On the book “And if time didn’t exist?” by Carlo Rovelli: thought in movement

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LBird
'Independent material' property

Demogorgon wrote:

Thanks for your clarification MH.

I don't think there is much difference between us. Well, maybe. The point I was really making in response to LBird are simply that the material world exists independently of human consciousness and that consciousness is built on our relationship with that independent material world.

This is the crux of the issue, Demo.

Marx argues that there is an 'inorganic nature' which is an ingredient into our social activity, and an 'organic nature' produced by our social activity.

And by 'material', Marx means 'human/social', as opposed to 'ideal', by which he means 'divine/god'.

So, for Marx, any talk of an 'independent material world' is meaningless for humans, because it is an unknown world which is 'nothing for us'.

'Material independence' is a synonym for 'matter', the concern of Engels, not Marx, and is based upon 'private property'. Bourgeois physics produced the concept of 'matter' for their own purposes.

This issue is a political and philosophical issue, and upon its resolution rests the answer as to whether the proletariat can create their world (social and natural).

The ideological formulation 'independent material world' makes our class consciousness impossible, in the form that Marx argued for.

LBird
'Separation' is an ideological belief

Furthermore, if there is an 'independent material world' which all human society hasn't created, then it can be argued that that 'i. m. w.', sitting 'out there', waiting to be 'discovered', can be accessed by 'genius individuals' and 'elite experts', without the active participation of the direct producers, the whole of Communist society. This ideological formulation precludes a vote by humanity, as it decides, because it alone has the power, as it determines its world.

This world is a unity (social and natural), rather than the ideological creation of the bourgeosie of a split world between art/science, soft/hard science, fact/opinion, etc.

The unified world, accessible only by a unified democratic method, is our humanised nature, our naturalised humanity.

Separation of our world into 'known' and 'material' prevents our class conciousness from developing. We must base our world upon 'unity', not bourgeois 'separation'.

MH
another short note on Rovelli

Just a short note on Rovelli’s arguments in ‘The Disappearance of Space and Time’ (2006), the article cited by LBird in #6.

Does Rovelli argue that time is a ‘social creation’, or an illusion that is ‘all in our heads’?

Ultimately he believes that “temporality is an artifact of our largely incomplete knowledge of the state of the world, not an ultimate property of reality.”

But he certainly recognises ‘psychological’, ‘social’ and ‘cultural’ factors in explaining the persistence of our concept of time, describing how over the centuries Newtonian notions of space and time have been ‘absorbed’ by our culture to become the ‘dominant view’; these notions appear to be appropriate to our daily life on this planet and not surprisingly we are collectively reluctant to let go of them.

This all leads him to ask: “So, where does temporality, with all its peculiar features (‘‘flow’’ of time, whatever this means, irreversibility, memory, awareness) come from?”

His answer is that:

“I think that all this has nothing to do with mechanics. It has to do with statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, perhaps psychology or biology.”

So interestingly, Rovelli appears to see our concept of time as partly a ‘social creation’ – but one with material roots, some of which are certainly not immutable but beyond our control at least in the short term...

 

LBird
Axioms are human productions, not 'out there' waiting

MH wrote:

Just a short note on Rovelli’s arguments in ‘The Disappearance of Space and Time’ (2006), the article cited by LBird in #6.

....

So interestingly, Rovelli appears to see our concept of time as partly a ‘social creation’ – but one with material roots, some of which are certainly not immutable but beyond our control at least in the short term...

As I pointed out in my notes to the other Rovelli article that you linked us to, MH, Rovelli omits to define just what he means by 'physical' (what I presume you label 'material' (roots)).

And as I've shown earlier, 'physical' is related to a social definition, which involves human needs and purposes.

The biggest epistemological failure of Rovelli (and also the other physicists that I've read, including Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrodinger, et al), is their failure to define what they mean by 'physical'.

It's as if they take individual, biological sense experience as the basis of determining 'physical'.

This is not Marx's method of socio-historical theory and practice as the basis of determining 'physical'.

And what's most revealing, is that in their physics, neither do they actually employ 'common sense experience', but actually employ socio-historically produced 'mathematics' (ie. a 'theory' prior to 'sensation') to define and determine what is supposedly 'out there', waiting to be 'discovered'. So, they invent 'physical' things no-one can touch, like 'forces', 'dimensions' or 'particles', etc.

And Godel (in c. 1931) holed the 'mathematical assumption' amidships, with his work on 'axioms' and their provenance.

The good ship 'Bourgeois Physics' has foundered, and they don't know how to cope.

Marx provides some answers for us, the class coming to consciousness.

 

lem_
polite enough ?

I have a number of problems with your position LBrid.

1. The absence of cogent or demonstrative argument for it.

2. How counter intuitive it is.

3. How you keep saying that it's Marxism despite failing to demonstrate any part of his writing makes your claim, and the history of Marxists who disagree with you.

4. You claim it is distinctly proletarian, but haven't differenitated it from bouregois hawks in the Iraq War.

5. And arguments to the contrary, e.g.

lem_ wrote:

I see that LBird never replied to my statement that without facts we can't prove anything was untrue..

Quote:
By definition a "fact" is whatever won't turn out to be untrue 
  • If you agree that whatever will turn out to be untrue is untrue now (that when we prove something wrong it was already wrong)then it seems that what is true now won't turn out to be untrue

Which just means that everything true now is a fact..

A (what will be poven untrue) is B (untrue now), not B (true), so not A (will not be proven untrue).

So if you agree that what will be proven untrue is untrue now (A is B), then what is true now is a fact (not B is not A).

And if you disgaree that what will be proven untrue is untrue now, then how can you prove anything was untrue?

It is true that no-one, yet, has demonstrated, unequivocally, that Marx disagrees with you. But even if we ignore anything but point 3, and stick to hermeneutics, the burden of proof is definitely on you, because if he had believed that sceince could not study anything ontologically independent of creative activity, he would surely have presented an argument for it. Something you don't seem to have.

baboon
If anyone doubts the

If anyone doubts the independent existence of clay prior to human beings then read "Definition of clay and clay minerals: Joint report of the AIPEA nomenclature and CMS comenclature committee", Stephen Guggenheim, Department of Geological Sciences, Univeristy of Illonois. You can dismiss this of course as bourgeois science and you can also dismiss the Theory of Evolution and fall back into some form of fundamentalist creationism.

 

Another example, following Demo's above, in the way that the relationship of humanity to the universe was seen. Firstly, Rome was seen as the centre of the universe. Then it was earth-centred, then solar centric (with elements harking back to early Neolithic belief systems). Then our galaxy, the Milky Way, was seen relatively recently as the universe and now we know that the universe contains billions of galaxies. Projections from the expansion of space-time just after the Big Bang now propose that enough space has been created to contain any number of universes.All these developments, changes, would tend to indicate, among other things, that "we are not alone". Our view of the universe has completely changed during the period of "bourgeois science".

 

Why don't we think that we are still living in a Rome-centric universe? Because of the development of science and material analyses related to it. As with clay you can reject this as "bourgeois science" just as worthless today as the Medieval Catholic Church - dismiss the whole thing out of hand and construct some form of future fundamentalism using quotes from Marx. Rovelli above is clear about this rejection of science and the evolvement of knowledge in the article above and denounces its irrational thought and its dismissal of science. The rejection of evolution by the US education system is an example here made by Rovelli above and, without drawing any direct parallels, the rise of religious fundamentalism is a case in point of the rejection of rational thought.

 

 

Demogorgon
The direction of this discussion

I have prepared yet another long post for this discussion, but I'm not sure how helpful it will actually be.

This conversation has been dominated by discussing LBird's concerns and, six pages in, we're still no closer to anything approaching a resolution. Given that the majority of participating comrades seem largely unconvinced by his positions, and he certainly shows no sign of being convinced by ours, is there a purpose to be served by continuing it?

In particular, are there other aspects to the Rovelli article, or the question of science in general, that comrades feel would be good to discuss? MH has already begun a critique of the way I've referred to nature, and I would welcome any effort on his part to develop these points.

And, earlier, MH also raised similar questions about the question of time which haven't generated much response. My own hesitancy on that question is simply that I don't really have any developed ideas on it, so I'm afraid I'm not going to be much use on that one!

If people are interested in what I have to say, I'll post it, but I wanted to give comrades the chance to explore some other options.

LBird
What time is truth?

Demogorgon wrote:

This conversation has been dominated by discussing LBird's concerns and, six pages in, we're still no closer to anything approaching a resolution. Given that the majority of participating comrades seem largely unconvinced by his positions, and he certainly shows no sign of being convinced by ours, is there a purpose to be served by continuing it?

In particular, are there other aspects to the Rovelli article, or the question of science in general, that comrades feel would be good to discuss? MH has already begun a critique of the way I've referred to nature, and I would welcome any effort on his part to develop these points.

And, earlier, MH also raised similar questions about the question of time which haven't generated much response. My own hesitancy on that question is simply that I don't really have any developed ideas on it, so I'm afraid I'm not going to be much use on that one!

You can't be paying attention, Demo, if you can't see where this is going!

I'll spell the political alternatives out:

1. 'Time' is an objective thing 'out there' - this is the 'materialist', Engelsist, option;

2. 'Time' is subjective and 'all in the mind' - this is the 'idealist', individualist option;

3. Time' is a relationship beween 'inorganic nature and an active, productive, consciousness' - this is the 'idealist-materialist', Marxist, option.

Rovelli wants to choose 3, but can't bring himself to say 'time, just like clay, is a relational product'.

Thus, Rovelli, like physics, is in a conundrum.They know neither 'objective' nor 'subjective' cut the mustard, but don't want the proletariat getting to vote on 'truth'.

MH
No disagreement?

LBird wrote:

3. ‘‘Time' is a relationship between 'inorganic nature and an active, productive, consciousness' - this is the 'idealist-materialist', Marxist, option.

Actually, a far as our concept of physical time is concerned, and leaving aside the use of the term 'idealist-materialist' to describe Marx's method, I don’t think there would be any great disagreement with this statement, would there?

In fact, it's not far off Rovelli's view either, as far as I can see, given his consideration of social and cultural factors, as well as psychology and biology....  

 

lem_
in quotes ;-)

MH wrote:

LBird wrote:

3. ‘‘Time' is a relationship between 'inorganic nature and an active, productive, consciousness' - this is the 'idealist-materialist', Marxist, option.

Actually, a far as our concept of physical time is concerned, and leaving aside the use of the term 'idealist-materialist' to describe Marx's method, I don’t think there would be any great disagreement with this statement, would there?

In fact, it's not far off Rovelli's view either, as far as I can see, given his consideration of social and cultural factors, as well as psychology and biology....  

 

hi MH. 

 

well it depends, doesn't it? if you're asking whether the relationship between the time that our sun was born, and the time life on earth began, then absolutely not.

6 page threads probably predicate themsleves on a torrid lack of clarity

Demogorgon
I think MH has it right when

I think MH has it right when he says that "our concept of time [is] partly a ‘social creation’ – but one with material roots".

One, of course, may quibble about whether you can have a concept without material roots, but I still think this is a good way of phrasing it.

For another example, you can look at the way different languages name colour. Not all languages distinguish between blue and green, and when translating languages there is not always complete identity between say English blue and German blau. Differences becomes wider when dealing with non-European languages.

What's interesting, however, is that we are able to determine, with remarkable precision, the wavelength boundaries which different language communities use to divide up the spectrum and compare them. In addition, there seems to be much more agreement on certain "anchors" in the spectrum, usually around primary colours.

There are clearly cultural and linguistic elements to the way we conceptualise reality, but with a "material root" as MH says.

I don't have time (see what I did there?) to go into the question of the time, but it's worth also considering the importance of measuring time for capitalism, given that its entire social structure is built on the exchange of socially necessary labour time.

lem_
maybe ?

oh ok. i don't think LBird is, or was, just saying that 'time' -- the idea / concept -- is cognitive. that is just obvious, and restating it does not totally fit their MO

Fred
discussing LBird's concerns

Demogorgon wrote:
 This conversation has been dominated by discussing LBird's concerns and, six pages in, we're still no closer to anything approaching a resolution. Given that the majority of participating comrades seem largely unconvinced by his positions, and he certainly shows no sign of being convinced by ours, is there a purpose to be served by continuing it?

As one who is sick of hearing Engels put down, and of the over-used jargon "idealist-materialist" which doesn't mean anything, and of having Marx turned into a kind of philosophic starry eyed movie star, and bloated into a wonderful bourgeois  style individualist which he certainly wasn't as he learned what he knew from the working class which he loved dearly, I wouldn't mind if the somewhat repetitiious thread was brought to an end.  But it isn't up to me.

And  now that LBird has definitively spelled out the political alternatives available for pondering "time" and given Demogorgon a good smack for not paying attention to teacher, and now that MH believes he has found some sort of common ground with our tenacious LBird, who, rather like George Eliot's Dr. Casaubon alone has the key to all mysteries and mythologies which for the rest of us must remain eternally opaque, then perhaps an end inight be considered.

I realise that posting this opens up the possibility of a whole new set of interjections from LBird himself - which he is entitled too - so I'm not sure that a reply such as I've given to Demo's question about whether this thread isn't really played out is actually worth the inevitable aggro I feel coming my way. But what can you do? 

LBird
'Humanised nature', not 'Truth out there'

MH wrote:

LBird wrote:

3. ‘‘Time' is a relationship between 'inorganic nature and an active, productive, consciousness' - this is the 'idealist-materialist', Marxist, option.

Actually, a far as our concept of physical time is concerned, and leaving aside the use of the term 'idealist-materialist' to describe Marx's method, I don’t think there would be any great disagreement with this statement, would there?

In fact, it's not far off Rovelli's view either, as far as I can see, given his consideration of social and cultural factors, as well as psychology and biology....  

 

Apologies for not replying earlier, MH. Been away for a few days.

I think that it's important to consider the political and physical implications of any proposed agreement, MH.

1. If even 'time' is a social product, then clearly so too is the physical;

2. If the physical ('material') is a social product, then its production can be determined by social theory and practice, and thus the scientific method can be democratised and be under the power of the organised, class conscious proletariat.

This all implies that in a Communist society, there can be no 'individual geniuses' or 'elite experts' who can 'know reality' outside of and prior to the democratic producers.

That is, any 'reality' is our reality, a 'reality-for-us', socially constructed by us, a relationship between an active consciousness aiming to change an 'inorganic nature', which produces 'organic nature', a world of 'humanised nature' and 'naturalised humanity'.

 

LBird
An ingredient into our creative activity

Once more, after further thought, an attempt at clarification.

'Inorganic nature' is an ingredient into human conscious activity - it is not something 'out there', waiting to be passively 'discovered', so we 'know' what 'inorganic nature' is, 'in itself'. 'Inorganic nature' only makes sense as part of a creative relationship with humanity.

The simple idea of a 'nature' that is outside of this relationship with creative humanity is meaningless, a 'nature' that is 'nothing for us'.

Humans are their own 'self-creator' - the lesson of Marx's Theses on Feuerbach.

We can change our own creation.

lem_
no reply from LBird cos they can't just repeat themselves

which steps in this reasoning process do you disagree with or even believe there's any room for disagreement?

Quote:
I see that LBird never replied to my statement that without facts we can't prove anything was untrue..

By definition a "fact" is whatever won't turn out to be untrue 

  • If you agree that whatever will turn out to be untrue is untrue now (that when we prove something wrong it was already wrong)then it seems that what is true now won't turn out to be untrue [a fact]

A (what will be poven untrue) is B (untrue now), not B (true), so not A (will not be proven untrue): if what we will know is false is already false then there are facts.

1. if we know now something was false then it is now false that it was true.

2. and when it is now false that something was true, then at that time it will be false that it was true.

3. if we know now something was false, then when it was false it will be false that is was true [see 1 and 2: and because what will have been false is identical to what we know was false]: when it was false we will know it is false that it was true.

4. which just says that if we know now something was false then something we will know is false was already false.

5. so if we know now something was false then it is a fact [see quote above].

whenever we know anything about the past that is something that hasn't changed: knowledge of the past is always about facts.

lem_
request for clarification

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Begging_the_question

you're just begging the question.

if you just assume that there are no facts, and that any disagreement with this isn't properly a discussion, not to be taken seriously, then obviously and of course you are"right" in as much as nothing anyone says can disuade you otherwise.

obviously it doesn't make you right, anymore than if i just assume that i'm a teapot and ignore any evidence to the contrary, that i'm a teapot...

 

EDIT can i just check: you're not LBIrd claiming that what we thought was a fact can turn out not to be a fact, or that the facts can change, just like the sun rises and sets. you are saying that it can be a fact, (true and not just believed to be) that at high noon i shot the sherrif, and then later it wasn't a fact (true and not just believed to be) that at high noon i shot the sherrif?

if you will not engage with the argument for fear of being too "passive" then at least confirm again this is what you're saying, without, ideally, repeating the whole god damn system of non-quotations

lem_
ok yikes

ok yikes let's try a different approach...

let's suppose that our discussion does not refer to anything outside of it. it's not something i believe, but for the sake of my argument. i will assume it.

we can misunderstand each other, when we discuss what is and isn't true. maybe we agree that tea is good, it's just i think we've agreed on green tea (which you hate), and you think we've agreed on red tea (which i hate).

this does mean that what is true is, if not referring to any real fact, nonetheless about a fact. i.e., if we the proletariat can be mistaken, about e.g. the nature of tea, and infact we don't know if it's any good, then truth is something that stands outside our discussion, even as it isn't independent of it.

if we can be wrong, then there are (in this case unreal) facts, states of affairs which hold irrespective of what we (the proletariat) decide is the case.

 

MH
The counter-argument to Rovelli

I thought I was finished with Rovelli but I realised I was curious to read the arguments of those who disagree with his thesis that time is not a fundamental property of the universe.

Lee Smolin has already been mentioned by baboon and others. 

Smolin’s main argument is that time is necessary in order to build a cosmological theory based on observations by real observers inside the universe. This requires a series of observations made at more than one moment. I like the way he explains this:

It is … an observed fact that the universe is very big compared to its observers. A combination of observation and theory then leads to the conclusion that the observations made by one observer at one “moment” are insufficient to determine the classical or quantum state of the whole universe.” ‘The present moment in quantum cosmology: Challenges to the arguments for the elimination of time’, 2000 (http://arxiv.org/pdf/gr-qc/0104097.pdf).

In other words, time is necessary for cosmology because the universe is so big it requires a set of observations made at different moments by real observers in the real world.  

Also, because measurements by real observers must be of only finite precision, in practice differences of time will still inevitably exist. Even if time can be eliminated in principle, it cannot be eliminated in practice.

But Smolin is not simply mounting a defence of the notion of time. He concludes with the mindblowing suggestion that time may in fact be none other than the process which constructs the universe:

“…if the universe is discrete and time is real, and is itself composed of discrete steps, then time may be none other than the process which constructs, not only the universe, but the space of possible universes relevant for observations made by local observers. Beyond this, there is the possibility of a quantum cosmology in which the actual history of the universe up till some moment and the space of possible universes present at that “instant” are not two different things, but are just different ways of seeing the same structure, whose construction is the real story of the world.”

 

LBird
'Time' for whom? God? Or us?

MH wrote:
Smolin wrote:
It is … an observed fact that the universe is very big compared to its observers.

This is a nonsensical statement, if there are 'no observers', which is the central claim of bourgeois physics, that they have access to a 'nature' which tells them, alone, what 'nature really is', outside of any 'observer'.

Once an 'observer' is brought into the claim, we are entitled to ask 'what ideology does the observer use?'.

Thus, every physicist should begin their study with a declaration of their own ideology.

Physicists don't do this - neither Rovelli nor Smolin do so.

They pay lip service to 'observed fact', and then treat is as 'fact'. That is, as if it is 'unobserved'.

This is clear in Smolin's statement, above.

The 'universe is very big compared' only to our 'observers'. The 'universe' only makes any sense, as Marx said, in relation to humanity. This is the 'comparison' to be made.

But... once 'humanity' is involved in 'physics', the claim of 'objective truth', knowledge of 'reality as it is', 'eternal truth outside of its social production', is shown to be an ideological myth.

We must force physicists to discuss the relationship between us and the 'universe', and ask if Marx was correct to argue that we create our universe, and so we can change it.

lem_
that makes no sense at all,

that makes no sense at all, you quote from a physicist comparing A to B and seem to argue that must be wrong because A must be compared to B?
 

 

lem_
hmmhm

MH wrote:
It is … an observed fact that the universe is very big compared to its observers. A combination of observation and theory then leads to the conclusion that the observations made by one observer at one “moment” are insufficient to determine the classical or quantum state of the whole universe.” ‘The present moment in quantum cosmology: Challenges to the arguments for the elimination of time’, 2000 (http://arxiv.org/pdf/gr-qc/0104097.pdf).

In other words, time is necessary for cosmology because the universe is so big it requires a set of observations made at different moments by real observers in the real world.  

i'd go with that. the abstract usefully explains that the arguments therein are predicated 

Quote:
that every observable in a theory of cosmology should be measurable by some observer inside the universe, and all mathematical constructions necessary to the formulation of the theory should be realizable in a finite time by a computer that fits inside the universe

emphasis mine.

Quote:
He concludes with the mindblowing suggestion that time may in fact be none other than the process which constructs the universe:...

the actual history of the universe up till some moment and the space of possible universes present at that “instant” are not two different things, but are just different ways of seeing the same structure, whose construction is the real story of the world.”

not sure what is so suprising about this, though, either your introduction (isn't it space-time, and so isn't it almost a given?), or the snip i kept from your quote, that the past and the present say the same things. it could even perhaps be a trivial fact, as long as the two tenses depend on each other... depending on our notion of actuality

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