What's up with the past?

OK, so what are statements about the past really referring to? Is the past ‘out there’ in some sense? If so, what is it exactly? If the past isn’t ‘out there’, then how does it affect material reality in the present, and how can statements about it be true or false? I know there’s probably no one answer to this, but could some person or persons at least give me the major competing views? :astonished:

the past is a lie
because everyones perspective will differ from your own
the past exists as a learning tool
only the present is relevant
dont get me wrong, i like to study history but it really has no bearing on this moment
time is an illusion by which we measure our own lives
the past doesn’t exist anymore than the future
love and respect

very eloquently put! thank you!

There is no problem with utterances about the past if the description does indeed have a referent. Time does not effect the denotation of an existentially quantified expression, at least on Russell’s view. However, I’m pretty sure this is not what you had in mind when you said, “what are statements about the past really referring to?” The problem of denoting has been a topic of debate in the philosophy of language for quite some time.


Well I think that’s the first time I’ve seen the word “referent” on this board. I’ll warn you, Kizzo, people around here (with a few exceptions, including myself) don’t have much patience for analytic philosophy. But maybe we can change that.

Haha. It’s good to hear I’m not alone.

hey guys, i am new around here, so just a quick hello post:

much as i admire the existential eloquency of KAsey’s reply, to deny the reality of an existent past due to the fickle nature of human memory and perspective is absurd. the past is more than the sum of retrospective opinion: it is what has gone before. there can be no doubt that events “have” occured in a very real sense. the only indeterminacy lies in subsequent reflection by historians. but note that the further back we travel through our estimation of history, the more likelihood of convergence of opinion. i concur with Kizzo’s description of past referential frames. i think Ucci’s question is therefore a linguistic rather than an existentialist one.

Imagine listening to a song all the way through without ever being able to remember what had just happened in the song, it would be a meaningless buzz of noise, a constant hum which you wouldn’t even realise was constant.

Everything you see has already entered the past, everything you think of has its origins in the past, without the past the present is meaningless. Only the past is knowable.

I will put it very plainly, as I am, that past seen with the eyes of the present in my view is an aesthetic category, wich moreover may sometimes have some formative effect on the present history, or making of history, or decision making. no matter how effective it is. :blush: