Does The Past Still Exist?

3

July 30, 2014 by Zerub Roberts

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There are two major philosophical schools of thought. – The A-theorists and the B-theorists. Also known as the Presentists and the Eternalists. Heard of the block-universe models?

One would say that the past is just as real as the present. Its just that we, have moved from ‘there’ to ‘now’. Just like you move from one spatial location to another, you’ve moved from one temporal location to another. However unlike space, we can’t move back in time. At least not yet. So, things in the past are just as real as the things in the future.

Like, dinosaurs exist and are real. They may not exist in this particular temporal location, but somewhere else. Just like the Eiffel tower doesn’t exist where I am right now, but at a different place. However, the tower is just as real as the chair I’m sitting on. Right?

On the other side, only the present exist and only things in the present exist. In this view “temporal becoming” is a real and objective feature of the world.

There could be other variations of these two models.

Most physicists prefer to use the eternalist model, where the past and present are real. It just fits well with the special theory or relativity. But there is nothing conclusive in relativity that supports one model over the other.

This is a really wide subject. The arguments and debates are quite fascinating. You can always pick up an introductory book on Philosophy of Time, or just check the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Does The Past Still Exist?

  1. What is the difference between saying:-

    1. Past is real.

    2. Past is not real.

    In other words, what are the implications of these two statements? What does “real” mean?

  2. Guy says:

    If the past isn’t real, by that I mean if it cannot be independently validated in the present by some nearly certain means, than you can never be sure that it happened at all. You can never be sure that the way you see the world or predeict the future is not fundamentally flawed or falsefied. For instance if you say the light was on in a room, I can see if the bulb is hot and say that yes the light was on. However the heat of the light bulb doesn’t really prove the light was on it just proves that somehow the bulb was heated in the past, or for all I know that light doesn’t actually work it just appeared out of thin air already warm. However if outside my temporal existence that information still exists and it can be validated through some undefined means than I can make firm assertions about the future. Say that when I turn on a light that it will get hot. Which is not relevant to any or at least very many real world problems, we just have to assume the past was real. Otherwise if the past doesn’t still exist then I can falsify a history it is no less real than what actually happend.

  3. It seems to me that you are saying that the past is real.
    Then I have no disagreement with you.

    But I think that it need not be made so complicated. See, If yesterday you drank orange juice in your breakfast, then it is still true now that yesterday you drank orange juice in your breakfast. What ever happened to you yesterday has produced effects in your body which are having it’s effects still now (which any body may or may not be able to detect now, that is irrelevant) . If an event has happened yesterday then it has happened whether any body knows about it or not.

    As far as being certain is concerned, you can not be certain of any thing in past , future or PRESENT.

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Zerub Roberts

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