite of the fact that this finiteness is purely a convention of the diagrams and not part of the underlying physical theory. Do you in fact think Dowden intended it to be part of his definition of "block universe" that space and time are "finite in all directions"?
In any case, although I present these arguments to you and any other patient readers here on the talk page, they aren't really relevant to the question of whether Dowden counts as a good cite for my "also known as" edit; regardless of which part of the glossary entry is or isn't part of the definition of "block universe", at the end he writes "Also called 'eternalism'", which is all that's needed for it to be a good cite for the "also known as". You might make the argument that if Minkowski is part of the definition of block time, and if some modern philosophers do refer to pre-Minkowski philosophers as "eternalists", then those same modern philosophers could not also refer the pre-Minkowski philosophers as advocates of the "block universe", suggesting a difference in meaning between the two terms. But if you did make this argument, it would be an original synthesis of sources (Dowden's definition, and some other philosopher's calling a pre-Minkowski philosopher an "eternalist"), so not a good reason to edit the article without a single source explicitly saying that there are some ancient philosophers who could be called "eternalists" but who could not be called advocates of the "block universe" view. Hypnosifl (talk) 16:56, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Just because you say it ad nauseum, doesn't make it so.—Machine Elf 1735 17:54, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Which part of my comments does "say it" refer to? I would like you to actually explain which points you disagree with, rather than just tell me I'm wrong about everything. For example, do you agree that the spacetime of SR is generally assumed to be infinite in all directions, and that when Dowden referred to time and space being a finite "block" he was just referring to a diagrammatic convention? If you agree with that, then do you agree that this fact makes it seem less likely that Dowden's comments about space and time being finite were meant to be part of the definition of "block universe"? Do you agree that neither Dowden nor any of the other sources points to any specific difference in the meaning of "block universe" and "eternalism"? If you disagree with any of these, can you explain your reasons? Hypnosifl (talk) 18:24, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Oh, and I want to respond to this as well:
Yes, you invariably misrepresent the issue: you want to change the sourced statement "sometimes called" for the more ambiguous "also known as". No one disagrees eternalism is "also known as"... and apparently no one except you disagrees that it's "sometimes called".
This still does not explain a sense in which I have misrepresented your views specifically. If you don't disagree it's "also known as", then why are you making a huge deal of preventing my attempts to edit it to read that way? Of course my reason for wanting to make that edit has to do with my understanding of the meaning of the quoted statements--I think any reasonable parsing of a statement by a professional philosopher like 'This view is called “the block universe theory” or “eternalism"' is going to conclude that he means that both formal terms refer to exactly the same "view", and thus the two terms have the same technical meaning in philosophy. But I tried to accommodate your quibble with my statement that the terms are regarded as "synonymous" by not explicitly stating this in my later edits, instead just using "Eternalism ... also known as ... block universe" because A) near-identical wording was used by two of the cites, and B) I figured this would be more likely to suggest to readers that the terms could be synonymous (they could then look at the exact wording of the sources if they were wondering about it, and draw their own conclusions), whereas "sometimes called" is likely to suggest a more ambiguous relationship between the terms. And I took your resistance to this edit to have something to do with your belief that the terms don't always have the same meaning (as indicated by your specific argument that it might be reasonable to call some ancient philosophers "eternalists" but it would be anachronistic to call them advocates of the "block universe"). Is this misrepresenting your reasons for resisting my "also known as" edit, and if so how? Also, if it's a misrepresentation of your reasons, then what is your reason for resisting it so strongly? Hypnosifl (talk) 18:27, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Same old saw, it's not about me.—Machine Elf 1735 19:45, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Since the dispute is between us, I think it is important that we at least have a good understanding of each other's respective positions and reasons for continuing the dispute, even if we continue to disagree about them. So I think it's pretty reasonable to ask you to specify what specific claims you are referring to when you say I misrepresent you--as I keep pointing out in various places, Wikipedia:Etiquette does list as a basic principle "Do not ignore reasonable questions."
And sure, HistoryBuff14 doesn't think "eternalism" and "block universe" are synonymous, but one other person isn't a consensus, and from our discussion it seems HistoryBuff14 was going on imprecise memories and didn't have a reliable source handy for the claim that they differ in meaning. Also, HistoryBuff14 didn't comment on whether he/she disagreed with me that the sources I provided indicated by their words that they treated the terms as interchangeable, or whether he/she agreed about that but just thought those sources were incorrect. I'd be happy to discuss these issues further with HistoryBuff14 here on the talk page, if desired. Hypnosifl (talk) 19:59, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Also, until the dispute resolution is finished (or until others have weighed in here and some sort of consensus is formed), I think it would be better to revert the opening paragraph to the earlier version before this series of back-and-forth edits (BTW, sorry about reverting the additional material you added on Popper in my most recent edit on Friday, I didn't realize you had edited a later section as well as the opening paragraph). Would this be acceptable as a temporary solution? Hypnosifl (talk) 21:59, 30 July 2012 (UTC)

Hypnosifl (21:59, 30 July 2012 (UTC)), — (continues after insertion below.)

3 reverts in 6 hours demonstrate the question as to the acceptability of your "temporary solution", was purely rhetorical.—Machine Elf 1735 07:39, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
The first change was not a "revert" but just implementing the suggestion about the lede after over 22 hours had passed since I had suggested it on the talk page. The second was done after you had said I don't have a problem with rolling back the lede to the point just prior to your first edit if there's a consensus for it", which I thought constituted agreement to that part even if you wanted to revert my other changes to other parts of the article. The third was again based on my assumption that your reason for reverting my changes had to do with the changes I had made to other parts of the article, not to "rolling back the lede" which I thought you had agreed to (and you didn't mention a problem with the lede specifically in either of your edit notes). You often seem to assume the worst about my motives--please, assume good faith. Hypnosifl (talk) 08:51, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Please do not implement your POV (see below) while dispute resolution is pending and please do not conflate unrelated edits with those efforts.—Machine Elf 1735 23:02, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
Actually, I don't have a problem with rolling back the lede to the point just prior to your first edit if there's a consensus for it, but the cites you've added do argue strongly against your POV so I'm not surprised you're amenable to having all your efforts undone. However, please don't take the opportunity edit unrelated areas as it confuses the issue considerably.—Machine Elf 1735 23:11, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
My proposal to roll back the lede was obviously meant as a compromise to avoid continued back-and-forth reversions until the dispute is resolved and some consensus is formed. I continue to think the sources I added clearly indicate the authors treat "eternalism" and "block universe" as having the same meaning, and I think it would be helpful if you would continue the discussion by responding to my last extended response above (particularly the question of whether you understand the distinction between the origin of the name block time and its understood meaning for philosophers), but if you don't want to do that I suppose we'll just have to wait for others to weigh in. I don't see a problem with editing unrelated sections if the edits have nothing to do with the definitions of eternalism vs. block universe (the subject of our dispute), the changes to other sections (changes shown here) were just adding some historical information about pre-McTaggart views that are sometimes argued to anticipate the idea of all times having the same ontological status (though they are all somewhat ambiguous on this score), along with information on how different philosophers disagree about whether relativity clearly rules out presentism. As I pointed out in an edit note, you also made a significant edit that wasn't directly related to our dispute, namely the addition of the Popper quote about Einstein--I didn't have a problem with that, I don't see why you should have a problem with these edits of mine. All my additional edits are supported by references, please don't revert them reflexively but rather explain what specifically you think is incorrect, controversial, or not adequately supported by the references. Hypnosifl (talk) 23:39, 31 July 2012 (UTC)
I'll repeat myself: "I don't have a problem with rolling back the lede to the point just prior to your first edit if there's a consensus for it". The sources you added argue strongly against your position, as I've indicated. Wikipedia:Dispute_resolution_noticeboard#Eternalism_.28philosophy_of_time.29.2C_Talk:Four-dimensionalism Dispute resolution is currently on-hold, so no, it would not be helpful to entertain your response/question of "whether [I] understand the distinction between the origin of the name block time and its understood meaning for philosophers", (apparently, you're merely questioning whether I even understand it...)—Machine Elf 1735 00:10, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
I think a better understanding of what the other person is actually arguing is always helpful in a situation like this, even if we are not making arguments to convince the people reading the dispute resolution board, but if you'd prefer to hold off on all further discussion that's fine too. Apologies if I was unclear, but by "understand" I intended to get at the question of whether you agree this is a meaningful distinction, so that you'd agree it's at least conceivable that the meaning of "block universe" might have nothing to do with Minkowski diagrams even if the name was inspired by them (agreeing this is a priori conceivable wouldn't mean agreeing that it's actually true in reality, of course, but if you were to agree that it's conceivable, we could then discuss whether the comments of Dowden and others about Minkowski diagrams fit with the interpretation that they are talking purely about the origin of the name and not about the definition of the term). Hypnosifl (talk) 00:30, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
Edit warring with misleading edit summaries.—Machine Elf 1735 00:39, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
How is that misleading? You said above you didn't have a problem with rolling back the lede to a version before our dispute began, but then in your most recent edit you changed the lede back to your own version which I disagree with, so in my most recent edit I changed that back and commented that you hadn't given a justification for changing the lede from the pre-dispute version to your own version. Hypnosifl (talk) 00:53, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
You don't see how your edit summary is misleading? "no justification for restoring your version of the lede from the pre-dispute version"... I provided justification 1) in both of my edit summaries,[5][6] 2) on this page,[7] 3) at the dispute resolution page,[8] and 4) on the request for page protection.[9] You may not think it's sufficient justification, but it's misleading to revert a third time claiming "no justification" as if I haven't said a word. In regard to your misleading claim here, I've never said I don't have a problem with your unilateral "temporary" solution, I said I wouldn't have a problem with rolling back the lede if there were a consensus to do so... Frankly, calling it "my OWN version" is a laugh, as it's merely an attempt to incorporate your cites, and where verifiable, your changes to the article text. Again, I'm really not surprised you want to remove your cites, as they don't support your position. I added the direct quote from Popper (which would actually support your position, unless it's taken tongue-in-cheek), prior to your participation in dispute resolution and unlike your recent changes, it was not added simultaneously with a unilateral change to the lede. Very simply, I asked you not to "make changes while the dispute resolution has been put on hold", and you've repeatedly refused to comply. At dispute resolution, you've even gone so far as to claim you don't see how 3 reverts in less than 6 hours based solely on your unilateral "temporary" solution could be construed as edit warring.[10][11][12]. Anyway, thanks for the backhanded acknowledgement that “The so-called '"It [eternalism] is sometimes known as block time" edit' was preexisting text and your bold subsequent edit has been challenged, see WP:BRD.”... please see WP:BRD.—Machine Elf 1735 05:27, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
OK, this question of whether I am "edit warring" and whether my edit summaries are misleading doesn't really have much to do with the content of the article, so to avoid derailing the discussion of content-related issues here, I've put my response over at the bottom of Wikipedia:Dispute resolution noticeboard/Archive 40#Eternalism (philosophy of time), Talk:Four-dimensionalism. Hypnosifl (talk) 07:25, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
WP:FORUMSHOPMachine Elf 1735 07:39, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
The comment at the "forum shopping" link is "Raising essentially the same issue on multiple noticeboards, or to multiple administrators, is unhelpful." I am trying to avoid getting into a detailed discussion about your accusations of edit warring and misleading edit summaries on multiple boards--and it was you who copy-and-pasted exactly the same comment above to both this board and also to the dispute resolution noticeboard, I just decided it was better to respond to your accusations there where the discussion would be less off-topic than it is here. Hypnosifl (talk) 09:20, 1 August 2012 (UTC)
No, not exactly the same, but at least I'm consistent. What's that you're saying about off-topic?—Machine Elf 1735 13:15, 1 August 2012 (UTC)

Changes[edit]

Could do with some discussion of Julian Barbours theories, and relation to multiverses. Note that there is a logical independence between the claims:

  1. All moments of time exist on the same footing
  2. Time is a space-like dimension, and there is a single unambiguous past and present for each moment

within it. Barbour accepts the first but not the second. This in turn illustrates a shade of difference between older (eg paremidean) philosophical eternalism (1) and block theory (1 & 2). 18:07, 4 August 2012 (UTC)

Could you expand on what you mean by the 'same footing'? I had a glance at Barbour's wiki page but it didn't seem to describe any coherent mechanism for time. He seems to deny change exists yet he claims there are different 'nows' that we experience. How could that possible be? LegendLength (talk) 04:46, 15 September 2012 (UTC)

Inconsistency in: Apparent differences between past, present and future[edit]

There exists inconsistency in the following sections under the heading:

Apparent differences between past, present and future


   * We apparently fear death because we believe that we will no longer exist after we die. But if Eternalism is correct, death is just one of our temporal borders, and should be no more worrisome than birth.
   * You are about to go to the dentist, or you have already been. Commonsense says you should prefer to have been. But if Eternalism is correct, it shouldn't matter which situation you're in.
   * When some unpleasant experience is behind us, we feel glad that it is over. But if the Eternalism is correct, there is no such property as being over or no longer happening now—it continues to exist timelessly.

...

These preceding sections make statements which are in obvious conflict. People generally fear death (for themselves of a loved one). Most people probably consider the death of a loved one (and perhaps also the prospect of their own death) to be an unpleasant experience. I doubt however that most people would rather their close relatives go ahead and die, so they can be glad that it is over. Equally dubious is the idea that when someone looses loved ones, they are happy they have died so they don't have to experience them dying in the future. . Perhaps someone will address this conflict? 70.185.109.98 (talk) 08:51, 20 January 2013 (UTC) BGriffin

I think all 3 should be removed because they ignore the fact that humans still have systems of consciousness in a block universe. They are not simply robots they have all of the normal emotions, fears etc. as a normal universe. LegendLength (talk) 08:22, 26 March 2013 (UTC)