Content

Eternity often means existence for a limitless amount of time, and may be used to refer to a timeless existence altogether outside of time. There are a number of arguments for eternity, by which proponents of the concept, principally Aristotle, purported to prove that matter, motion, and time must have existed eternally.

The metaphysics of eternity might be summarized by asking if anything can be said to exist outside of or independent of time, and if so how and why? Some consequential metaphysical questions of some importance relate to whether information can be said to exist independently of the human mind, and if so, what would be the content and purpose of such information?

It is an understatement to say that humans cannot fully understand eternity, since it is either an infinite amount of time as we know it or something other than the time and space we know. For the infinite definition, there are parallels that give some notion of a potential infinity, or a series that begins and has not ended. A series of moments that has begun and not ended is, however, not potentially eternal by that definition. A series of moments that has begun and not ended cannot be eternal, because even if it were to continue for the rest of infinite time, there would still be time prior to the initial moment in the series.

Augustine of Hippo wrote that time exists only within the created universe, so that God exists outside of time. For God there is no past or future, but only an eternal present. One need not believe in God in order to hold this concept of eternity. For example, an atheist mathematician can maintain the philosophical tenet that numbers and the relationships among them exist outside of time, and so are in that sense eternal.

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Approach

The theory of multiple intelligences was proposed by Howard Gardner in 1983 to more accurately define the concept of intelligence and to address the question whether methods which claim to measure intelligence are truly scientific.

Gardner’s theory argues that intelligence, particularly as it is traditionally defined, does not sufficiently encompass the wide variety of abilities humans display. In his conception, a child who masters multiplication easily is not necessarily more intelligent overall than a child who struggles to do so. The second child may be stronger in another kind of intelligence and therefore 1) may best learn the given material through a different approach, 2) may excel in a field outside of mathematics, or 3) may even be looking at the multiplication process at a fundamentally deeper level, which can result in a seeming slowness that hides a mathematical intelligence that is potentially higher than that of a child who easily memorizes the multiplication table.

As one would expect from a theory that redefines intelligence, one of the major criticisms of the theory is that it is ad hoc. The criticism is that Gardner is not expanding the definition of the word intelligence, rather, he denies the existence of intelligence, as is traditionally understood, and instead uses the word intelligence whenever other people have traditionally used words like ability.

Gardner argues that by calling linguistic and logical-mathematical abilities intelligences, but not artistic, musical, athletic, etc. abilities, the former are needlessly aggrandized. Many critics balk at this widening of the definition, saying that it ignores the connotation of intelligence which has always connoted the kind of thinking skills that makes one successful in school.

Defenders of the multiple intelligence theory would argue that this is simply a recognition of the broad scope of inherent mental abilities, and that such an exhaustive scope by nature defies a simple, one-dimensional classification such as an assigned IQ value. They would claim that such one-dimensional values are typically of limited value in predicting the real world application of unique mental abilities.

Comprehension

icon_41The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people reach erroneous conclusions and make unfortunate choices but their incompetence robs them of the metacognitive ability to realize it. The unskilled therefore suffer from illusory superiority, rating their own ability as above average, much higher than actuality. By contrast, the highly skilled underrate their abilities, suffering from illusory inferiority.

This leads to a situation where less competent people will rate their own ability higher than more competent people. It also explains why actual competence may weaken self-confidence because competent individuals falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. Thus, the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others.

The phenomenon was demonstrated in a series of experiments performed by Justin Kruger and David Dunning, then both of Cornell University. They noted a number of previous studies which tend to suggest that in skills as diverse as reading comprehension, operating a motor vehicle, and playing chess or tennis, ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge. They hypothesized that with a typical skill which humans may possess in greater or lesser degree,

  • Incompetent individuals tend to overestimate their own level of skill.
  • Incompetent individuals fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
  • Incompetent individuals fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy.
  • If they can be trained to substantially improve their own skill level, these individuals can recognize and acknowledge their own previous lack of skill.

The authors draw an analogy with anosognosia, a condition in which a person who suffers a physical disability due to brain injury seems unaware of or denies the existence of the disability. This may include unawareness of quite dramatic impairments, such as blindness or paralysis.

Learning

Grapheme-color synesthesia is a form of synesthesia in which an individual’s perception of numbers and letters is associated with the experience of colors. Like all forms of synesthesia, grapheme-color synesthesia is involuntary, consistent, and memorable. It is one of the most common forms of synesthesia, and because of the extensive knowledge of the visual system, one of the most studied.

One recent study has documented a case of synesthesia in which synesthetic associations could be traced back to colored refrigerator magnets. Despite the existence of this individual case, the majority of synesthetic associations do not seem to be driven by learning of this sort. Rather, it seems that more frequent letters are paired with more frequent colors, and some meaning-based rules, such as B being blue, drive some synesthetic associations.

These experiences have led to the development of technologies intended to improve the retention and memory of graphemes by individuals without synesthesia. Computers, for instance, could use artificial synesthesia to color words and numbers to improve usability. Individuals with grapheme-color synesthesia rarely claim that their sensations are problematic or unwanted. In some cases, individuals report useful effects, such as aid in memory or spelling of difficult words.

Synesthetes often report that they were unaware their experiences were unusual until they realized other people did not have them, while others report feeling as if they had been keeping a secret their entire lives. Many synesthetes can vividly remember when they first noticed their synesthetic experiences, or when they first learned that such experiences were unusual. Writer and synesthete Patricia Lynne Duffy remembers one early experience:

“One day, I realized that to make an R all I had to do was first write a P and then draw a line down from its loop. And I was so surprised that I could turn a yellow letter into an orange letter just by adding a line.”

Paradox

The paradox of hedonism, also called the pleasure paradox, is the idea in the study of ethics which points out that pleasure and happiness are phenomena that do not obey normal principles. First explicitly noted by the philosopher Henry Sidgwick in The Methods of Ethics, the paradox of hedonism points out that pleasure cannot be acquired directly, it can only be acquired indirectly.

As an example, suppose John likes to collect stamps. According to most models of behavior, it is believed that John likes collecting stamps because he gets pleasure from collecting stamps. Stamp collecting is an avenue towards acquiring pleasure. However, if you tell John this, he will likely disagree. He does get pleasure from collecting stamps, but this is not the process that explains why he collects stamps. It is not as though he says, “I must collect stamps so I can obtain pleasure”. Collecting stamps is not just a means toward pleasure. He just likes collecting stamps.

This paradox is often spun around backwards, to illustrate that pleasure and happiness cannot be reverse-engineered. If for example you heard that collecting stamps was very pleasurable, and began a stamp collection as a means towards this happiness, it would inevitably be in vain. To achieve happiness, you must not seek happiness directly, you must motivate yourself towards things unrelated to happiness, like the collection of stamps. The hedonistic paradox would mean that if one sets the goal to please oneself too highly then the mechanism would in fact jam itself.

Politician William Bennett has stated, “Happiness is like a cat, If you try to coax it or call it, it will avoid you; it will never come. But if you pay no attention to it and go about your business, you’ll find it rubbing against your legs and jumping into your lap.”

Accumulation

The Loch Ness Monster is alleged to be a creature inhabiting Loch Ness in Scotland. Popular interest and belief in the animal has fluctuated since it was brought to the world’s attention in 1933. Evidence of its existence is largely anecdotal, with minimal and much disputed photographic material and sonar readings. The scientific community regards the Loch Ness Monster as a modern day myth, and explains sightings as a mix of hoaxes and wishful thinking. Despite this, it remains one of the most famous examples of cryptozoology. The legendary monster has been affectionately referred to as Nessie since the 1950s.

One of the most iconic images of Nessie is known as the Surgeon’s Photograph, which many formerly considered to be good evidence of the monster. Its importance lies in the fact that it was the only photographic evidence of a head and neck, as all the other photographs are humps or disturbances. The image was revealed as a hoax in 1994.

In 1979 the image was claimed to be a picture of an elephant. Other sceptics in the 1980s argued the photo was that of an otter or a diving bird, but after the photographer’s confession most agree it was what he claimed: a toy submarine with a sculpted head attached. Essentially, it was a toy submarine with a head and neck made of plastic wood. One of the researchers who uncovered the hoax argues the Loch Ness Monster is real, and that the hoaxed Surgeon’s Photograph is not cause enough to dismiss eyewitness reports and other evidence.

On a recent expedition to find evidence of Nessie, U.S. research teams came across something quite unexpected, not a prehistoric creature of the deep but thousands of plastic covered golf balls. Mike O’Brien of SeaTrepid explains: “At first we thought they were mushrooms, there were so many. But when we lowered the camera, we were surprised to see that they were in fact, golf balls.” The smattering of balls were found roughly 300 yards from the beach and 100 yards from the shore where it is thought locals and visitors have been using the loch to practice their driving skills for quite some time.

Payback

The afterlife (also referred to as life after death or the hereafter) is the idea that the consciousness or mind of a being continues after physical death occurs. In many popular views, this continued existence often takes place in a spiritual or immaterial realm. Major views on the afterlife derive from religion, esotericism and metaphysics. Deceased persons are usually believed to go to a specific realm or plane of existence after death, typically believed to be determined by a god, based on their actions during life.

The afterlife played an important role in Ancient Egyptian religion, and its belief system is one of the earliest known. When the body died, parts of its soul known as ka (body double) and ba (personality) would go to the Kingdom of the Dead. While the soul dwelt in the Fields of Aaru (a heavenly paradise), Osiris demanded work as payback for the protection he provided. Statues were placed in the tombs to serve as substitutes for the deceased.

Arriving at one’s reward in afterlife was a demanding ordeal, requiring a sin-free heart and the ability to recite the spells, passwords, and formulae of the Book of the Dead. In the Hall of Two Truths, the deceased’s heart was weighed against the Shu feather of truth and justice taken from the headdress of the goddess Ma’at. If the heart was lighter than the feather, they could pass on, but if it were heavier they would be devoured by the demon Ammit (a female demon with a body part lion, hippopotamus and crocodile).

Egyptians also believed that being mummified was the only way to have an afterlife. Only if the corpse had been properly embalmed and entombed in a mastaba or burial chamber could the dead live again in the Fields of Yalu and accompany the Sun on its daily ride. Due to the dangers the afterlife posed, the Book of the Dead was placed in the tomb with the body as well as food, jewelry, and ‘curses’.

Interplay

The endless knot or eternal knot is a symbolic knot found in Tibet and Mongolia. The motif is used in Tibetan Buddhism, and may also be found in Chinese art as one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols.

The endless knot has been described as an ancient symbol representing the interweaving of the spiritual path and the flowing of time and movement within that which is eternal. All existence, it says, is bound by time and change, yet ultimately rests serenely within the divine and the eternal.

Various interpretations of the symbol are the inter-twining of wisdom and compassion, and the interplay and interaction of the opposing forces in the dualistic world of manifestation, leading to their union, and ultimately to harmony in the universe. The Endless knot iconography also symbolises Samsara, or the endless cycle of suffering or birth, death and rebirth within Tibetan Buddhism.

Endless knots as mystic and mythological symbols have developed independently in various cultures. A well-known example is the various Celtic knots. Since the knot has no beginning or end it symbolizes infinite wisdom.

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Principle

The term intentionality was introduced by Jeremy Bentham as a principle of utility in his doctrine of consciousness for the purpose of distinguishing acts that are intentional and acts that are not. The term was later used by Edmund Husserl in his doctrine that consciousness is always intentional, a concept that he undertook in connection with theses set forth by Franz Brentano regarding the ontological and psychological status of objects of thought.

It has been defined as “aboutness”, and according to the Oxford English Dictionary it is “the distinguishing property of mental phenomena of being necessarily directed upon an object, whether real or imaginary”. It is in this sense and the usage of Husserl that the term is primarily used in contemporary philosophy. The concept of intentionality has its foundation in scholastic philosophy with the earliest theory being associated with St. Anselm’s ontological argument for the existence of God and his tenets distinguishing between objects that exist in understanding and objects that exist in reality.

A major problem within intentionality discourse is that participants often fail to make explicit whether or not they use the term to imply concepts such as agency or desire, or whether it involves teleology. Most philosophers use intentionality to mean something with no teleological import. Thus, a thought of a chair can be about a chair without any implication of an intention or even a belief relating to the chair. For philosophers of language, intentionality is largely an issue of how symbols can have meaning.

In current artificial intelligence and philosophy of mind, intentionality is a controversial subject and sometimes claimed to be something that a machine will never achieve. John Searle argued for this position with the Chinese room thought experiment, according to which no syntactic operations that occurred in a computer would provide it with semantic content. As he noted in the article, Searle’s view was a minority position in artificial intelligence and philosophy of mind.

Reference

In the context of reality, people face the difficulty of telling whether the world we are living in is virtual or real. Such a confusion leads people to investigate the possibility that we are living in a simulation.

Whether are we living in a simulated reality or a real one may be indistinguishable in principle. The relativity principle in physics, which is mainly about the relativity of motion, states that motion has no absolute meaning. To say if something is in motion or rest one must have some reference frame. Without a reference frame, one cannot tell the state of being in rest or in uniform motion.

Similar things happen for reality, meaning that without a reference world, one cannot tell the world one is living in is real or not. Therefore, there is no absolute meaning for reality. The principle of relativity of reality is a generalization of the principle in special relativity, and may be called ‘super relativity principle’. Similar to the situation in special relativity or general relativity, there are two fundamental principles for the relativity of reality:

  • All worlds are the same real.
  • Simulated events and simulating events coexist.

The first principle says that the reality is relative and thus observer dependent. For a world, one calls it reality or virtuality depending on whether one lives in it. One calls the world one lives in reality, and other worlds virtuality. For example, if one lives in world A, one calls it reality and the other is world B virtuality. However if one’s consciousness is transferred from world A into world B, then, one shall call world B reality and world A virtuality.

The second principle states a fact sometimes known as a coexistence principle. Nowadays, there are mainly two kinds of simulators available, computers and human brains. For computers, suppose there is a glinting ball in the simulated world of a computer. The counterpart of it in the simulating world is the combination of zeros and ones (high and low electrical levels) of the running computer’s circuits. In fact, for anything in the simulated world, there is its counterpart in the simulating world.

For human brains, suppose there is an apple in someone’s imagination, the counterpart of it in the material world is the biochemical reactions in one’s brain. In fact, for anything in one’s imagination, there is its counterpart as a biochemical reaction in the material world. Essentially, simulated events and simulating events coexist, but that doesn’t mean that simulated events and simulating events exist in the same form. Actually, they can be quite different in existence form. Taking the above-mentioned apple in someone’s imagination as an example, its existing form in the simulated world is a apple, while the existing form of its counterpart in the simulating world is biochemical reactions in someone’s brain.