The Argument from Extension

Where is the past? Everything we apprehend is of the immediately past moment, to be sure; the inputs to our mind now are the outputs of what happened then, are as it were the outward, objective “surface” of the past. So we could answer with a wave of the hand, “It’s right there!” We can notice where things are in relation to each other within that past moment. But where is that moment located? Where likewise is the unrealized future, or for that matter, where is this present moment? Where is its space?

What is the space within which the spatial configuration of the universe evolves, in which one moment is related to another? It would seem that we need that space. How otherwise could events be related to each other causally, whether timewise or spacewise?

It’s no good to postulate that there is a hyperspace, like Plato’s Receptacle or Newton’s Sensorium, or Hilbert Space, or Aristotle’s Prime Matter. That just kicks the can down the road. Where is Hilbert Space?

What are we really asking when we ask where something is located? Are we not asking about what characterizes its environment, so that we can find it? “The can opener is in the top drawer to the left of the sink.” We never have to ask this question about the past, because it is always immediately present to our apprehension, so that we never have to look for it.

So we could say that the location of the present moment is in the context of the immediately past moment, which environs it by constraining the possibilities really potential to it. This brings to mind an image of an onion ever growing new inmost layers, each environed by the layer immediately outside it. But again, this just pushes the question out a … well, a layer: where is the onion?

Where is the history of all the worlds? It must be somewhere, or it just wouldn’t be anywhere, and we would not exist. Where is it, then?

The question answers itself. Indeed, there is only one possible answer.

12 thoughts on “The Argument from Extension

  1. Pingback: The Argument from Extension | Neoreactive

  2. Where is the past?
    Life is just a dream.
    Where lies the dreamer?
    Life is just a thing.
    Where point a finger?
    I don’t like the question anymore.
    That is the only answer.
    A question that must be silenced.
    The most reasonable response is
    to send reason far away.

  3. It’s the same answer as you would give to questions like “how tall is blue?” — to ask it is to commit a category error.

    I assume your answer is different – let’s say it’s x, the location of space itself. But why, pray tell, if Hilbert Space has to have a location, is it not the case that x has to have itself a location in some containing structure?

    • That’s an excellent question. If x is itself just a space of the same sort as Hilbert Space, then it would seem that it, too, must have an environing space. It’s the same quandary that we land in when we ask what caused God: its turtles all the way down!

      The turtles must begin somewhere, or they could never have finished adding up to the turtle upon which this world rests. The answer is that the space of all spaces includes itself. The question that then naturally suggests itself is, “why not just treat our own familiar space as the space of all spaces that includes itself?” It can’t work, though, because our space is composite. It is a nexus of relations among many disparate substantive entities, and asking where these relations are located – which is to say, what causes causation – is to raise the question of the location of all locations. Location can’t locate, and causation can’t cause. Location and causation therefore require a matrix.

      The space of all spaces that includes itself has to be simple to avoid this problem. Such a space is not located anywhere; it is ubiquitous.

      The Trinity is an apt approach to understanding how a space, or a being, can include itself.

  4. Pingback: The Argument from Extension | Reaction Times

  5. A senior colleague, who considered himself très au courant in theoretical matters, insisted during a lunchtime conversation that the statement, “the ideas are in the library,” made no sense. He was not a Platonist, so he meant not at all that the ideas were in the Heaven above the Heavens that Plato describes in the Phaedrus, as opposed to being in the library. In fact, during the same conversation, the colleague said, in a tone of indignation, that Plato’s view of the world was a fairy tale. He conceded that the books were in the library, but not (again) that the ideas were in the books. When I asked him whether there were any ideas in his head, he glowered at me like a terrorist from Dostoevsky’s Possessed and changed the subject to his retirement plan.

  6. I don’t buy this one at all.

    “Where is Los Angeles?” One presumes that this question is answerable based on an agreed upon procedure, even if one does not know.

    “Where is the cat?” Different technique, but note that the cat cannot be lost the same way a city can.

    “Where is the feeling of the piece in the performance?” We are talking about something entirely different now.

    “Where is your heart in these times of trouble?” Again, something different.

    “Where is the universe?” is, of course, nonsense. First, the universe in this sense is not a thing, it is essentially a manifold. Things have location in relation to other things. The universe can have no relation to anything, it can’t really even be said to exist , being the totality of all relations. It is similar to asking what number comes after infinity.

    But isn’t the universe in relation to God? Certainly, but not in relation with God, which would require a metaphysical equality. God is incomparable. The universe is in relation to God to the extent that it is divinized.

    • Asking where the universe is located is indeed obviously a category error. As a.morphous said, it’s like asking how tall blue is. That’s why answering with a suggestion of some sort of hyperspace doesn’t do. It is only to repeat the question.

      I asked the question rhetorically. Obviously the past is not located in the present the way LA is located in California. Yet we can get from the past to the present, just as we can get from LA to San Francisco. Or rather, we can see how we got from then to now.

      What I’m really asking then is, in what does the system of relations that connect events subsist? Not a space, or a place, that has location. It can’t be something composite. It must be simple, not itself located, thus ubiquitous.


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