Those who somewhat grasp Einstein’s general theory of relativity are proud to be elevated over the folk-philosophical level. They understand that the Big Bang did not explode to expand space outwards into some “meta-space” that contains space. There is space, but not necessarily an outside, a space of space. The latter would start a so called regress without definite termination (similar to the Regress argument), namely the questioning of where that space of space in turn is located and what its physics would be. Such leads to the next level of the space outside of the space that contains space and so on.
It is almost common knowledge today that “meta-space” is a conceptual error. Moreover, it was precisely relativity theory that unified space and time. Nevertheless, the ‘meta-level mistake’ is still committed even by most scientists when it comes to the nature of time. This stubbornness is a symptom and just the tip of a huge, inert iceberg that refuses to get out of our way.
In the following, we will see via “time of time”, “randomness of randomness”, “real reality”, stuff being “actually actualized”, and “conscious awareness”, that progress on all the major questions in fundamental research is held back by the regress error hampering our thinking in a profound way. It is the same silly way it confused already thousands of years ago, which renders physicists’ pride about having understood that space needs no outside pace especially childish. They took the pride, but sure did not learn the lesson yet.
This is not about intelligence. Einstein was highly intelligent. He could have resolved the Einstein Podolsky Rosen paradox a century ago if he did not commit regress error thinking. His desire for “real reality” and misunderstanding randomness as “random randomness” made it impossible for him to understand the core of quantum mechanics in spite of being the very person who rejected space of space and time of time like no other before him.
Why oh why is it so darn difficult for even the most intelligent scientists and philosophers to avoid the regress error?
This topic is dear to me also personally, because one of several reasons for claiming my own thinking to be “next level” is that I try to avoid regress, but the result is that many even very educated people just cannot access my arguments. Simply through refusing regress error terminology like “actually actualized”, my work is perceived as pseudoscientific drivel unrelated to the “real” physics of why “time flows” or whether parallel worlds “really exist”.
However, this is not about me, but You! Regress error thinking is the single most difficult hurdle for all of fundamental science still today. It did not just delay acceptance of relativistic space-time historically, but it slows down progress in quantum physics and the science of mind to an unbearable crawl. Such a long time after Wittgenstein and Ayer, we still use regress error type terminology and the circularity of the unquestioned first step in the regress, trying to express ‘what one cannot talk about’ (in Wittgenstein’s words). But let’s be constructive: If you want to make progress on the very foundations of fundamental science, stop calculating and spend a full week trying to find where you yourself commit this error. The following hopefully helps.
1) The Flow of Time washing away Rationality
Once time is inside our description in order to take care of changes, there is no further “meta-time” that allows this terribly misleading “flow of time”. You measure flows in terms of time; there is no further time for time that allows time to flow itself.
This is yet more obvious than “space in space”; after all, our universe could well be a three dimensional membrane in a ten dimensional “meta-space” for example. However, if time needed to flow, this would imply meta-time (How fast does it flow?). Assuming that time needs flow, we immediately have not just regress without definite termination, but an infinite regress: Time of time of time of time of time of …
There is no meta-time that allows the present to slowly climb the time axis into the future. There is no mysterious ghostly glow of the present that some feel must distinguish the present from the rest of time. Slowly more and more people begin to realize this, but writers like Julian Babour make a living out of confusing people by pushing the regress error into a different realm.
Babour style ontology tells us that “only time capsules exist” without telling us clearly what “exist” is supposed to mean in this context. Such is not the reason for why “time of time” is nonsense. Flow of time does not make any sense; it is plainly not a consistent use of language! (It would only make sort of sense inside an Einstein-ether with emergent time that lives in an outside, ‘relatively absolute’ time. However, such is far removed from what people (or Babour) ever consider and we are here discussing the fundamental nature of time. Fundamental time just cannot flow, and it is not because of physics!)
2) Nature of Consciousness
People are conscious, that is the phenomenon in need to be explained and it still is not completely explained, but the debate is basically stuck in the mud of how consciousness is conscious. Highly intelligent people fight about what is basically meta-consciousness: the phenomenal subjective “first-person” feeling of “conscious awareness” is mostly ill-defined as some sort of conscious consciousness. Daniel Dennett has made much progress on this, but the vast majority of people, philosophers and scientists alike, are not able to comprehend it. And it is not lack of intelligence, but lacking the ability to question one’s own way of thinking.
What is perhaps most intriguing about it: One of the main problems of the “critics” of Dennett is actually that they do not understand that time has no time! One of the central points of Dennett’s is the difference between a so called “Orwellian” versus “Stalinist” consciousness and how this difference actually does not exist because the “difference” is simply meaningless temporal terminology. The time resolution on which consciousness emerges and the work of Benjamin Libet on timing is involved here, and people like P. Churchland (both) and Searle do not understand it because they do not grasp the nature of time. Searles' “Chinese room” is infamous and one of the silliest instantiations of starting an infinite regress (understanding of understanding).
Adding quantum goop to a zombie brain in order to have consciousness is nonsense, but that does not mean there is no deep relation between consciousness and quantum mechanics. Sadly, whenever you point this out, people immediately confuse it with mystery quantum goop proposals, simply because this regress error type thinking is so wide spread that everybody tacitly assumes you do it too.
3) Quantum Physics
The biggest problem with understanding quantum physics today is the ill-understood nature of probability and randomness. The folk-philosophical understanding of randomness implicitly assumes some meta-randomness to ensure that equivalent possibilities are equally likely. This problem with probabilities leads to the so called ‘measure problem’ and it should not surprise that the measure problem is the biggest problem in current cosmology, because cosmology is the scientific field where also space of space and time of time are most problematic.
In a many world model, the 50/50 randomness between tossing a coin and obtaining heads versus obtaining tails is taken care of via the equivalence of the different branches labeled “heads” and “tails”. Nevertheless, most people are unsatisfied without some sort of extra ingredient like for example an equal volume of the branches. The thought is similar to imagining a pointer that randomly selects points in the branches. The feeling is that if both branches have equal volume, the pointer lands with equal probability.
A pointer “Directly Real” (short "DR") meta-randomly selects one of two volumes in a many world model.
This totally wrong picture assumes a sort of further meta-randomness that makes some god-like pointer randomly select, because the pointer only falls 50/50 into the different branches if all points inside the branches have the same probability to be selected in the first place. In other words: equal probability is assumed in order to let it arise via the equal volume fractions. This is a circularity which is here though due to starting a regress: What makes the meta-randomness random? Meta-meta-randomness? (This topic is in more detail explained in “Empirical Probability versus classical fair Meta randomness”)
4) Nature of “Reality”
The issue that somewhat underlies all the others is direct realism, which is a naïve form of realism which demands reality to be “really real”, you know, like existing with “truly true truth”. For example, the quantum physics problems lead to considering entangled many world models which are tautologically true (this is in detail discussed in “Many Worlds Tautological Truth: To Be Or Not To Be Is Not The Question”).
The problem people have with accepting many worlds is that they desire to know if those other possibilities are more than merely (relatively) actualized for the observers for whom they are actualized. People demand to know whether such worlds are really truly “actually actualized”. And if one points out that this is no more than bad terminology, one gets either insults or some sort of incessant follow up of ever more terminology nonsense like that one does not really mean this or that but whether parallel worlds “really exist” or whatever.
Over and over new formulations that are based on regress error thinking and circularly (un)defined terminology are presented, quite similar to academic philosophy actually, and if you stay consistent with refusing to adopt any of the bad terminology, you are accused of not answering any questions or caring about the “real issue”. Just one thing I have not yet come across: Anybody who is committing the regress error realizing it and improving. Why oh why is it so difficult?--------------------------------------------
UPDATE: I forgot to include “Free will” being the "willing of will" (meta-will).
Also, the throwing of fair “meta-coin” whenever we reach a branching point in the many-world tree rests on the wrong picture of slowly creeping along time (meta-time necessary to allow an actual reaching of branching points).
So, meta-time necessary to step out of time and decide freely or throw a meta-coin shows again that these misleading pictures support each other. Problems will persist if we do not get rid of all of them together by refusing any terminology that is circular due to regress.