The absolutes of physical things

-Without ether, it becomes impossible to make light a physical phenomenon as opposed to a mathematical one. The problem is a familiar one, since it is the exact problem that led Newton to posit ether in the first place – since without ether space was a purely mathematical phenomenon. Time was too, but for whatever reason no one posited time ether.

-If “space” is just “whatever all physical things have in common”, then it can’t do the work that Newton needed it to do. This makes space Einsteinian, i.e. purely relative. Newton needed space to be wholly separate from the physical. This makes for an interaction problem every bit as compelling as the soul-body version, but for whatever reason we don’t dwell on it.

-“But we don’t dwell on it because we don’t believe in absolute space any more!” This misses the point. The need to divide the purely mathematical from the physical is just recast by an account of a new absolute (EM waves) with no ether-principle that can distinguish the purely mathematical from the physical. Like it or not, we’re insisting that EM waves are wholly separate and divided from physical phenomena. They’re Euclidian realities (okay, Riemannian, same difference) defining physical spaces.

-What about Einstein’s space, then? It is entirely relative, which renders it incapable of being a substrate or medium for an absolute. You can’t write red letters with black ink.

-Mathematization of nature is one way of articulating the radical difference between the absolute and relative. We can understand a world where mathematical things are separate from the world, but still structure it, all the while not interacting with it. They are extrinsic from what they define while still being intrinsic to it. This is simply the role absolutes have to play. We could do more to articulate the reality of God and soul by mathematicals.

-Newton’s ether was a concession that did not eliminate the fundamental scandal. Ether might correspond to absolute space and remain at rest (allowing for a division of real and apparent motion). But a contraction of ether would still be in absolute space.

-The absolute space is at once necessary and superfluous. We needed it to account for a real division between real and apparent motion and rest, but it required an appeal to something that could never be used. No one could do an experiment that required us to mark off meters in absolute space.

-For Aristotle, a mathematical thing is a physical one with something left out. On this account, the physical is fundamental and the mathematical is derivative. The science of the last few centuries wants to reverse this, but is ambivalent.

– Is mathematics abstract, or is the physical exemplary/incarnational? Are the two compatible by making “abstraction” epistemic and the other ontological? Is the Euclidean triangle an abstraction from all the triangles we visualize, or are the visualized triangles all derivations and incarnations of a more fundamental idea?

1 Comment

  1. August 31, 2013 at 7:56 am

    What kind of space does the common man apprehend?

    I didn’t understand most of what you wrote above, so if this is off topic from some precise understanding your are trying to explain please forgive me.

    Looking at the issue of the mathematical existing in the physical, I suspect its first function is the poetical. Which is also how we first know it and use it by building with it as with architecture and pottery. And secondly by investigation where we use it to manipulate the physical as with metallurgy.

    The poetical is absolute according to our nature, but relative according to differentiation caused by culture and similar. When i walk through a building I see perfect symmetry as sign according to my nature, and the imperfect because its constructed as physical matter.

    As architect I draw straight lines knowing the precision of the carpenter is less perfect, while further knowing that the person using the space will not see the difference.


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