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Date:         Tue, 8 Sep 1998 23:02:07 -0700
Reply-To:     Quantum Approaches to Consciousness
Sender:       Quantum Approaches to Consciousness
From:         Stuart Hameroff <hameroff@U.ARIZONA.EDU>
Subject:      [q-mind] Existence as process - Adhanom I. Andemicael
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From Adhanom I. Andemicael

The Dynamic "Now": Existence as Process

Physicists and philosophers have not developed an internally consistent explanation which clarifies the relationship between time and consciousness, and which does so naturally within the framework of quantum theory and relativity theory. This is largely because they have clung to erroneous intuitive ideas about our most fundamental notions: "existence" and "persistence." For a full development of the following ideas within the framework of modern physics (especially the implications for time and consciousness), readers may refer to my paper "Time in a Quantum and Relativistic Universe." This paper was presented at the conference "Tucson III": Toward a Science of Consciousness (abstract #294 in the abstract edition of the Journal of Consciousness Studies). It can be accessed in its entirety at:

We generally do not recognize that the terms "existence" and "persistence" are equivalent in meaning. We must come to realize that these two words refer to the same concept. "Existence" is in fact the process of persisting. The evidence lies in the fact that the two terms can be used with complete interchangeability. Clearly, if the two are totally interchangeable, we are not justified in regarding "existence" as a notion distinct from "persistence."

In my paper "Time in a Quantum and Relativistic Universe," I have explained that a thing (say a material entity) must endure for a length of time greater than zero seconds in order to exist. In the big bang description of the origin of time, time exists at all moments after the big bang but not at the big bang itself. (I will refer to this moment of the big bang as T-0). Consequently, there is no first moment of time in this description; and every moment of time is preceded by an infinite number of other moments which are still closer to T-0.

Similarly, a material entity cannot have a first moment of existence since it has a total lifetime of only zero seconds at that initial moment. (A total lifetime of zero seconds means no lifetime at all, and implies non-existence.) However, the entity can be said to exist at all subsequent moments after the initial one (I will refer to this initial moment as t-0). At these subsequent moments the entity has a lifetime greater than zero seconds. As in the big bang description, every moment of existence is preceded by an infinite number of other moments of existence; and these moments get closer and closer to t-0.

As indicated above, however, t-0 cannot be considered a moment of existence (the entity does not exist at the time t-0). Let us choose any moment after t-0 and call that moment "now." The entity persists over an infinite number of moments between t-0 and "now." It exists "now" as a result of this persistence--as a result of having endured until "now." Existence "now" is therefore preceded by an earlier process of persistence.

I wish to stress that our treatment of "existence" as a notion distinct from "persistence" has its sole justification--its sole basis--in an assumption which is, in fact, erroneous. The assumption is that existence is in some sense more fundamental than persistence. In this view a thing which currently persists must have existed earlier; but a thing which currently exists need not have persisted earlier. An entity may exist "now" without having persisted prior to "now."

In effect, in this view, the initial moment t-0 is treated as a moment of existence: existence is assumed possible at t-0 as well as at all subsequent moments. As explained above, however, existence cannot be defined at the initial moment, t-0. The reader can appreciate, therefore, that the traditional view of existence versus persistence has no true foundation. It is based entirely on a false assumption.

The traditional view maintains that existence is more fundamental than persistence. We now know, however, that every "now" (after t-0) is preceded by a process of persistence. One could just as easily argue, therefore, that it is persistence which is more fundamental than existence.

To conclude, in the discussion above, I have brought up some rather curious facts. Most significantly, I have shown that existence is not possible without persistence. (An entity cannot exist if it does not endure.) The reader can appreciate, therefore, that persistence is essential for existence--and that it is just as fundamental as existence. I have indicated, in addition, that existence "now" implies both prior existence and prior persistence. There is only one explanation that accounts for these results in a self-consistent manner. Existence must in fact be a process--the process of persisting.

Adhanom I. Andemicael

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