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By the existence of time and universe, we have a number of alternatives:

ALTERNATIVE 1) Time existed form an infinite past, and universe existed from an infinite past (TU).

ALTERNATIVE 2) Time existed form an infinite past, and universe existed from a finite past (Tu).

Note I: I THINK THERE IS AN ARGUMENT OR PROOF FOR THAT 'IT IS IMPOSSIBLE THAT TIME EXISTED FROM A FINITE PAST' AND THEREFORE THE ALTERNATIVES 3 AND 4 ARE NOT TRUE (BUT ANYWAY WE WILL EXAMINE THEM HERE): Consider the state 'A' which is that time does not exist. Then consider the state 'B' which is that time exists. Every change should happen through time. For a change from the state 'A' to the state 'B', there must be time existing at 'A' and 'B'. Therefore the time existed at the state of 'A'. Saying that 'there was a time that time did not exist' is contradictory. Therefore it is impossible that time existed from a finite past.

Note II: Also since I am not aware of any strong non-mathematical example that my 'intuition' about that is wrong, I think, by my intuition, the existence of time does not depend on the existence of universe and 'time existed from an infinite past'.

ALTERNATIVE 3) Time existed from a finite past, and universe existed from a finite past (tu).

ALTERNATIVE 4) Time existed from a finite past, and universe existed from an infinite past (tU).

EXAMINING ALTERNATIVE 1) That 'the time existed from an infinite past and universe existed from an infinite past (TU)', by our assumptions or logic is impossible. Reasons are:

A) If the time or universe always existed, we can't imagine a zero start moment, because for any point of time that we assume as the zero moment, there is an earlier; and we can't imagine that the time or universe does not have a zero or n moment.

B) That the time or universe existed from an infinite past, it means infinite passed time, and infinite passed time may be by logic impossible.

EXAMINING ALTERNATIVE 2) That 'the time existed from an infinite past, and universe existed from a finite past (Tu)', it means that 'the universe came into existence from nothing', and because by logic, a 'substance' (or matter or universe) cannot come from nothing, I think the ALTERNATIVE 2 is clearly a 'violation of logic' or magic.

Also in ALTERNATIVE 2 the impossibility reasons of ALTERNATIVE 1 (A and B) also remain.


AN UNNECESSARY PART

EXAMINING ALTERNATIVE 3) If 'the time existed from a finite past and universe existed form a finite past (tu)', we have three alternatives:

C) Time and universe began to exist at the same time: Imagine with the start of time, a line segment (as a part of universe) started from length 0, increased through time, and now is reached to certain length 5. We can argue that if the current length is 5, since the length is not greater than 5, it means that before the 5 length before, the line segment did not exist (if it existed, the length would be greater than 5). By referring to before the existence of universe and time, we can prove that one of the two CASES is true: 1. CONTRADICTION: That the time and universe began at the same time is false, because it is contradictory, since it leads to the result that 'we can refer to a time before the existence of time'. 2. NO CONTRADICTION: If we can truly refer to a time before the existence of universe, we can say the universe 'came into existence from nothing' which is by logic impossible.

D) Time began before the universe began: This means universe came into existence from nothing, which is illogical.

E) Time began later than the universe began: This statement is contradictory, because 'later' means that time existed and has passed before that time begins, and therefore it is not true.

EXAMINING ALTERNATIVE 4) In the statement 'the time existed from a finite past and universe existed from an infinite past (tU)', that time started at some point, is contradictory, because the phrase 'at some point' means 'at some time' and shows that time already existed.

Note III: The Item E or ALTERNATIVE 4 may be related to the 'Big Bang theory'.


BACK TO THE MAIN PART

CONCLUSION: All alternatives, by our assumptions or logic are impossible.

Note IV: Our intuition may not be right about basic 'mathematical' problems (such as it is impossible that an infinite summation does not get over a particular finite number'). Also ESPECIALLY we may not be able to solve 'complicated' 'mathematical' problems. But not only this time-universe problem does not seem to be a complicated mathematical problem, I have a feeling that it may not be even a mathematical problem, and therefore it may show that there is something 'fundamental' we don't know (such as an unknown dimension!?). - (And even if it is a mathematical problem, I think discovering its answer will be revolutionary.) - This is not the only thing that seems strange that I faced: See for example my argument that 'we can create an INDETERMINISTIC physical motion'.

Is a finite or infinite past about time or universe a sign of 'violation of logic' or magic?

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    What does it mean "infinite is not a certain number"? Maybe the universe has existed from an infinite past... Why do you think that this possibility is a "violation of logic"? Aug 12, 2021 at 14:14
  • "The universe came to existence from nothing" or its negation, have nothing to do with logic. The idea that "something can't come from nothing" is not the conclusion of a sound reasoning from accepted premisses, it's an axiom, a proposition posited as evidently true, mostly by inference from our past experience (we have never seen something appear from nothing, but at the same time, we have never seen "nothing", so our observation sample is of size 0... Which makes the conclusion as unwarranted as can be).
    – armand
    Aug 12, 2021 at 14:53
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    No. Creation out of nothing and other magic does not violate logic, only physical conservation laws. And whatever "a physical quantity in the real world must be certain" means infinite past does not even violate laws of physics that we know of. Also, your initial dilemma is also not exhaustive. It presupposes that time is a fundamental entity independent of the material universe. But it can also be a partial manifestation of something more fundamental, or a form of our perception. In that case both your alternatives are false.
    – Conifold
    Aug 12, 2021 at 15:28
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    Regardless of the (in)finiteness of the past, the universe has existed for all time, since time is only defined within the universe. Even if the universe had a finite past, it wouldn't really make sense to say it "came into existence."
    – Sandejo
    Aug 12, 2021 at 18:20
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    Downvoted because of misuse of the word "logic". Logic is a technical term in philosophy, and the way you are using the term does not make sense. First, there is no opposition between logic and magic (there is no reason magic could not be logical), and second, your argument about logic and physical quantities, is nothing more than the expression of a premise, with no gesture at the logical contradiction that you need to carry the argument. Aug 15, 2021 at 7:21

3 Answers 3

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The Argument

What you're describing is essentially a variant of Aquinas' First Mover argument, which we have a lot of material on, I recommend you do some reading around this.

The theologists would point to your statement about "true magic" and say "That is God." Point blank, you've summed up the core special feature/pleading of a creator god; they must be capable of violating the causality of our world.

However, I would not make such an argument personally.
I'd say you're making some dangerous assumptions, first of which is whether the universe exists at all.

Solipsism

Solipsism is the easiest, and in my opinion the worst, "out" for this problem; essentially, the argument goes that your mind is the only thing you know exists, so either you are the only thing God made (theologists) or you are God, in a roundabout way.

However, for most people, this is not a satisfying answer. In my experience, those who accept it as the answer tend to come across problems in their personal lives pretty quickly.

Infinite Regression

Your first point regarding "infinite past" being a possible violation of logic is equivalent to Aquinas' assumption that an "infinite regression" is impossible; he asserted that if you kept going back through causality, you would find the first mover (in his opinion, God).

However, there is nothing to prove or say whether an infinite regression is impossible. If we stay in theological realms, Buddhism very much plays into this. For a more mystical example, the ourobouros, the snake eating its own tail.

These are still not really philosophical arguments, but the point is to demonstrate that arguments about whether a regression can or cannot be infinite, in the sense of a view on the cosmos, are shaky in the general sense and in my opinion, not worth having. Aquinas was not in possession of most of the facts we now have about space-time (see below) and I consider this point an archaism borne of that ignorance.

God and Logic

I've met a few folks who don't like this argument; their response is that God is the thing that made the infinite regression, thus making it non-infinite; the first move is God making the ourobouros; we just can't track it back because God closed the causal loop. But of course, at that point, we might as well surrender all of our faculties because we are Being Played.

So, staying in the assumption that we're not being tricked in some way, there are a lot of other issues here.

Time and Causality

For example, time; the jury is very much still out on whether time and causality can be trusted as implicitly as we do; quantum physics is revealing this to us in neon paint, and for bonus points, quantum physics blows Aquinas out of the water, because we now know that unmoved movers exist that are not God.

Lack of Information (Example)

The horrible truth is; we are not equipped to deal with this problem. We exist inside of space-time, with no way to lift back the veil.

Think of it this way; imagine the cosmos had nothing in it but you, in a little spaceship. No planets, no stars, no nothing, just you in the ship. You look out of the window, and it is literally perfect black.

How would you tell the difference between this, and a full cosmos with stars and such, where the windows of your ship have been painted perfect black?

How would you even begin to tell the difference? For you, the interior of the ship is your cosmos.

The same applies to us all; none of us can peer behind the curtain.

Conclusion

So, to answer your question: we don't know, and never will.
We know so little about why the universe exists, that we cannot even begin speculate on the logical properties of its coming into being, if those are even the right words.

Afterthought on Time

I forgot to mention this one; you're also in the trepidatious position that you're assuming time exists.

Day to day, we assume it does, because that's easier than looking at the clock and screaming "WHY?".

But if you want to make arguments around the nature of the cosmos, you also need to be firm on your assumptions about that cosmos. You can't analyze an undefined, and right now, Time itself is a big, big undefined.

We intuitive think of Time like a readhead on a tape deck, the wheels spinning at a nice, constant pace.

However, Relativity screws with that in a big way; the readhead appears to be subjective, and affected by space-time distortions.

For example; I know that right now, my readhead is placed with me typing this to you; this is what I am experiencing "live"; it is not a memory.

However; how do you know that? For all you know, my current live experience is on a nice beach in the Bahamas, at the age of 50, and you're simply interacting with something that, for me, has already happened.

We see this in sci-fi movies but it's proven true; think Interstellar. For the people on earth, and the people in space, time was subjectively experienced at the normal-feeling constant.

Objectively, the two disparate frames of reference experienced time in dramatically different ways.

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  • “those who accept it as the answer tend to come across problems in their personal lives pretty quickly.” doesn’t make the argument wrong. But as you say, we can never know the answer and so this is no better or worse than the other positions you’ve put forward.
    – Frog
    Sep 9, 2021 at 20:50
  • I don't claim to be an expert here, but this post makes a number of unsubstantiated claims: it appears to suggest that theologians are committed to the claim that God "must be capable of violating the causality of our world" also "we don't know and never will": Can you name any current theologians that believe this? Can you substantiate that agnosticism wrt this position will remain the best choice forever? I see no sources or sufficient argumentation for such sweeping claims
    – Papuseme
    Mar 6 at 21:27
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Your question touches issues which seem far beyond present cosmology.

„Big bang“ is not part of any accepted cosmological theory. „Big bang“ is a limit point when extrapolating into the past the currently observed expansion of spacetime. Being a limit point, „big bang“ is also a boundary for all cosmological thoughts about spacetime. At this boundary point all the usual statements and concepts of scientific or philosophical reasoning loose their meaning.

1.) In the cosmological standard model a statement like „the universe existed from infinite past“ has no meaning (Alternative 1).

2.) A statement like „universe came into existence from nothing“ (Alternative 2) translates as „There is no „x“ from which or by which the universe came into existence.“ But there is no stance in science from where a meaningful statement about the region beyond the limit point „big bang“ can be made.

3.) By the same reason a statement like „Universe […] always existed“ (Alternative 3) is not meaningful in the cosmological standard model.

I do not consider the issues from your question a subject from the domain of logic. IMO these issues show that we have to accept the present boundaries of our cosmological theories. But even more, we have to accept the boundaries of our present concepts, and most of all: The boundaries of our present capacities of reasoning.

Aside: I know that there are speculations in astrophysics about a series of bouncing or cyclic universes. But these speculations just postpone the issues one level further, without broadening the scope of our reasoning.

Note 7.3.2022: My answers refer to the original version of the question.

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Keeping it brief, it's an illegitimate question for a couple of reasons. The first one being you have to assume time is directional to conclude it has a start or end?

Time (if anyone wants to correct me) is a collection of events that happen in accordance with the second law of thermodynamics. Entropy says time is directional - but that doesn't mean WE know which direction we are going does it?

Let me pose this, what if we are not expanding but rather accelerating to a halt, like slamming your brakes on in your car. This is still acceleration, all the math and equivalence principles are the same. Einstein field equations still hold true..so why can we not start at 'something' and be crashing toward becoming 'nothing'.

It's serves us well to remember we are still in the same present day as we were born. When you sleep the world turns, reactions take place, you wake up..time has not changed.

Your personal perception that a new day is here illudes you from the reality that its groundhog day for everyone. Everyday, on the macroscopic scale (contextually sitting in your house) if the sun never rises and clocks aren't a thing how can you accurately describe time?

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