Thursday, September 07, 2006

Discussion Topic:

I am going to juxtapose two thoughts, and then ask for commentary.

Thought 1 (the easy one):

“A difference that makes no difference is no difference.” - William James (although often attributed to Spock on Star Trek)

Thought 2 (the complicated one):

If you have been exposed to Einstein’s theory of relativity, you are perhaps familiar with the idea that each of us occupies a unique position in space-time. In other words, your “now” is not exactly the same as my “now” because of the physical distance that separates us. This is beyond the difference in experiential perspective, although it is the cause of that difference as well. Simply put, I’m not you.

If you gesture, it takes time for that motion to arrive at my retina, and even more time for my brain to process it. What I perceive as happening right now actually occurred several milliseconds ago. The sunlight that I see bouncing off a rock and illuminating it, is actually fossil light (though very recent) from the sun. Everything that I see around me and everything that I experience, including the feedback from my own motor control of my body happened in the immediate past, not the present.

Does “the present moment” actually exist?

Is there a locus in space-time, like a point in the physical center of my body, for example, that represents my “now”?


At 6:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

All I keep wondering is "Who's the guy in the pic? His shirt looks familiar."

If I try to think about any of this, MY head will blow up too, thank you.

At 6:28 AM, Blogger kalanchoe542 said...

If a hugely obese woman puts on a blue dress instead of a red dress, she looks a bit different, but she is still hugely obese and is at risk of coronary artery disease. Throughout the whole of the history of organism-kind, there have been "differences" that evolve that make absolutely no difference. Blind alleys and dead ends abound. If we could find all the bones that ever existed, I think people would be amazed at the shit that has come and gone over the course of the millennia. Even today, vauge differences in hair or skin color don't give a marked advantage, so do they really rank as significant? In my not so humble opinion, being from a sciency sort of background, any difference that makes no difference to the survival of the individual or that grants no "leg up" on the competition is not worthy of being categorized as a "difference". That goes for anything your spouse might do that changes the general appearance of your dwelling but causes no improvement in resale value, or anything your kids might do that changes their appearance but makes their grades no better (or worse).

As for the "two objects cannot occupy the same space at the same time" thing, well, naturally! I didn't know this topic was up for discussion as anything but a way to spend some time avoiding topics that are too heavy for the brain to approach at any given moment. In our feeble capacity as humans, we cannot possibly be someone else, know what they are thinking or feeling, dwell inside their skin and feel their pain, or even guess what they want for dinner. It's like the thing one of my acquaintances told me a long time ago (and she was really quite upset at the time) "If my husband really loved me, he'd know what I was thinking". All bullshit. Nobody can possibly know another's thoughts because we specifically AREN'T them. I wouldn't want to be somebody else besides me; I have enough crap to deal with already.

I guess what I am getting at here is, "What's your point?"

At 6:33 AM, Blogger kalanchoe542 said...

Oh, and as far as the "does the present moment really exist" thing, well, yes and no. since it is so fleeting, it is an almost no. Since we have memory, it is an almost yes. Present to humans is made up of that space of minutes or hours (if you have really good short term memory) that constitutes their current awareness, that ephemeral NOW that makes people do impulsive deeds because they are so caught up in the "moment". I'm not really worried about that, personally. I'm more concerned with getting my ferritin levels back to normal. Chew on that one a while.....

At 7:33 AM, Blogger seth said...

Well, if you define present down to the nanosecond, then of course it can't exist. Even if sensory (sensual?) processing was instantaneous, each instant of time would constantly be ceasing to exist; we would be in rapid progression into the future.

At 8:46 AM, Blogger decrepitoldfool said...

The present moment does exist, in the same fashion as mathematical points on a line exist. Both are conceivable, neither is perceivable.

There is a practical usefulness to acknowledging that the present moment is beyond our perception, as are most of the scales of existence. Things which are too long, too brief, too large, too small, or in spectrums not available to our eyes nevertheless comprise most of reality. But quantum effects and evolutionary biology still enrich our lives in tangible ways.

Short version: "Yea, science!" And maybe, "Yea, Buddhism!"

At 6:57 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

Thanks everyone. There are many perspectives, apparently.

DOF: I think you are on to something. The one and two-dimensional constructs are imaginary in that they cannot exist except as models. The "present moment" is similarly imaginary, I think, because in actuality is is an infinite number of non-discrete moments, or chronons, existing "side by each" as my neighbors in Rhode Island might say.

Seth: Like a wave, chasing a surfboard. (?)


"...since it is so fleeting, it is an almost no. Since we have memory, it is an almost yes."

I think you have nailed it, and if e.e. cummings were alive, I think he would agree. Sometimes abstract thinking is superior. Much better to paint a sunset than to explain it in terms of Angstroms and frequency and refraction.

My point with the "You're not me" comment was that the physical impossibility also defines the impossibility of identical perception. And, it's a quote from a "Ruttles" spoof of a John Lennon song: "I know you know what you know, but you should know by now that your not me."

What can I say? My brain is a junkyard of semi-useless knowledge.

At 7:11 PM, Blogger breakerslion said...

"You're not me", even. I'm going to bed now, I must be more tired than I thought.

At 6:19 PM, Blogger seth said...

…pretty much.

At 3:00 AM, Blogger rmacapobre said...

i miss spock and the gang .. :(


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