Part Two: The Present

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Part Two: The Present

In our causally deterministic universe, all time can be divided into three categories: the unitary past, the unitary present and the unitary future.  The present is the most interesting of the three.  All moments spend some time as the past and future, but only one moment as the present.  J. M. E. McTaggart proposed this view of time as the A-Series theory of time (as opposed to the B-Series which breaks time into two categories: the past and present).

The present is distinct from all other time.  It is the only time in which we can observe the universe, or put another way, we can only observe the present.  The present might be likened to the experience of being on an airplane in flight.  You are moving hundreds of miles an hour, but you do not experience this sensation.  The present is moving forward continuously, but you don't sense it.  It's there, however, and we recognize its value, in sports or live music or theater. 

Regardless of how we experience it, the fact that we do experience it suggests that all the other matter in the universe lives in the present as well.  The physical process that characterize our existence reflect those that came before us and are not unique to biological life.  Presumably, all interactions in history occurred in the present and that is why we experience it. 

So how do we describe the present?  Perhaps the present could be the fundamental expression of causality.  The past is "cause" the future is "effect" and the present is the "event" that produces one from the other.  If the present is an actual feature of our universe, it could be broken down into two parts: process and meta-process, in this case, the present and the meta-present.  As an analogy, think of a ball falling to the ground.  The ball falling is describable without understanding the concept of gravity.  But gravity is the underlying physical force that causes it to happen.  The present is the actual expression of the physical universe we live in.  The meta-present is whatever process is behind it.  Meta-processes are whatever actualize the physical laws themselves.  These may or may not be at some point cognizable or understandable, but it is clear that today, we have no concept of what makes the universe "be" like it is.  The meta-present is either an actor, like a machine or computer producing the present state that leads to the future from the past. Or, it is a projector, passively feeding the input from something else and "playing" the universe through a further meta-process. 

The meta-present must contain all the details of the past in order to get the present "right".  The present must physically reflect the past.  This brings us back to determinism.  For causality to exist, the universe needs to be deterministic.  The information of what has happened in the past must be retained in the meta-present in order for the present to be causally related to the past and the future.  If any of the information were lost, some part of the present would have no causal relationship with the past.  If that were true, than as the present moved forward, and as subsequent processes interacted with the non-causally related portion of the former present, more and more of the present would be non-causally related until in theory, all causation would break down. 

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