Talk:Eternalism (philosophy of time)

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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)


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 loses 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? (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)
Regardless of any other issues, these examples do not hold for all humans (especially the first one regarding death); therefore, they are not factual. Also, they are not written in the preferred Wikipedia style (e.g. they contain weasel words). While these may not need to be removed, they should certainly be improved.Mousenight (talk) 22:30, 15 October 2015 (UTC)

McTaggart's argument[edit]

Since this sub-section covers the origin of the A- and B-Theories associated with this subject, perhaps it should be mentioned sooner in the article so that readers get accustomed with the idea of the different theories before they read about the arguments for and against that are currently found in previous sub-sections (i.e. Simultaneity, Time as object or environment). Mousenight (talk) 22:12, 15 October 2015 (UTC)

1908, or 1895 (or earlier)? -- a simple question[edit]

   I vividly recall sitting on the stoop of a little-used external door of my junior-high during the lunch break, reading early pages of "The Time Machine" from a thick volume of H. G. Wells's long short stories. The 1st-person character makes the argument that time is just another dimension (except that in some bizarre sense there's no means of controlling our motion -- whatever that means -- in that 4th dimension). The story was published in 1895, so i'd like for us to be more explicit about what (besides "seriousness") lacked in Wells's argument -- BTW more than likely not simply his own concoction -- (and for that matter in AE's 1905 relativity paper) that was present in the 1908 also-ran's paper).
--Jerzyt 14:57, 21 July 2016 (UTC)

Free Will and Many Worlds B-Theory[edit]

How is it that free will is salvaged by the many worlds interpretation? The interpretation is no less deterministic than a single world one. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:39, 15 August 2016 (UTC)