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Is space, devoid of matter, nothing?

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If we remove all matter{forces being an inherent aspect of matter}, are we left with space or nothing?

"Space" is a relational concept, a spatial relation among entities. "Nothing" is a sort of negative or relative concept, not asserting an actual existent but rather the absence of one.

So, whatever exists, wherever (what you consider) matter is not, is neither "space" nor "nothing." Philosophically this "stuff" that is, wherever nothing else is, is known as a plenum. It is the job of science to tell us exactly what that plenum is.

Incidentally, what exactly do you mean by "forces being an inherent aspect of matter?"

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Space" is a relational concept, a spatial relation among entities. "Nothing" is a sort of negative or relative concept, not asserting an actual existent but rather the absence of one.
Yes Sir, I can accept that we need to define something in order to relate to nothing.

So, whatever exists, wherever (what you consider) matter is not, is neither "space" nor "nothing." Philosophically this "stuff" that is, wherever nothing else is, is known as a plenum. It is the job of science to tell us exactly what that plenum is.

I did a quick search for plenum and couldn't find anything helpful within that time period, but what I'm curious about is if we imagine the universe without matter and energy/forces, aren't we left with nothing, ontologically speaking?

Incidentally, what exactly do you mean by "forces being an inherent aspect of matter?"

Just that all forces have matter as a source.

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I did a quick search for plenum and couldn't find anything helpful within that time period,

The notion of a plenum goes back to Ancient Greece where Parmenides wrote in his only work, Peri Physeos,

"Nor is there any more of it here than there, to hinder it from holding together, nor any less of it, but it is all a plenum, full of what-is. Therefore, it is all continuous, for what-is touches what-is."

but what I'm curious about is if we imagine the universe without matter and energy/forces, aren't we left with nothing, ontologically speaking?
Well, since we know, philosophically, that "nothing" cannot actually exist, that the universe is full -- that there are no gaps or places where existence is not -- then this imagined universe of yours, one "without matter and energy forces" either cannot be, or there are other things that exist which are do not fall in the category of that which you banished from the universe.

Just that all forces have matter as a source.

A photon is considered to be the carrier of the electromagnetic force, but it is not matter.

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Stephen

Nor is there any more of it here than there, to hinder it from holding together, nor any less of it, but it is all a plenum, full of what-is. Therefore, it is all continuous, for what-is touches what-is."
The totality perhaps!!

Well, since we know, philosophically, that "nothing" cannot actually exist, that the universe is full -- that there are no gaps or places where existence is not -- then this imagined universe of yours, one "without matter and energy forces" either cannot be, or there are other things that exist which are do not fall in the category of that which you banished from the universe.

Well it's just a basic thought experiment to try and isolate space.

Obviously my thought cannot be but an imagining, so I'm curious what you get if you imagined a universe without matter/energy, regardless of whether current physics tells us that is impossible?

My curiosity has a lot to do with whether space can expand/contract, so if space ALWAYS contains some matter/energy, then presumably when we rewind the cosmic movie, we would imagine the night sky shrinking into the hypothetical singularity.

A photon is considered to be the carrier of the electromagnetic force, but it is not matter.

Sure, but the photon's source is within the atom, hence, I know of no examples where you can have forces/energy without matter.

Thanks for your comments, I'll be back later on.

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When we say that nothing exists in a region of space, we dont mean that there is a thing called 'nothing' which occupies the region, we mean that there is no existing thing within the region ("For all x, 'x occupies this region of space' is false"). I think in normal language it is best to think of space as the 'possibility' of existence more than anything else - ie a region of space can contain an existing thing, or it can remain empty. Its actual nature remains a question for science though, as stephen correctly pointed out.

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Well it's just a basic thought experiment to try and isolate space.

The biggest problem people make with the notion of "space" is its reification, attempting to make what is essentially a relational concept, into a "thing." In a certain way it is similar to the mathematical idea of a coordinate system. As a mathematical abstraction we can locate objects in a coordinate system that we impose, but that does not imply that the coordinate system is itself a physical existent imposed on physical reality.

Obviously my thought cannot be but an imagining, so I'm curious what you get if you imagined a universe without matter/energy, regardless of whether current physics tells us that is impossible?
But you do not need physics to tell you about this, which is why I brought up the philosophical idea of the plenum. Philosophy tells us that the universe is full, that there are no gaps, no empty places, no spot where there is literally nothing. If you abstract away all of existence, you are left with nothing, and nothing does not actually exist since nothing is simply the absence of something. So, where does such an "imagining" get you?

My curiosity has a lot to do with whether space can expand/contract, so if space ALWAYS contains some matter/energy, then presumably when we rewind the cosmic movie, we would imagine the night sky shrinking into the hypothetical singularity.

Oh, I see now what you are after and why you have dreamed up this scenario. Bu this notion of space expanding or contracting is just what I warned you about up above, the reification of space. Space is not a thing that expands or contracts, it is a spatial relation between objects which exist. You can imagine a lot of things, but imagination does not make expanding space of physical singularities real.

Sure, but the photon's source is within the atom, hence, I know of no examples where you can have forces/energy without matter.
I do not want to belabor this point, but originally you said "forces being an inherent aspect of matter." I am simply pointing out that the force, say electromagnetic or the strong nuclear force, have boson particles that carry the force from one particle to another, and these bosons are not matter particles at all.

Thanks for your comments, I'll be back later on.

You're welcome. I'll look forward to it.

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When we say that nothing exists in a region of space, we dont mean that there is a thing called 'nothing' which occupies the region, we mean that there is no existing thing within the region

Who is this "we" you talking for? I hope that the "we" is not meant to speak for either Objectivism or science.

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Who is this "we" you talking for? I hope that the "we" is not meant to speak for either Objectivism or science.

By 'we' I mean the majority of speakers of the English language. I've no idea what science says about it but I dont think its particularly relevant here - if I instead said that "there is nothing inside this paper bag" the same would apply - I'm not claiming that there is an actual thing called 'nothing' that exists inside the bag.

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Well, since we know, philosophically, that "nothing" cannot actually exist, that the universe is full -- that there are no gaps or places where existence is not --

I'm not sure that I understand this point. I agree that nothing cannot actually exist. But surely we can find in space, in our "coordinate system," areas where there are no things, where it is empty? The area exists, in terms of being in a certain position in relation to other "areas," but no existents are inside the area.

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By 'we' I mean the majority of speakers of the English language. I've no idea what science says about it but I dont think its particularly relevant here - if I instead said that "there is nothing inside this paper bag" the same would apply - I'm not claiming that there is an actual thing called 'nothing' that exists inside the bag.

I would be delighted to discover that I misunderstood you, but you said "we mean that there is no existing thing within the region" and "a region of space can contain an existing thing, or it can remain empty."

Your current "empty bag" example is using "nothing" as the absence of "something," but I take that to commonly mean that there really must be "something" in the bag, if only air. Do you agree with that? But when you spoke as you did up above, about a region of space that could "remain empty," I got the impression, as is given by many who use such phrases as you did, that you literally meant that there is nothing at all in that "region of space."

So, I guess, to clarify, the question is, do you think that it is possible to have some "region of space" where nothing exists?

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So, I guess, to clarify, the question is, do you think that it is possible to have some "region of space" where nothing exists?

I believe its possible to have a region of space which contains no existing thing. I would absolutely deny that this is equivalent to the claim that some 'nothing' exists within the space in the sense I think you mean. 'Nothing' is not a thing. I'm essentially in agreement with what Travis P said in the post just above yours.

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I'm not sure that I understand this point. I agree that nothing cannot actually exist. But surely we can find in space, in our "coordinate system," areas where there are no things, where it is empty? The area exists, in terms of being in a certain position in relation to other "areas," but no existents are inside the area.

We can do that in the abstract, as in a mathematical coordinate system, but not in the physical world. What would it mean to say that there is a distance between two objects, but that there is literally nothing that exists within the area separating those objects? If nothing existed between the two objects, then they would not be separated.

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We can do that in the abstract, as in a mathematical coordinate system, but not in the physical world. What would it mean to say that there is a distance between two objects, but that there is literally nothing that exists within the area separating those objects? If nothing existed between the two objects, then they would not be separated.

But there is something between them, there is empty space. It just doesnt contain anything, on account of being empty.

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But there is something between them, there is empty space. It just doesnt contain anything, on account of being empty.

Well, I'll give you this much: at least you are consistent. It makes perfect sense that here you grant metaphysical significance to "empty space," and in another thread you granted epistemological value to the arbitrary.

That leaves ethics, esthetics, and politics. I'll wait.

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Is it possible that I am using the phrase 'empty space' as an equivalent for your term 'plenum'? Exactly what is it that differentiates between empty space and 'space containing plenum'?

As I explained before, the plenum means that the universe is full, there are no gaps, no places where existence is not. No "empty space."

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Well, I'll give you this much: at least you are consistent. It makes perfect sense that here you grant metaphysical significance to "empty space," and in another thread you granted epistemological value to the arbitrary.

That leaves ethics, esthetics, and politics. I'll wait.

I disagree with a lot of (what I understand as) Objectivist epistemology at present. I'm not quite sure how much since I seem to have misunderstood most of it the first time I read it around a year ago, and I'm going through it again to try and get things worked out. I was under the impression that I agreed with the metaphysics until this thread, although I think this is due to a misunderstanding somewhere as I find the idea of 'nothing' existing to be nonsensical. I'm in agreement with the ethics and politics, and I'm undecided on esthetics (I think most of what Rand wrote on the subject was correct, I'm just not sure that it applies to the whole sphere of what I would call art). I don't claim to be an Objectivist.

I'm not sure why I bothered posting this since you probably dont care.

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As I explained before, the plenum means that the universe is full, there are no gaps, no places where existence is not. No "empty space."

But is plenum something that exists within a region of space? I mean if we removed all known things from a region of space, would there still be 'plenum' there? Does plenum exist in the same space occupied by a tree, or is it displaced when a physical object enters the space? Or is it some kind of category mistake to think of it as being an existing thing which 'occupies' space? Or is plenum not actually an entity, but a shorthand way of saying that all space must be occupied by 'something'?

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To put it another way, assume we have a region of space. We systematically remove every atom from this region (using our super powerful futuristic microscopes and atom removers) until there is no matter we know of which is left in this space. Now, there seems to be only 4 possibilities:

1) This space is empty.

2) We can never remove all matter from this space, there will always be some matter which eludes us.

3) There is something in this space that is not matter - it is immaterial and (possibly) ineffable.

4) There is plenum in this space (this isnt really a seperate option since plenum would have to either be matter or not be matter, and this would hence correspond to either 2) or 3). I'm only including it for the sake of completeness. I suppose that "there is plenum but we do not know whether plenum is matter or not matter - that is for science to decide" would be this option though.).

I am claiming 1). Which one does your conception of plenum correspond to? I'm not even arguing with you at the moment, I'm trying to clarify what youre actually saying because I am honestly unsure.

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I'm not sure why I bothered posting this since you probably dont care.

Actually I do care, which is why I have bothered to answer so many of your posts this past few months. It is just that I often feel so frustrated after going a round with you. You seem intelligent and interested, but I am not sure that whatever I say ever really matters to you, so I continue to say it for the benefit of others.

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But is plenum something that exists within a region of space? I mean if we removed all known things from a region of space, would there still be 'plenum' there? Does plenum exist in the same space occupied by a tree, or is it displaced when a physical object enters the space? Or is it some kind of category mistake to think of it as being an existing thing which 'occupies' space? Or is plenum not actually an entity, but a shorthand way of saying that all space must be occupied by 'something'?

More like the latter. This is the third or fourth time I have said this: "the plenum means that the universe is full, there are no gaps, no places where existence is not. No "empty space." Is this not clear? (That is not a rhetorical question. I have expressed the concept this way to children who always seem to get it. If it is really unclear to you I would like to know why.)

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To put it another way, assume we have a region of space. We systematically remove every atom from this region (using our super powerful futuristic microscopes and atom removers) until there is no matter we know of which is left in this space. Now, there seems to be only 4 possibilities:

1) This space is empty.

2) We can never remove all matter from this space, there will always be some matter which eludes us.

3) There is something in this space that is not matter - it is immaterial and (possibly) ineffable.

4) There is plenum in this space (this isnt really a seperate option since plenum would have to either be matter or not be matter, and this would hence correspond to either 2) or 3). I'm only including it for the sake of completeness. I suppose that "there is plenum but we do not know whether plenum is matter or not matter - that is for science to decide" would be this option though.).

I am claiming 1). Which one does your conception of plenum correspond to? I'm not even arguing with you at the moment, I'm trying to clarify what youre actually saying because I am honestly unsure.

Your scenario is not simply a philosophical issue, but also a scientific one because you are both explicitly and implicitly assuming certain detailed knowledge about the specific nature of that which exists. For instance, what an atom is and what it means to "remove" it is a scientific issue that would be relevant to any answer to your question. The only thing I can say philosophically, unequivocally and without any doubt, is that the answer you chose, empty space, is the one answer I can reject on metaphysical grounds. There are no holes in existence. The universe is full.

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Guest jrshep
I have expressed the concept this way to children who always seem to get it.

With no insult to anyone's intelligence here, you've reminded me, if I remember correctly, that James Randi, the magician. said that it is easier to fool educated adults, more so the higher the education, than children. I'm referring to "magic shows" or demonstrations, but it is true as well of claims of ESP, mind reading, etc. Children seems to have no trouble with the implicit axioms until adults throw wrenches in.

As for the existence of "Nothing," I have to disagree that there is no such thing as "Nothing." I had a girlfriend, and I think others here may be able to atest to this, when I would ask her what was bothering her, when it seemed obvious to me that "something" was, perhaps and most likely "something" about me, in fact bothering her, she would tell me that "Nothing" was the matter. And I knew that it was not nothing but something; I just couldn't figure it out. Perhaps it's like the plenum. Perhaps too she was claiming that matter is nothing. I'm not sure of the later, but certainly, sometimes, something is nothing.

B)

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