Time and Thermodynamics

There is something about the articles that Ethan Siegel writes for Forbes that don’t grab me. It might be that I’m not in the target demographic — he often writes about stuff I explored long ago. I keep an eye on him, though, because sometimes he comes up with a taste treat for me.

Such as his article today, No, Thermodynamics Does Not Explain Our Perceived Arrow Of Time. I jumped on it because the title declares something I think many have backwards: the idea that time arises from entropy or change. Quite to the contrary, I think entropy and change are consequences of time (plus physics).

Siegel makes an interesting argument I hadn’t considered before.

His argument isn’t quite as bullet-proof as he seems to think it is, but it’s pretty good, and I think it gives serious weight to the idea that time is fundamental.

Which is something I believe to be true.

Immanuel Kant thought time was a fundamental intuition underlying our perceptions, and it’s certainly true that we can’t think without implying time. The notions of now, before, and after, wind through our most basic thinking.

I think this speaks to the fundamental nature of time. It’s a fundamental intuition because it’s a fundamental property of reality.

§

Siegel starts with Maxwell’s Demon — essentially the idea that a system can be driven to a lower entropy by an external agent.

If entropy makes the temperature of a room even out, then a Thermodynamic Demon can use its powers to confine warmer air to one side of the room and cooler air to the other. But it’s been shown that the Demon expends energy doing this, so the total entropy of the system increases (as required by the Second Law of Thermodynamics).

Siegel points out that, if you live in the room, and don’t know about the Demon, from your point of view, entropy decreases.

But time still passes for you!

Therefore, the argument goes, entropy clearly does not produce time.

The counter-argument might be that, because the total entropy of the system increases, time emerges (from that entropy) and applies to the whole system, including the inner low-entropy one.

With regard to the universe, since its total entropy is increasing, time in the universe emerges from that and applies to all sub-systems.

The weakness in the counter-argument might be that, if time really does emerge from entropy, shouldn’t there be some difference in how time works in the low-entropy environment?

Why does the total system govern all time within the system? This seems to imply the overall system “drags” any subsystems along with it and that only the total entropy matters.

Any of this could be true, but it seems simpler to take time as axiomatic and fundamental.

§

Siegel also mentions classic examples of entropy in action, the scrambled egg, the coffee and cream, the hot drink and ice cube, and points out that, even if you apply the right forces to reverse these, time still runs forward for you.

You can’t make time go backwards by reversing entropy.

Whether it’s the beginning of the universe, when entropy was astonishingly low, or the distant future, when entropy is high, time still ticks by for every observer at the same rate: one second per second.

For me, that’s always been a key argument. Time may be relative between observers (and so what), but time is always the same for any observer.

It ticks past at one second per second. Always. For everyone.

To me, that’s pretty fundamental.

§

Of course, one can still insist that entropy overall increases and therefore time emerges from that.

Time is one of those great mysteries — one of those things we all experience but which we don’t really understand what the heck it is.

But I think Kant was right, and I think Siegel has a point.

How about you?

Stay thermodynamic, my friends!

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

59 responses to “Time and Thermodynamics

  • Wyrd Smythe

    As an aside, given that humans have only been using instruments for a brief time in the 13.8 billion years so far (let alone the future), we’re not absolutely, positively, certainly sure that time ticked at the same rate in the early universe or will in the distant future.

    It’s a key assumption about physics, though. Our understanding of events in the history of the universe is based on that assumption.

  • James Cross

    How can time be real if only the present exists?

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    I’ve fallen out of the habit of checking Siegel’s feed. I agree he spends a lot of time on basic stuff. And I hate looking at the Forbes version of his site.

    I’m open to the possibility of time being emergent from something, but I agree entropy seems like a poor candidate. I think Siegel makes a good point. In regions where entropy is being lowered, why doesn’t time reverse itself?

    If the answer is that the total entropy of the universe is what’s important, then that seems to violate locality (Some might be fine with this given most interpretations of quantum physics, but I don’t think locality should be tossed aside without good reasons.)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “And I hate looking at the Forbes version of his site.”

      Yeah, most magazine sites are a bit hard to take. It gets really offended that I have an ad-blocker, but the reason for the ad-blocker is that your ads are so damn obnoxious in the first place.

      I get the Siegel articles in my (Google) newsfeed, and they’re a lot easier to take there.

      (Even this article involved a lot of basic stuff. Three-quarters of it is foundation for his point.)

      “I don’t think locality should be tossed aside without good reasons.”

      At the very least a counter-argument has to account for why local entropy apparently has no effect.

      Contrast that with how, in Earth’s gravity well, an elevation change of just one foot creates a difference in time flow (relative to a fixed observer) that we can measure with the latest clocks.

      If time is that sensitive to local acceleration, and if it emerges from entropy, you’d think there would be an effect we would have noticed by now.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I find the Forbes site particularly obnoxious. uBlock Origin apparently manages to get around its ad block detection, but the site still manages to sneak a floating autoplay video in (admittedly silent, but still). And the block count steadily climbs as I read through the article.

        Just out of curiosity, when you say “(Google) newsfeed”, what do you mean? I used the old Google Reader until it was killed and, after briefly trying to make Feedly work, have been using Inoreader more or less since then. But I also read the Google News site, which occasionally coughs up Forbes articles.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, the Forbes site is extra obnoxious, isn’t it. Many of them aren’t quite that bad. (You know what tends to be really bad? Websites for local TV stations. More ads than content oftentimes.)

        I have the Google News app on my iPad and iPhone. I expect it’s a lot like the Google News site, but it’s a little more seamless maybe? Does have ads in the news articles, but not in the feed itself, which is nice. Some providers are worse than others. Some allow an ad every few paragraphs. Some put them all at the end. A few have only a handful or none. One learns to avoid content from the more obnoxious providers.

        Oddly, I’ve tried and deleted the Google app — the one for searching. It also has a feed on the main page, which I find distracting and unwelcome. I always use a web browser to search Google (or Bing or DuckDuckGo).

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        What’s also getting prevalent is sites becoming more aggressive about requiring subscriptions. It’s becoming very common for them to limit you to 3-4 free articles a month without subscribing. Those mechanisms are trivial to overcome, but they are bothersome. Although given the economic realities, I suppose it’s inevitable.

        On the one hand, if subscriptions pare down the obnoxious ads, it might be a beneficial change. Although that’s not a given. Paper magazines made you pay, and still had an ad on every other page.

        And it’s going to severely limit my sources of information, since I won’t subscribe to more than a handful of those sites. (Those local TV stations and papers, except possibly the ones local to me, can definitely forget about it.) But even that won’t happen while free alternatives remain.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Ah, ugh, the notion of subscriptions. One of those two-edged swords…

        “…it’s going to severely limit my sources of information, since I won’t subscribe to more than a handful of those sites.”

        I think that’s the heart of the problem.

        Back in 2016 I thought about subscribing to the Washington Post, but it’s kind of pricey, and it’s just one content provider. If there’s anything I value about a newsfeed, it’s seeing content from multiple sources.

        There are models where a multi-source feed might require a few cents to read a given story (and some might be free). I would favor such an ondemand model.

        But, as you say, why pay at all if there are reasonable sources that are free. And I’m fine with ads mixed in if they aren’t obnoxious and don’t take over.

        That’s the thing about ads in print media — they aren’t animated, let alone videos, and they can’t contain malware, take you to bad sites, or even do endless pop-ups.

        (Advertising is one of those things I don’t understand why we put up with it. Or, rather, why we put up with what it’s become, although it always had an element of subtle lying built in — trying to get me to buy something I neither need nor want. If I were Dictator of the USA, I’d ban most advertising and confine it to something like Yellow Pages and Consumer Reports. If people want something, they can look for it easily online. That’s where the pitch should be made — to those who actually have an interest. Why must I be constantly be bombarded about stuff I have no interest in? It just makes me hostile towards those advertisers. There’s a reason I pay Hulu extra to be ad-free!)

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Similar to your consideration of the Washington Post, I’ve thought about subscribing to the New York Times. But I don’t consistently read their stuff enough, and they’re far too pricey.

        I agree micro-purchases, or some kind of other ala-carte system would be nice. But publishers want that guaranteed revenue stream. (It’s the same thing with all these TV streaming services popping up.) The problem is I don’t want pay dozens of subscriptions.

        The other nice thing about print-ads was that they don’t consumer your CPU or bandwidth. The invasive nature of web ads, coupled with their over the top resource requirements, makes the web unusable. I still see them when I surf on my iPad with the browser embedded in the Inoreader or Twitter app, and am always astounded with the experience. I don’t know how people put up with it.

        I’m with you on paying extra to Hulu for the ad-free version.

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    Time is a relative term which only has meaning in the context of change. And that change is a continuum, at least within the confines of our own universe. In our own relationship with that continuum of change, time is a unit by which we can measure a duration of change. So it could be stated, that without the continuum of change, there would be no need for time, or more explicitly stated; time would not exist. Or does it?

    In contrast, time could be the venue, a venue which is required for the continuum of change itself? According to Spinoza’s God, time would have to come first in hierarchy in order for change of any kind to take place. In conclusion, it could be stated that the very notion of change requires a venue. Or does it?

    Peace

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “In our own relationship with that continuum of change, time is a unit by which we can measure a duration of change.”

      Indeed. A remarkable thing about that change is its regularity. The behaviors of atoms and chemical reactions, for example, always proceed at the same pace for any local observer. We define the second as 9,192,631,770 cycles of a certain kind of cesium atom in a certain kind of state.

      Given that all spacetime experiences quantum fluctuations, all of space experiences change, so it’s hard to say what changelessness would involve. The closest we can come now would be certain (vast) regions of space with a minimum of (hydrogen) atoms all in thermal equilibrium. Such a region comes as close as possible to changeless — it’s certainly got extremely high entropy and that entropy doesn’t change. Does time exist there? (I would say yes.)

      As you go on to say:

      “In contrast, time could be the venue,…”

      Exactly. And I, too, think it’s first in the hierarchy. Change is a consequence of time (plus physics). Entropy is, likewise, a consequence.

      One example: If the Big Bang “happened” doesn’t that imply time already existed in order for there to be a lawful context in which something like a Big Bang (one whopper of a change) can occur?

      “In conclusion, it could be stated that the very notion of change requires a venue.”

      Such is my belief, anyway. I find the notion that change could somehow be primary, and time secondary, incoherent.

      But maybe that’s just me. 😉

      • James Cross

        “so it’s hard to say what changelessness would involve”

        If the past is real (I’m not sure it is), then it would be changeless, wouldn’t it?

        What about the future? Do we know?

        Does each future lead to only one past? If so, wouldn’t it be changeless?

        If each future could have multiple pasts, then wouldn’t each present also be able to have multiple pasts?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “If the past is real (I’m not sure it is), then it would be changeless, wouldn’t it?”

        I think Lee’s question below is one good approach. Whatever your cosmology, it can’t be turtles all the way down — something has to be axiomatic. If not time, what’s at the top of your hierarchy?

        Another thing: What do you mean by “real”? And why do you doubt the reality of the past? (Given, as I said above, we see it written in the present. How do you explain star light?)

        Are unicorns real? If you understood what I was asking about (unicorns), they must have some sort of reality. If I refer to the past, and that’s a coherent notion you understand, then doesn’t it have at least unicorn-level reality? (Even more, perhaps, given we can both see shared effects of that past.)

        What more is required for you to call it real?

        Also, for a notion of “changeless” to be meaningful, something needs to be capable of change. In systems characterized by change (“The only thing that never changes is that everything changes.”), the idea they could be unchanging is significant.

        But we tend to attribute the past, by definition, as unchanging. Our basic notions of “has happened” and “will happen” encode that.

        So, really, my answer to your question is: Yes the past is real, and yes it is unchanging. 🙂

        “Does each future lead to only one past? If so, wouldn’t it be changeless?”

        Some do believe that, but I think the modern view falsifies it. Wave-function collapse adds a random element to reality. (I also suspect brains might be non-deterministic.)

        The present does have multiple potential pasts. Consider a glass of water at room temperature. In the past, was it: [A] a glass of ice cubes that melted; [B] a glass of boiling water that has cooled; [C] a glass of room-temp water poured from a pitcher of room-temp water; [D] none of the above.

        The glass could have a variety of pasts. A particular glass happens to have only one.

      • James Cross

        I don’t know. It might be turtles all the way down. Maybe turtles are fundamental.

        If unicorns were real, somebody could produce an actual unicorn. The past is different because we can’t summon up the past on demand and, in fact, can completely disagreed about what happened. Think of multiple witnesses to a crime.

        I think there could be multiple pasts but I am not sure your example makes the case. The glass of water at room temperature might have had any of those pasts but didn’t it actually only have one of them? For example, either ice cubes melted, boiling water cooled, etc could result in the room temperature water glass but in the particular past of the particular glass it would only be one.

        There is another more subtle problem. Since everything in the world is subject to change then even the records of the past, which are all we know of the past, are subject to change. The records we have in the present of some event 200 years ago could be different from the same records people had 100 years ago of the same event 100 years previously. There is nothing to prevent a drift in information in records from constantly redefining the past.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “Maybe turtles are fundamental.”

        If you believe that’s possible, then you take infinite turtles as axiomatic. The point is, there is always something axiomatic in a cosmology. The question both Lee and I have presented you with is: What do you think is axiomatic (if you disagree time is).

        “If unicorns were real, somebody could produce an actual unicorn.”

        So by “real” you require physical existence? Ideas are not real? Math is not real? How do you define “real”?

        “Think of multiple witnesses to a crime.”

        It certainly speaks to human memory and perception. Are you claiming their accounts are all of valid pasts? Or did one set of events happen that people remember inaccurately? Below you argue the glass of water only had one history (which is true). How does it affect that history if someone reports it incorrectly?

        “…didn’t [the glass of water] actually only have one [past]?”

        Well, yes, as I said. So what did you mean by multiple pasts? Literal multiple pasts for a single moment in spacetime? How would you figure that would be possible?

        “There is nothing to prevent a drift in information in records from constantly redefining the past.”

        You’re speaking again of our knowledge of the past. What does that knowledge have to do with the actual past?

      • James Cross

        “Are you claiming their accounts are all of valid pasts?”

        Yes. All we know of the past is from records. If there are conflicting records, there are conflicting pasts.

        “Multiple pasts”.

        Multiple pasts would be that the present room temperature water glass developed from boiling water cooling and ice cubs melting.

        ” What does that knowledge have to do with the actual past?”

        What is the difference if the past only exists in records.

      • James Cross

        Paradoxes similar to this are not questioned in the framework of QM. I don’t think we should expect the past to be any more definite than the future even though it appears to be so because of records. Records change. Some are lost; some are gained. They are stories about the past.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “All we know of the past is from records. If there are conflicting records, there are conflicting pasts.”

        All I can say, James, is that we believe in very different realities. And it seems in conflict with what you say about the glass of water having just one past.

        “What is the difference if the past only exists in records.”

        Yeah, you and I believe in quite different realities.

        Let me ask again: How do you explain starlight?

        “Paradoxes similar to this are not questioned in the framework of QM.”

        How do you mean? Conservation of Information is a tenant of QM.

      • James Cross

        You made this statement:

        “Given how the past is written in the present, why would you claim the past doesn’t exist?”

        Do you think there is an “actual” past apart from the records we have in the present? Do have some other evidence that the past is real besides what is written in the present?

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “Do you think there is an ‘actual’ past apart from the records we have in the present?”

        What do you mean by “actual”? How did those records get into the state they did?

        “Do have some other evidence that the past is real besides what is written in the present?”

        How else would I account for it?

        There’s a tree in my front yard. It has a past from a seed or seedling. If the past isn’t real, how do you suggest it got there?

        You haven’t answered my question: How do you account for starlight?

      • James Cross

        Actual” was your term when you wrote:

        “What does that knowledge have to do with the actual past?”

        You seem to think there is some reality in itself that is apart from our knowledge of it. If there is, there is no way for us to know it.

        “Not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, it is stranger than we can imagine.”

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “You seem to think there is some reality in itself that is apart from our knowledge of it.”

        I’ve been very clear that I’m a Realist, and that’s exactly what Realism means. Of course, there is reality apart from our knowledge of it.

        (To be blunt, I find the egoism of Idealism rather repellent. The arrogance of thinking reality only applies to what we know or think blows my mind. The idea that the 13.8 billion year history of the universe, or the many billions of light years it spans, isn’t “real” because they don’t contain us is, to me, a form of lunacy.)

        My question at this point is why you keep dodging my questions. I have explained my views (or at least tried to). When are you going to step up to the plate and show us what you’ve got?

        BTW, the quote due to J.B.S. Haldane is:

        I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.

        It seems something of a non sequitur here given that any cosmology is ultimately queer. It certainly has no power as an argument.

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    That’s the problem James. The notion of past, present and future are all abstract intellectual constructions which we create in our attempt to understand and give meaning to the reality of a continuum and our place within that continuum.

    In closing: All things, whether it be the notion of law itself, the ideology of idealism, materialism and/or theism; all things are reducible to just one (1) thing. Therefore, that one (1) thing comes first in hierarchy. The compelling question then becomes” What comes first in hierarchy, and what is one thing that is capable of accommodating every-thing?

    Peace

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    James,
    Just to be clear; even though I can appreciate Wyrd’s perspective on time, according to my models, time is also an abstraction.

    Peace

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “In a hierarchy of mental abstractions, what makes the most sense at the top?”

    That’s an interesting challenge Wyrd, can’t say I’ve seriously considered shaking up all of our mental abstractions to determine which one rises to the top. Now, in the context of the continuum itself not being considered an abstraction per se, I suppose that time could reasonably rise to the top of that hierarchy. It’s certainly not something which could be refuted.

    Peace

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I was just re-stating what I understood you asked originally:

      “According to Spinoza’s God, time would have to come first in hierarchy in order for change of any kind to take place.”

      Perhaps I misunderstood your question!

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        That is correct Wyrd, according to Spinoza’s God, time would have to come first in hierarchy. The only qualifier is Spinoza’s God.

        Spinoza’s model was a pragmatic and important paradigm shift for science and metaphysics at large. I once adhered to those models, but have since moved on to my own metaphysics where I attempt to move past the mental abstractions of intellectual constructs into the realm of reality. I’ve since come to the conclusion that reality itself is reducible to just one (1) thing. And that one (1) thing is not an abstraction, even though it appears to be one on the surface. Sounds like a paradox doesn’t it, it might even be poetry.

        Peace

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “The only qualifier is Spinoza’s God.”

        Ah. You were only reporting on the view, not aligning yourself with it. I missed that; my bad.

        “[I] have since moved on to my own metaphysics where I attempt to move past the mental abstractions of intellectual constructs into the realm of reality.”

        Okay. Do I recall from past comments that you are reticent to discuss your models until you publish?

        “I’ve since come to the conclusion that reality itself is reducible to just one (1) thing.”

        I really hope it doesn’t involve “squatty H’s”! 😉

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “Do I recall from past comments that you are reticent to discuss your models until you publish?’

    That is correct. Although I recently pulled the trigger and published my work. I ran off twenty-four (24) copies of my book for myself and for those whom I feel could give me a competent peer review. Wyrd Smythe is on my short list because as myself, you do not believe that reality is “turtles all the way down”. Turtles all the way down is a biased prejudice that no amount of vocabulary is able to overcome.

    So at this stage of the progression, I feel comfortable enough to state my axiom without going into any of the detail of my overall models. But you are going to have to explain the meaning of “squatty H’s” first.

    Peace

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    Wyrd,
    You’re right, you can’t explain it.

    I’ve done this enough times with friends and family members to realize that at the end of the day, any vocabulary is just meaningless words. One must be compelled to ask questions, questions like: What breathes life into the nostrils of meaning or, what breathes fire into the equations of physics or, what stands alone at the center of who and what we are as solipsistic self-models? If materialism could be reduced to one thing, what would that thing be? If mind could be reduced to just one thing, what would that thing be? If consciousness itself could be reduced to just one thing, what would that thing be?

    Roetcisoender’s Axiom states:
    Reality is Value, expressed mathematically as R=V. According to this axiom, Value is Reality and the only thing that exists. Value is Kant’s thing-in-itself which corresponds concisely and succinctly with a strict monism. As Reality, Value is inclusive and fully capable of accommodating both the noumenal and phenomenal realm. As the ontological primitive, Value as Value is everywhere the same.

    So let the onslaught begin. I’m not going to make any attempt to explain my axiom. You are free to contemplate my postulate if you wish or, you can call it bullshit.

    Peace

    • Wyrd Smythe

      So how does the world I perceive and measure, seemingly based on notions of spacetime, particles, and causal laws, arise from your notion of value?

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        Before I address your question, how does the notion of value being an objective reality strike you. It’s one thing to assert that value would come first in hierarchy, but it’s bold and audacious to claim that value is literally the ontological primitive. The notion stands in direct contrast to what we’ve all been taught to believe about value. There’s an entire branch of philosophy dedicated to the notion of value called axiology.

        Peace

      • Wyrd Smythe

        “Before I address your question, how does the notion of value being an objective reality strike you.”

        At this point I don’t have enough information to have much of an opinion.

        (As an aside, from your mention of axiology, I assume you mean value as in valuable (or not), rather than simply having a numerical value, as in “the value of 2+3 is 5”.)

        Talking about ontology is tricky because there are so many ways something can be “real.” James and I are debating the “reality” of the past. Here the question is the reality of value.

        I see it as being as real as love or justice, but I see all three as high-level intellectual assessments, so I am certainly curious how value can be posited as an ontological primitive, let the top one.

        Value as I understand it is a judgement or statement. Helium is valuable because it’s useful, diamonds are valuable through market control. Value can come from scarcity, usefulness, social perception, fiat,… all sorts of things.

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    The quintessential academic question underwriting assertions such as mine is always the same: Is value an object or is value a subject? If you read my recent diatribe about subject/object metaphysics with Eric on Mike’s blog, you might get a hint as to where this is leading.

    Axiology makes a noble attempt through the art of dialectic to make a distinction one way or the other as to whether value is either an object or a subject. But the elusiveness of value is such that it will not yield itself to a definitive determination one way or the other. To save face within this tumultuous, rigorous, academic debate, J. L. McIntyre in “Value-Feelings and Judgements of Value”, sums it up best where he forcefully expounds that:

    “Value is never the character or quality of an object, but always a
    relation between an object and a subject.”

    That more or less fits with what you said and that is the prevailing consensus at large, a consensus shared by most people. My assertion challenges that prevailing paradigm. Here’s the linchpin to my entire assertion: If it can be demonstrated that there is no such thing as a subject, then value cannot be a relation between an object and a subject. My book addresses that challenge and definitively establishes value as an objective reality, and that reality is ubiquitous.

    Hardcore metaphysics is pretty heady stuff, so I’ll just leave it there for now. If you are interested you can do some research…

    Peace

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “If you read my recent diatribe about subject/object metaphysics with Eric on Mike’s blog,…”

      I did see it, and I’ve seen you speak of your issues with SOM before. I can’t say I understand (because I really have no clue what you’re talking about). I’m a simple guy; I need concrete examples I can wrap my head around.

      “But the elusiveness of value is such that it will not yield itself to a definitive determination one way or the other.”

      I find that characteristic of irreducible concepts. They can’t be defined in terms of simpler constructs, they can only be described by examples that fit the class.

      “Chair” is kind of a canonical example here. How does one define “chair” such that all chairs are unquestionably included in the set, but all non-chairs are reliably excluded. Ultimately, all one can do is provide enough examples labeled “chair” to train our neural net to recognize them as accurately as possible.

      Even then it can be contextual. I’ve spent a lot of time sitting on rocks and logs.

      “If it can be demonstrated that there is no such thing as a subject, then value cannot be a relation between an object and a subject.”

      I’d like to understand clearly what you mean by “subject” (intelligent beholder?) and “object” and how you would demonstrate there is no such thing as a subject.

      “If you are interested you can do some research…”

      I’m happy to entertain a conversation here, but my reading list is already so long I doubt I have enough years remaining to get to it all. My research efforts currently are devoted to understanding tensors (and more about quaternions).

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “Noble prize Physicist David Gross says fundamental reality is one that can be calculated, measured, or observed.”

    This is the ontology of subject/object metaphysics in a nutshell: An object is defined as anything that can be weighed, measured, calculated or tested. You know the drill, the distinction limits objects to the paradigm of materialism. Objects have structural qualitative properties that are determinate, which mean they can be weighed, measure, calculated and tested.

    In contrast, a subject has structural qualitative properties that are indeterminate, which means they cannot be weighed measured or tested. Examples: Your biology is an object and Wyrd, the self model which emerges from the the biology is a subject. Anything that cannot be described nor contained by the laws of physics is a subject. SOM leaves an insurmountable prodigious void in our understanding.

    So how do I demonstrate that there is no such thing as a subject? Simple.

    “The ontological distinction in our current paradigm dividing the subject and the object is an arbitrary one. One could arbitrarily call objects structural patterns which have characteristics that are determinate just as easily as
    one could call subjects structural patterns which have characteristics that are indeterminate, thereby putting both the subject and the object in the same box as structural patterns without an ontological distinction. It’s all a matter of preference, but something as simple as preference could easily lead to a more definitive understanding of the things we currently do not
    understand and the subsequent constructs that we create, all of which currently lead to the suppression of knowledge.”

    That’s how it’s done. If a prevailing paradigm leaves one pinned or trapped in a corner, grab another can of paint and paint oneself out. All of our intellectual constructs are designed to serve us, if they no longer serve us and actually imprison us by limiting our ability to move forward in our understanding, they need to be revised. SOM is the most repressive and suppressive model on the books, scientific inquiry is held captive by the model.

    ___________
    “The Immortal Principle: A Reference Point”, 2018, Page 14.

    Peace

    • Wyrd Smythe

      So regarding the Subject-Object model…

      Firstly: It sounds like the only thing that qualifies as Subject is consciousness? This model distinguishes between consciousness and everything else?

      Secondly: You might need to unpack determinate and indeterminate properties, because (as I understand them) I would dispute both that Objects are fully determinate or that Subjects are not.

      (Unless that itself is what distinguishes the classes, but then it seems lots of things might be Object or Subject.)

      Quantum Mechanics gives objects indeterminate properties, and Special Relativity makes some properties relative to the observer.

      And I don’t agree that my self model can’t be tested. It’s tested all the time informally (waking up and getting out of bed tests it), but there are a variety of formal tests one can apply as well.

      Thirdly:

      “Anything that cannot be described nor contained by the laws of physics is a subject.”

      But if one is a Realist and a Monist, then there can be no Subjects. (Which would be one way to demonstrate there are no Subjects. 🙂 )

      On a Monist account of consciousness, it will eventually prove to be fully determinate. (Running it on a computer would require that as a minimum.)

      I suspect it’s possible we will have a physical account of consciousness, and it’s possible we will see it as fully determinate, but that understanding may include that it only occurs in brains or units structurally isomorphic with brains. (IOW, structure itself may prove itself necessary — albeit not sufficient — for consciousness.)

      All-in-all, it seems I do agree the Subject-Object model is arbitrary, but I’m not clear how that model is so detrimental to science or the pursuit of knowledge.

      Or what the alternative is.

      Do you have an example of a science fail due to this model and an alternate approach that would have been better?

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “But if one is a Realist and a Monist, then there can be no Subjects. (Which would be one way to demonstrate there are no Subjects. 🙂 )”

    Very good!

    “Do you have an example of a science fail due to this model and an alternate approach that would have been better?”

    Sure. The discipline of science refuses to acknowledge the subject as a reality in itself, let alone investigate it, thereby leaving this huge void in our understanding as to the origin of being. What science has done is left that inquiry to the quackery of religion and mysticism. I consider that mind set to be egregiously irresponsible. There are bright minds out there, why not tackle the difficult challenges and address those challenges through the discipline of metaphysics?

    Metaphysics is the purest form of scientific inquiry. Metaphysics is held to the highest standard of logical consistency and inclusiveness. There can be no exceptions or contradictions within any of the metaphysical models in order for them to be acceptable. That is a standard to which even the disciplines of science and physics are not held. In contrast, the standard model of physics is riddled with contradictions, unknowns, paradoxes and inconsistencies.

    As a discipline of scientific inquiry, metaphysics is a lost art form for two fundamental reasons. First, it’s extremely difficult. Putting together a model which will stand up under the scrutiny of analysis is hard. That model must be easy to explain, be absolutely inclusive with zero contradictions and have no inconsistencies or paradoxes. And second, there is no money it.

    To sum this up: Do my metaphysical models I put together in my book meet those lofty standards? Absolutely! Will anyone who reads my book understand my work? Probably not. Having said that, if one were willing to work through the progression without prejudice as I have it structured, I do believe it is possible for one to apprehend it even though one may not necessarily comprehend it. There are two fundamental reasons people will not get my models. First and foremost; people could care less and second, nobody really wants to know anyway.

    My work is a culmination of forty-six (46) years of research and hard work. I did it for myself because I wanted answers to the hard questions. We follow our own course through this life for our own reasons Wyrd. I wish you all the best…

    Peace

    • Wyrd Smythe

      I don’t know I see it as being quite that bleak, but there is no question there are sociological and personal elements to science. It’s said that science progresses only when one generation of scientists dies off allowing a new generation to be heard.

      Still, as a friend of mine once quipped, “Science proceeds despite scientists.” The efficacy of science is well-established and reified in our technology. At root, science is no more than the study of the patterns we perceive. Persistent ones are codified into physical law.

      “The discipline of science refuses to acknowledge the subject as a reality in itself, let alone investigate it,”

      If “subject” means consciousness and “a reality in itself” means any kind of dualism, including structural emergence, then I’ve encountered (much to my mystification, btw) that view. I once had a long unresolved debate whether consciousness (defined simply as “what brains do”) was an objective property of reality.

      I’d have thought even the monist views considered acceptable for polite company would see it as objective behavior. (I’d think the monist views especially would see it as objective behavior, hence my mystification.)

      Our views may coincide in that I do see a preservation of the Newtonian mechanistic view of reality. The suggestion of anything mystical or meta-physical is anathema and not scientific. Not for polite company or, god help you, serious publication.

      To the extent science is the study of what is, then it does seem it could could use more of an open mind sometimes.

      The Anthropic Principle is a good example of the kind of subtle bias I see. It’s considered strong enough reasoning to “logically” (ha!) derive multiverses largely because science utterly rejects even the possibility that we might, in fact, be special.

      It’s that whole Copernican thing, right? We’re not the center of anything. It’s just not possible. (Despite the fact that it is absolutely possible we’re the only intelligent species in the galaxy.)

      That said, science explores those things sometimes. So far none of it has ever proved to have the efficacy that physics does. It’s true our two greatest theories are in conflict, but we know we don’t have a full picture. We know there are serious open questions.

      As to metaphysics, it’s a bit like math. Since its physics is meta, the only validity it can truly have is self-consistency. Without physical tests, all one has is logic (which, as I mentioned, can lead to multiverses).

      This is where String Theory is stuck today. An untestable physics that amounts to a metaphysics and, because we can’t possibly be special, implies we’re just one of 10^500 (or more) possible universes.

      Metaphysics is also like math in that its a great exercise for the mind, but the general public will never see what it has to do with the price of milk. Enjoy what you’ve created for its own sake — the mountain climbed because it was there.

      (I’ve got a computer language I designed and have been playing with for decades. The journey is the reward.)

      • Lee Roetcisoender

        “The efficacy of science is well-established and reified in our technology.”

        No question about that. And if that is our only measure of success, then we already have our reward. Why should we really gives a shit about the nature of being?

        “I’d have thought even the monist views considered acceptable for polite company would see it as objective behavior. (I’d think the monist views especially would see it as objective behavior, hence my mystification.)”

        The problem is, that the folks you are referring to are not monists, they are dualists. I am the only true monist you’ve ever encountered.

        “I once had a long unresolved debate whether consciousness (defined simply as “what brains do”) was an objective property of reality.”

        Here’s the problem with dismantling the SOM paradox. If every thing is an objective property of reality, including the delusions of a schizophrenic mind, then in order to garner any understanding in that myriad of objective chaos and confusion, there needs to be another ontological distinction which will give rise to a sensible organization structure other than the repressive SOM paradigm. Agreed? Because quite frankly Wyrd, we are fucking ourselves by being subordinate to and serving that model.

        Peace

      • Wyrd Smythe

        At this point, I’d like to make sure I understand your SOM thesis. I’m keying mainly off what you wrote above:

        “The discipline of science refuses to acknowledge the subject as a reality in itself, let alone investigate it, thereby leaving this huge void in our understanding as to the origin of being. What science has done is left that inquiry to the quackery of religion and mysticism.”

        I’m understanding “subject” as consciousness and “object” as everything else — physical reality, spacetime, etc.

        So to state your thesis “in my own wyrds” (so to speak 😉 ), the problem is that science focuses exclusively on physical reality without first fully understanding that which perceives it? What value is there studying what we behold when we don’t really grasp what’s doing the beholding?

        Or am I completely off the beam? (Wouldn’t be the first time!)

        [I will say I’ve long thought that, for those studying “consciousness” it really seems the very first order of business has to be defining that thing they’re spending their lives studying. The way most discussions start with hand-wringing over the lack of a clear definition seems, to me, a very sorry state of affairs. It also blows my mind that we seem unable (or unwilling?) to define what Descartes put forth as the one true fact we can know. That’s a whole muddy ball of WTF and SMH.]

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “I’m understanding “subject” as consciousness and “object” as everything else — physical reality, spacetime, etc.”

    What I ascertain from this statement is that without the objective reality of our conscious experience, there would be nothing but a physical reality, i.e. our universe. (I don’t like using the word consciousness per se because there is no consensus on what the word actually means) Like you, I believe our physical universe is real even if I or no other conscious person existed to experience it. I’m no idealist. I think we are on the same page here. So, in this context, I believe I understand your rendition of “subject” being a derivative of the conscious experience or more explicitly the mind. This rendition corresponds to our prevailing SOM model.

    “…the problem is that science focuses exclusively on physical reality without first fully understanding that which perceives it? What value is there studying what we behold when we don’t really grasp what’s doing the beholding?”

    I certainly consider this distinction to be an important one, and it cannot be overstated. But I wasn’t necessarily zeroing in on that singular point per se. I was focusing in on the intellectual constructions which we create in order to employ the discrete binary system of rationality in an attempt to make sense of our world and ourselves in regard to the reality we find ourselves active participants. If SOM was rejected as a world view, where there was no such thing as subjects, only objects, then even the delusion of a schizophrenic mind would be an object and/or an objective experience. Without a means to make definitive distinctions between the phenomena we experience, there is only chaos.

    So to restate the proposition: without the SOM model making an ontological distinction between the subject and the object, a distinction which does give order to the chaos, one would need another ontology to replace it, one which would lead to a better understanding. Because as it stands, the SOM model works, there is no question about that fact, but the SOM model limits our understanding. We need another ontology to replace SOM so we can move forward.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Okay, I think I’m beginning to understand. It would be helpful for me to see it in concrete terms. When I asked for an example earlier, I was hoping for a specific case in science, past or present, where you see the SOM driving the train off the rails and how an alternative view would have another outcome.

      “We need another ontology to replace SOM so we can move forward.”

      Replace or extend? If we agree the SOM is efficacious, perhaps it should be retained?

      Earlier you wrote, “What science has done is left that inquiry to the quackery of religion and mysticism.”

      (And philosophy.) Is it maybe that these things need to be updated to pursue alternatives to the SOM?

      In the context of religion, I’ve argued in the past that it should be updated, not discarded. Medicine, at one time, was primitive and superstitious, but even so it had clear value, and so we kept the idea and aligned it more with reality. Likewise, for those so inclined, spiritual notions can be Yang to the Yin of science notions.

      Perhaps a similar Yin-Yang applies here? Expand or complement rather than replace?

      (I have to ponder your ontological question about hallucinations and delusions. Unicorns are objects, but I don’t confuse them with horses. Perhaps your notion of value becomes a factor here?)

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “Is it maybe that these things need to be updated to pursue alternatives to the SOM?”

    There is another model out there and it actually predates the SOM paradigm. And yes, the author of the other model was also a Greek. This author was venerated by both Plato and Aristotle which is evidenced in their writing about him. Unfortunately, they did not understand his profound concepts even though they had access to his entire text. The SOM paradigm was derived out of their misunderstandings of his philosophy. Either that, or they flat out chose to reject them because they found his ontology too caustic. I suspect the later.

    That model is the reality/appearance distinction, which in laymen’s terms means that reality is contextual. Three hundred years later, Nagarjuna reiterated the reality/appearance distinction in his “Two Contexts of Reality” doctrine. Immanuel Kant re-articulated the the reality/appearance distinction in our modern era by canonizing the terms noumena and phenomena to reflect that distinction. What all of this means is that there are only objects of reality, but those objects are contextual. They are not subjects.

    “In the context of religion, I’ve argued in the past that it should be updated, not discarded.”

    I am in full agreement with that assessment. Certainly none of the historical texts are reliable, nevertheless they are valid and should not be dismissed. i pondered the idea of value for years, continuing to experiment with vocabulary until the notion seemed to take on a life of it’s own. If reality reduces back to only one (1) thing and that one thing is value, then value could actually be the proverbial mustard seed in the parable of the mustard seed in the gospels. All one has to do is replace the kingdom of God with the word reality. If nothing else, the notion is poetically elegant, simple and beautiful. I don’t know how much closer one could get to symmetry…

    Peace

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “Unfortunately, they did not understand his profound concepts even though they had access to his entire text.”

      Maybe. Is it possible, given how Plato and Aristotle are remembered, that they started with Parmenides and built on him? Is it that no one can improve upon one of (if not the) earliest philosophers?

      As you say, they had access to the full text. Is it possible they knew what they were about?

      “Immanuel Kant re-articulated the the reality/appearance distinction…”

      Ha! A tiny bit of synchronicity: I was re-reading the SEP page on Transcendental Idealism just this weekend. Okay, so in opposition to the SOM, you favor the reality/appearance model (the RAM?).

      That helps, although the reason I was re-reading the SEP page is that I’ve never quite understood what the big deal about T.I. was. Many say Kant was just speaking of phenomenalism, and I think they have a point. (Kant, as usual, was a hell of a lot more nuanced (and wordy), but still.)

      I’ve never quite known what to make of this is the part of Kant’s work. Probably I just don’t understand it well enough. That may be why I’m still not sure what makes the RAM so superior to the SOM you’d want to replace the latter with it. I’m just not clear on what the value proposition is.

      “What all of this means is that there are only objects of reality, but those objects are contextual. They are not subjects.”

      I’m okay with the first sentence, but what makes objects contextual if not the subject? Even recognizing that objects are contextual, don’t we still have a SOM?

      I’m confused.

      This is why I would like case studies. In what specific cases did the SOM deliver less than ideal results, and how would the RAM have been better?

      As an aside, it is kind of interesting that quantum mechanics has brought the putative role of the observer into sharp focus and dispute. Given that certain aspects of reality don’t manifest until we measure them, there are some deep mysteries science often tried to sweep under the rug and hopes no one notices. “Shut up and calculate!”

      I think my bottom line here might be that I do agree science ought to be more informed by philosophy and more open-minded about seriously studying ontological questions, but I don’t agree current methods need to be tossed out. To some extent I feel metaphysics, by definition, is outside the purview of physics. I’m far more inclined towards a Yin-Yang approach that combines views.

      But that’s just me.

      …and carrots! 😉

    • Wyrd Smythe

      This is the trouble with growing old; mind like Swiss cheese sometimes. Apparently I have at least stumbled over at least some form of this subject-object distinction before.

      The Wiki link no longer works, that article is apparently now split into Object (philosophy) and Subject (philosophy) pages. I’ll check them out when I get a chance.

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    “This is why I would like case studies. In what specific cases did the SOM deliver less than ideal results, and how would the RAM have been better?”

    SOM works great for the discipline of science where the interest is focused only on matter. SOM is problematic for metaphysics and philosophy. And here’s why: The SOM postulates that our universe is fundamental reality. That fundamental reality consist of mind (subject) and matter (object) which results in an architecture of dualism. The two have proven to be irreconcilable and will continue to be irreconcilable as long as our universe is considered to be fundamental.

    The RAM postulates that our universe is not fundamental but merely the appearance of being fundamental. According to RAM, there is a fundamental reality, but that reality is separate and distinct from ours. Since we have no access to that reality, we have no idea what that fundamental reality actually.

    If RAM is correct, this is what that model tells us: The phenomena of both mind and matter are fundamental to the appearance, and if they are indeed fundamental, then both mind and matter have to follow the same rules, which means there can be no ontological distinction such as a subject or an object, both of which are distinct and follow separate rules. The laws which govern motion and form within the physical world of matter have to be the same laws which govern motion and form within the mental world of mind. That in a nutshell is the underlying architecture of RAM.

    The physical world is in a constant state of motion and change, busy building physical constructions. The mental world is also in a constant state of motion and change busy building mental or intellectual constructions, even while you sleep. It’s all the same shit. We have a vocabulary for the physical world which is currently quantified as the four forces of nature, which is fine. But that vocabulary does not work for mind. Whatever mechanisms are responsible for motion and form within the physical world have to be the same mechanisms responsible for motion and form within the mental world. It’s all a question of cause and effect. In conclusion: Mind and matter are intrinsically linked when it comes to causation.

    Peace

    • Wyrd Smythe

      “SOM works great for the discipline of science where the interest is focused only on matter. SOM is problematic for metaphysics and philosophy.”

      But what’s the problem, then? Metaphysics and philosophy aren’t in the purview of science.

      Is your complaint strictly about the study of the mind or all science?

      “That fundamental reality consist of mind (subject) and matter (object) which results in an architecture of dualism.”

      There are monists who would reject that dualism. Mike, I’m sure, is one of them. For him, it’s all matter, and mind is just what it’s like to be that kind of matter in that kind of arrangement.

      I think, at least for some, the subject-object distinction isn’t ontological in seeing them as different substances, but more a distinction of classification of how matter can be arranged. Some arrangements of matter don’t demonstrate any agency at all (e.g. rocks); some have crude forms (e.g. plants); and some very special arrangements might just be self-aware and even non-deterministic (e.g. us).

      I don’t really see it as dualism to hold that certain specific arrangements of matter can be a subject while at the same time still being an object. In this view, a subject is a very special kind of object.

      You said much the same thing:

      “…which means there can be no ontological distinction such as a subject or an object, both of which are distinct and follow separate rules.”

      Yep, absolutely.

      “The laws which govern motion and form within the physical world of matter have to be the same laws which govern motion and form within the mental world of mind.”

      That I might quibble with, especially since I’ve recently written all these posts exploring the difference between physical reality and virtual reality. Dreams (night or day) certainly don’t follow physical causal laws. (But neither does the latest Marvel movie or video game.)

      Or are we talking about the underlying system that presents appearances to us? Because, yes, that absolutely is a physical causal system operating according to physical law.

      As you say:

      “We have a vocabulary for the physical world which is currently quantified as the four forces of nature, which is fine. But that vocabulary does not work for mind.”

      Right! (At least in terms of the content. The operation of the system still works according to physics.)

      “In conclusion: Mind and matter are intrinsically linked when it comes to causation.”

      That is a really interesting idea (he said seriously with no hint of sarcasm). I’m going to have to chew on it a bit, but it certainly seems to link in with the basic theme of causality I’m exploring these days.

      But what is the difference between the physical causal limits of the “real” world and the often causality-free nature of the mental world? In the same sense I can create a fantasy story or movie, using factual tools, my mind can have wild flights of fancy using a factual brain.

      I can’t call that dualism, but it is right on the interesting divide I’ve been considering between physical and virtual.

  • Lee Roetcisoender

    The laws which govern motion and form within the physical world of matter have to be the same laws which govern motion and form within the mental world of mind.

    “That I might quibble with…”

    You certainly could quibble with it if you considered our universe to be fundamental reality. Because if our universe is indeed a fundamental reality with two distinct substances and/or two distinct properties, the statement above would not be tenable. The entire postulate of RAM is that our universe is not a fundamental reality, it’s an expression of “the fundamental reality”, just like a creative fantasy story is an expression of “the creative mind”. Both are real as real can get, but that real-ness is contextual.

    I sense this discourse is becoming a bit tedious, so I’ll close it out. In conclusion: Kant considered our universe to be an expression of power, and he asserted that power of that magnitude could only be a qualitative property of the noumenal realm. This is where Kant’s power and my value axiom coalesce. The qualitative properties of fundamental reality are articulated as follows: Value and Power, coextensive as one, with a character that is indeterminate and unified. That is the ontological primitive, Parmenides “what is”, Nagarjuna’s “ultimate reality”, Kant’s “thing-in-itself”, and the Hebrew God “YHWH”. Value stands alone at the center of power as indeterminate intensity that tends, and that tendency is toward change. We now have a working model for motion and form, and it corresponds concisely and succinctly with Roetcisoender’s theorem*, a Value Centric Universe.

    You have a great thanksgiving Wyrd, and may peace underwrite your experience.

    ______________
    * “THE IMMORTAL PRINCIPLE: A Reference Point”, copyright 2018.

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