Re: History-less observer moments

From: Brent Meeker <>
Date: Mon, 15 May 2000 20:54:19 -0700

On 14-May-00, Russell Standish wrote:
> The idea of "observer moment" initially presupposes that the moment
> has no temporal duration - it is instantaneous. The problem with this,
> is that there is no time whatsoever in which the observer can
> experience its moment. In particular, the observer is unable to
> implement a Turing machine, hence computationalism is false.

> If we then introduce the concept of an extended observer moment with
> duration, what duration should we choose? If shorter than a "quantum of
> conscious time" (about 1/10th of a second), then how does one explain the
> accrual of knowledge about the observer moment. How can you be aware of
> historical data? If longer, then how do you explain change observed in the
> world.

I think the idea is that change is difference between moments. They need not
have duration if instead that contain a pointer or relation that defines a
sequence of moments which we perceive as the flow of time. This seems to me to
be closer to a theoretical physics idea of time than a pychological model.

 If change is to be included in the "observer moment", why does the
> moment have to have finite duration at all? Could it not be semi-infinite?
> (or a least a lifetime - whatever that is). Unless there is some "Groundhog
> day" scenario (from the movie of that name, where Tom Hanks gets trapped into
> living the same day over and over again),

It was Bill Murray.

 surely in this case we get back to
> my picture of the (quantum) history being the primordial object. Time is a
> psychological entity. I have no problem with this. If one accepts Bruno
> Marchal's conclusion, Physics and Psychology are ontologically reversed. All
> physical concepts are fundamentally psychological phenomena. I suspect that
> this conclusion actually follows from the Plenitude + Anthropic Principle,
> without the need of some of Bruno's strong AI type assumptions, but that
> remains to be seen.

Bertrand Russell showed that time as a continuum could be constructed from
finite perceived intervals. The ordering relation is given by the overlap of
the intervals. It seems to me that these discussions are sometimes confused as
to whether the argument is going to take a Cartesian direction from something
we perceive directly -- "there is a thought" -- to the apparent physical world
or instead to assume some Platonic ideal --- the ensemble of all logically
possible worlds -- and try to show that it makes us and our world at least
probable. These are both interesting approaches and need not contradict; but
it gets muddle when one slides from one to the other.

Brent Meeker
Received on Mon May 15 2000 - 23:03:05 PDT

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