On material things

We call things material because they are relative to a different future state: building materials make buildings, the course will go though the course materials, etc. To see a deer like a hunter is to see it as material, and oil is material for lamps but not for refineries.

The different future state of the material is a different substance or not, and if not, matter is substantial.

Whatever is different at a different time is, of course, something now. Taken as it is now we either understand it as form or as the form of what was material to it. This gives another sense of matter and material, though one that is not material as such.

Material relates to the future state either necessarily or contingently depending on the description. That the material be something else at some later time is necessary; that it be this or that might be more or less probable or perhaps completely unpredictable. Given this, matter is in one sense a source of necessity and in another sense a source of irrationality and unpredictability, but because future states are more irrational than rational so also is matter.

Mathematical objects are not relative to some future state and so are not material. Limits seem like they are exceptions to this, since we speak about quantities approaching them, but quantities do not approach limits as though they were possible futures. It is not meaningful to ask when the derivative or integral happens, as though it takes a Sisyphean run to infinity every time a 12th grader takes a derivative.

Mathematical quantities cause and explain physical activity, though not by interacting with it or forming a physical system. They are nevertheless not spirits. The Platonic suggestion is that spirit acts on matter through the mediation of mathematical objects, or that mathematics is the nexus between eternal spirit and a cosmos of becoming, which would be consistent with the success of modern science.


%d bloggers like this: