How To Figure Sh*t Out, Including Time Travel w/ Dr. Geoff Goddu | AMP #399

By Aubrey Marcus February 01, 2023

How To Figure Sh*t Out, Including Time Travel w/ Dr. Geoff Goddu | AMP #399
Philosophy at it’s best is the art of figuring sh*t out.
No one has helped me more in the meta-cognition of problem solving than my original philosophy professor from University Of Richmond, Dr. Geoff Goddu. One of these lesser known sciences is called symbolic logic, which can be used to prove conclusions based upon the agreement of the premises. In this podcast we practice our philosophy on questions ranging from the classic: “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” to questions about the logical validity of time travel theory.
Connect with Dr. Geoff Goddu

GEOFF: Somehow, what you have to imagine is that the humans developed independently on their own. God's watching the universe. We get to the point where the Arcturians go, we wish we could be better than we are. How are we going to make ourselves better than we are? We've just been talking about making ourselves better by trying to improve upon the stuff we've already got, we're looking towards the future. The Arcturian solution is, we're going to make ourselves better than we are because we want to make ourselves better than we are right now. We're going to go back in time and make those people back there even better so that we can be better right now. They send some of their guys back. And sure enough, they change things. They make things better.

SIRI: I didn't get that. Could you try again?

GEOFF: I know. It's hard, Siri. It's hard.

AUBREY: This is an incredibly special podcast for me because Dr. Goddu was my philosophy professor when I was at the University of Richmond. And I got my major in philosophy and classical civilization. And it was such a pleasure to just have a true philosopher on the podcast to explore all kinds of both silly and complex issues. Complex being issues involving time travel. And silly being answering the question, what came first, the chicken or the egg? And if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? And we've got answers for you on this podcast, as philosophers do. And of course, these answers are nuanced and explore different mechanisms of philosophy, including one of my favorite mechanisms, which is symbolic logic, which is basically using logic like mathematics to prove actually a conclusion based on a set of premises. This was phenomenal experience to reconnect with my old professor and to do a true philosophy podcast. Without further ado, Dr. Goddu. Dr. Goddu.

GEOFF: Aubrey.

AUBREY: It's been 18 years, I guess, since I graduated University of Richmond as a philosophy classics double major. And you were my favorite philosophy professor. And Dr. Wall Stevenson, my favorite classics professor. And I had this huge urge just to reach out and just, first of all, get in touch and just say how much I appreciated my time learning and studying philosophy with you. Not only for the content that we learned, but just the meta process of thinking about problems, the way that you thought about problems. And that left an indelible impact on my life. And I think probably more than even I'm aware of and conscious of and probably more than you're conscious of, which is your teaching material. But you're not teaching material, you're teaching how to access material. And that's to me, the real beauty of philosophy. Whether you're studying epistemology or whatever, it doesn't matter. It's how do you approach the information that you have? And you did just such a great job with enthusiasm, and lifeforce, and also just razor sharp logic, and all of the other tools that you uses. I just want to really, first before we get started, just honor that.

GEOFF: I appreciate that. As an educator, I'm going to take all the praise I can get. Because sometimes you get students who I can't tell whether I've reached them or made an impact. I know they've taken my class, I know they've gotten a grade. And I don't hear or see from them beyond that. Did I make a difference? Did I actually change somebody's way of thinking or even just make them a better thinker, a better way of approaching various problems? Great, thank you. Success.

AUBREY: One in the books.

GEOFF: One check mark. There we go.

AUBREY: You got one win clearly in the book. It's on the record. It's on the record, it's been recorded. We studied a lot of different interesting things. And one of the things that actually was part of the impulse for me to reach out was symbolic logic. And since graduating Richmond, I have never heard a single soul speak about it. And frankly, I forgot about it for about 10 years. And then I remember I was making a very logical argument and people were trying to refute the argument in completely illogical ways and I was like, this is so frustrating. If you believe my premises, you must believe the conclusion. You can argue with the premise, but you cannot argue with my logic. And I remembered symbolic logic and that's what it was all about, the mathematics of logic.

GEOFF: Symbolic logic in its most common form these days is focused on exactly that part of reasoning. If my premises are true, does that force my conclusion to be true? And you're. Maybe you think my premises aren't true. But if you actually think it has, the argument has that property, premises true, therefore, conclusion is true, if you accept my premises, you got no choice. If you want to remain being a logical person, you are forced to say that the conclusion is true. Like I'd say, all swans are white. George is a swan. If you believe both of those premises, you better believe George is white. You have no way around it. It can definitely be frustrating when... What are you saying when you say, I believe those premises, but I don't accept your conclusion? And you accept that it's a valid argument. I don't get that. We don't always get our arguments be valid. Sometimes these premises don't force that conclusion, but they make it highly probable. And yeah, you got some wiggle room. But come on now, you got to give me some reasons to say why we're in that 2% probability zone rather than the 98% probability because of these premises, therefore that conclusion. But that's just a little wiggle room.

AUBREY: And the way that it looks like when you actually put it out, and it's difficult in an audio podcast to talk about this. And we were aware of this, we knew we were going to talk about this. But it's almost like an algebraic equation the way that you do it. There's specific symbols for the if-thens, if this, then this. And it's this little horseshoe that goes to the left. And then there's some other things that are and. This and this. That's like a little dot.

GEOFF: Depends on your system. But all it is is different people choosing different symbols to represent the exact same thing. Some systems do the and with a dot, some do it with the ampersand, some do it with an upside down caret symbol. But it's all doing the same job. It's funny you talk about logic and algebra because logic in its symbolic form, in the modern version, you really start to see it in the 1840s out of Augustus De Morgan, and Boole, who were mathematicians. But they were trying to come up with a way to say, how can we get people to accept our mathematical proofs and see that these premises force that conclusion within the realm of mathematics? But they wanted to be general in the sense that we could be talking about algebra, we could be talking about geometry, we could be talking about calculus, we could be talking about integers. Whatever they wanted to talk about—

AUBREY: Some idea like, if there is a square root of negative one, then I am able to do this particular thing.

GEOFF: This particular thing is logically impossible, hence, no natural square root of negative one. But that reasoning, you want to be able to apply not just to mathematics, but it turns out, early 20th century, a lot of philosophers who were suddenly very interested in the workings of language started adopting a lot of those tools and applying them to language generally. And that's much closer to what we do now when we teach logic. I teach it as, this is a model for reasoning in language. If the sky is blue, then the ground is wet. The sky is blue, the ground is wet. Horrible argument because I'm not going to accept the if-then premise. But I do know that if those things are connected that way, I should accept the conclusion. And if they're not, I have a reason to say, not necessarily reject the conclusion. But to say, you haven't given me enough reasons yet to believe that conclusion.

AUBREY: Lead us through an argument that uses a couple of the different equations that we might be able to do and then see where something that forces a conclusion, that has a couple different steps. And actually, try to make it something that's pretty reasonable, if you can, so I can try and go in and see where the weak points of that are, or see where that's just like...

GEOFF: I got to do this off the top of my head.

AUBREY: For sure.

GEOFF: Let me start by just saying, you were talking about and. And you've also talked about if-then. And-or is usually one of the other big ones.

SIRI: I'm not sure I understand.

GEOFF: That's Siri? She doesn't understand.

AUBREY: She understand symbolic logic.

GEOFF: Siri does this in class to me too. The students love it. Goddu, we don't understand. I'm like, I'll try again. I'll explain it again.

AUBREY: The techno gods coming to speak.

GEOFF: Those are probably the big three that show up in English where we reason. You do some World Cup stuff. Either he's offside or he's not. He's closer to the end line than the last defender. The ball got played. If the ball gets played when he's closer to the end line than the second to last defender, then he's offside. If he's offside, the referee has to raise his flag. And then I tell you something like, by the way, he was closer to the ball than the second to last defender when the ball was played. And I give you all that data. And you might go, he's offside.

AUBREY: And then I might say, he's only offside if the referee declares him to be offside. And if the referee does not declare him to be offside, then he's not actually offside. Because what actually declares offside is a decision by the referee, not actually the position of the player.

GEOFF: Now we go, was he... I was just trying to argue he was offside. Then there was a second part. If he's offside, the referee ought to indicate this via flag up. And then once that happens, the center referee ought to blow his whistle and penalize the person for being offside. My suspicion is you're going, was he penalized for offside? That can only happen by the referee doing something. But he can be offside even if everybody misses it. After all, this is what we've got VAR for now, to try and catch it when all three referees miss the offside call.

AUBREY: And I suppose if I was going to be obstinate, I could say, actually, the subjective decision of the referee is what determines offsidedness. It is not actually the objective reality of whether he was forward or not. But it's the observation and interpretation of the referee that actually determines offside, period. And there is no objective reality. There's only the subjective reality that creates offsidedness.

GEOFF: And now we're doing philosophy and we're outside of the realm of logic. Logic was interested in the relation between the pieces. Now we need to do some philosophy to go, what exactly do we mean by offside? And you could take the route of trying to deny all of objective reality in this case, I suspect. I don't see how you would just go, we're going to deny objective reality in the case of offside but keep it elsewhere.

AUBREY: You have to basically challenge local realism, which is actually somewhat being challenged in general in quantum physics right now. Basically, the observer creates the reality. But then also, I could argue against myself. If other people saw him offside and there was another observer, that creates a collective reality, if not an objective reality.

GEOFF: One reason some philosophers try to avoid issues of observers being the determiners is that this causes an issue for error. We tend to think the referees can get it wrong. Lots of people think referees get it wrong. And we think we have a way of checking to see whether they got it right or wrong. And the checking, sure, it's going to be done by some other observers. But at some point, we've got to think, we checked, we use these tools, whatever they were. Whether it's the VAR, whether it's cameras. I love it when sometimes I get people who send me videos of games I've done and I'm like—

AUBREY: But people don't know you're a soccer referee as well.

GEOFF: And I'm like, this doesn't help me at all. Because it's taken from an angle but doesn't show what needs to be shown to determine whether was it in fact offside or not offside. As long as we think there's a way of checking for error, as soon as you let that in, you've got to accept some realism.

AUBREY: And let's be clear. I'm arguing something I don't believe. I'm just doing—

GEOFF: Philosophers do this all the time.

AUBREY: I absolutely believe that... And actually, if we were going to get into it and wanted to explore this in a more serious way, I think that there is a collective consensus reality observer effect that creates an objective reality. But in my actual belief, there's ways in which certain things can be slightly adjusted, depending on the field of observation and belief. Just as in a single experiment with the slit, if something's observing a particle or wave, that individual can adjust that very, very small bit of reality based on a single person's observation of it. And I think there's a collective observation of reality that creates a collective consensus reality. But in certain situations, and I believe this because I've felt it. I've seen things happen that would normally be described as magical and not possible. But in the field of belief that was created, certain things are happening that in the moment, because we all believe that it's possible that happened. That's normal. This table was moving on its own accord and that felt normal. And then a few hours later, and of course, there's usually some psychedelic medicine involved. And a few hours later, we're like, was that fucking table just moving, was it pulsing with... It was. What the fuck? And we're shocked. But in that moment, there was a different altering of the field of belief that just allowed just a subtle shift in what was possible in that moment. If we're actually speaking the truth, that's what I actually believe.

GEOFF: What's possible? We perceive. Everything we analyze about the world is based on our perceptions of it. We got to do some processing. It's not like we have this immediate, direct access to reality. It's always interpreted. When I'm teaching skepticism sometimes, these views that you can't know anything. It's easy to come up with ways to make people doubt everything in some sense. You're trapped in the matrix or—

AUBREY: Brain in a vat.

GEOFF: Brain in a vat.

AUBREY: Who was the person who talked about brain in a vat?

GEOFF: Putnam did brain in vat stuff. And Descartes doing the evil demon, whose sole job is to deceive you, to make sure that everything you think is wrong. And it's really hard to get out of those situations.

AUBREY: The interesting thing about the evil demon who's doing every job to create an entire reality just to deceive you and trick you, I've actually seen people I know get stuck in that place in the psychedelic medicine journeys. And again, we haven't spoken for quite a while, but since I was 18, that's been a part of my path. Going to the sacred medicines around the world. And I've actually seen people get stuck in this place where they believe that there is a malevolent, omnipotent deity that's just fucking with them entirely and infinitely, and everything is fake. And it's just there to fuck with them. And even I've come in and be like, man, you all right? And in their mind, they're like, of course, you would say that. You won't fool me, evil demon.

GEOFF: Part of the danger is once you get into what you might call these deep skeptical hypotheses, if you take them seriously, I don't think there is a rational way out. At some point, you just got to go, not going there. I've got to at least accept to some degree that this table is real. Maybe sometimes it can move on itself. Descartes did his little thing about perception and sticking a stick into the water and it bending. Part of me is like, prove that it actually isn't bent when it's in the water. What are you going to do? You're going to go, we could take a picture of it underwater. You could see that it wasn't bent. When you're looking at it that way, that just tells me, now it looks like the thing above it is bent because you're taking it from this perspective. Any observation you make, we could always say, no, you're actually observing the way it actually is and you just think that it's staying straight. It's actually bending. How would you go about actually proving it in a way that isn't always relativizing to some system of observation? Again, once you get sucked down that rabbit hole, you're just like, I could probably never stop. I better get out now before my brain explodes or something.

AUBREY: Wasn't there a story? And I don't remember if it was you who told the story because I had a few philosophy professors. Who else was a contemporary around that time that I might have taken classes with?

GEOFF: Gary Shapiro, Jim Hall-

AUBREY: Dr. Hall.

GEOFF: Dr. Hall, probably.

AUBREY: Dr. Hall was probably. I took most classes other than you. But anyways, there was a discussion about somebody who was presenting this skeptic philosophy. And they were having a debate, and this used to happen. Philosophers would get together and have debates about random things, just for pure philosophy. Philosophy is an art and I do want to double-click on that a little bit later. But there was an argument between a skeptic and someone who believed in basically reality. And the story that I recall is that the guy reached over and slapped him and said, was that real?

GEOFF: And there are variations on this. G. E. Moore is famous for, at one point saying, here's a hand, here's another hand. And once you accept that, we're off and running. The skeptical hypothesis is done. But the slap is a more, here's my hand!

AUBREY: Don't tell me this is not a hand. Tell me after it strikes you in the face.

GEOFF: That is not a hand. But if I'm going to be consistent, I'm like, you're assuming I have a face. You're assuming that I actually felt pain. You can just keep pushing this... I can accept that this is all an error. Now Putnam, Hilary Putnam, where we were talking about brains in vat, did have an interesting way of trying to get around this. He was like, let's think about how language works. How like the word hand picks out this thing. If you're thinking it's a mistake that the word hand picks out this thing, it could be that this really isn't the hand. It's some just holographic projection because I'm a brain in a vat. Then Putnam goes, then I think the word hand in your language isn't referring to that physical object. It's referring to whatever the holographic projection thing is. And it's true you have one of those. All the sentences turn out to come out true again, not because reality is the way we think it is. It's because our words are somehow picking out whatever it is that we're using to...

AUBREY: It just kind of backs—

GEOFF: Backs everything up. It turns out, you still might be mistaken about what you think hands are, like physical, concrete objects. It turns out, there are no physical, concrete objects other than perhaps the brain in the vat. However, it's getting its reality. But all your words would then just refer to whatever that fictional reality is. Like, "The Matrix." Those buildings that don't exist when you see New York because they've been destroyed. But when Neo says, we're going to go to the Empire State Building, for him, the Empire State Building refer to that holographic projection thing, not some physical object.

AUBREY: And this is where for me, if you back it up that far, who cares? Who cares? And to me, Gnosis is my... What I feel in my body, I feel like knowledge to me, is stored actually less in my brain and more in my body. What do I feel? And if this hologram in this holographic universe is so real that I feel it and I can feel love, and I can feel an orgasm, and I can taste food, and this coffee is warm and feels like a hug going down my throat, all good.

GEOFF: And it works for all, like love, pain, hurt, all of those things, the words are going to refer to whatever it is that's in the simulation.

AUBREY: So, fuck it. What are you worried about?

GEOFF: that's one way to try and escape the skeptical hypothesis. Just to say, we may be wrong about their nature in one sense, but all those words are still going to refer to the things that I'm going to keep pretending are solid objects that hurt if I hit it really hard. Ecstasy when I do this thing. Pain when I do that thing. Mild discomfort when I do this other thing.

AUBREY: I have an interesting thing that's very recent. And again, this is the third time I've mentioned it already. But psychedelic medicine is part of my path. And the combination of actually two legal medicines in most places. Ketamine and cannabis is probably now my most consistent journey. And I do it in a very intentional way. And I drop into this space with those two medicines that I'm prescribed for. I was recently in there, and I've been somehow, interestingly, connecting with the archetypes of Olympian gods. Perhaps my old classical roots are giving me the bias and proclivity to want to go there, even though I haven't really done that for a long time. It's been the Hindu deities, it's been the classical Yeshua and Mother Mary. It's been a lot of other pantheons, you could say. But whatever it is, for whatever reason, it's been on the Hellenic Pantheon recently. And I had a vision of Athena. Athena is the goddess of wisdom. And it was curious to me that the goddess of wisdom was wearing armor and was like a warrior. And what I actually saw is that wisdom was violent to ignorance and all deception, deceit, distortion, delusion. When wisdom came, it destroyed that which was not wisdom. And the interesting thing, why is it then, get the armor because it is actually violent to all of those things I mentioned? And it's a woman because, and this is, of course, my hypothesis. But it's a woman because wisdom is actually held in the body. The greatest wisdom is held in the body. And a woman represents the body of both men and women, actually. It's the body, it's the womb, it's the, the skin, the touch, the heart, the pussy, the cock, the whole, there's deep, deep wisdom that's actually held there. And it's actually the brain that is the most suspect to being out of alignment with wisdom, where the body actually knows.

GEOFF: There's a lot a lot in there. A lot in there. Let me start with, in some sense, philosophy is focused on wisdom. Some people say, think in terms of knowledge, but I really think we want... Knowledge is, in many cases, the purview of the brain that you were saying. But you can know lots of stuff and not be wise. And that's not even just you're not streetwise or you're intellectual and completely unknowledgeable in other areas. No, no, you can just know lots and lots of stuff and just not be a wise person. And the challenge, of course, is trying to figure out what does it take to be a wise person. And you talk about Athena and armor. We started by talking about logic and reasoning. It turns out a lot of the metaphors in logic, because I said those premises force that conclusion. There tend to be war metaphors. You're an idiot, if you did leave these premises, but don't believe that conclusion. Somehow, you're being irrational. I'm trying to beat you in your argument, I'm trying to make you want to believe this. And I'm trying to make you stop believing it because I think I have good reasons that'll force you to stop believing that.

AUBREY: It's a contest.

GEOFF: It's a contest. Who's got the better argument? And one of the things that some argumentation theorists want to try and do is, can we move away from those metaphors? We still want to have this property of premises force a conclusion because it still constrains us. If you go around saying I believe these premises, but I'm going to act upon this conclusion that's completely contrary to those premises, eventually, we suspect the world is going to smack you down for it in some way. And we would prefer that these are what the possibilities are—

AUBREY: Without us getting on a tangent. I think one of these premises would be love is the only way to respond to hate or respond to that. And then we could believe that premise, but then somebody attacks us. And it's straight back to a different non-loving response. You're being logically inconsistent, either you don't believe it, or you have to allow that you're incapable of actually following it. But again, at least you get to think about what's actually happening in the right way.

GEOFF: Again, philosophy, science fiction, all of these things sometimes pushing these strange hypotheses. But part of what we're doing is using logic to try and push these hypotheses to their conclusion. If you're going to be consistent with love conquers hate, somebody starts, you can't respond with hate. If you're going to be self-consistent, you've got to come up with a way to say, you believe that? Here, let me hug you. And you're going to punch me? Fine. Here's the other cheek. And that's sometimes extremely hard for human beings because—

AUBREY: Which means that and then potentially, it invites the changing of the premise. You'd have to qualify it. In most situations, the best response to hate is love. In some situations, self-preservation and the return of violence is necessary. And then you actually have a consistent worldview that you can abide in.

GEOFF: That's going to create a new border, where you're going to be like, what about this case? Which side of the border does it fall on? How do I deal with that case?

AUBREY: And that's like the entire Talmud, by the way. Old, ancient Jews were figuring out, what if this very thing happened? Ari Shaffir in his special "Jew" talks about, apparently, if there's more than 1/60 of your soup has ham, you have to throw it away. But less than 1/60, just a little bit of ham, you can eat the soup.

GEOFF: There's this problem in philosophy called the vagueness problem, how to deal with something like, when is a person bald? How much hair do they have to have? Or when are you in the outback in Australia? When you put your foot here, have you started being in the outback or not being? This strikes me as, how much ham is non-kosher? And 1/60 strikes me. This is one solution to the vagueness problem is we're going to come up with a nice sharp boundary.

AUBREY: But then how do you measure 1/60 of a cauldron of soup?

GEOFF: Or we're going to start counting hairs on your head. You've got 145, bald. You got 146, not bald.

AUBREY: It's interesting, that language, actually, it forces us to condense reality in a certain way. It's always doing that. It has a condensive function to everything. It actually is always a little bit untrue because of that. Because it's reducing something that's actually in some ways, ineffable always, because there's many different ways to look at it and there's different things. It could be a wave or particle again. It's the same concept, but it's condensing it to one consensus belief that actually makes it always a little bit false.

GEOFF: There's a fairly standard view in philosophy that natural languages are almost, I don't want to say exclusively or inherently, but large portions of them are vague. They have an inherent vagueness in them such that, if you're looking for a literal connection between what you say and the truth, it's not going to be there. That's reserved to pure mathematics or pure logic. But this isn't to say let's get rid of truth. Not at all. We don't want to do that. It's just that now you have to take more care in trying to get as precise as you can on what you mean. We can check, we can still test for things. But then, someone could still with inventiveness, come up with a situation like bald or not bald, person or not person, table or not table. The classic move with the table is I start removing molecules. How many molecules does it take before the table is gone?

AUBREY: And are the molecules table? At what point is it no longer table? How many pieces does it have to be? Like when you pull it apart, let's say you could immediately turn it into a puzzle, pull it apart just a little bit, is it still a table or are all those things not table?

GEOFF: Exactly. Similar to the science fiction movies where the person does their thing with their hand and you can see all the parts of the table spread apart for-- They're a centimeter apart. It's still a table, it's just the parts are apart. But now I spread all the parts across the universe. Not a table.

AUBREY: Some wood.

GEOFF: Some wood pieces. But now you're telling me whether it's a table depends on how close the pieces are to each other? That's weird. That's strange.

AUBREY: And this is what I was talking about, the meta beauty of philosophy. And the meta beauty of philosophy is allowing your mind to explore things in these ways that allow you to look at it and ultimately laugh because I think you arrive at certain paradoxes, where the only actual response to the paradox is to laugh about it. Explore it and then just laugh that we're placed in an impossible situation. And we just have to kind of laugh.

GEOFF: We have to kinda laugh. But there is part of me, I'm a logician, I'm a philosopher, I like consistency.

AUBREY: I agree.

GEOFF: And when I get to this point, where... And I think there's a table here. And it's weird to me that whether it's a table or not depends upon how many molecules are there and how they're exactly arranged, or how far apart the pieces are. And that I don't have good answers to whether it's a table or not. And one solution is to take a quasi-realist view towards things and not try to get so hung up on objective reality. But in the nagging part, another part of my head going, but I'm consistent. I treat the world as if it's filled with objects all the time. Am I somehow just going, philosophy has made me question this. But I got to still balance. I'm still a person in the world. But I'm also a philosopher. If I'm going to be consistent, I should try and be consistent across both realms. And not just, like Hume said at one point, we're going to do all this thought and now let's go have a beer. Forget about all of that. Let's just go have a beer. No, now I could just erase the problem with the beer if I wanted to.

AUBREY: That would drive you mad.

GEOFF: And that would drive me mad. There's the thing. How do I deal with that situation where it looks like there's a paradox, or I'm forced into inconsistency? I don't see any way to get out of this inconsistency. What are my options? I think laughter, madness, despair.

AUBREY: I'm very comfortable with paradox and laughter. I'm very comfortable with is this table and not table? And I accept both and I laugh. And it just depends on the perspective and the dimensional reality that you're actually looking at. And actually, we're facing a problem of nominalizing this table and pretending that it's a noun, when actually this table is a verb. And it's tabling because it won't be a table forever, no matter if nobody fucking touches it. Eventually, this will not be a table. It will return to particles. This is just something that is tabling at this moment from my perspective. That's what's allowed me to be comfortable in a functional way with this and actually enjoy the moments of paradox.

GEOFF: One of my colleagues, in fact, he would probably agree with you, in the sense of, in Western philosophy especially, there's this tendency to think of objects doing stuff. But the objects are somehow primary. We have the objects and then we attribute properties to them and actions to them. He's actually a philosopher of science. Dr. Belkin. He was at UR for a while and now he's back in Israel. Some of his work was reversing that, in the sense that the primary thing is the doings and it's out of the doings you build the things. There's a sense in which one interpretation of what he's doing, you would say, there isn't a table here. There's a tabling.

AUBREY: He's denominalizing.

GEOFF: As long as the tabling happens, there'll be something that you call a table. But it's the happening that's the important piece. No the objects. Because the object turns out to be derivative of the happening. Not the object exists and then there's a thing it does. The puzzle, of course, is, can you imagine a universe in which there's a single object doing nothing?

AUBREY: I would say, universe, we have to clarify the word universe first of all. Universe to me means, I would say that's clearly no because everything in the known universe that we call default universe, is actually moving in some way.

GEOFF: Let's clarify. Philosophers use the word universe sometimes to talk about possibilities. We could imagine, here's an easy possibility. My first flight was going to be delayed, so I had to switch my flight. But if I hadn't noticed that in time, I would have been stuck in Dallas this morning because I would have missed my connection. We can imagine a universe in which I didn't notice it and we can compare the two universes. In the one universe, this conversation isn't happening right now because I'm still stuck in Dallas. In this universe, the actual one it happens to be. You can multiply that a whole bunch of times. There's a whole bunch of science fiction about hopping universes, going multi universes. What I'm asking is, now consider all of them. I'm asking, could you imagine one universe where there's just one object doing nothing in it?

AUBREY: And I think this is the unicity points. And I think this is a very interesting thing because there's one unicity point. These are places that I've felt. And again, going back to wisdom in the body. These places that I've felt. 5-MeO-DMT, in particular, can bring you to one flavor of a unicity point where it is the everything point. All laughter, all tears, all ecstasy, all orgasms, all pain, all everything all at once, all the color, all the light, all the sound. And there's everything there. But what I've noticed is either I can't go far enough because I'm still an observer. I can't quite go all the way because there's still my observation of it. And my observation of the everything actually makes there be some kind of movement, some kind of relativity between my observation of the everything. The moment that there is awareness in the everything, that doesn't actually fall in that premise. But I do believe that there's potentially on the other side, the void or the nothingness, where there is a dimensionality of just nothingness. And no conscious awareness of the nothingness. It's impossible to experience it by even divinity itself. As soon as divinity says, I am, it's no longer the nothingness because there's I-am-ness. And then I think the universe flows from that. But I do believe in the possibility of this completely unconscious void of nothingness with no awareness of it.

GEOFF: I asked you, can you imagine a universe with an object that isn't moving? Because I was trying to push back on this, make the motion primary, and then the object. Because I want to say, is it possible to have an object but no moving? But of course, I'm asking you to imagine it. You're looking at it as if you're an outside observer. Like you're stepping outside all the universes and you're looking at each one and trying to look in. Now it's tough because you're right. I'm looking at this universe. And what does it mean to say there's an object in the universe that's not doing anything? It's being observed by me. If we're imagining me somehow looking at the universes outside, it's not doing any of the things that I normally think of as doing. We tend to think like moving, that's doing. But there might be doings that are much more subtle than the things that we normally think of as doings. Dr. Goddu, I'm not sure I can answer your question fairly. But it's this back and forth, where we keep trying to go through the possibilities, to try and sort out what does force one thing? What doesn't force another thing? How can I make these two positions that appear on the face of things to be inconsistent, is there a way to make them consistent?

AUBREY: The classic example of this is if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? And I've explored that myself. And I think I've finally come to a reasonable conclusion. But I would propose that to like, alright let's explore this.

GEOFF: Remember, I said, language, in many cases is considered to be vague. Here's my suspicion. We haven't fully decided what we mean by sound.

AUBREY: Exactly. Exactly.

GEOFF: And in most cases, we don't need to fully decide what counts as a sound. If a sound is something that is heard by a hearer, that's what it takes for something to be a sound. It requires the hearing, then the answer to your question has a straightforward answer. A tree that falls in a forest with no one around to hear it does not make a sound. Because that's how we've decided to understand sound. If sound is just the vibrations through the air that may or may not get received by anything that can interpret them, our suspicion is, tree falls in a forest, it's going to make those vibrations, makes a sound. And now the question becomes, is there a good reason to pick one of those two things? Maybe there are other options for what we mean by sound. But once we've decided, notice, the answer to the question becomes easy.

AUBREY: I think that's the beauty of it. With an understanding of this level of philosophy, you can answer some of these questions that people go, unanswerable. And will be like, actually, no, I think there's a perfectly good answer. And that's exactly it.

GEOFF: The unanswerable question might be, do we have a good reason to decide one way or the other? Or we now have to go, what are the consequences of holding this to be the meaning of sound? What are the consequences of this being the meaning of sound? And of course—

AUBREY: Or can you hold both?

GEOFF: Or can you somehow hold both? And there are contextual versions of it. When there are two words, both of which look and spell the same, sound, one of them means that, the other one means that. And now we have to figure out from context which one you meant. And you can say, there are certain cases that she does do both. When I'm actually there in the forest, avoiding getting crushed by the tree, I go, it made the vibrations. I heard them. We got both.

AUBREY: Absolutely. Let's try another question. And I haven't actually solved this question. What came first, the chicken or the egg. This one's tough. This one's tough.

GEOFF: My suspicions is that, again, we're not going to be clear on what we mean by egg.

AUBREY: That's that has to be it.

GEOFF: I suspect we're going to have some unclarity on what counts as a chicken. But I suspect there's even more trouble on figuring out what counts as an egg. Because biologically, we think of even to create eggs, a lot of biological work has to go on before that. The initial cells, do those count as chickens?

AUBREY: What is the precursor of a chicken if you keep going back and back and back? I'm trying to imagine this kind of amorphous beast that's almost laying an egg. Where's the borderline chicken?

GEOFF: Where's the borderline chicken? This was some of the original arguments against things like evolution. Where's a borderline eye? Some of their early arguments against evolution were, you would expect that if eyes are these evolved things, that you would be able to see this. And you'd see, here's something that has something that's not quite an eye. And I think it's more complicated than that. But you are going to be going back and saying, you have something that does have some sensitivity to light. And now it's getting, you found things that had better sensitivity to light in certain frequencies, survive better than those that didn't. Do those count as eyes. I don't know.

AUBREY: The eyes thing for me is easier than the primordial chicken. I can't imagine the primordial chicken.

GEOFF: But [inaudible 00:50:07] chicken in the sense, you have something that is chicken-like, how—

AUBREY: What is that thing?

GEOFF: We might think it was some kind of bird. And then before that, it may have been—

AUBREY: What is a primordial bird?

GEOFF: Exactly. If you think you're going to push it back all the way to single-celled organisms—

AUBREY: But it can't be that far.

GEOFF: But that's the thing. You start doing these single-celled organisms, they get more complex. And they're going to create things. And they're going to get more and more complex. Try cutting the line anywhere.

AUBREY: And it's not like I'm an evolution denier. Of course not. However, you would imagine that you'd have fossilization of very strange almost bird-like things that might show up in some particular way.

GEOFF: We have some fossils that are your like reptile-bird, reptile-bird.

AUBREY: That crossover is very close.

GEOFF: Pretty close. There's some theories where velociraptors have feathers.

AUBREY: That actually makes them more terrifying, to me actually. If a velociraptor had fucking feathers, god damn. That's fucking scary.

GEOFF: If it could also fly and run really fast. Part of my point is about if you get this huge chain of changes. Start from some single-celled organism and go all the way up to modern day chickens. You trace all of it. But part of it is you're back into a vagueness problem. Where do I cut the line and say this thing before it was a pre-chicken? And this thing over here is chicken. Where's that line? In some sense, you get a similar problem with just human beings. We tend to think sperm, egg. That's how it starts. And then you get development all the way through. We get a huge debate, especially in this country, about where's the line for person, not person there? If you're going to do it in pure biological terms. And a lot of sweat and blood and tears have gone into arguing back and forth about that particular line.

AUBREY: Again, this points to where I source wisdom. Do I feel like that's a chicken? Does it feel like a chicken? This is anthro-ontologically, I guess. In my own body, do I know it is real? Do I feel it? And that's Athena. That's Athena medicine to me. It's the wisdom of knowing.

GEOFF: But can you ever feel wrong? Do you think your feeling could get—

AUBREY: I think the interpretations of my feelings could be wrong.

GEOFF: I need more detail here. You're saying you have this feeling that—

AUBREY: Let's use a real example. I was in a polyamorous relationship for a while before meeting my wife and changing the path and being in a more traditional, monogamous relationship. In this polyamorous era, I would feel like my partner didn't love me anymore. And the feeling was that love was removed. She didn't love me. She didn't care about me. All of these horrible, negative feelings. And that's my interpretation of the feelings. Now the feelings were horrible... No, my interpretations were that she actually didn't love me and that was the conclusion that I drew from what I was feeling. But my feeling was actually caused by my own insecurities. The insecurities was actually the cause. My attribution to the cause of the feelings was false. However, the feelings were accurately depicting my insecurity.

GEOFF: This is the clarity I wanted. I'm trying to pinpoint what the feeling... I'm not denying you had the feelings. In fact, it's really hard for me to challenge that you're having the feelings. What I'm worried about is what we take the feelings to be indicative of. And you were interpreting the feelings as being indicative of something happening out there in the world, in another person. When in fact, it turned out they were indicative of something going on inside your own body that reflected something else about the world, namely your own security about your relationship to the world. Awesome. I don't think we disagree about anything. How do you distinguish between the case where your feeling of insecurity, your feelings of not being loved are in fact, being caused by the not being loved out in the world, or being caused by your own self insecurity? That's what I need to be able to distinguish. I grant, you could have this exact same feeling in both cases. And if all I've got access to is the feeling and I know there are these two possible explanations for the feeling, I can't suddenly just jump one way or the other.

AUBREY: This is where it gets really difficult. This is where actually the feelings obscure your, actually, ability to use logic and look at all of the different premises. In this in this case then, what I will try to do is I'll lay out a possibility, all the possibilities that I'm possibly aware of. And I think this is where you have to have a little bit of that skeptical mindset. Even if you feel something to be true, you have to be aware of all of the if-then possibilities, all of these premises that could be true that could be possibly contributing to this. Really, it is a marriage. It's a marriage of what the logical faculties are able to do, the possibilities, the probabilities, and your own sense and intuition, and also the bias that might come with your sense and intuition. There's a whole host of biases that come. The self-serving bias, the sunk cost bias, all these fucking things. The bias, your feelings, and your interpretations. And you have to have the maximum awareness for all of that and the willingness to also be like, I was wrong. No worries. My bad. I'm sorry.

GEOFF: That I think is the hardest part is that willingness to step back and A, admit you're wrong. But B, I think... Here's another one. Confirmation bias. Humans are really bad at stopping and expending the mental energy to test their own hypotheses. Because we are really good at detecting patterns and telling stories about the patterns as explanations. I suspect this has awesome survival value in many circumstances. But it turns out that in the more modern age, when you have lots of stuff coming at you, information coming at you, and you don't need to go into fight or flight mode nearly as much, you've got the time to expend the mental resources to test your hypotheses, rather than just go, this confirms my hypothesis. Awesome. I'm going to keep believing my hypothesis. This confirms my hypothesis. Awesome. I'm going to keep believing my hypothesis.

AUBREY: It's so tough because a lot of these biases or heuristics are designed with an evolutionary biology purpose.

GEOFF: That's my hypothesis anyway. I want to go and test it. I've got this great story that explains why human beings aren't so good at probability. And explains why human beings are prone to confirmation bias. I've got this hypothesis, this story. It seems to fit the data. What should I do as a good researcher? How do I test it? How do I come up with a way of checking whether that is the explanation for why human beings seem to fall prey very quickly to confirmation bias?

AUBREY: You imagine that if you're in this jungle world and a particular type of animal hurts you, an insect, for example, like an ant. I suppose there's some ants that bite and some ants that don't. You have a couple ant bites and then you discover a new type of ant that actually doesn't bite. And it's on your arm. You've experienced the ant bite. You fucking slap it. Move it away. And that's actually helpful, even though you may be wrong about that ant. But to wait around to see if—

GEOFF: To wait around to check.

AUBREY: It doesn't make sense.

GEOFF: For survival value, you don't want to be testing your hypothesis. Sometimes it's like, no, it's time to run. Or go, or freeze, or whatever—

AUBREY: This velociraptor has feathers. Maybe it's not going to eat me.

GEOFF: Let's test. No. And also, it does take more cognitive energy to test hypotheses, to slow down and think through things that are going to prove me to be wrong than to just go, the evidence I keep seeing supports my view. So, I'm going to keep believing my view. Now, of course, what gets worse is if you then start to deliberately narrow your evidence gathering to the point where you're only willing to accept evidence that supports your view, and you're not even willing to go look at evidence that might be contrary to view.

AUBREY: It seems to me that one of the problems is we've wrapped our identity in the nominalization of being right, as if right is a place that we're at and we're permanently at, rather than placing our identity as being the one on the quest to more truth or correctness. If you find that you're not correct about something, then your identity is I am the one and this is where my value proposition of self is wrapped up. I am the one that will correct my incorrectness and continue upon my evolutionary path of greater truth and correctness. And if people could just shift their identity complex to valuing being on the process, the path of truth, rather than arriving at the truth, having already arrived at it, it would change everything. Everybody's minds would be way more open.

GEOFF: But again, I suspect we're going to come back to one of these double edged swords. Because even in philosophy, we tend to go, I accept this as my premise. And then I'm trying to figure out how to move on from there. But that means I've got to accept some things as premises, I've got to take them as true. I've got to take them as starting points to move forward. Because the skeptical problem is that if I keep questioning all of my premises all the way back, there lies madness, there lies despair because I just don't have any starting point to move forward. Even if I'm going to be involved in a process, at some point, as part of that process, I've got to accept at least for right now, this is the raft I'm on. These are the pieces I'm going to use. What can I get from there? But I have to be willing to maybe jump rafts.

AUBREY: Exactly. And get excited about the ability to jump raft. Right today, and this podcast will release later, I'm referring to a point back in time. Right today, this Wednesday, I don't know. It's sometime in December. What's the date today, everybody? The 14th. December the 14th, podcast with Graham Hancock is being released. Graham Hancock, investigative journalist who's gone to many sacred sites around the world, some of which have been actually accurately dated to around 9,600 BC, where megalithic sites were created. There was a mainstream archaeological hypothesis that nobody built anything beyond a couple thousand years BC. And he's put together an immense amount of evidence to show things to the contrary, and more and more is coming. Now, archaeologists, and this is kind of a classic academic move where they've believed this thing, they've wrote papers on this thing. And they get actually vehemently angry that he's showing, here's this evidence here. They're not going, that's fucking interesting, man. Let's look at this together. Let me bring my team out there and let's check this out. They're like, no, fuck you. You're a pseudo scientist. Blah, blah, blah. Ad hominem attacks and they try to bury him.

GEOFF: Plate tectonics was viewed as pseudoscience in its early days. I can't remember the guy who put it forward. Can't remember his name. But even he was like, this is a great story. It fits the evidence I have, but we would need a lot more work, but it would explain certain things. And he says, but it doesn't meet scientific muster, he himself. But he kept at it. And now it is the mainstream view of how the stuff... Part of it is, it's good to have the skeptics to say, wait, let's slow down. You've put this crazy story out here that contradicts a lot of what we have. Sometimes there is a good reason to be conservative about our beliefs, to accumulate knowledge slowly and not rush into, that would be so cool! It would be really cool. Except it's false. It's dangerous or whatever. We just got the new breakthrough about fusion. They finally made a reaction where they got more energy out of the reaction than they put. The search for fusion power, that is awesome.

AUBREY: That's a big deal.

GEOFF: That is a huge deal. Not a whole lot. Still a lot of technological barriers to overcome. But that was one of the big first steps you need for viable fusion. It's going to be this slow process of working our way through. But part of that process, I think, has to be a willingness to go, what if I'm wrong? And that's tough. It's hard. I teach people to reason, try to reason more clearly. One of the things I would tell people is sometimes you're going to get this gut reaction. This is what your body's telling you the answer is. And you know what? If it's a probability problem, slow down because odds are, your gut reaction has driven you to the wrong answer. And we can prove that it's the wrong answer. Sometimes that happens in logic too. Your gut reaction is that this is going to be the answer. And it's wrong. Do you remember, did I do writing assignments? Do you remember doing writing assignments and logic? Those puzzles, a lot of students, they'd go with their gut reaction on. This has got to be the answer. This is what it feels like the answer is. And then I could just methodically lay out, no, this is why. This counterintuitive answer.

AUBREY: I didn't think about it till you brought it up. But those were some of my, I loved those. I relished that.

GEOFF: I teach a course now, that's almost the whole puzzles and paradoxes, which is almost doing all of those all the time.

AUBREY: It's so fun for me to look at it in all of these different ways. As people can probably see and feel, I'm enjoying this type of conversation. And I think this to me is philosophy. And there's another way to do philosophy. And the other way to do philosophy, it's basically historical biographies of other philosophers that you have to memorize. And I think that is the absolute fucking wrong way to teach philosophy. The right way is to get you thinking like a philosopher. Not like a historian that understands historical philosophy. I'm actually really bad as a historical philosopher. Even though we did some of that. We did a little Spinoza, Descartes, and we did all that. And I actually liked learning about their theories and things. But I was always super eager to say, let me try it for myself.

GEOFF: And you've got to try it. But like anything, I've got to give you a base to work from. It's not as if Spinoza wasn't excited about what he was writing or Leibniz or Hume. They wrote it down. They took the time to work through it, to plow through it, to spend tremendous amounts of mental energy trying to say, I'm trying to solve the problem of what substance is. Or here are the consequences of if we take this definition of Aristotelian substance. What's the world like? Spinoza. Is one unified thing that all what you call mind and body are just these different aspects of the same thing. Or your Leibniz, you start with a tiny bit of a difference in your definition of substance based on Aristotle. The universe is composed of infinite substances that are independent of each other, don't causally interact, but somehow mirror each other perfectly. One thing, infinite things all starting from trying to parse out the logical consequences of substance. Awesome. But we still need to have this foundation of what these guys said to move forward. But I can't just do philosophy in the sense of regurgitating what they said.

AUBREY: It has to be a little bit of both.

GEOFF: It's got to be both. How do I do this balancing act between giving you enough knowledge so that... The hope is... That philosophers have made loads of mistakes over the thousands of years we've been doing it. Do you want to have to revamp all of their mistakes in their search for enlightenment? Or can we shortcut some of that by saying, let's start with some things. These are the foundations. Can we move forward from here so that we can keep making that incremental progress?

AUBREY: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I fully agree. And it's not just philosophy. It's also the great spiritual traditions, mystical traditions. I'm actually currently in active study with Mahayana Buddhist and Kabbalist as well. And as I go deeper into their understanding, more things are illuminating for me and I'm able to make derivative conclusions based on certain premises that I've now accepted based on what they've worked out over their thousands of years. And so that to me, I guess is really exciting. I guess, my only comment on the educational processes... And this wasn't the way it was in University of Richmond and with you. It's one of the reasons why I love philosophy. But I'm trying to just posit, how do you not love philosophy? That's what I think. A lot of people were like, I fucking hated philosophy. What do you mean? How do you not love solving the greatest puzzles that can be solved? And I think the reason why is sometimes, if a professor's just having you memorize what other people said, but not giving you the opportunity to say, here's some of the ways they thought about it. But also now, here's a problem for you that's practical, that's real. That you got to figure out. Use some of your own methods. I think in the blend of both, it's radically exciting. And also, a lot of people would say, philosophy classics double major. Good luck with your career out there. Fuck you. I fucking killed it.

GEOFF: I would do things for UR for admissions where they're saying... I would get asked questions. What can my child do with a philosophy degree? Anything they damn well please.

AUBREY: Exactly. Exactly. You're teaching someone how to think, how to solve problems. Tell me something that doesn't require thinking and solving problems.

GEOFF: Thinking and solving problems. When it comes down to it, philosophy may be an extreme version that we may end up talking about stuff that, on the face of it, is crazy.

AUBREY: Like brains in vats.

GEOFF: Brains in vats. And whether this table is real. Whatever you want to do. What would happen? How could you distinguish between these two situations? I wouldn't ever be in that situation. Not asking I understand that. How would you distinguish between you being in this distinguish in that situation? And, but a lot of it just requires the willingness to chat to take to be slow, methodical. Take your time. Try and open your mind to various possibilities, see what the logical consequences of various positions are. Admit when this would be a really cool way to solve that problem. It's not going to work. Put that attempted solution aside, let's try a different solution. Or I want to solve the personal identity problem this way. You can solve it that way. But I'm going to point out it has these consequences. And if it has these consequence, are you willing to accept those consequences? Yes, or No? If you say yes, those consequences have these further consequences. Are you willing to accept those? Yes, no. And if you finally get to one where, no, I'm not willing to accept those consequences, then you either have to say, can I show you that those consequences don't really follow? Because I want to hold on to my view. Or I go, those consequences are bad enough. Let me see how I modify my view to avoid those consequences. And that just takes a lot of work, effort, self-reflection. I hate being wrong. I hate it. And there are times where I just have to suck it up. Suck it up. Admit it. Move on. How can I grow from here on?

AUBREY: For sure. And it is possible to be both. Even in this position, I had an initial premise about wisdom in the body and you challenged the premise. And then I evolved my premise to go, there are often times where the body is completely misleading. I'd have to either clarify my understanding of the body or clarify the premise under which the body actually contains the wisdom. Lots of things have to be clarified. And to do that requires the mind, often, to be able to sort that out or some level of consciousness. Even then, where do you divide the mind from the all?

GEOFF: How do I even divine your mind from your body?

AUBREY: That's a big fucking problem. And I tried to write a book called "Master your Mind" and abandoned it three times because I could not actually distinguish the place where the mind ends, and the body starts, and the universe collective ends and starts in the mind. Everything was always inextricable, fundamentally. I ran into a philosophical problem where I just had to basically scrap the book. And I just recently cancelled my contract. I got a good advance on the book. And I was like, I cannot do it. I've tried, I've evolved this many ways. And I could do something, but it's not anything like the book that you bought, dear HarperCollins and my beloved editor, Karen. I'm really sorry. You know how hard I tried in this. Here's your money back. And I'll come back to you with something that I can actually do. That was tough. Especially throwing away 50, 60,000 words where I thought I could get there. Fuck! Fuck!

GEOFF: I publish papers. And then I've got all these reams of stuff that used to be versions of what those papers were. And there were times where I think I've got it and almost got a complete play for it. It's not going to work. And I've got to just put that paper aside and be like, that's not going to work.

AUBREY: But you learn something in the process. I learned so much more about the mind in my failed attempts. And that will actually inform further my own life, and also further books and further, whatever podcasts, all these things I come across. There's the gratitude that ultimately comes on the other side of actually going and doing the work. And the labor of the thing has is its own reward, and that you actually come to some greater understanding.

GEOFF: Being able to overcome the fear of failure is, I think, one of the greatest virtues you can have for progressing, self-progress. I am not at all saying I have succeeded in this. There are times where I can almost feel myself. Part of me is intellectually saying, stop, just stop. And the other part's saying, no, it'll work. It'll work. It'll work. And sometimes I just won't even see yet that it really won't work. Part of me is trying to say it won’t. And even on self-reflection, I'm like, you teach people to try and avoid this trap and yet, you still fall into it. Here I am.

AUBREY: I have something. One of the classes that you teach is the philosophy of science fiction.

GEOFF: Correct.

AUBREY: I was given a story. I don't need to go into the whole context of the story. I'm just going to give you the story. And the story is that there's a race of beings called the Arcturians. This race of star beings called the Arcturians are the ancestors of humans. And that the Arcturians are able to move back through time and support humans In the process of becoming Arcturians and not destroying themselves. This really fucks me up. This really fucks me up because I don't understand this time travel. Obviously, presuming that the Arcturians have mastered the ability to navigate time, I can accept that. But then, if it is necessary for them to help humans to actually get to the point where they can become Arcturians and then come back and help humans, how does that work? Where was the first time where humans evolved enough to become Arcturians that could come back and help? You see what I'm saying?

GEOFF: Absolutely. I teach metaphysics and science fiction. And one of the big sections on it, two big sections. One is on personal identity. This is transporter type problems. There's a "Star Trek" episode where Riker beams down to the planet and then there's a problem. And he ends up splitting in two. One of him stays on the planet and then another version of him ends up on the Potemkin and goes off and becomes the Commander Riker who ends up on the enterprise. And then they come back to that planet many, many years later and boom, there's another Riker. Identity problems like that, that you can get. That's one section. The other section is all on time travel. It's exactly this sort of story. What you have is a self-causing loop. That the Arcturians have traveled back in time to do something that generates the Arcturians.


GEOFF: And you say, what happened first? Here's a model of time travel. Changing the past is impossible. You can travel back into the past, but you can't change anything. On that respect, imagine what it's like when god looks at the universe. Big Bang let's say. Then he sees galaxies developing, stars, da, da, da. He sees the arrival of a very advanced species in Earth's past who do this things that generate, let's say, tweaks the conditions of initial earth so that evolution will go this way. And it keeps following his path. And it goes all the way to the Arcturians developing time travel. And, of course, he sees them leave at that point. And then he sees the Arcturians continue on to... That's the universe he sees. There is one and only one timeline. It never changes. That's the order he sees it in. That story is now perfectly consistent. But you have to accept there's a sense in which the Arcturians can't change anything about it. They are the cause of their own existence. Here's the thing. On that view, you want a time machine. Just make sure your future self sends it back to you. Because there's your time machine. Why bother going through building it or anything like that? If self-creating loops are possible, in a universe that allowed time travel and there was no changing the past, you could just send the time machine back to yourself. How did you get your first time machine? It just magically appeared because my future self sent it to me. That's how I got it. That's that kind of story.

AUBREY: I still can't get there. So hard to understand that.

GEOFF: But you have to be able to accept... Notice. Everything in the chain has an explanation for when I just told it. Where did the Arcturians come from who showed up in Earth's past? They came from up there. We got that. And why is it that humans developed? Because the Arcturians did their thing back then? And why is it that humans developed into Arcturians? Because they did this thing. And how did the Arcturians develop time travel? Because they did this scientific discovery. And what did they do with that scientific discovery? They sent some of them back to make sure that... But that's the story. And I can explain every part of the story. It's just we don't like it somewhat because the loop comes back in on itself. How do you explain the loop? What do you mean explain the loop? There's one's chain that got... I just told you. Here's god's description of the universe from beginning to end. Where's the problem? Another view about time travel. You go back and you change the past. You going back, doing things. Loads of science fiction stories about that. I'm going to go back and I'm going to get Hitler before he does all his bad things. Let's suppose you succeed. There are plenty of stories where actually you jump forward to your new, better future and you're like, oh my god, this is way worse. Holy crap. I thought I was making things better by doing this. Then the story goes, let's jump back and try and put it back the way it was, undo my changes. Those stories, I think, are inconsistent. There is no getting back to the way it was. There is a way to tell changing the past stories. Trying to tell the Arcturian story, on that one, it is harder but not impossible. Somehow, what you have to imagine is that the humans developed independently on their own. God's watching the universe. We get to the point where the Arcturians go, we wish we could be better than we are. How are we going to make ourselves better than we are? We've just been talking about making ourselves better by trying to improve upon the stuff we've already got. We're looking towards the future. The Arcturian solution is we're going to make ourselves better than we are because we want to make ourselves better than we are right now. We're going to go back in time and make those people back there even better. So that we can be better right now. They send some of their guys back. And sure enough, they change things. They make things better.

SIRI: I didn't get that. Could you try again?

GEOFF: I know it's hard, Siri. It's hard.

AUBREY: You have the best Siri of all time. It's the most accurate. This is incredible. I understand why you're such a good professor now. You're cheating.

GEOFF: I have Siri. Siri's just keeping on track. They make it better. We can imagine those Arcturians who did their little tweak, they then jump forward into the future to see, to check, and they get back. And sure enough, things have changed. Things are even more miraculous and better than they were before. And they go, we succeeded. And the guys, the Arcturians are like, who are you? Where are you guys coming from? We got time travel, but we didn't send anybody back to earth. We didn't need to. We're already as good as we can. From the perspective of that future, they're going to be like, where did you guys come from? We don't have any record.

AUBREY: Because there's an inconsistency there.

GEOFF: It's not that it's an inconsistency. You've literally changed how the past was. Now there is a way to model this as long as... You can't... I was about to say you can't do it without an extra time-like dimension. But I've actually got some colleagues who are trying to come up with some inventive ways to get around even that restriction. But one of the ways I've done it in print is, what you have to imagine is, you now can talk about the first time through. But what you can't do on this is generate loops. Because notice, the loop's gone. It's not as if... When I talk about those Arcturians who jumped back to the future, the people are going to, who were you? We have no record of you ever existing. And the question is, where are they from? Here's one metaphor for understanding. You can imagine you've got a layer of paint. The time travelers went back and then they started a new layer of paint over the top. And of course, where are the Arcturians from? They're from the bottom layer of paint. And they've just now created a new layer and now they're part of the new layer. But of course, from the perspective of the new layer, they look like they just popped out of thin air.

AUBREY: This is kind of a multiverse hypothesis basically.

GEOFF: It's sort of like a multiverse. But we got to be careful if we want it to actually be time travel and changing the past. It's cheating if you just appeal to multiverses because then I can solve some of these time travel paradoxes by saying, what you really do is you go and kill Hitler in an alternate universe. And sure enough, that alternate universe is such that Hitler doesn't develop and you're hoping that's a better universe. But here's the magic. I want you to imagine jumping back to your original universe. Did you get what you wanted? Presumably, you wanted this universe to be better. You were trying to change it. In some sense, I'm like, is that time travel? It's universe hopping. In some sense, if I'm universe-hopping, are the universe is lined up in a way? How could I tell whether I've traveled in time or not? Or whether I push the button on my time machine, and it turns out it's really just a universe hopping machine. And I appear somewhere that looks like 1846, England. But in that universe, what looks like 1846 corresponds with 2022 because the universes are just lined up that way. How could I tell whether I actually traveled in time or not if I was just universe-hopping? Both of my models of time travel were trying to get it so that you're not just universe-hopping. But I will grant, my metaphor is conducive to thinking in terms of branching universes. But I really want you to imagine that the paint stops when you travel back in time and starts a new layer. And if I get another time travel, paint stops and I get a layer on top. In some sense, on that model, time travel is extremely powerful. Because the guys who travel back in time basically terminate that branch. That means they kill everybody who's left behind. That's bad. But you get changing the past. You get no causal loops. What makes time travel stories, a lot of times shows that are written problematic is you want elements from both in your story. Like the movie "Looper" smears both of these models together into one. From a consistency perspective, unholy mess. It was a good movie. I went to it with a colleague. It was a fun movie. And I'm just in my head going, for consistency, it gets an F. Because you're trying to take these elements that are really cool elements and smear them together in a way that you just can't. You can't get it. They wanted changing the past in their thing. And yet, they were also trying to tell a story where they wanted the loops. You can't have both the loops show up in models of time travel where there is no changing the past. And if you do allow for changing the past, now you better not have loops. And part of the problem for cinematography is you have to live with the consequences. Here's a typical time travel story. The good guys go back in time to do something. They accidentally change something. They come to the future, they realize the future is really bad. We need to fix the problem. Go back, fix the problem. Everything's back to the way it was. But if you're changing past, you never make it back to the way it was. You can make it back to something that looks very similar to the way it was. But that's like asking me to somehow make it back to the bottom layer of paint when we are four layers of paint up. It may be awesome. I like that color. Let's get a change. I'm going to paint over it with a new color. Don't like that color anymore. here's a new color. You know what, I really liked that first color. And I'm going to put another layer of paint. Same color, looks the same. But it's not the same layer of paint. It's the fourth layer.

AUBREY: What that actually means is it's not a new layer of paint. It would be universe-hopping.

GEOFF: Or what you've done is you've made this universe look very similar to that universe, but it isn't the same people. It's not the same. It's actually got a different history.

AUBREY: Let me try this concept on and see if it makes sense. it's kind of like your first thing where in the mind of god, this has just happened and this is the way it is.

GEOFF: Everything happens once.

AUBREY: Everything happens once. And that everything that happens once is everything that could possibly happen. Let's say I posit that. Everything happens once but the everything that happens once is a multiverse where everything possible happens. It's infinity. It's an infinite amount of multiverse timeline, where actually, there's a whole other universe where I take this can and I move it here, over here. And this has now created a branching universe based on my freewill choice that allows for freewill. But the freewill is the infinite amount of freewill possibilities where I can make every other choice. Where there's another choice where I just put this down here and it's actually altered the universe just slightly. And now we're in a new timeline based on my perspective, which also contributes to this universe. And I guess that may be a premise that I'm kind of now starting to be okay. From god's perspective, all possible realities have happened and they only happen once. And we choose which reality we abide in from our perspectival purview.

GEOFF: I'm going to take the time travel out of the mix here for a second. You could imagine that every time you make a decision, or some quantum decay happens, or something that the universe literally branches into multiple paths. Let's pretend that there's a big bang within the initial universe state and that there's all these branching possibilities from that initial state.

AUBREY: An infinite amount of branching.

GEOFF: Or if it's not infinite, it's a huge finite number, somewhere near infinite or whatever. You've done this and that's partially how you're planning on explaining freewill in the sense that, what does it mean to say I could have done this? There's a branch right at that point, where in fact, I did do it in that branch. And you could say that all of those branches are equally real. There is a you in that other branch that's going on and doing something else. And there is a me in this other branch that says something other than what I say right now. We can do that. And this is one model. All the possibilities are in some sense, just as actual. Of course, we only have access to the branch we're in. And you get some really cool science fiction stories that are based just on that hypothesis. Like what if you could suddenly travel to another branch? I'm trying to think who it is. [inaudible 01:34:49], black matter or something like that. Basically, the challenge for him is he's got this guy who has figured out a way to travel to these other universes. Now the challenge for him is to get back. And of course, since every decision he makes is creating new branches, there are a whole bunch of him who have in fact succeeded in getting to other universes. He gets back to what he thinks is his universe. But there are a whole bunch of other guys who also think they are him back in that universe trying to sort things out now. It's a great story. But that's just traveling in the universe, in the multiverse? I think this TV show "Sliders" from way back when had a similar sort of problem. You traveled to another universe. You jump back to one that looks an awful lot like yours. Are you sure it's yours? Because after all, if there are a whole bunch of branching universes, there are a whole bunch of universes where a bunch of you went to different universes.

AUBREY: There's no back. There's just the universe that you're in.

GEOFF: There's just the universe you're in. Did you originate in that universe? Or is this a universe left vacant by another one of you jumping, the one who jumped two seconds later? He had to stop and tie his shoe and you didn't. Or you waited to tie your shoe until you got to the other universe. He stopped, tied his shoe in this universe and then jumped. You would have all these sort of possibilities. Now, the question I think that becomes interesting is, what happens if I throw time travel into the mix here. And I think if you're going to play the game where time travel, there's no changing the past, I think time travel has the impact of cutting off all the branches in that particular zone. I think that when the Arcturians made that decision to travel back in time, to say we want to make ourselves better, if we're in a universe where the past doesn't change, what they in fact did, they may have believed they were going, this is why we're going to travel back in time. We want to make ourselves better than we are now. It turns out that they needed to do that because that is the very cause of them traveling back in time.

AUBREY: Their existence.

GEOFF: Their very existence. I said it was a closed causal loop. And god can explain everything in the loop. But it turns out that when you're in that loop, there is no alternative. There are no, it could have gone this way. What do you mean it could have gone this way? They are in a universe and with a past like this. What made it have a past like this, the fact that they traveled back in time. They cannot, on pain of logical inconsistency, do anything other than that. That looks like a serious challenge to free will. This is why it's disturbing in one sense. You want to be able to go back and have your free will and change the past, but you somehow want to be able to get back to your origin point. And I'm like, it's really hard for me a way to see that you can have both of those desires simultaneously.

AUBREY: I guess for me, what I would go to is that, in this reality that I'm in, this universe that I'm in, this had to happen. In that future, it had to happen for this reality to exist. And that choice was made and it did happen. And we're living in that. But I guess there's ways in which we could make choices that would actually turn out, like we could destroy the earth. That is a possibility that this is one of the generative loops where they actually did do that. But actually, we still can fuck it up from here.

GEOFF: This is good. This is good. Because remember, I didn't say that all the branching disappears completely. What I wanted to say is from the point of their arrival to the point of their departure, there's no logically consistent way to tell that story other than it in fact, happens. There is no alternate choices. But you could mean something else by an alternate choice. Because I can go to another universe that branches from that universe in which there is no time travel whatsoever in that universe. And now that's got all the things that you thought you possibly could do. All of them happen over there. It's just it's not one of your available branchings. Why? Sucks to be in a universe where somebody travelled back in time and made the universe fix the way it is. But it's not like there aren't the other possibilities. And I think this is one of the Reasons why we tend to think, but the universe could have been like that. It could have been like that if there had been no time travel. And it even could be part of the multi-universe branching, it's just going to branch from a point before the time travel happened, or before the arrival of the time traveler back in the past.

AUBREY: Have you seen any films, wasn't it the movie "Arrival" with Jodie Foster that was a time travel and alien type of thing? Have you seen any of them? "Interstellar" is one that I'm actually more familiar with. Which seems to be a problem for me as well, because he goes into that one quantum place where he starts pushing on the books. And the pushing on the books then creates this whole thing where his daughter saves him by getting this thing that actually allows... Is that possible?

GEOFF: A for consistency on this one.


GEOFF: And it turns out there is no changing. He doesn't change anything. What we get is an explanation for why all the various things happen the way they happen. Some of the explanations involve causation going the wrong way, in the sense that it's him doing something in the future that's causing the books in the past to do their thing. But does anything change? Like if god was to watch this, he's like, that's how it happened.

AUBREY: This is the first explanation of the Arcturian story basically.

GEOFF: I think interstellar gets it right, in that respect, that it's just telling that story. A movie that I think gets pretty close to... 95%, "Deja Vu" with Denzel Washington. The one where he's trying to solve a murder. He comes across some guys who propose sending him back in time to prevent this big disaster and stuff like that. That one is a great changing the past movie. They're almost, almost, 95% consistent. And then the movie makers decide they want to get cute, and they throw one tiny causal loop into the story. If they'd left that out, I would have been like, yes. If you can change the past, you're going to get these object duplication. There literally is one point where you have two Denzel Washingtons running around at the same time. One of them is how to put it. Older is one way to try and describe it. But I'd say one of them is from, let's call it the first time through and one of them's from the second time through. Of course, this causes problems. And I understand why movie makers wouldn't like this model of time travel because here's what I say happens. You go back and fix what you did in the past. Now your past is very similar to the way it is now. Guess what? There should be a bunch of you, your team should be there. Who are you? Who are this team? They solved it, so, of course, they didn't have to go back in time, so you jump into the future. Who owns all your stuff now because there are two of you? Or three of you. Or four.

AUBREY: Who's going to have sex with your wife?

GEOFF: Yeah, right. But "Deja Vu" took that seriously? There are going to be two of them. We got to figure out a way to solve this problem that there are going to be two of them.

AUBREY: Because actually, if you went back in time, you're actually adding, you seem to be adding energy into the universe. If you take that law as true, energy cannot be either created or destroyed, you're actually adding energy. You're taking future energy, adding it to a past universe. That seems like that's also some potential realm of inconsistency.

GEOFF: Let's do the easy case first. The easy case first is the no change universe. But some people worry that somehow, what you're doing is you're moving some of the energy from this location to this location. We don't really have a problem here. All I need is conservation of matter energy in a closed system. The system's just the whole universe. And what I need is this same amount. The fact that I clump it in certain times isn't the problem if the average amount is the same all the way through. I've just shifted it around by time travel. Changing the past model is way more complicated. In any particular universe, it's going to look like I am violating energy matter, energy conservation. Because here's the thing. If you can literally change the past, here's what I do. I said how to get your time machine. You send yourself a time machine. You can't do that in a changing the past universe because you actually have to do the work because there is no time machine. But if you can change the past, here's what you do. How do I want to do this? I have some resources, I go back, that I know are going to show up in the future. So, I bring them back to me with the past. And they're there in the past, too. We wait the hundred years. And now I have two pairs of those resources, because I have the ones I got and the one that was there. Since they're both there, this time I get both of them, put them in my time machine, go back in time. And now I've got three sets of the resources. And I could just keep generating more and more of the resources this way. And it's like I am getting things out of air. But this is just the object duplication problem. Because I said, here's what happens. I just finished building my time machine. I get in my time machine, I push the button, I go back 5 minutes. This changes the past. But it doesn't make any significant changes. It's just now there are two time machines sitting in my lab. And there are two of me because the other guy goes, it worked. And now of course, let's both go. They both go back in time. And now of course, they both jump forward. And now of course, there's a guy, it worked. Let's just keep going.

AUBREY: Infinite time machine. You get a time machine, you get a time machine.

GEOFF: Exactly. This looks like it's violating matter energy conservation. Certainly within what looks like the accessible universe, it does. But now I got to be careful what counts as the closed system because remember my layers of paint analogy. The closed system now includes every single layer of paint, and everything in each one has an explanation. What I'm doing is I'm literally taking objects from each layer and compressing them into one layer. My first time machine came from layer one. Then we jump to layer two. And I didn't influence me in that timeline, creating a time machine. Now there's the time machine I have and the time machine the guy in layer two created. Awesome. Two time machines. We both jump to layer three. Doesn't influence the creation of the time machine in that. Awesome. Three. Of course, we're just condensing them into a layer.

SIRI: I don't know how to respond to that.

GEOFF: Thanks, Siri. Have I actually violated matter energy conversion? What I've done is just... The system is bigger than I thought it was.

AUBREY: And includes all the layers in the system.

GEOFF: It includes all the layers in the system. And what I've done is I've compressed stuff from, taken stuff from one layer and just moved it to another layer. It looks like, from any layer's perspective, it looks like I'm violating matter energy conservation. But if we take all the layers combined, not yet clear to me that I've violated that principle.

AUBREY: This was a ride. Let's go get a beer and watch some FIFA. Who was the philosopher that said that let's go get a beer?

GEOFF: David Hume.

AUBREY: I think it's time to Hume out, have a beer, and watch them FIFA. This has been fantastic.

GEOFF: Awesome.

AUBREY: Thanks for coming in and exploring this with me. It's such a pleasure to be in this pure philosophy realm again. And also stretching my own capacity. And that's the beauty, I think, of the philosophy of science fiction ideas. You're creating things that are at the very edge of our own comprehension and using rules that apply to other simpler things like the chicken and the egg, and the tray, which were very easy to solve. And now we're getting into time travel. Now we're really stretching. Siri has to come in and check us.

GEOFF: I don't understand. I don't understand. That was Socrates's response. I don't understand. Help me try and understand and then I'm going to ask you some questions about what you think is the truth to help me understand. And those questions might show you didn't understand it as much as you wanted. But the goal is still to get to Socratic wisdom or understanding, not to just win points.

AUBREY: Amen. Thank you so much. If you're out there, University of Richmond, it's pretty dope. I had a fucking blast there. Check it out. And then you can maybe take a class with Dr. Goddu if you're listening. Thanks, brother. I appreciate this.

GEOFF: Thank you.

AUBREY: Anything else you want to share with the audience?

GEOFF: I think we're good. Thank you. It was great.

AUBREY: Beautiful. This was a lot of fun. Thanks, everybody. Love you. See you next week. Thanks for tuning into this video. Make sure you hit subscribe, follow me at AubreyMarcus, check out the Aubrey Marcus podcast available everywhere, and leave a comment. Let me know if this video resonated or what else you would like to hear from me in the future. Thank you so much.