Monday, February 1, 2016

Catching up with the Present in Presentist Time?

Presentists hold that only one time exists. Obviously, since there are no other times, this time is the only one that can be correctly referred to as "the present", absolutely speaking. Previous times, however - "the past" - do not exist or at least are not real times in the same sense as the present.

Now consider the scientific fact that it takes time to perceive things. It takes time for light to bounce off a surface and enter into my eye, or for the signals from any one or more of my senses to travel along my neural pathways and make their way to my brain. It likely takes time for my brain to process any kind of input prior to it even becoming conscious. Conscious experience is likely itself spread across a period of time. What this means, then, is (at the least) that what is perceived (or at least those particular conditions or slices of life of whatever objects are perceived) is always in the past relative to your perception of it.

So if the past is unreal as the presentist claims, the world you perceive is also not real and hence your perception is, in a sense, illusory since it is presented as real and existing - the conditions of it presented as actually obtaining. The world you perceive has no real existence - your perceptions are of the ghosts of another world allowed to slip into the actual world, the present, and not of the actual world itself.

Perhaps you can try to infer what the real world is like from what is presented in experience, but this also takes time. Our perceptions and our mental faculties in general have difficulty in "keeping up" with what is real as everything we try to grasp is swiftly swept away into oblivion.

In the presentist's world, then, we are disconnected from reality in a much stronger way than one would have otherwise thought, contrary to many presentists' claims that presentism is somehow the "common sense" view (a claim I would reject for many reasons - see my dissertation, for examples). A real past, however, one that exists and is fully actualized in the actual world we live in (and I think this actually fits common sense a bit better), renders our perceptions true, with us really perceiving and in touch with reality as it is and exists. Including what we see when we gaze out into the stars...