The Forgotten Present
a philosophical conjecture about a fundamental,
self-feeding and self-immunizing bias in our thinking
Prof. Dr. A. v. Müller
Parmenides Center for the Study of Thinking, München
Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München
SISSA, International School for Advanced Studies, Trieste
The Forgotten Present: Key Hypothesis
• The present is an orthogonal aspect of time. It is the time-space in
which reality actually takes place.
• The point-like now is only the foot-print of the present in the other,
linear-sequential aspect of time.
• The time-space of the present is not a subject-side confabulation.
Instead, it is a prerequisite of subjectivity.
• Seen from the sequential aspect of time, the time-space of the present
(TSP) appears non-local: It is an all-encompassing, i.e. ubiquitously
expanded, not yet sequentially structured platform on which all that is
comes into being in the first place.
• The TSP is the aspect of time that directly corresponds to the
phenomena of strong self-referentiality and autogenesis.
• Re-gaining insight into the TSP leads to a fundamentally different and
significantly richer account of time and reality.
• Coming to grips with today’s major stumbling blocks requires to dig into
the categorial foundations of our theories and make their reflection
part of our theories.
Consequences of Omitting the Present
• The two phenomena of autogenesis and strong selfreferentiality, are at the roots of a broad spectrum of persistent stumbling blocks in modern science.
• Important examples are the state reduction in quantum physics
(and with it the relation between QPH and GRT), the
emergence of life, and the self-constitution of consciousness.
• My thesis: Without gaining insight into the TSP aspect of time,
i.e. without a fundamental revision of our usual notion of time,
we will not be able to tackle these issues successfully.
• The problem is: We cant just decide to re-introduce the TSP.
Doing this has major ramifications for the fabric of thought.
• In the following I will try to show that and how the TSP can be
(re-)introduced in our thinking - without loosing all that we
have gained via the linear-sequential account of time.
The Notion of a Categorial Apparatus
• Categories are the most fundamental cognitive structures that
shape – and, therefore, also constrain - our access to reality.
• It was the incommensurable merit of Immanuel Kant to draw
our attention on these “foundations of thinking”.
• Hitherto, we dealt with these categorial underpinnings often
as if they were independent from each other.
• This, however, is profoundly wrong. It can be shown that they
form “categorial apparatus” (pl.) - characterized by mutual
enabling and interdependency relations.
• In a categorial apparatus dropping or substantially modifying
one component affects all others.
• Modification and amplification can occur only on a “systems
level” and not isolation – as was largely practice until now.
The Two Complementary Categorial Apparatus
The Two Complementary Categorial Apparatus
The Two Complementary Categorial Apparatus
The Two Complementary Categorial Apparatus
The Two Complementary Categorial Apparatus
The Two Complementary Categorial Apparatus
The Thought-Pattern of Strong Self-Referentiality
• It is necessary to differentiate between “weak” and “strong”
• In weak self-referentiality something refers only to parts of
itself respectively its own history. Weak self-referentiality can
still be handled in the framework of classical “tertium non
datur” logic.
• In strong self-referentiality something refers to itself in its
entirety. This can not be handled in a classical logical frame.
• In formal systems that are strong enough to derive natural
numbers, strong self-referentiality can’t be avoided and
implies undecidability (Gödel, 1931).
• The thought-pattern of strong self-referentiality is directly
linked to the thought-pattern of autogenesis and vice versa.
The Thought-Pattern of Autogenesis
• Autogenesis means that something unfolds in and out of itself, i.e. in
the absence of external causation.
• Seen from the F framework an autogenetic event appears as genuinely
indeterminate and spontaneous. Seen from the E framework it turns
out to be by no means arbitrary or random.
• It has no cause, but a reason. This reason, however, lies within itself –
respectively within the constellation that allows itself to occur.
• Via autogenesis something unfolds itself – i.e. paradoxically speaking: It
becomes what it is.
• Autogenesis is most directly linked to strong self-referentiality and
neither of the two can be thought without the other.
• The phenomenon of genuine novelty is directly related to autogenesis.
• In temporal terms, autogenesis constitutes something like a ‘protopresent’ – based on which eventually high order “presents” can arise.
• < It is difficult to understand , why autogenesis is easily accepted for
the initial singularity - but not for all happening thereafter (archae).>
Paratactic Predication and the Logic of Constellations
• The “Logic of Constellations” (LoC) describes the semantic dynamics within a
paratactic predication space.
• In general, there are two basic modes of thinking, i.e. of connecting mental
content in order to gain novel insights.
• The first is the well-known ratio-morphic concatenation characterized by
traditional, Boolean “tertium non datur” logics.
• The second, occurring in paratactic predication spaces, is constellatory
thinking. Here propositions form constellations and interpret one another.
• Because only the first is affine to well-defined explanation, we largely
overlooked the second in the history of logics. (The notion of logic is here
understood in the elder, Heraklitian, i.e. in a pre-Aristotelian sense.)
• LoC tolerates contradiction – because it doesn’t allow for formal conclusions.
Hand -in hand with this, the criterion of truth shifts from formal correctness
to authentic experience – with elegance and beauty as regulative ideas.
• LoC is comprised of three interlaced dynamics: (a) the mutual semantic unfolding of the components, (b) the emergence of an overarching meaning, and
(c) the reinterpretation of its own constituents by this overarching meaning.
• LoC constitutes an infinitely operating, self-feeding “semantic powerhouse”.
The TSP Interpretation of Quantum Physics
• Classical and relativistic physics address predominantly the factual aspect
of reality. Quantum physics, instead addresses also how facts come into
being in the first place. Therefore, it requires a richer categorial framework.
• All quantum phenomena correspond directly to the component of the E
framework – and vice versa. All “enigmas” of quantum physics can be
traced back to an exaggerated use of the F framework.
A New Look at Quantum Physics and Relativity?
• The canvas of local space-time constitutes only together with
factization. It is thus not applicable to the status “ante”.
• Relativity doesn’t allow for a “now” that would be mandatory for the
entire universe. Quantum physics, instead, requires a strong notion of
the present – as genuine novelty can take place only there .
• But the two demands don’t contradict. The present required by
quantum physics is quintessentially different from the ‘now’
prohibited by relativity.
• To the contrary, careful analysis should unveil that GRT even implies a
TSP perspective, both in its (inevitable?) singularities - which are due
to strong self-referentiality of gravity - and in stating a block universe.
• Constructs implying backward running time are understandable, but
aporetic and logically inconsistent circumscriptions of the TSP.
• Both, quantum physics and relativity coincide in addressing reality as
being both, unimaginably rich and characterized by inseparable unity.
They just come to this from the two complementary aspects of reality.
The Forgotten Present - A Present We Forgot About
Complementing the first categorial apparatus with the second allows for a significantly richer account of time and reality. It allows to overcome the “facticity
imprisonment” of science and it may open our thinking for rediscovering the
“objective wonderfulness” of reality.
But, this new freedom in our thinking comes at a prize. Nothing regarding the
second apparatus, not even its existence, can be proven coercively. It remains open
to deliberate acceptance.
The need for deliberate assumption is hard to swallow within the traditional
understanding of science, but the undecidability of its existence is constitutive for
the possibility of the E aspect of time and reality.
But rediscovering the forgotten present has implications far beyond physics:
 Natural Laws: All law-like behavior may become reconstructible as the preconditions for facticity.
 The Autogenetic Universe: A coherent theory of matter, life and mind becomes possible - with the
latter as forms of higher order self-referentiality. These higher forms, however, build and depend on
the first order self-referentiality of matter/energy. Consciousness is very advanced auto-genesis.
 Art and Science: Art may become interpretable as the enclave into which inherently constellatory
phenomena have been evacuated when being banned from science.
 Ethics and Society: The culture-invariant core of ethics, attentiveness, may turn out to be not just a
moral demand , but simply the most efficient strategy for dealing with the “objective wonderfulness ” of reality.