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StrictlyLogical

Why Philosophical Statements About the Vacuum are Invalid

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Whether or not you believe the universe is a plenum, or not, and whether you believe the theories and experiments in the field of physics or not, if you hear someone state that on philosophical grounds alone, one can show a true vacuum, the absence of any and every thing, cannot exist, he or she is wrong.

 

At the outset let me state that a person could be of the belief of such a thing on other evidence (of the special sciences, e.g. electrical and gravitational fields seem in actuality to permeate everywhere) but if someone tried to provide a philosophical argument understand that it would fail.

 

 

Here is why:

 

First our premise is that space and time are purely relational, i.e. that space itself is not an independent existent.  It is not a container that would still exist if all the concretes in the universe were simply to disappear.  Space is a relationship between those entities and rational also between portions of entities (if they are extended in space).

 

The main argument against a true vacuum is that "there can be no nothing".  This goes way back to ancient Greece, Parmenides.  The idea being that one grasps and thinks of things and cannot think of the sheer absence of every thing.. i.e. a complete nothing.  I am paraphrasing, it is much more involved, but suffice it to say, this led some to conclude therefore that the "universe" could not have tiny "holes" in it, and that for philosophical reasons it must be tightly packed (a plenum).

 

 

Diversion 1:

 

When it comes to things like frequency of vibration or momentum, one can easily see that (assuming) there being a finite number of things in the universe, at any one instant in time, there are only a finite number of momenta being "occupied" or "exhibited" by that finite number of things, and there are only a finite number of frequencies at which that finite number of things could be vibrating.  Moreover it is clear that more than one thing can have the same momentum, and more than one thing can vibrate at the same frequency.  So among the great many things there is redundancy or degeneracy (fewer number of unique values than the actual number of particulars).

 

Now imagine a particular momentum or frequency which is occupied, i.e. at least one thing in the universe has that momentum or frequency, at a particular time.  We would be completely nonplussed if we were to find out that at some next instant that one thing no longer had that momentum or frequency, and moreover that no other thing in the universe AT THAT INSTANT happened to have that particular momentum or frequency.  In fact, given the nature of the number of possible momenta, and frequencies each being a continuum of values (and if not a continuum, an unbounded set), it is clear that at any time a great many are unoccupied/unexhibited.

 

Please note that reference to the particular momentum or frequency is valid, as it was relevant to discussing reality, i.e. an object possessed that particular value a moment ago, so it is completely valid to refer to that particular value now, (the one which previously was occupied) as simply not being occupied/exhibited by any entity or part thereof.

 

If I went up to philosopher (not the best kind) and said that "nothing has particular momentum A, although I have proof object x had that momentum a moment ago." should I expect him to than ask me...

"Are you saying Nothing is like a Something, and that it is occupying/exhibiting a particular momentum A?"

How would I respond if he said, "To say a particular momentum has No object occupying/exhibiting it is invoking Nothing in its place, and therefor is invalid... there can be no Nothing."

 

 

Diversion 2:

 

When it comes to things like relationships, one can easily see how "brother of", "father of", "sister of" etc. are relational.  The concept's referent is something in reality, but not something which would exist independently of the things who have those relationships.  As such if all living things were to cease to exist, the term, sister would be meaningless.

 

If you know that in history there once was a family with 23 sisters, then the idea of 22nd sister is not hard to understand.  It is a valid relational concept. Now if I note that I do not have a 22nd sister, what am I saying?

 

Am I saying that my 22nd sister is NOTHING, as if NOTHING were something I could call my sister? Would that "not so great" philosopher come to me and say:

 

"You cannot speak as though there is Sheer Nothing in your 22nd sister position.  There is no Nothing."

 

 

 

Non-diversion:

 

There is a type of philosopher who sees the above, and while knowing space is (conceptually at least) a continuum, and not an existent (i.e. relational only) will still argue, on PHILOSOPHIC grounds that there can be no "holes" in the universe.  i.e. no places (whether to speak of points, positions, or volumes) where there is sheer nothing, because to do so (they would claim) would be to attempt to invoke sheer Nothing as if it were a something, but it is not.

 

 

This clearly misses the boat... and unless one could prove that all momenta MUST be occupied, or that I actually HAVE a 22nd sister (all potential relationships must be occupied), one CANNOT argue that there cannot be spaces (previously occupied relationships) which no entity occupies or extend into FROM A PHILOSOPHICAL basis.

 

Nothing in philosophy can say that it is invalid to say "there is a 1mm diameter spherical hole at the center of this steel ball in which there is nothing." 

 

[Only the special sciences could do so, and only with reference to evidence actual existents or portions thereof (fields, forces, particles, radiation etc.) are there.]

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It's a bit unclear from the standpoint of vacuum, moving to "there can be no 'nothing'."

 

If a vacuum chamber is considered, the medium the walls are constructed of need be sufficient to hold up. A low grade wall subjected to a high grade vacuum can collapse the chamber walls. Is it the atmosphere outside of the chamber doing the collapsing, or what is inside the chamber?

 

Instead of "vacuum", is "void" the operative term being described? If so, could it be taken through this without reifying along the way?

 

Referencing a piece I've linked to a couple of times: (about half-way down in section  Bricks, to air, to vacuum, to ...?)

Micheal Miller used a cat and dog with a stone wall between them. It is visually given that the stone wall separates the dog and cat.

If you take away the stone wall, what then is between the cat and dog. To arrive at "air", what are the referents and chain of reasoning that brings about that conclusion?

Setting an apparatus up which can remove air from a chamber, the question remains — until the walls of the chamber become adjacent to one another — what is between the walls?

 

Adhering to causality from the standpoint of entities act makes for an interesting exercise in expanding ones own understanding.

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Ok....

 

I do not know whether I should take silence as a compliment....or an insult...

 

as agreement or as disagreement, as disinterest or as evasion.

 

 

At least hit the like button if you like it!  Meh

I can't speak for the other posters here, but I personally am intimidated by this particular subject area and generally try to avoid discussing it.

 

This is for two reasons:

 

1. Philosophy of space and time, which is the area of philosophy that this argument is relevant to, has been developed to the point that you have to have an advanced degree in physics to understand the contemporary debate or contribute meaningfully to it.

 

2. Leonard Peikoff, who apparently studied physics for years under the Objectivist physicist David Harriman, has advanced the argument you criticize in the OP. While I would never try to appeal to his authority to settle a dispute, I am impressed by a lot of the work he has done in other areas of philosophy, and I don't trust myself to evaluate his argument at my current level of knowledge.

 

So, it looks like a strange argument to me, but I don't trust myself to advocate or criticize it, and the other posters here may feel this way as well.

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I can't speak for the other posters here, but I personally am intimidated by this particular subject area and generally try to avoid discussing it.

 

This is for two reasons:

 

1. Philosophy of space and time, which is the area of philosophy that this argument is relevant to, has been developed to the point that you have to have an advanced degree in physics to understand the contemporary debate or contribute meaningfully to it.

 

2. Leonard Peikoff, who apparently studied physics for years under the Objectivist physicist David Harriman, has advanced the argument you criticize in the OP. While I would never try to appeal to his authority to settle a dispute, I am impressed by a lot of the work he has done in other areas of philosophy, and I don't trust myself to evaluate his argument at my current level of knowledge.

 

So, it looks like a strange argument to me, but I don't trust myself to advocate or criticize it, and the other posters here may feel this way as well.

 

Interesting comment.

 

All I can say is try to ignore/throw out the feeling "strange"... and think for yourself.

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The concept of "nothing" has no referent; it's only the negation of any *thing*. Given that... How would one prove whether there is or isn't anything in any particular spot?

I mean, suppose you proved that there was no matter at X,Y,Z. There would probably still be gravitational and electromagnetic fields there, right? That's not nothing. And even if you showed that those didn't exist there, at all, there could still be something else. And even if you showed that not a single *thing* known to man existed in that spot at that time, there could always be stuff that we don't even know about yet.

The bottom line is that you can't really prove a total, philosophical sort of vacuum.

I find myself increasingly reluctant to try to answer questions of that nature; they seem disproportionately liable to turn into epistemological quagmires.

However...

There is a type of philosopher who sees the above, and while knowing space is (conceptually at least) a continuum, and not an existent (i.e. relational only) will still argue, on PHILOSOPHIC grounds that there can be no "holes" in the universe. i.e. no places (whether to speak of points, positions, or volumes) where there is sheer nothing, because to do so (they would claim) would be to attempt to invoke sheer Nothing as if it were a something, but it is not.

I think there's a subtle conflation, in that kind of error.

When we discuss "space" as a relation, we're talking about the old Newtonian concept of space. When we talk about the fabric of "space" as a thing which can act (and be acted on), on the other hand, we usually mean what Einstein described. While they may (maybe) have the same referent in reality, these are very different ideas with very different identities. I think a good deal of the confusion regarding the idea of space might evaporate, if we did nothing more than specify that.

Still, in the Newtonian sense of "space" that you defined, it can't have holes (nor any other attribute). There could be places without entities, but if we refer to "holes" or "distortions" in space at all then we're no longer discussing that; we're talking about Einstein's space.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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The concept of "nothing" has no referent; it's only the negation of any *thing*. Given that... How would one prove whether there is or isn't anything in any particular spot?

I mean, suppose you proved that there was no matter at X,Y,Z. There would probably still be gravitational and electromagnetic fields there, right? That's not nothing. And even if you showed that those didn't exist there, at all, there could still be something else. And even if you showed that not a single *thing* known to man existed in that spot at that time, there could always be stuff that we don't even know about yet.

The bottom line is that you can't really prove a total, philosophical sort of vacuum.

I find myself increasingly reluctant to try to answer questions of that nature; they seem disproportionately liable to turn into epistemological quagmires.

However...

I think there's a subtle conflation, in that kind of error.

When we discuss "space" as a relation, we're talking about the old Newtonian concept of space. When we talk about the fabric of "space" as a thing which can act (and be acted on), on the other hand, we usually mean what Einstein described. While they may (maybe) have the same referent in reality, these are very different ideas with very different identities. I think a good deal of the confusion regarding the idea of space might evaporate, if we did nothing more than specify that.

Still, in the Newtonian sense of "space" that you defined, it can't have holes (nor any other attribute). There could be places without entities, but if we refer to "holes" or "distortions" in space at all then we're no longer discussing that; we're talking about Einstein's space.

 

I made a specific argument based on at least one premise (that space is purely relational and not an entity)... which argument you simply have failed to address at all... I'm afraid you have missed my point entirely. 

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I can't speak for the other posters here, but I personally am intimidated by this particular subject area and generally try to avoid discussing it.

 

This is for two reasons:

 

1. Philosophy of space and time, which is the area of philosophy that this argument is relevant to, has been developed to the point that you have to have an advanced degree in physics to understand the contemporary debate or contribute meaningfully to it.

 

2. Leonard Peikoff, who apparently studied physics for years under the Objectivist physicist David Harriman, has advanced the argument you criticize in the OP. While I would never try to appeal to his authority to settle a dispute, I am impressed by a lot of the work he has done in other areas of philosophy, and I don't trust myself to evaluate his argument at my current level of knowledge.

 

So, it looks like a strange argument to me, but I don't trust myself to advocate or criticize it, and the other posters here may feel this way as well.

 

William O:

 

Upon further consideration of your post I have this to add:

 

I do not believe Leonard Peikoff ever advanced an argument claiming that on philosophic grounds ALONE one can prove that previously occupied spatial relations cannot ever be unoccupied. 

 

I believe he expressed a belief (as Rand may have) in something like a Plenum, or that there are no holes in the universe, but he never said he had proof based solely on philosophic grounds.  For all I know his belief may have had its basis in part on some knowledge he had of the SPECIAL SCIENCES such as PHYSICS (which you mention he studied with David Harriman).

 

In FACT, I have a coupled degrees in physics, and notwithstanding some gross philosophic errors of interpretation and philosophical foundations thereof, empirically it is still an open question.  If all forces are mediated by particles and if fields are only potentialities, then arguably spaces can alternate between occupied and empty.  If some forces are not mediated by particles or if some fields are not mere potentialities but existents which extend throughout space, it may be that spaces are always occupied.  In any case, my only point here is that my argument has nothing to do with what the special sciences actually say, nor with what I actually believe to be case, ONLY that one cannot prove on Philosophical bases alone that all spaces must always be occupied by at least one existent or a part thereof.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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The concept of "nothing" has no referent; it's only the negation of any *thing*. Given that... How would one prove whether there is or isn't anything in any particular spot?

I mean, suppose you proved that there was no matter at X,Y,Z. There would probably still be gravitational and electromagnetic fields there, right? That's not nothing. And even if you showed that those didn't exist there, at all, there could still be something else. And even if you showed that not a single *thing* known to man existed in that spot at that time, there could always be stuff that we don't even know about yet.

The bottom line is that you can't really prove a total, philosophical sort of vacuum.

I find myself increasingly reluctant to try to answer questions of that nature; they seem disproportionately liable to turn into epistemological quagmires.

However...

I think there's a subtle conflation, in that kind of error.

When we discuss "space" as a relation, we're talking about the old Newtonian concept of space. When we talk about the fabric of "space" as a thing which can act (and be acted on), on the other hand, we usually mean what Einstein described. While they may (maybe) have the same referent in reality, these are very different ideas with very different identities. I think a good deal of the confusion regarding the idea of space might evaporate, if we did nothing more than specify that.

Still, in the Newtonian sense of "space" that you defined, it can't have holes (nor any other attribute). There could be places without entities, but if we refer to "holes" or "distortions" in space at all then we're no longer discussing that; we're talking about Einstein's space.

 

Upon further consideration, although your post does not directly address mine, it raises some interesting questions in my mind.

 

Firstly, space being relational is not only Newtonian, in fact if I am not mistaken he advocated absolute space which implies something other than mere relational-ity.  Also, there is no reason NOT to take space within the framework of Einstein as relational, the only difference here is that the relations are relative and depend upon many factors.  Relationality means we do not need reification - the calculations work either way.

 

Secondly, reifying space is an error on the same level a reifying a universal or an abstraction.  In fact it is reifying a relation. 

 

 What properties does space as such have? Does space itself occupy space?  Where is it?  Does something contain space?  What is the something?  Can you move an amount of it from one place to another? 

 

What does space as such, as a concept have in common with existents such that according to a proper formation of concepts through integrating concretes, one would say "space as such is an existent" and not merely a relationship between existents?  

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I made a specific argument based on at least one premise (that space is purely relational and not an entity)... which argument you simply have failed to address at all... I'm afraid you have missed my point entirely.

To be frank, I agree with every major point you made. I'm sorry I didn't clarify that I wasn't directly addressing anything from the OP but the only elaboration I saw to make was the one I made.

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To be frank, I agree with every major point you made. I'm sorry I didn't clarify that I wasn't directly addressing anything from the OP but the only elaboration I saw to make was the one I made.

 

Thanks for the clarification HD!

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The axiomatic proposition, existence exists, in the Objectivist metaphysics and the discovery, in science, of the existence of a physical world are not synonymous.
 

Here is Ayn Rand's full discussion of why they are not. It's from Appendix - Axiomatic Concepts, Introduction To Objectivist Epistemology, Expanded 2nd Edition:
 

-- The discussion begins here --
The Physical World
 

Prof. K: Some philosophers treat our knowledge that existence exists as equivalent to our knowledge that there is a physical world. They hold that to know that existence exists, and is what it is independently of our perceiving it, is to know that it is different in kind from consciousness - to know that things exist which possess characteristics which no consciousness could possess - for example, spatial extension or weight. Then they claim that the propositions "existence exists" and "there is a physical world" are, if not synonymous, two perspectives on the same fact, such that if the first is an axiom, then so is the second. Is any variant of this position consistent with the Objectivist view of axioms and axiomatic concepts?
 

Ayn Rand: The answer is: no, emphatically. Not consistent in any way whatever. Now let me elaborate.
 

When you say "existence exists," you are not saying that the physical world exists, because the literal meaning of the term "physical world" involves a very sophisticated piece of scientific knowledge at which logically and chronologically you would have to arrive much later.
 

As to the chronological aspect, the construct that you describe here is totally impossible psychologically. You say that to grasp that something exists is to know that things exist which possess characteristics which no consciousness could possibly possess, such as extension and weight. You are talking about an enormously sophisticated level of knowledge. And you are assuming that first a man grasps that he's conscious, à la Descartes, and then he decides, "But there are certain things which have properties which consciousness doesn't have." Nothing could be further from the truth.
 

The simplest way to begin an answer is to point out that animals, who do perceive reality or existence, have absolutely no concept of their own consciousness. The enormous distinction between man and animals here is self-consciousness. An animal does not have the capacity to isolate critically the fact that there is something and he is conscious of it. How does that apply to man? In this crucial sense: neither does an infant. Why is it metaphysically important? Because there is no such thing as a consciousness per se, apart from that of which it is conscious. And therefore no entity could conceivably be conscious first of the fact that he is conscious and then grasp, "Oh, I'm conscious of something."
 

You see, this is a complete inversion of the meaning of the concepts. You can become aware of the fact that you are conscious only after the fact of performing an act of consciousness. Only after you have become conscious of something - and in fact long after - and you identify the fact that it is some function in your mind that is performing this process of awareness. Only at a relatively advanced age - after, say, months or perhaps a full year - can an infant grasp the fact that if he closes his eyes he doesn't see, if he opens them he sees. And that if he closes off his ears, then he doesn't hear. That's the beginning of his grasp of the fact that something operates inside of him that permits the process of awareness. But that is an enormously sophisticated step of self-consciousness. You cannot begin by saying, "I'm conscious" and then ask, "Of what?" It's a contradiction - in effect, a process of concept-stealing.
 

As to such characteristics as extension and weight, how would you grasp those ahead of grasping the existence of an outside world? Because the implication of your question is that you grasp that it is a physical world by means of observing that it has certain properties which your consciousness does not possess. But you could not have any concept of those properties ahead of grasping a physical world, nor could you say, "My consciousness doesn't possess weight or extension," ahead of grasping that there is something outside which does possess them.
 

But now what's the difference between saying "existence exists" and "the physical world exists"? "Existence exists" does not specify what exists. It is a formula which would cover the first sensation of an infant or the most complex knowledge of a scientist. It applies equally to both. It is only the fact of recognizing: there is something. This comes before you grasp that you are performing an act of consciousness. It's only the recognition that something exists. By the time you say that it's a world, and it's a physical world, you need to know much more. Because you can't say "physical world" before you have grasped, self-consciously, the process of awareness and have said, "Well, there are such existents as mental events, like thinking or memories or emotions, which are not physical; they are existents, but of a different kind: they are certain states or processes of my consciousness, my faculty of grasping the existence of that outside world." And the next step is: "What is that outside world made of?"
 

The concept "matter," which we all take for granted, is an enormously complex scientific concept. And I think it was probably one of the greatest achievements of thinkers ever to arrive at the concept "matter," and to recognize that that is what the physical world outside is composed of, and that's what we mean by the term "physical."
 

Now observe that a savage doesn't have a concept of "matter." He believes that reality is like his own consciousness, only it is in the power of supernatural creatures or gods or demons who manipulate it. What permits this kind of mysticism? Precisely the absence of the concept "physical world" or "matter." Now those concepts, in historical development and in the development of an individual consciousness, come very late - by which I mean they are concepts that require a long development before one can grasp them. And yet a savage grasps that existence exists. He doesn't grasp all the implications of it. Nor does he grasp the Law of Identity. But that something exists, with which he deals, even he grasps that. To the extent to which he is able to hunt or to support his life or pray to his gods, he is admitting implicitly the existence of something.

 

So you see the axiom "existence exists" embraces all those stages of knowledge, implicit or explicit. Whereas the concept "the physical world exists" is a very sophisticated scientific statement.
-- The discussion ends here --

Given the above, it would be wrong for any philosopher, including an Objectivist one, to say "on philosophical grounds" that there can never be a perfect vacuum where nothing physical exists.

Why? Because philosophy has nothing to say about anything in the physical world (including a "hole" in it with no matter) except this: whatever the physical world contains, they exist.

 

In other words, if such a "hole" were to exist, it would not contradict, in any way, the (first) axiom of existence of the Objectivist metaphysics.

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I have delayed entering this conversation because I have some important posts to compose that I have been thinking on. But a few important preliminary remarks.

1.) Ms Rand here equates "matter" with Physical but since the energeticist won the cultural battle there has been a differentiation between materialism and physicalism.

2). Existence is a concept and Objectivism holds that this concept is a shorthand for naming the things that exist. "What exists are things" There are no non entity metaphysical primaries for Oism and that has strong implications for this discussion.

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What properties does space as such have? . . . Can you move an amount of it from one place to another?

According to Relativity, an observer in a gravitational field is at rest when they're in freefall; what's actually moving is the space around them.

Also, there is no reason NOT to take space within the framework of Einstein as relational, the only difference here is that the relations are relative and depend upon many factors.

Exactly.

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I've nothing to say pro- or anti-vacuum, but I'd like to comment briefly on the Ayn Rand exchange that has been offered.

 

"Existence exists" does not specify what exists.

 

I believe that if Rand's meaning here were fully grasped, about 95% of the controversies over "science" among Objectivists would cease.  In terms of fidelity to the axioms, no particular scientific theory can either be credited or discredited.  Nothing can be "ruled out," except by the best methodology that our current state of science allows -- which is to say that scientific disputes must be settled by scientists (whether professional or not; meaning more broadly those who have the requisite expertise), according to the particular standards of their field.

 

That A = A does not give us any information whatever as to a given A's identity or nature, apart from that "whatever it is, it is."  Everything else must be discovered.

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Don said:

That A = A does not give us any information whatever as to a given A's identity or nature, apart from that "whatever it is, it is." Everything else must be discovered.

Except that nowhere does Ms. Rand say that all discoveries are of the special science nature. In fact the conceptual discovery of "entity" is explicitly philosophical. ( as is every single self evident fact, including the axioms!) The very issue here is wether "there can be no nothing" is a philosophical principle that can rule out statements about a complete vacuum. That is, does the notion that a complete vacuum exists get a philosophical veto because that statement is encroaching on philosophic grounds?

Philosophy tells us that entities (plural) exist and have identity, they are metaphysical primaries. What kinds of entities there are is for the special sciences to answer.

Edited by Plasmatic

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I have delayed entering this conversation because I have some important posts to compose that I have been thinking on. But a few important preliminary remarks.

1.) Ms Rand here equates "matter" with Physical but since the energeticist won the cultural battle there has been a differentiation between materialism and physicalism.

2). Existence is a concept and Objectivism holds that this concept is a shorthand for naming the things that exist. "What exists are things" There are no non entity metaphysical primaries for Oism and that has strong implications for this discussion.

 

I don't know about 1) but for 2) I think Objectivism makes room for a distinction between entities and existents, so your comment 2) is suspect without further clarification.

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According to Relativity, an observer in a gravitational field is at rest when they're in freefall; what's actually moving is the space around them.

Exactly.

 

By definition nothing is defined as "at rest".  Such would require an absolute frame of reference in which velocity were zero.

 

I've studied special relativity and general relativity, I do not recall ever coming across a passage saying that space itself "moved".  I think you are mistaken about this one HD.

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I don't know about 1) but for 2) I think Objectivism makes room for a distinction between entities and existents, so your comment 2) is suspect without further clarification.

 

The "category" existent is for making the secondary derivative status explicit. All secondary existents, categories like attributes, actions and relationships are secondary to entity. They are epistemically secondary because the isolation is mind dependent. They are causally dependent as well.... Legs come before walking etc. That doesn't mean legs "exist more or less" than walking.

 

ITOE said:

 

 

Prof. E: In any process of concept-formation, you have to differentiate certain concretes from the field around you. You and I discussed this once in regard to forming the concept of "existence," but how does differentiation apply to forming the concept of these metaphysical categories: entity, attribute, action, and relation? What would you differentiate entity from? Would it be that you differentiate entity from attribute, or attribute from action, in order, as an adult, to form such concepts? Do you differentiate one such category from another?

 

AR: Yes, except in one respect. To be exact, you would have to say you learn to differentiate those concepts by differentiating them from the concept "entity." Because "entity" has to be the basic concept. And then, as you observe that entities move or change or they have certain characteristics, you isolate those attributes or actions from the concept "entity." So that the concept "entity" serves as the context. But it is basic.

 

Prof. B: In connection with this, would there be any CCD behind attribute, action, relation?

 

AR: Well yes, in regard to everything based on or derived from the concept "entity," the CCD is that they all pertain to entities.

 

 

 

The confusion here is created because many don't realize the metaphysical basis for epistemic hierarchy. There is a causal primacy that is not mind dependent.

 

Is the Axiomatic concept entity merely logical or is its status as a metaphysical primary factual? 

 

When Ms. Rand says "abstractions as such do not exist" She is depending on the hearer to understand what a metaphysical primary is. That's why she relates the "mental entity" discussion to Aristotle and primary substance. Abstraction, like consciousness, is something substantial entities do, not a substance itself. That being said, I think she could have been more clear on this.

 

So relational existents are not causes as such. Its the entities that are relating that are the causes. They are basic.

 

SL reread our statements in this thread with this in mind:

 

http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=22062&hl=emergence

 

Relations are not "super entities". Space is not a "super entity". Do you agree?

 

 

Why? Because philosophy has nothing to say about anything in the physical world (including a "hole" in it with no matter) except this: whatever the physical world contains, they exist.

 

In other words, if such a "hole" were to exist, it would not contradict, in any way, the (first) axiom of existence of the Objectivist metaphysics.

 

As for the validity of a "hole" in existence being ruled out by philosophy, what can we derive from this quote :

 

Prof. D: "Nothing."

 

AR: That is strictly a relative concept. It pertains to the absence of some kind of concrete. The concept "nothing" is not possible except in relation to "something." Therefore, to have the concept "nothing," you mentally specify—in parenthesis, in effect—the absence of a something, and you conceive of "nothing" only in relation to concretes which no longer exist or which do not exist at present.

 

You can say "I have nothing in my pocket." That doesn't mean you have an entity called "nothing" in your pocket. You do not have any of the objects that could conceivably be there, such as handkerchiefs, money, gloves, or whatever. "Nothing" is strictly a concept relative to some existent concretes whose absence you denote in this form.

 

It is very important to grasp that "nothing" cannot be a primary concept. You cannot start with it in the absence of, or prior to, the existence of some object. That is the great trouble with Existentialism, as I discuss in the book [page 60]. There is no such concept as "nothing," except as a relational concept denoting the absence of some things. The measurements omitted are the measurements of those things.

 

Prof. A: Does the concept of "non-existence" refer only to an absence? Is there no valid concept of sheer non-being, of something that never was and never will be?

 

AR: That's right. Non-existence as such—particularly in the same generalized sense in which I use the term "existence" in saying "existence exists," that is, as the widest abstraction without yet specifying any content, or applying to all content—you cannot have the concept "non-existence" in that same fundamental way. In other words, you can't say: this is something pertaining to the whole universe, to everything I know, and I don't say what. In other words, without specifying content.

 

You see, the concept of "existence" integrates all of the <ioe2_150> existents that you have perceived, without knowing all their characteristics. Whereas the concept of "non-existence" in that same psycho-epistemological position would be literally a blank. Non-existence—apart from what it is that doesn't exist—is an impossible concept. It's a hole—a literal blank, a zero.

 

 

 

 

that pertains to this statement?

Edited by Plasmatic

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By definition nothing is defined as "at rest".  Such would require an absolute frame of reference in which velocity were zero.

 

I've studied special relativity and general relativity, I do not recall ever coming across a passage saying that space itself "moved".  I think you are mistaken about this one HD.

 By definition of "Relativity" velocity is not "absolute"... so nothing is simply "at rest" ... there is a "rest frame" for an object K with respect to which  (or in which) K has a velocity of zero.

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The "category" existent is for making the secondary derivative status explicit. All secondary existents, categories like attributes, actions and relationships are secondary to entity. They are epistemically secondary because the isolation is mind dependent. They are causally dependent as well.... Legs come before walking etc. That doesn't mean legs "exist more or less" than walking.

 

ITOE said:

 

 

 

The confusion here is created because many don't realize the metaphysical basis for epistemic hierarchy. There is a causal primacy that is not mind dependent.

 

Is the Axiomatic concept entity merely logical or is its status as a metaphysical primary factual? 

 

When Ms. Rand says "abstractions as such do not exist" She is depending on the hearer to understand what a metaphysical primary is. That's why she relates the "mental entity" discussion to Aristotle and primary substance. Abstraction, like consciousness is something substantial entities do, not a substance itself. That being said, I think she could have been more clear on this.

 

So relational existents are not causes as such. Its the entities that are relating that are the causes. They are basic.

 

SL reread our statements in this thread with this in mind:

 

http://forum.objectivismonline.com/index.php?showtopic=22062&hl=emergence

 

Relations are not "super entities". Space is not a "super entity". Do you agree?

 

I agree.  Space is not an entity.  It exists as a relationship between entities.

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Plasmatic said:

 

Don said:

Quote

That A = A does not give us any information whatever as to a given A's identity or nature, apart from that "whatever it is, it is." Everything else must be discovered.

 

 

 

Except that nowhere does Ms. Rand say that all discoveries are of the special science nature. In fact the conceptual discovery of "entity" is explicitly philosophical. ( as is every single self evident fact, including the axioms!) The very issue here is wether "there can be no nothing" is a philosophical principle that can rule out statements about a complete vacuum. That is, does the notion that a complete vacuum exists get a philosophical veto because that statement is encroaching on philosophic grounds?

 

Philosophy tells us that entities (plural) exist and have identity, they are metaphysical primaries. What kinds of entities there are is for the special sciences to answer.

 

Good point and you may be hitting the nail on the head when you state "encroaching on philosophic" grounds.  I think this, the assumption that a vacuum WOULD be encroaching on philosophic grounds, is the error I am trying to identify and here is why:

 

One must distinguish between:

1) the claiming that "nothing" is a something or like a something which can have an attribute such as position and volume; and
2) claiming the non-existence of a particular relationship (not an entity) between or among entities

 

 

IF one only asserts 2) it is perfectly valid BECAUSE space is ONLY a relationship.  It is NOT a container that exists and contains "a nothing" where there are no entities or portions thereof, it is literally an unoccupied relationship.

 

There was a speck "directly in-between" those two spheres, there are no specks "directly in-between" those spheres, and more over there are no entities nor any portions thereof "directly in-between" those two spheres.  By definition "directly in-between" those two spheres is empty.

(I could say the position does not "exist" now because nothing is there NOW, but conceiving of space as having "theres" that are and are not as things occupy them and then do not, would be a more complicated conception which attempts a half-reification and half-relational description.  It is simpler to avoid all reification of space, remember that "there" only ever is relational, determine if the relation is occupied or not and be done with it)

 

I submit no one can prove Leonard Peikoff's pocket cannot empty... except with special sciences.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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Here's a discussion Ayn Rand had about the ultimate constituents of entities. It's from Appendix - Philosophy of Science, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Expanded 2nd Edition:

-- Discussion begins here --
Properties of the Ultimate Constituents

Prof. E: Could you argue, on metaphysical grounds, that all observed properties of an entity are ultimately explicable in terms of, or reducible back to, properties of their primary constituents?

Ayn Rand: We'd have to be omniscient to know. The question in my mind would be: how can we [as philosophers] make conclusions about the ultimate constituents of the universe? For instance, we couldn't say: everything is material, if by "material" we mean that of which the physical objects on the perceptual level are made - "material" in the normal, perceptual meaning of the word. If this is what we mean by "material," then we do not have the knowledge to say that ultimately everything is sub-subatomic particles which in certain aggregates are matter. Because suppose scientists discovered that there are two different kinds of primary ingredients - or three, or more? We would be in the same position as the pre-Socratics who were trying to claim that everything was air, water, earth, and fire because that's all they knew.

Prof. E: You see the question is whether the concept of "potentiality" might not be irreducible. That is, whether the ultimate constituents of the universe, if and when we ever reach them, would have to be definable solely in terms of their mode of action.

Ayn Rand: No, in fact the opposite will be true. The only thing of which we can be sure, philosophically, is that the ultimate stuff, if it's ever found - one element or ten of them - will have identity. It will be what it is. You could not say that it is pure action: the concept wouldn't apply. If you come down to the ultimate particles of the universe and say they are pure action, they don't have any identity, they don't have anything except the capacity for action - the term "action" would not apply. By "action" we mean the action of an entity.

Prof. E: But suppose one were to raise the question epistemologically, rather than metaphysically. Granted that the ultimate constituents are something, are entities and have an identity, still is it possible for us in theory ever to know any more about them than the kind of action they take?

Prof. B: They'd have to have size, for one thing, and shape.

Ayn Rand: If they are particles. What if they are solid flows of energy, but each is indivisible, and it moves, but it's one entity, moving from left to right and vice versa?

Prof. B: That depends on what "energy" means, because whatever the nature of energy is, that's the nature it would have.

Ayn Rand: Exactly.

Prof. E: No, I was switching this to epistemology.

Ayn Rand: But the confusion there would arise in applying concepts based on the macroscopic level of observation to the submicroscopic, subatomic level. If you use macroscopic terms which do not apply on that level, the misapplication will destroy all your perceptual level and your whole conceptual structure.

Prof. B: So you are saying that the ultimate constituents need not be particles, like solid balls, but whatever they are, one is not to refer to them as being actions without entities.

Ayn Rand: Exactly. And I was also objecting to your saying they will have to have extension, for instance, or shape. We can't claim that.

Prof. F: But suppose we agree that whatever they are, they will have identity - they will be what they are and so on. But mustn't we also say something else: that we cannot define this identity solely in terms of their relationship to other objects?

For instance, suppose that one of the ultimate properties of an entity is charge. Suppose you couldn't find any way of defining "charge" except in relationship to other entities. Now wouldn't that be grounds, metaphysically, for saying therefore charge is not an ultimate property of matter?

Ayn Rand: I am not sure I even understand the logic. Why?

Prof. E: Presumably he would argue that a property which is defined in terms of a relationship between two entities presupposes and is a consequence of the attributes of that entity which give rise to that relationship. And therefore, if charge is definable only in terms of an entity's relation to others - its effects on them - then charge couldn't be a primary, it would have to be a derivative from something else in the entity that gives rise to that kind of effect.

Prof. F: Thank you. That's exactly what I meant.

Prof. E: But then we are in bad shape here, because to grasp what the ultimate entities are, you have to strip off their actions, their potentialities for action, and their relations to other entities - then by what means would you ever get to know what they are?

Ayn Rand: Not only that, you are obviously making advance conditions for what that primary has to be. You are being Hegelian or Rationalistic in that sense. You cannot say philosophically what conditions you will ascribe to that which is not known. We cannot know by what means we will grasp something not known today. A hundred years ago you couldn't have conceived of the cloud chamber, the first instrument by which scientists could observe atoms simply by observing their effects on something. You couldn't have made the rule that unless you can touch, see, smell, and measure a given entity with a ruler, it cannot exist. That would have been crude materialism of some kind. You couldn't, a hundred years ago, have prescribed the means by which you would discover twentieth-century knowledge. And yet in making any kind of conclusions about the ultimate stuff of the universe, you are necessarily committing that error. You are prescribing conditions of what something not known to you now has to be.

The important thing here is this. You cannot say that you would define an atom by means of its charge, or that you would look further, or what you would do, because you have no way of knowing in what form you will become aware of that primary stuff. It might be through ten different instruments, and the interaction of one upon another, which would only tell you how you became aware of it. You wouldn't yet have defined it, metaphysically. All you could say is, "It is a something, which I discovered by the following method."

The only thing that concerns philosophy is that we can say: whatever it is, it will have to be what it is, and no contradictions claimed about it will be valid - as for instance, the current theories about a particle that goes from one place to another without crossing the places in between. Now you see that is metaphysically impossible, and you don't have to be a scientist to know that. A philosopher can tell you without ever entering a laboratory that that is not possible. But for a philosopher to attempt to define what kind of particle it has to be, or how we will determine its properties, that is unwarranted and Rationalistic. That is the province of science, not philosophy.

You see it isn't the job of philosophy to tell us what exists, it's only to tell us what has to be true of everything that exists [identity] and what are the rules by which you can claim knowledge. And in regard to the constituent elements of the universe, all we can say is that they would have to have identity. That we can prove. Any other conclusions we cannot draw philosophically.
-- Discussion ends here --

In the above, Miss Rand states that:
1. The ultimate constituents may not be particles with size & shape just like entities in the macroscopic level. They could be solid moving flows of energy.
2. At the subatomic level, a particle cannot go from one place to another without crossing the places in between. That is metaphysically impossible.

So if 2 instances of the ultimate constituents are moving towards each other in submicroscopic space, then at some point in time, they will be so close to each other that the space between them would be too small for anything to occupy it. Neither another instance of the ultimate constituent nor anything smaller than an ultimate constituent, since there could be nothing smaller.

In that case, wouldn't the (relational) space between the 2 moving instances of the ultimate constituent, at that point in time, contain literally nothing? Or would it be no different from having nothing in a pocket at the macroscopic level?

Edited by rameshkaimal

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Ramesh said:

 

In the above, Miss Rand states that:
1. The ultimate constituents may not be particles with size & shape just like entities in the macroscopic level. They could be solid moving flows of energy.

 

 

You are forgetting that she said this without knowing what is meant by "energy". She was making a hypothetical in the same way Dr Peikoff did In another place.  In Ms. Rand's presence Dr. Peikoff explained in the 1976 lectures that in his experience "energy" has never yet been defined by a physicist in philosophically meaningful terms. As defined, "the ability to do work" is not a substance and cannot meaningfully be called and entity without doing exactly what Ms Rand said cannot ever be done in regards to "pure action". When he spoke of "puffs of meta energy" he specifically used that hypothetical because it was "deliberately undefined, without knowing what it means".

 

What one must ask themselves is how to apply the Oist view of concepts and meaning in such a way that one could even form a concept of an entity thats not extended, shapeless, or "non-material", without dropping context and without being subject to the same objections she made about "pure action". (enter the philosophy of science debate on theoretical objects)

 

On a special science note, the substantival interpretation of energy is exactly what I was talking about earlier in regards to the energeticist movement. The generative context for the concept energy was purely material-kinetic. The energeticist came and divorced the concept from its origins. The result is you have non-physicist and phycisit ignorant of history trying to honor a floating abstraction based on ignorance of this context. 

 

Edit:

 

Considering the proviso stated by Dr. Peikoff before the appendix to ITOE I often wonder how heavily edited this topic would have been if Ms. Rand had been writing for publishing...

Edited by Plasmatic

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Here's a discussion Ayn Rand had about the ultimate constituents of entities. It's from Appendix - Philosophy of Science, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Expanded 2nd Edition:

-- Discussion begins here --

Properties of the Ultimate Constituents

Prof. E: Could you argue, on metaphysical grounds, that all observed properties of an entity are ultimately explicable in terms of, or reducible back to, properties of their primary constituents?

Ayn Rand: We'd have to be omniscient to know. The question in my mind would be: how can we [as philosophers] make conclusions about the ultimate constituents of the universe? For instance, we couldn't say: everything is material, if by "material" we mean that of which the physical objects on the perceptual level are made - "material" in the normal, perceptual meaning of the word. If this is what we mean by "material," then we do not have the knowledge to say that ultimately everything is sub-subatomic particles which in certain aggregates are matter. Because suppose scientists discovered that there are two different kinds of primary ingredients - or three, or more? We would be in the same position as the pre-Socratics who were trying to claim that everything was air, water, earth, and fire because that's all they knew.

Prof. E: You see the question is whether the concept of "potentiality" might not be irreducible. That is, whether the ultimate constituents of the universe, if and when we ever reach them, would have to be definable solely in terms of their mode of action.

Ayn Rand: No, in fact the opposite will be true. The only thing of which we can be sure, philosophically, is that the ultimate stuff, if it's ever found - one element or ten of them - will have identity. It will be what it is. You could not say that it is pure action: the concept wouldn't apply. If you come down to the ultimate particles of the universe and say they are pure action, they don't have any identity, they don't have anything except the capacity for action - the term "action" would not apply. By "action" we mean the action of an entity.

Prof. E: But suppose one were to raise the question epistemologically, rather than metaphysically. Granted that the ultimate constituents are something, are entities and have an identity, still is it possible for us in theory ever to know any more about them than the kind of action they take?

Prof. B: They'd have to have size, for one thing, and shape.

Ayn Rand: If they are particles. What if they are solid flows of energy, but each is indivisible, and it moves, but it's one entity, moving from left to right and vice versa?

Prof. B: That depends on what "energy" means, because whatever the nature of energy is, that's the nature it would have.

Ayn Rand: Exactly.

Prof. E: No, I was switching this to epistemology.

Ayn Rand: But the confusion there would arise in applying concepts based on the macroscopic level of observation to the submicroscopic, subatomic level. If you use macroscopic terms which do not apply on that level, the misapplication will destroy all your perceptual level and your whole conceptual structure.

Prof. B: So you are saying that the ultimate constituents need not be particles, like solid balls, but whatever they are, one is not to refer to them as being actions without entities.

Ayn Rand: Exactly. And I was also objecting to your saying they will have to have extension, for instance, or shape. We can't claim that.

Prof. F: But suppose we agree that whatever they are, they will have identity - they will be what they are and so on. But mustn't we also say something else: that we cannot define this identity solely in terms of their relationship to other objects?

For instance, suppose that one of the ultimate properties of an entity is charge. Suppose you couldn't find any way of defining "charge" except in relationship to other entities. Now wouldn't that be grounds, metaphysically, for saying therefore charge is not an ultimate property of matter?

Ayn Rand: I am not sure I even understand the logic. Why?

Prof. E: Presumably he would argue that a property which is defined in terms of a relationship between two entities presupposes and is a consequence of the attributes of that entity which give rise to that relationship. And therefore, if charge is definable only in terms of an entity's relation to others - its effects on them - then charge couldn't be a primary, it would have to be a derivative from something else in the entity that gives rise to that kind of effect.

Prof. F: Thank you. That's exactly what I meant.

Prof. E: But then we are in bad shape here, because to grasp what the ultimate entities are, you have to strip off their actions, their potentialities for action, and their relations to other entities - then by what means would you ever get to know what they are?

Ayn Rand: Not only that, you are obviously making advance conditions for what that primary has to be. You are being Hegelian or Rationalistic in that sense. You cannot say philosophically what conditions you will ascribe to that which is not known. We cannot know by what means we will grasp something not known today. A hundred years ago you couldn't have conceived of the cloud chamber, the first instrument by which scientists could observe atoms simply by observing their effects on something. You couldn't have made the rule that unless you can touch, see, smell, and measure a given entity with a ruler, it cannot exist. That would have been crude materialism of some kind. You couldn't, a hundred years ago, have prescribed the means by which you would discover twentieth-century knowledge. And yet in making any kind of conclusions about the ultimate stuff of the universe, you are necessarily committing that error. You are prescribing conditions of what something not known to you now has to be.

The important thing here is this. You cannot say that you would define an atom by means of its charge, or that you would look further, or what you would do, because you have no way of knowing in what form you will become aware of that primary stuff. It might be through ten different instruments, and the interaction of one upon another, which would only tell you how you became aware of it. You wouldn't yet have defined it, metaphysically. All you could say is, "It is a something, which I discovered by the following method."

The only thing that concerns philosophy is that we can say: whatever it is, it will have to be what it is, and no contradictions claimed about it will be valid - as for instance, the current theories about a particle that goes from one place to another without crossing the places in between. Now you see that is metaphysically impossible, and you don't have to be a scientist to know that. A philosopher can tell you without ever entering a laboratory that that is not possible. But for a philosopher to attempt to define what kind of particle it has to be, or how we will determine its properties, that is unwarranted and Rationalistic. That is the province of science, not philosophy.

You see it isn't the job of philosophy to tell us what exists, it's only to tell us what has to be true of everything that exists [identity] and what are the rules by which you can claim knowledge. And in regard to the constituent elements of the universe, all we can say is that they would have to have identity. That we can prove. Any other conclusions we cannot draw philosophically.

-- Discussion ends here --

In the above, Miss Rand states that:

1. The ultimate constituents may not be particles with size & shape just like entities in the macroscopic level. They could be solid moving flows of energy.

2. At the subatomic level, a particle cannot go from one place to another without crossing the places in between. That is metaphysically impossible.

So if 2 instances of the ultimate constituents are moving towards each other in submicroscopic space, then at some point in time, they will be so close to each other that the space between them would be too small for anything to occupy it. Neither another instance of the ultimate constituent nor anything smaller than an ultimate constituent, since there could be nothing smaller.

In that case, wouldn't the (relational) space between the 2 moving instances of the ultimate constituent, at that point in time, contain literally nothing? Or would it be no different from having nothing in a pocket at the macroscopic level?

 

In the last two paragraphs it is hard to tell if you propose

 

1. that space as a relationship has a minimum distance or

2. if you are stating that the 2 instances of the ultimate constituents approaching each other eventually touch at a same position in space.

 

In either case, i.e. by either of your definitions of space, there is no space between them, either they are:

1. at the minimum relational distance and there is no relational space defined (no unit smaller) between them; or

2. touching at a same position and hence there is no relational space between them

 

so asking "wouldn't the (relational) space between" them literally contain nothing?, is nonsensical.  You have presupposed there IS NO (relational) space between them to begin with, hence talking about what that contains is meaningless.

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