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Newton's "mistake"

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Thomas, I'm starting a new thread for any subsequent discussion of your idea that something was or is missing from Newton's theory of gravitation. It's not germane to the TEW thread.

In your first post on this (on that other TEW thread) you wrote:

If I take an apple and drop it from my outstretched hand, the apple goes from being stationary to moving faster and faster. Insofar as Newton was talking about observables -- i.e. the apple and the earth -- there is nothing wrong with his equations (omitting relativity for the moment). However, there has to be something surrounding the apple that is active and imparting that activity to the apple such that the apple moves. In other words, to use David Harriman's terminology, there cannot be any disembodied force; and yet, Newton never gave an equation for that which is acting on the apple.

That's not really true. Newton gave an equation for the force, and disembodied or not, that force is supposed to be a real thing that expresses the relevant "action" on the apple. Maybe what you're getting at, though, is that we should be able to give some account of what entity exerts that force on the apple (the force being, otherwise, "disembodied"). Of course, Newton has an answer there, too: the Earth exerts the force on the apple. But then there's maybe a further problem: how can the Earth, which is over there, exert a force on the apple, which is over here? That would imply a kind of nonlocality, which Newton (and others) found anathema. This is precisely where Newton said: "yeah, there's some underlying causal story that needs to be filled in here... I'm all in favor of that... but to assert any particular such causal story now would be empty, arbitrary speculation." That is, he rejected on principle the idea that you had to provide an underlying causal explanation for something, in order to have adequate grounds for asserting that something.

So much, I say, for the idea that Newton made some kind of *mistake*. But if your point is only that, at some subsequent point in history, people should have engaged with this question, I would (on the one hand) agree with that -- but would (on the other hand) then wonder what you're upset about, since in point of fact people *did* engage with this question. The concept of a "field", which was introduced into the developing field of electricity/magnetism in the 19th century, is just what's needed here. The idea is just that there's a field occupying all of space, and the Earth somehow distorts the field surrounding it, and that distortion somehow or other propagates out *through the field* to the place where the apple is, and then it's the "distorted" field *at the location of the apple* that exerts (directly) a force on the apple. So there is no dubious nonlocality (of the action-at-a-distance sort -- we're not talking about the faster-than-light-influences sort here at all), and no "disembodied" forces. The *gravitational field* at the location of the apple is the physically real thing which exerts the force on the apple. And this whole ontological picture is supported and further precisified in General Relativity. What more could you possibly want?

I also don't understand at all what connection you seem to think exists between the body which exerts the gravitational force on the apple (which body is, I claim, the gravitational field) and de Broglie waves. You seem to have in mind that these are or must be the same thing. I don't understand that at all. Same with your bringing in of "inertia." Why should there be any need for a special underlying mechanism for inertia at all? Why can't it just be a physically basic fact that massive objects, because of their mass, require an external force to accelerate them?

Oh, let me also mention one sentence from your second post that left me very puzzled. You wrote: "there is something there, the activity of which, that accounts for all fields and even inertial mass." If I understand correctly, you are looking for an infinite regress. Let me explain. You seem to be saying: "There's a force on the apple, but what object exerts that force? You, Travis, say it's the gravitational field. But what object's activity accounts for the field? There must be something deeper that physicists have failed to identify." But why in the world should you insist a priori that there is some further underlying object, of which the gravitational field is merely an effect? What's wrong with just saying: the field exists, and acts a certain way, and part of that is its ability to exert forces on stuff. At *some* level you're going to just have to accept that something exists as "basic" and acts in a certain way. Otherwise you have an infinite regress -- even supposing I allow you to posit meta-energy-puffs (or whatever you think is the real object underlying and "accounting for" the gravitational field), then you will (or if you don't, I will, for the sake of this argument) just ask: but there's gotta be something else there, the activity of which accounts for the meta-energy-puffs. And so on.

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So much, I say, for the idea that Newton made some kind of *mistake*. But if your point is only that, at some subsequent point in history, people should have engaged with this question, I would (on the one hand) agree with that -- but would (on the other hand) then wonder what you're upset about, since in point of fact people *did* engage with this question. The concept of a "field", which was introduced into the developing field of electricity/magnetism in the 19th century, is just what's needed here.

I think it really comes down to whether or not one considers the field to be a real physical thing or a conceptualization of forces that would act on a "point test particle" in a volume of space surrounding the source. The way the concept of force was developed is the later -- that is, "field" is a higher-level concept based upon the concept "force" as in the force that would act here and here and all around the test particle. But it doesn't get to the stuff acting that is the embodiment of those forces. In other words, I don't consider "field" to be taking about the real thing acting, but only a conceptualization of forces in a volume. This does refer to some real thing in reality in the sense that those forces will be felt in a volume around the source, but it is a higher-level concept and not the cause of the forces. The concept of a field is very useful and it was an advancement in physics, but it is not an identification of the thing that is there acting on the point test particle or the apple, if you will. In other words, the field does not embody the forces, the field is an identification of forces in a volume, when what we need is an identification of what is really there acting on the test particle.

You brought up a lot of questions regarding De Broglie waves and such, but I would say that De Broglie waves are real, and they have to be a real agitation of something real that surrounds the particle moving. That stuff is really there and is really agitated when things move. And I think this real stuff that is really agitated is what can physically account for "action at a distance" in the sense you gave, that something is agitated by the particle, and agitations of this stuff give rise to what we now refer to as fields and De Broglie waves or quantum waves.

And it is not an infinite regress because this real stuff is a fundamental in the same way that particles are a real fundamental. Only in Newton's time Or shortly thereafter, they would only have been able to conceptualize it in the aggregate as opposed to in the quantized identification.

Now, Newton did say that he thought there was a cause to gravity, he just couldn't identify that cause or conceptualize it in mathematical form. Perhaps calculus was too new, since he did create it, and just couldn't come up with the appropriate equation, but later physicists did the same thing and this agitated stuff has been overlooked but can't be avoided in QM experiments.

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I think it really comes down to whether or not one considers the field to be a real physical thing or a conceptualization of forces that would act on a "point test particle" in a volume of space surrounding the source.

Yes, OK, that's true. It all comes down to that. You think the field is merely a conceptualization of possible forces (that *would* act *if* a test particle were placed somewhere). But what argument do you have for this? Or rather, what argument do you have *against* the counter-claim, that the field is a real physical object? The E&M version of this question is a completely standard one in undergraduate E&M courses, so you probably encountered it once. The field is indeed first introduced as a "conceptualization of possible forces" but then you discover that you can write the energy of a certain configuration of charges as an integral over an energy density defined in terms of the field, you discover that certain basic laws like the conservation of momentum only make sense if you attribute a momentum density to the field, etc. In short, it emerges in short order that the field is a real dynamical player -- it's a real something that carries energy and momentum and acts and interacts with charged particles. It's not just a "bookkeeping device" for keeping track of pair-wise relational properties between the charged particles. And of course *all* of this has an exact parallel for gravitational theory. To summarize, there is a bunch of really powerful evidence that the field should be treated as a real physical object.

Do you have some kind of rebuttal to or objection to this evidence? Or maybe you just never heard of it, and were taught that the field is merely this abstract bookkeeping device.

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Yes, OK, that's true. It all comes down to that. You think the field is merely a conceptualization of possible forces (that *would* act *if* a test particle were placed somewhere). But what argument do you have for this? Or rather, what argument do you have *against* the counter-claim, that the field is a real physical object?

In the end the test for object/physical (synonyms) is to point at it and name it. It is justifiable and, especially in physics, expected that you may not be able to point at the entity itself since invisible != unphysical. In this case the only test is to present a model of it that captures its features qualitatively. This is the only objective test of the claim "X is physical".

On the other hand, for the purposes of physics, if X is physical and is involved in your theory we must assume it exists as part of the hypothesis. Unless you can point to "the real deal" we have no choice but to make an assumption that something qualitatively like what you have presented exists. Then, after the theory is presented with all the details and evidence, the audience can decide for themselves if they believe X exists based on the evidence. So the first test of "field" is to point at "field". From what I've seen it looks like a bunch of long thing objects connecting one entity to another.

In short, it emerges in short order that the field is a real dynamical player -- it's a real something that carries energy and momentum and acts and interacts with charged particles.

Until you have pointed at "field" this word is just a placeholder for something that causes the observed behavior. The equations are indeed a bookkeeping mechanism until the causal mechanism is illustrated.

To summarize, there is a bunch of really powerful evidence that the field should be treated as a real physical object.

There is powerful evidence that something is a real physical object that we can't see. Again "field" is a placeholder term.

The idea is just that there's a field occupying all of space, and the Earth somehow distorts the field surrounding it, and that distortion somehow or other propagates out *through the field* to the place where the apple is, and then it's the "distorted" field *at the location of the apple* that exerts (directly) a force on the apple. So there is no dubious nonlocality (of the action-at-a-distance sort -- we're not talking about the faster-than-light-influences sort here at all), and no "disembodied" forces. The *gravitational field* at the location of the apple is the physically real thing which exerts the force on the apple. And this whole ontological picture is supported and further precisified in General Relativity. What more could you possibly want?

Replace "field" with any word you want here. In the end, what is the structure of this entity and how does it justify the observed behavior?

Why can't it just be a physically basic fact that massive objects, because of their mass, require an external force to accelerate them?

Because this is not an explanation, it's an observation. The job of physics is not to merely catalog/list observations but to explain them. Ultimately we'll have to posit one or more fundamental entity(ies) which are simply themselves, i.e. there's nothing smaller. We avoid infinite regress, we just point at it.

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Yes, OK, that's true. It all comes down to that. You think the field is merely a conceptualization of possible forces (that *would* act *if* a test particle were placed somewhere). But what argument do you have for this? Or rather, what argument do you have *against* the counter-claim, that the field is a real physical object?

Somewhere along the line in physics, a field meant the assignment of forces in a volume and came to mean the actual thing there. So, the question becomes: Can the term "field" be used in the same way of the term "electron" that is both a higher level concept (since it comes after conceptualizing regular visual matter) and an actual particle? I think that is what you are basically getting at. You want to say that, yes, "field" is a higher level concept, but that it also refers to an actual something there, like "electron". I'll have to think more about why I don't think this is so. I will definitely grant you that there are real forces at work and that one can mathematically compute the energy of those forces within a volume of space. I think so long as one knows there must be a real physical thing there to impart those forces, it may not matter if you call it "the activation of the aether" or if you call it "the field." It's just the way the term field came about that leads me to think that isn't the proper way to think about it.

So,let me ask you another related question along the same lines, do you think Einstein's "space-time" is a real physical thing or just a conceptualization of something real that is going on?

One thing I do have against fields is that it is conceived as being able to impart a force without itself changing. In other words, fields are not thought of as something that is active and thereby acting on the test particles. The physics is basically, there is a field and therefore a force on the test particle.

To make an analogy, you are saying, in effect, that the field is a real thing in a similar manner that different air flows in weather are a real thing. For whether, we can track weather patterns via radar and see them on our TV as color codings for various regions. And this can be mathematically modeled. But we do know that weather comes about due to smaller particles -- i.e. the air molecules -- moving about a certain way. At a minimum, what I am saying is that just as there are smaller components of weather, there are smaller components of that which is there giving rise to forces in a volume; and this would be true regardless if one says the field is the real thing or changing aether is the real thing.

But basically, if the field is a conceptualization of the forces on a test particle, one does need to ask where those forces are coming from, so even if a field is what you are saying is actually occupying a certain volume, one would have to look into the causes of those forces; and you are saying the field is the cause of those forces.

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Somewhere along the line in physics, a field meant the assignment of forces in a volume and came to mean the actual thing there. So, the question becomes: Can the term "field" be used in the same way of the term "electron" that is both a higher level concept (since it comes after conceptualizing regular visual matter) and an actual particle? I think that is what you are basically getting at. You want to say that, yes, "field" is a higher level concept, but that it also refers to an actual something there, like "electron". I'll have to think more about why I don't think this is so. I will definitely grant you that there are real forces at work and that one can mathematically compute the energy of those forces within a volume of space. I think so long as one knows there must be a real physical thing there to impart those forces, it may not matter if you call it "the activation of the aether" or if you call it "the field." It's just the way the term field came about that leads me to think that isn't the proper way to think about it.

Were you thinking that "field" couldn't refer to something real because the concept is so *abstract*? I definitely don't think that's right. "Electron" is a good example to explain why. Or "atom". Or "DNA". Or "modem".

So,let me ask you another related question along the same lines, do you think Einstein's "space-time" is a real physical thing or just a conceptualization of something real that is going on?

There are a lot of subtle interpretive issues with GR, so that's hard to answer straight. And I don't have the same expertise in GR I have in some other subjects. So, that said, my somewhat tentative sense is that the metric tensor in GR should be interpreted basically as the gravitational field. That's not exactly the same thing as "space-time" but is rather the mathematical object which is usually taken (I think dubiously) to describe "space-time" directly. So I wouldn't say that "space-time" is a real physical thing, but I am saying that what people actually mean when they talk about GR as involving warping space-time, etc., is not nearly as wrong as it might look. The words ("curving space-time", etc.) are dubious, but what they're actually saying -- that matter distorts *something*, which something in turn affects the motion of matter -- is probably true. I just think it'd be less confusing and misleading to call that something the gravitational field.

One thing I do have against fields is that it is conceived as being able to impart a force without itself changing. In other words, fields are not thought of as something that is active and thereby acting on the test particles. The physics is basically, there is a field and therefore a force on the test particle.

That's just not true. Fields (both in E&M and gravity) genuinely *interact* with matter (charged particles or masses) -- the matter affects the fields, and the fields affect the matter.

you are saying the field is the cause of those forces.

Right.

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I'll have to think more about why I don't think this is so.

I would argue strongly that the distinction you are searching for here is "shape". The most essential quality of an entity, the quality that distinguishes entities from non-entities, is shape. Anything with shape is visualizable, i.e. we can point at it or at a model that captures the essential qualitative features.

To make an analogy, you are saying, in effect, that the field is a real thing in a similar manner that different air flows in weather are a real thing. For whether, we can track weather patterns via radar and see them on our TV as color codings for various regions. And this can be mathematically modeled. But we do know that weather comes about due to smaller particles -- i.e. the air molecules -- moving about a certain way. At a minimum, what I am saying is that just as there are smaller components of weather, there are smaller components of that which is there giving rise to forces in a volume; and this would be true regardless if one says the field is the real thing or changing aether is the real thing.

Exactly. Flowing does not have shape, and neither does music or spinning. However we think of these as "real". The justification is that we can illustrate what we're talking about by pointing to one or more entity(ies) and illustrating how it behaves to produced what we observe. Whether "X" is real or not is crucially dependent on this fundamental first step, pointing.

We can correlate outputs on our gauges (such as the height of a column of mercury, the amount of water in the air, etc.) with when it rains, snows, etc. We know that when we get these outputs on our devices we tend to see X phenomena. You do not need to know the underlying causal influences involved to quantitatively describe these phenomena. But to explain, in terms of physical causation, the phenomena you have to point at the entity involved, in this case a molecule of air. Then you can illustrate aggregates of molecules moving from San Francisco to New York and call it "wind". The point is, all your conceptual abstractions are tied to a proposed entity, tied to something concrete. When one is unable to point at the entity which is acting the resulting concepts become quantitative correlations. They describe observations without explaining them.

Were you thinking that "field" couldn't refer to something real because the concept is so *abstract*? I definitely don't think that's right. "Electron" is a good example to explain why. Or "atom". Or "DNA". Or "modem".

You can point to a modem. Arguably you can point to DNA under a microscope. You cannot point to an atom, therefore you must presuppose its structure and point to your model for the purposes of explaining some phenomenon. Whether another person believes your supposed structure depends on how easily and parsimoniously it explains observed phenomena.

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Were you thinking that "field" couldn't refer to something real because the concept is so *abstract*? I definitely don't think that's right. "Electron" is a good example to explain why. Or "atom". Or "DNA". Or "modem".

You bring up some excellent examples of higher-level abstractions that point to real concrete things. There are times in physics where an abstract equation will be solved, but can only be solved with some other factor brought into the equation, like G in the gravitational force equation, and the question becomes is this a necessary mathematical expression, or does it refer to something real in reality. For example, a lot of electronics equations wind up dealing with the square root of -1, but the square root of -1 is not a real number indicating anything that is actually real, aside from a concept of a mathematical process. In a similar way, the concept of a field began with a mathematical process and the question is whether field equations are mathematical processes or point to real physical things in reality.

As I've said before, so long as physicist understand that there is a real thing there, unlike the Copenhagen interpretation of the Schroedinger Wave, then at least as far as that goes, they haven't lost touch with reality.

But I think what throws me off and some others is that, yes, one can say that the field interacts with matter and vice versa, but how is this interaction taking place? You may have given me a good clue when you said that, Travis; that the field is something real and it changes leading to a change in the particle trajectory. That might account for the interaction I was looking for, but I need to think about it some more.

By the way, one thing I thought was lacking from the TEW theory was an equation for the interaction of the waves and the particles, such as a change in the wave leads to a change in the trajectory of the particle. I think that might be missing in Bohm as well, though I'm not sure.

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What Is an Entity?

Prof. K: I would like to ask you to clarify your use of the term "entity." Specifically, on page 15, in speaking of perceptual entities, you state, "entities are the only primary existents." Now, does this imply that you grant that there is a metaphysical status of entity apart from whether or not something is a perceptual entity?

For example, is it in principle possible for a perceptual entity to be composed of constituents which are metaphysically themselves also entities, such as a brick wall with the individual bricks also retaining their status as entities?

AR: Certainly. What about human beings? Heads, arms, and legs can be cut off and they are entities. But I was speaking here in the context of entity as against attribute or action. Actually, I was speaking here in the Aristotelian sense of the primary "substance"—which is a very misleading term, but what he meant was that the primary existent is an entity. And then aspects of an entity can be identified mentally, but only in relation to the entity. There are no attributes without entities, there are no actions without entities.

An entity is that which you perceive and which can exist by itself. Characteristics, qualities, attributes, actions, relationships do not exist by themselves

Prof. F: So then philosophy should leave open the possibility <ioe2_294> that the ultimate properties of things are relational properties?

AR: No, because you are using a term from our present level of knowledge. "Relational properties" are what? Properties arising out of the relation of two entities. In calling something a relational property, you are implying the existence of entities. But now if you say the ultimate particles or elements will be defined as relational, what does that mean? You are applying a concept from our present level of knowledge to a level on which you deny it suddenly. What is a "relational property"—relation of what?

Prof. F: Two ultimate elements to one another.

AR: But then it isn't a relational property.

Prof. E: You've already made reference to the elements.

AR: You made reference to the elements. The only meaning it could possibly have is that you will observe it only through a relationship. Let's say that ultimately, through ten super-microscopes, you establish that you can only observe this ultimate particle by means of its relationship to another particle. That's possible. But then you will still have implied the entity.

Prof. E: Suppose it were the case that worse comes to worst epistemologically, that at the outside limit of human cognition in the indefinite future, scientists will never get beyond a knowledge of the actions of the ultimate entities—because in effect human beings' means of cognition doesn't encompass any means of reaching the nature of the entities, except that it is a something which has identity and acts in a certain way. Would you regard that as having philosophic significance, were that to be the ultimate answer?

AR: No.

Prof. E: Would that prove that reality in itself is unknowable to us?

AR: No.

Prof. E: Or that all we can know ultimately is just action?

AR: No. Keep your terms defined. What are you talking about? You are talking about the constituents of what we, to begin with, perceive as entities. And to say we really can <ioe2_295> perceive only action, because on the sub-subatomic level we cannot grasp the nature of those entities, we can only grasp their actions, doesn't hold. All you are saying is: I can't go beyond a certain level of knowledge. That doesn't mean that all you grasp is action.

And you know what else is crucially important? When you talk about discovering the ultimate constituents of the universe, remember that in order to discover them, no matter by what calculations or by what machinery, you had to bring them to your perceptual level. You would have to say "this particle" is that which acts in such and such a way on subatomic particles, which act in such and such a way on atoms, which act in such and such a way on molecules, and all of that results in a material object such as this glass as distinguished from other material objects such as this ashtray. Unless you bring it back to the perceptual level, it's not knowledge. That is what has to be kept in mind always in speculating about ultimate causes, which have to be discovered by some, at present, unknown means. You still always have to bring it back to your sensory-perceptual level, otherwise it's not knowledge.

Also I thought this quote from Travis' paper is relevent : J.S. Bell’s Concept of Local Causality

Newton did not believe that

the inverse-square-law itself constituted an explanatory

rock-bottom. He remained open, in principle, to the idea

of a later theory providing a detailed account of the underlying

causal functioning of gravitational forces. [7]

Thus, while agreeing in principle with the metaphysical

rejection of action at a distance, Newton refused to accept

that his theory in fact committed one to such non-local

action. In order to know whether the inverse square law

implied real (or merely apparent) action at a distance,

one would have to get beneath the inverse square law

and discover the cause of gravity. And (again properly,

given the paucity of empirical data on which to base such

theorizing) Newton refused to speculate about this [6],

instead famously declaring “I feign no hypotheses”. [7]

Relatedly, in a 1693 letter to Richard Bently, he wrote

“You sometimes speak of gravity as essential

and inherent to Matter. Pray, do not ascribe

that notion to me; for the cause of gravity is

what I do not pretend to know, and therefore

would take more time to consider it.” [2, pg

150]

Thus evidently Newton intended to leave the door open

to some future identification of the underlying mechanics

of gravity. Such a theory would presumably have been

expected to provide a detailed account of some “mediation

... through which [massive bodies’] action and force

may be conveyed from one to another” and thus manifest

the consistency of gravitation with his metaphysical

belief in local causality.

Such an understanding of gravitation was indeed ultimately

developed, with fields – which concept first

emerged in Faraday’s studies of electricity and magnetism

and culminated in the work of Maxwell – playing

the role of causal agent through which causal influences

(such as those described by Newton’s or Coulomb’s

inverse square laws) propagate locally. [9] Einstein described

as follows the development toward thinking in

terms of local causation through fields:

“As a result of the more careful study of electromagnetic

phenomena, we have come to regard

action at a distance as a process impossible

without the intervention of some intermediary

medium. If, for instance, a magnetattracts a piece of iron, we cannot be content

to regard this as meaning that the magnet

acts directly on the iron through the intermediate

empty space, but we are constrained

to imagine – after the manner of Faraday –

that the magnet always calls into being something

physically real in the space around it,

that something being what we call a ‘magnetic

field.’ In its turn this magnetic field operates

on the piece of iron, so that the latter

strives to move towards the magnet. We shall

not discuss here the justification for this incidental

conception, which is indeed a somewhat

arbitrary one. We shall only mention

that with its aid electromagnetic phenomena

can be theoretically represented much more

satisfactorily than without it, and this applies

particularly to the transmission of electromagnetic

waves. The effects of gravitation

also are regarded in an analogous manner.

The action of the earth on the stone takes

place indirectly. The earth produces in its

surroundings a gravitational field, which acts

on the stone and produces its motion...” [8,

pg 60]

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Let me go back to what I was saying in the other thread, that the interaction must be involved in order to account for the motion of the apple as it falls. I said:

(the change of something) = Fg = Gm1m2/d^2

And I was asking what is the change of something.

What Travis is proposing is that the field is real (a real thing) that becomes changed with the presence of the apple leading to a force on the apple due to that change in the earths gravitational field brought about by the fact that the apple is there and is distorting that field. This might account for what I was looking for when I said "the change of something" in the above equation. And one can come to this conclusion without proposing that the field is some sort of fundamental stuff; that is, we haven't discovered yet if the universe is comprised of matter and fields. It may well be that the field is comprised of something more fundamental, but we haven't discovered that yet. In other words, we have not yet discovered that the field is itself comprised of smaller physical units.

With that said, I am not aware of an equation that states the above, but maybe that would have been covered after the level of a B.A. in physics.

Anyhow, I'm still thinking this through.

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It may well be that the field is comprised of something more fundamental, but we haven't discovered that yet.

That's certainly true. For example, it turns out tables are composed of something more fundamental. Of course, that doesn't mean that tables don't exist or aren't physically real or can't function as agents in causal explanations.

I don't understand what you are talking about with the equation involving "change in something". Sorry.

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And I was asking what is the change of something.

From reading your posts, I can't help but wonder if you quite know what you're searching for. The mathematical field describes the motion of two hypothetical point particles with a given spatial arrangement. Whatever is between these two entities, its dynamic effect on the entity(ies) is described by a particular mathematical relationship.

As far as developing a mathematical description of the motion and behavior of entities, the field concept has been enormously successful. You seem to be looking for "more", but the proposal of a physical connection between entities that mediates phenomena doesn't even phase you. I don't propose I am Right, of course, and you may disagree or see flaws but if this kind of idea is not what you were talking about, what exactly is it you're looking for?

On the one hand we can describe the behavior of planets with an equation. The equation tells us, given a spatial relationship, how they will move. We can toss around the word "field" and, in the context of the mathematical description, it is obviously "real". We can point to this or that tensor and name it "field". As far as a physical explanation, this is not adequate because mathematics only describes relationships among entities, but does not necessarily care what those entities are. An easy example is the "point particle". This works very well for the purposes of mathematically describing the behavior of small entities but few rational-minded physicists would propose that an entity can actually have "0 size". Another example is "center of mass". We can model the earth and the sun as mathematical points fairly well because they are nearly spherical and have a small diameter relative to their separation. In terms of a physical explanation I propose the primary distinction here is visualization. In order to explain a phenomenon we should be able to imagine and visualize it. Of course a physical explanation is not valid simply because we can visualize it, that would be ludicrous.

So, if not a precise mathematical description and not a visualizable explanation, what is it you're searching for?

There are no attributes without entities, there are no actions without entities.

An entity is that which you perceive and which can exist by itself. Characteristics, qualities, attributes, actions, relationships do not exist by themselves

Agreed, with all of this, all that's left is to rigorously and unambiguously identify/define "entity". What is the foolproof test? While existence is axiomatic and self evident, entity is not. What is the criterion which clearly discriminates between an entity and an attribute, action, or relationship amongst entities?

Is a chair an entity? I think we all agree yes. Is music an entity? We all agree that music is "real". But, is it a causal primary which exists independently? Does music exist independently of the entities: air, radio, tape, CD, ear, brain...? I can't imagine anyone arguing that we do not need, at a minimum, 3 entities to experience music: 1) Ourselves 2) Source 3) Transmission medium from source to you (like air).

By engaging in this process we identified that music is not an independent entity but rather a complex relationship. "Exists independently" is a helpful criterion but I think it is only useful when dealing with existents with which we are all familiar. If someone proposes X is an entity and it is wholly unfamiliar to you, what is the essential quality that makes X an independent existent (entity) as opposed to a relationship or an action of entities?

Aristotle tackled this idea and had this to say:

by form I mean the essence of each thing, and its primary substance

from Aristotle's Metaphysics

"Form" seems to be a synonym for "shape". Euclid seemed of similar mind:

A boundary is that which is an extremity of anything.(Bk. I, Def. 13)…

A figure is that which is contained by any boundary or boundaries.(Bk. I, Def. 14)

from Euclid's Elements

Boundary, extremity, form, these are all expressing "finite" or "shape". To be something is to be finite, to be bounded.

This is the most essential quality I have identified. While a chair has shape, music does not. The radio, my ear, and air molecules have shape. They exist independently. Shape is the most essential quality of all entities.

Such an understanding of gravitation was indeed ultimately

developed, with fields – which concept first

emerged in Faraday’s studies of electricity and magnetism

What actually changed when people started uttering the word "field"? Faraday had no idea what was physically intervening, he invented the term "field" to refer to whatever magic was occurring in such and such particular region. Newton could have uttered the word "field" in reference to the gravitational potential. All that has changed is the precision of the mathematical description. Physicists have comforted each other by fooling themselves into thinking that bandying about the term "field" has changed anything. From Newton to Faraday to Maxwell to Einstein, the term "field" has always meant "whatever is there that makes what we observe happen, and what we observe looks like this: writes equation".

Edited by altonhare
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