Action and interaction, II

An interaction is composed of transitive actions. Now transitive actions can be analyzed in two ways: first, into intransitive actions, e.g. if the hand pushed a box, then both the box and the hand moved; and if the line reeled in the fish, then the line retracted and the fish rose. Leave this sort of analysis aside. Interaction can also be analyzed into distinct transitive actions: reeling in the fish means both that the line acts on the fish and the fish acts on the line. This last sense is the reality captured by Newton’s third law, where every action (read transitive action) is only a part of a larger interaction, and so, for the physicist, every action of one thing on another is an interaction.

A transitive action is to an interaction as one to many. But all physical transitive actions are interactions, and so any physical action is a multitude. The individual transitive actions are only potential parts. To analyze a physical action into an actual transitive action requires analyzing the cause to a non-physical source. This analysis is not into the potential parts of the interaction (potential parts are not actual), but it is nevertheless the analysis of a physical action as physical. Considered in this sense, all physical action is analyzed into a way of taking part in the transcendent unity of a non-physical cause.


  1. Learning. said,

    February 29, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Dr. Chastek, would love your help seeing the social implications. What does it mean the concepts time, space, place and motion are occupied by abstract mathematical rather than fully philosophical modes of thought? Anything rough and ready would do.

    E.g. I have the impression that your last posts on motion, misplaced concrete?, are absolutely pivotal, but being a novice I need a brief intro. Humans abstracted from the very universe they are investigating? body as a tool, gnosticism, abortion etc?

    I know you write for philosophers and educated readers generally, and this is probably not your purpose.

  2. DonJindra said,

    March 3, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    “and so any physical action is a multitude”

    I’ve made the same argument myself but I see it as leading an entirely different direction. If any physical action is indeed a multitude then the whole Aristotelian-Thomistic line of thinking about First Cause is false. No effect has simply one cause. So we can never trace back to a “first cause.” When we try to trace back, causes multiply exponentially into an infinity of causes.

    • March 3, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      We can analyze a multitude into units.

      • DonJindra said,

        March 5, 2012 at 11:04 am

        Of course we can. But that human tool (the convenient analysis) doesn’t change the physical nature of the event(s).

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