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Some metaphysical systems assert that "the ultimate reality" is outside of space and time.

For example Schopenhauer, many forms of theism, more recently Kastrup and his Analytical Idealism.

However, I cannot comprehend it. How can God be outside of space + time and still have a causal influence on our world? Or how can God be outside of time when he has thoughts which seem to me must be in time. How can Schopenhauerian Will do its will without time, when I experience will to do something I always experience it in time.

I think at least time is a necessary component of all reality and I can't see how can it be otherwise.

How do such systems justify their metaphysical beliefs of non-empirically accessible realities against scientific realism?

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  • you seem to want to list paradoxes about the belief anything is outside time and space. is that right? I definitely sympathise with them. You might want to read about 'panentheism'. that could help.
    – user56815
    Nov 28, 2021 at 16:15
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    One way to reject the causal nexus’s hegemony is to deny scientific realism. The single condition for scientific realism for some is Reichenbach’s Principle, that all correlations must have causes. But, there can be correlations without causes according to opponents. Russell wrote about such elimativism about causation, calling it primitive and of a bygone era. That there are only correlations. He is not free of criticism though.
    – J Kusin
    Nov 28, 2021 at 16:52
  • Strictly, time and space seem to be products of our subjective constitution, and due to such very reason, it is impossible to know the reality behind our senses; how can you understand or even imagine something you don't have the capabilities for? Perhaps it is equivalent to understand the news in a chinese radio without knowing the chinese language at all, and additionally being deaf. You just can't. Another exercise, think on this: light itself "moves" at light speed, while photons itself reach zero distance and zero time in such process, and that is a scientific fact...
    – RodolfoAP
    Nov 28, 2021 at 21:21
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    That you cannot see it is natural, imagination is by nature confined to space and time, whether they are forms of our intuition, as Kant thought, or not. But you can surely comprehend it, understanding is not limited to imagination. You should stop trying to see and imagine it, and conceive and reason about it instead, the same way we do about predicates and associative algebras. Schopenhauer's Will is the inverted parody of Hegel's Absolute and Christian God, on this view all their "doings" are a single atemporal act, too complex for us to follow without sequencing it.
    – Conifold
    Nov 29, 2021 at 2:35
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    See IEP, Divine Timelessness on how timelessness and "atemporal duration" are conceived in theology. Relativity theory is also most naturally interpreted atemporally, see eternalism. It does not mean that such conceptions are necessarily true, but they are certainly comprehensible. Just like non-Euclidean geometry and four-dimensional spaces that we cannot "see" or "imagine" either.
    – Conifold
    Nov 29, 2021 at 2:43

5 Answers 5

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Your question has two very different answers depending on whether you are a physicist or a philosopher.

  1. The physicist Lee Smolin maintains that there exists no "outside" to the universe we inhabit and all our (for example, astrophysical) observations of it must take into account the fact that we cannot in any way remove ourselves from it to get a "bigger picture": all we can detect and measure is detected and measured "from the inside", and that this is a basic fact of the universe.

  2. Philosophers are free to assert anything they wish about the universe. Their ideas about what is and is not are under no obligation to take into account any of the facts of physics or the way that physicists study and think about the universe.

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Time is a dimension, no more or less mysterious than the others of space, and our capacity to understand “the past” makes it clear that we too possess the capacity to conceive of time as a continuum. What is maybe just a little stranger about it is our fixed trajectory within it.

Worldometers shows a graph of reported COVID infections over time:

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/coronavirus-cases/

From the perspective of someone either far in the future or who can perceive all of time, there might be more to this graph, We’re only at this point in time, so we can only see so much of it, but at the same time, we recognise that the graph “will go on”.

Transforming the world across time into a model makes it much more tractable - we can propose various futures by extending our understanding of things in the past forward. The proposal is just that this construction is logically possible - not necessarily that it is well understood or already a fait accompli!

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How can God be outside of space + time and still have causal influence on our world.

The problem is the assumption that spacetime is a fundamental primitive. It is not. Research in quantum physics suggests that our world is not fundamentally spatiotemporal. Thus, spacetime was not the case at the beginning of the universe (pre-Planck epoch), and it emerged 1. Moreover, even time will end approximately in 5 billion years 2.

To imagine something in this very moment is already to perform an action in time and space. Therefore, to imagine something outside of space and time borders on the impossible for a human observer.

In regards to idealism in general Western tradition, physicist George Ellis is a Platonist who suggests that ideas exist beyond space and time in the mathematical possibility space 3. This claim is somewhat similar to Schopenhauer/Kastrup claim because they are too Platonists.

In regards to the ultimate reality "experience", in Eastern religions (which are the influence of Kastrup/Schopenhauer), the ultimate reality is to be grasped in the meditative system of Advaita Vedanta, or that of Nagarjuna's Mahayana Buddhism.

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Short Answer

How to imagine reality outside of space and time?

As others have noted, it seems counterintuitive and paradoxical to have a reality outside of spacetime. The roots of the concept of reality are moored in the senses being able to make sense of mass, space, and time, etc. So, to do so, or at least to understand trying and doing so really requires an examination of imagination. Thus, the question reduces to in what ways can one imagine a reality outside of spacetime. Different traditions have different blends but use various aspects of imagination such as visualization, storytelling, and argumentation.

Long Answer

Imagination has several aspects. One can use the imagination for the senses such as iconography and mental imagery, and one can use imagination to create language, narrative, and justification. Generally, if one attempts to defend the idea of a reality outside of spacetime, all of these may be part of the psychological processes that are used. Theists in particular, who often defend realities outside of our sensory reality are a perfect example since they build edifices, adorn them with pictures, encourage prayer and meditation, have cosmogenies, stories, and doctrines.

It would be possible to write a book on traditions used to construct belief in realities outside of realities, but as this is a philosophical forum, let's focus on epistemological methods. There are two grand, philosophical traditions and one of more recent origins. Both Platonism and Christian theology argue the existence of realities outside of spacetime, and more recently and trendy is the notion of modal realism and multiverses. All three of these schools of thinking posit at least one reality outside of our shared physical reality with its spatial extension and causal nexus. From WP:

The physics community has debated the various multiverse theories over time. Prominent physicists are divided about whether any other universes exist outside of our own.

Some physicists say the multiverse is not a legitimate topic of scientific inquiry.4 Concerns have been raised about whether attempts to exempt the multiverse from experimental verification could erode public confidence in science and ultimately damage the study of fundamental physics.5 Some have argued that the multiverse is a philosophical notion rather than a scientific hypothesis because it cannot be empirically falsified. The ability to disprove a theory by means of scientific experiment is a critical criterion of the accepted scientific method.6 Paul Steinhardt has famously argued that no experiment can rule out a theory if the theory provides for all possible outcomes.7

It would be a long response that attempted to show how each of these three schools defends their beliefs, so I'll just give a quick run down on Platonism. Platonists hold roughly that the circles you and I draw and think about are some sort of reflection of a perfect circle that is an example of a Form.

A theory of substantial forms asserts that forms (or ideas) organize matter and make it intelligible. Substantial forms are the source of properties, order, unity, identity, and information about objects.

The concept of substantial forms dominates ancient Greek philosophy and medieval philosophy, but has fallen out of favour in modern philosophy.1 The idea of substantial forms has been abandoned for a mechanical, or "bottom-up" theory of organization.2 However, such mechanistic treatments have been criticized for the same reasons atomism has received criticism, viz., for merely denying the existence of certain kinds of substantial forms in favor of others (here, that of atoms, which are then thought to be arranged into things possessing accidental forms) and not denying substantial forms as such, an impossible move.

This notion is frequently based on an argument that since you and I can both objectively know something like an abstract mathematical object, then it must exist in some sense similar to rocks and stones. (Caveat: my personal views come from a naturalized epistemology and these sorts of claims are woo.) From there neo-Platonists engage in a variety of epistemological justifications that revolve around claims focused on ontological dependence. For instance, an abstract mathematical object has an existence independent of human thought, because it is discovered. Since it is objective, then it must, like empirical objects must exist in a realm. Since the realm isn't directly accessible to our senses, our minds have some other avenue for detecting them. And so on.

Now, if you're like me and a proponent of scientism, you don't see much of a difference between the Realm of Forms and Vallahala and alternative realities. But remember that for many people, there are many forms of evidence besides empirical and rational evidence. Some people are content to place their first principles in articles of faith. Others, as in the comments, have suggested that some people can reject scientific realism outright. And many may reject a rational basis for evidence electing to reject the pursuit of epistemology entirely claiming that divine revelation trumps human argumentation.

So, the defense of realities outside of our shared spacetime come in too many flavors to list, but they tend to have much in common. They often use cosmogenies, doctrines, and narratives that create a holistic, functioning worldview that is often promulgated in communities of belief around the world for centuries or even millennia. If you have a hard time imagining, I suspect it might have to do with the fact that you are born outside of a fervent form of these communities which tend to push theories of the world that are laden with values the community espouses. There are many views in the philosophy of social science that suggest reality is largely a social construction.

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'God' is the word we usually use to represent the generator, the organizer, and the destroyer. If we always consider God as something external, our reasoning and calculations will fail. You may have heard a synonym for God - 'Brahman'. Since it is the one without a second, time is not an issue in this case. Also, there is no question about 'influence on a world outside God'. Although the use of one is limited in the case of reasoning, both have their own significance.

You can check the information available on the website to find the differences between the two usages.

Eg: https://classroom.synonym.com/what-do-hindus-call-their-god-12086441.html

Refer this one also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahman

Like you said, it can't be comprehended like other things or ideas; it is incomparable. But the greatest wonder is that even if one can't comprehend it, one can transcend the limitations and realize it even when he/she lives with the senses.

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