On presentism and the cosmos

Fred asked:

I’ve been thinking about presentism and the conditions of the cosmos. It is well known that when we look out into space we are looking backwards in time. If we look out far enough we will eventually see the big bang itself. Since this is true, even if I look out a fraction of a millimeter from my eye, what I am seeing is in the past. Even when I look at my body I am seeing it not as it is, but as it was. Thus everything that I perceive is not as it is, but as it was. If presentism is true, it seems everything I perceive does not exist. Really, only my mind exists and I am a solipsist. Is this argument sound? Please email a response.

Answer by Helier Robinson

No, the argument is not sound. It can be understood more clearly is a somewhat different form. If the Sun were to explode, we would not know about it until eight minutes afterwards, since that is how long it takes light to travel from the Sun to us. So if you are looking at the Sun, are you seeing the exploded sun, or not?

The point is that the real Sun has exploded, so what you are seeing is not the real Sun; so what you are seeing is either an image of the real Sun, or else it is a product of your mind. This argument applies to everything you see because light has a finite speed. Your argument left out the possibility of your seeing images of reality, leaving only the possibility that only your mind exists. (And note that everything you perceive does exist (you could not perceive it otherwise); what you should have inferred was that everything you perceive is unreal, merely mental.) So either solipsism is true, or else everything you perceive is an image of reality, not reality itself. You’ve got the makings of a good philosopher in you.

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