• Bob Ross
    1k
    I have been thinking about the metaphysics of space and time, and wanted to share my thoughts.

    The two aspects of the metaphysics of space and time that I am going to address is the reality or unreality of them in terms of being substances and relations. By the former, I mean whether or not space and time are themselves subsisting entities in reality which things inhere to; and by the latter I mean whether or not things, as they are in themselves, adhere to any spatiotemporal relations (irregardless of whether or not space and time, as subsisting entities, are substances).

    In terms of the former, I find it very implausible that time and space are substances. If they are, then that would entail that either (1) time and space are bounded in a void (in the case that they are finite) or (2) that everything is in them (in the case that they are infinite). In the case of #1, this seems absurd—e.g., a space bounded in a void makes no sense at all. In the case of #2, it is unparsimonious (and not to mention entails that nothing is permanent), because one can posit that space and time as substances are really just the forms of conscious experience (i.e., of representative experience) and that the spatiotemporal relations really do pertain to the things in themselves: there’s no need to conceptually posit space and time as substances beyond those forms of experience.

    In terms of the latter, I find it very plausible that spatiotemporal relations are real constraints and properties of the things in themselves. If this is not granted, then either (1) one’s conscious experience is equivalent to a hallucination or (2) how or what is being represented is completely unknowable (thusly making one’s conscious experience basically equivalent to an hallucination). For example, the speed at which that car is moving towards you is not real if spatiotemporal relations are not real—for speed is a spatiotemporal relation between objects in accordance with laws. Without granting spatiotemporal relations as real, speed cannot be real. Likewise, for example, the distance between you and that house is not real if there is not some definite relation between you and that house, and there cannot be any definite relation between the two of you (as objects) if spatiotemporal relations are not real—for the only way to produce a definite relation between you and the house is to produce at least a spatial, mathematical relation. If this be denied, then one has to accept that, at best, nothing they experience, not even the relations between objects, is real but somehow that the objects which they experience are somewhat accurate representations of whatever is going on in reality—but what sort of relation could exist between you and that house that is not at least spatial (even if the space itself, the perceptive depth, is merely the form of your experience)? It seems like denying spatiotemporal relations sideswipes all of knowable reality and replaces it is with a giant question mark, and makes reality (which we can speak of) phantasms.

    What are your guys’ thoughts?
  • Fire Ologist
    65
    In terms of the latter, I find it very plausible that spatiotemporal relations are real constraints and properties of the things in themselves.Bob Ross

    The raw phenomenal experience is of a spatiotemporal world with things relating to things. Whether this phenomenon is informed directly by things in themselves or constructed in the mind, it remains the same, singular experience. I agree it is plausible to say that these relations are there in the in-itself. Like, the mind experiences the spatiotemporal relationships it constructs, because the mind is constructed in spatiotemporal things relating to one another.

    And I agree, space taken alone is not a substance. Time taken alone is not a substance.

    The view I'm currently thinking about is that time, space, matter and motion are one substance (not each individual substances, but one substance). It's easy to see "matter" as the substance and then predicate it with space, time and motion. But really, time, space, matter and motion are different estimations of the experience of one substance (call it, physical reality). I can't assert one without all of the others. Experience is matter/space/time, which are motion.

    This is why we are tempted to say space or time each are a substance. They immerge with moving matter, so they are not prior substances..

    If I assert "motion" alone, I have simultaneously asserted a material thing (matter) here, and then (time) there (space).

    Time and space can be seen as one. Before and after (time) are simply here and there (space). To assert a time, or assert a space, I need to assert a moving thing. Make a material thing in motion, and you have made here before with there after.

    If I assert "matter", I immediately take up space. If I recognize that matter is three dimensional, then the space the matter takes up must have a here keeping apart from there, or a before keeping away from after. The "keeping" is the motion of a solitary instance of matter, so even a fixed object, if physical, is a substance displaying its matter/motion/space/time.

    All of this is deniable. I'm not trying to prove what exists. I'm saying: if I say matter , whether I like it or not, I've said time, space and motion also, because these are really one substance.
  • jgill
    3.5k
    Before and after (time) are simply here and there (space).Fire Ologist

    Not sure this would pass the muster regarding Minkowski spacetime, which allows passage of time with no movement.
  • substantivalism
    206
    I have been thinking about the metaphysics of space and time, and wanted to share my thoughts.Bob Ross
    I'm glad you have! I must, though, apologize for all that I have written.

    The two aspects of the metaphysics of space and time that I am going to address is the reality or unreality of them in terms of being substances and relations. By the former, I mean whether or not space and time are themselves subsisting entities in reality which things inhere to; and by the latter I mean whether or not things, as they are in themselves, adhere to any spatiotemporal relations (irregardless of whether or not space and time, as subsisting entities, are substances).Bob Ross
    The debate between substantivalists and relationists is one fraught with accusations regarding everything under the sun including psychological theories, metaphorical speech, base ontological disputes with regards to substantiation, grounding/fundamentality, absolutism vs. relativism, emergence vs. non-emergence, and even the purviews of modern meta-metaphysical uncertainty.

    I've always been peeked for interest since being a young one as to where these disputes would lead me and they've only led me to asking whether such a discussion is even substantial at all. I'm not alone here. On multiple articles I've read it seems that others, renowned or not, have struggled in attempting to resurrect this debate in the modern era without the slightest possibility of it being merely 'semantics'. I'd recommend the article by Robert Rynasiewicz if you can access it but similar opinions can be found else where. Pro or con.

    If I can postulate something and it does everything that something else is supposed to do then is there really a debate as which word/concept/intuition we should use? This sort of undercuts the whole issue that Einstein had in interpreting his general theory with the often quote mined parts of his confusion as to how in attempting to rid himself of an aether he gave rise to a rather aether-like thing. A 'thing' imbued with physicality in its mutual interaction with every day objects. Course, you could also flip this and consider a purely relationist aether of material things with irreducible distance/temporal relations to be quite like a 'container' spacetime that is filled. Its not a far cry for many philosophers to then ask if the debate between substantivalism vs relationism (or space/matter vs. aether) is a nonsense metaphysical dispute that has outlived its intellectual usefulness.

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    In the book Space, Time, and Spacetime by Lawrence Skylar he brought up the rather rarely discussed topic of the epistemology of spacetime which further fragments the discussion as to its modern day relevancy. Do such questions as to the geometry of the world make any sense at all in an objective sense or are we committing some dreadful reification? People such as Poincare seemed to advocate for seeing such questions as only being answered in a conventional/arbitrary sense because you could always manipulate the laws regarding how physical objects behave to make another different spacetime consistent with the former. . . experimentally speaking. Apparently even Einstein held similar inclinations, at least at one point, noting that what mattered was the combination of one's physical guiding laws and a particular spatiotemporal structure. As long as the observations are left invariant or untouched you could in principle substitute in a postulation of a new geometry and merely tweak the field equations to mathematically get it to work.

    As is common to all debates regarding theory falsification the problems of inter and intra theory underdetermination rear their ugly head again. The conventionalist shouts from his soap box to the realist that, "I can imagine indefinitely many different geometries of the world and physical laws under guiding their interactions all of which are in principle beyond the pure view of science to distinguish. Theoretically/philosophically they are distinct but experimentally, not. So, what meaning could such statements hold if any at all? Perhaps it is all mere convention?"

    Of course, you could throw these same critiques against substantivalists or relationists seeing them both as hypocrites in service of a distinction that is as hotly debated as it is illusive. One relationist postulates irreducible distance relations and the substantivalist may posit irreducible physical constituents while both agree as to many of the general intuitions one has about spatio-temporal relationships holding between material constituents.

    In that vein in the same book, in analogy to responses to radical/external world skepticism, Skylar gives a handful of positions one could take in response to this theoretical/semantic/philosophical under-determination. They also may have their own doppelgangers in the classic substantivalism/relational dispute as well. In response to this challenge of determining the geometry of the world one could either view such statements as irreducibly related to one's own experiences to give them meaning (anti-reductionism) or still hold there are things-in-themselves that give meaning to these statements independent of our mind (reductionism). The former position is a dead end in its own as it leads to some form of epistemological idealism or phenomenology that seeks to ground the meaning of these statements in our own mind. The thought being that perhaps it would be misguided to consider our mental conceptions as having any fundamental relation to the external world. That doesn't mean such a person is a solipsist per say (they would be in good company) but that the external world is in some sense unintelligible. A monkey typing randomly on a typewriter no matter how many coherent statements they make will not imbue us, or them, with true external access even by accident.

    If you still considered there to be things-in-themselves that objectively ground the meaning of such statements then by following this reductionist road we would be lead to a trichotomy: Skepticism, conventionalism, and realism. Course, we could always take the middle man position of skepticism in any such discussions and its the latter two that make much more intriguing claims. Conventionalism regards the choice of the geometry of this world as. . . well. . . conventional in choice but they could still admit that even though its arbitrary we are all in some sense talking about the 'same thing'. Realists would emphasis the importance of a language/theory that actually 'carves nature at its joints' and would be optimistic about attempts to discover such a thing. Whether that be through experimental confirmation or rather subjective extra-theory considerations including neo-rationalist strategies or a-prior thinking.

    Why does the above all seem so familiar? IT'S JUST THE MODERN DAY META-METAPHYSICS DISPUTE as to the meaningfulness or worth of metaphysics! Similar to the responses above, people who have been rather skeptical of the whole point of metaphysics ask rather similar questions yielding rather similar positions. Such as Sider's ontological realism, modern day Carnapian conventionalism, or forms of indifferent pragmatism/quietism. Strange how such a specific metaphysical dispute can devolve right into core philosophical or meta-philosophical issues common to other discussions.

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    So, where does that leave us? if we think such conversations are still worth having and are salvageable then the only problem remaining is how they can be saved at all. Some approaches to this abandon the substantivalism/relationism for an emergence/fundamentality dispute in a similar manner to how the former classical debate transcended the more ancient absolute motion vs. relative motion controversy. Substantival spacetimes or any such entities usually admitted to a variety of relative motions but also held many absolutist features. Despite the nomenclature, forms of relationism were also not unfriendly entirely to absolutism of certain sorts either. Depending on the formulation of course. You could be a substantivalist and view certain motions as absolute/relative contrary to some other substantival opponent just as much as the relationist could.

    A random paper I came across not long ago seemed to indicate that we could do the same but with emergentism vs. fundamentality. While a dualistic spacetime/matter was perhaps somewhat indistinguishable before from some form of super-substantivalism (spacetime makes up matter) or a highly reductive form of relationism, perhaps, its now not a question of substantiality but of independence. Through the language of emergentism, new positions can arise and also perhaps new debate which could maybe cut through the fat of the former. I haven't read much about such subject matters to begin with so I wouldn't know too much beyond super-layman basics.
  • substantivalism
    206
    In terms of the latter, I find it very plausible that spatiotemporal relations are real constraints and properties of the things in themselves. If this is not granted, then either (1) one’s conscious experience is equivalent to a hallucination or (2) how or what is being represented is completely unknowable (thusly making one’s conscious experience basically equivalent to an hallucination). For example, the speed at which that car is moving towards you is not real if spatiotemporal relations are not real—for speed is a spatiotemporal relation between objects in accordance with laws. Without granting spatiotemporal relations as real, speed cannot be real. Likewise, for example, the distance between you and that house is not real if there is not some definite relation between you and that house, and there cannot be any definite relation between the two of you (as objects) if spatiotemporal relations are not real—for the only way to produce a definite relation between you and the house is to produce at least a spatial, mathematical relation. If this be denied, then one has to accept that, at best, nothing they experience, not even the relations between objects, is real but somehow that the objects which they experience are somewhat accurate representations of whatever is going on in reality—but what sort of relation could exist between you and that house that is not at least spatial (even if the space itself, the perceptive depth, is merely the form of your experience)? It seems like denying spatiotemporal relations sideswipes all of knowable reality and replaces it is with a giant question mark, and makes reality (which we can speak of) phantasms.Bob Ross

    In a similar vein, I agree that the most interesting forms of relationism are those that are also the most unintuitive. If we want to avoid the claim of sneaking in spacetime through the back door by use of irreducible distance relations then something significant or grand most replace it. Usually this means making friends with old enemies such as action-at-a-distance, platonism, and making extensive use of modal notions.

    One paper which seems to attempt, and fail multiple times, at defining some form of relationism through modal notions or weak/strong forms of platonism is outlined here. It doesn't investigate what I think is the far more intriguing avenue of action-at-a-distance.

    It is rather peculiar that even though relationists have usually objected to "occultist" notions such as spacetime and seek to replace them with rigorous physicalist replacements the tools they'd need to do so seem rather un-physical/"occultist" themselves.

    Of course, this doesn't even broach the topic of Leibnizian relationism which is a beast in of its own and not something I'm familiar with myself aside from 'common' knowledge.
  • Philosophim
    2k
    This is a good topic Bob. I think it helps to define what space and time are. Space is the property we attribute to a things 'swell of existence'. Space is often seen as relational, though if there was one existent thing, its swell would be space. Time is a measurement of a things state change. When there is a recognition of difference between any snapshot, we have time.

    My only quibble is breaking this down into two separate considerations of substances in reality vs things in themselves. To my notion, a thing in itself is nothing that can really be understood except as a logical notation. The idea of a thing in itself is that any details beyond its base logical necessity are beyond human comprehension.

    The logical necessity is basically that some 'thing' needs to be there for us to observe. Perhaps there are other base logical necessities that can be gleaned from this, but I'm not sure an analysis of space and time are one of them. For one, that requires us to label some property or aspect of a thing in itself, and the entire logical point of a thing in itself is that it cannot be labeled or identified in anyway beyond its logical necessity that it must exist.

    it is not that I disagree with your points, I just think the separation of substance and things in themselves is unnecessary. You can simplify by stating that space and time are properties of things, and all of your points still work. A real 'thing' is always assumed to have a thing in itself behind it that we cannot identify, and thus is largely irrelevant unless we're in very specific discussion about knowledge.
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    The raw phenomenal experience is of a spatiotemporal world with things relating to things. Whether this phenomenon is informed directly by things in themselves or constructed in the mind, it remains the same, singular experience.

    What I am trying to convey is that spatiotemporal relations exist in reality and our minds construct actual extension and temporality to represent those relations.

    And I agree, space taken alone is not a substance. Time taken alone is not a substance.

    I would simply add: or taken together or some other mixture of things. The actual extension—i.e., the depth—and temporal movements of things—i.e., the changes—are not real: they are the forms of our experience; but, the spatiotemporal relations between objects is.

    The view I'm currently thinking about is that time, space, matter and motion are one substance (not each individual substances, but one substance). It's easy to see "matter" as the substance and then predicate it with space, time and motion. But really, time, space, matter and motion are different estimations of the experience of one substance (call it, physical reality). I can't assert one without all of the others. Experience is matter/space/time, which are motion.

    Interesting, it seems like you are appealing to an unknown substance that is the combination of space, time, matter, and motion. I would say this still falls prey to my objections in the OP pertaining to positing space and time as substances (even though you are not considering them separate substances of their own). You are still, to some degree, positing extension (i.e., depth) and temporality (i.e., motion) as real: as actual.

    if I say matter , whether I like it or not, I've said time, space and motion also, because these are really one substance.

    I think you could perfectly coherently claim spatiotemporal relations exist between the things in-themselves and that the actual extension and temporal sequences do not exist. Positing that space and time exist as a relation is not the same as a substance (as far as I can tell). Therefore, you have not posited actual motion, space, or time when positing matter.
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    You seem to be giving a sparknote of the landscape, but I am more interested in what your take is on space and time. What do you think?
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    I think it helps to define what space and time are.

    Agreed—the entirety of which depends on one’s view on the nature of space and time, which is largely what is being put under contention in this OP.

    . Space is the property we attribute to a things 'swell of existence'. Space is often seen as relational, though if there was one existent thing, its swell would be space.

    Time is a measurement of a things state change

    ‘Swelling’ certainly, as a word, refers to something spatiotemporal, but not what space nor time actually are. In order to understand space better, I have split, conceptually, the concept into two: purely relational vs. actual space (i.e., a pure relation or a substance).

    If space is purely relational, then the actual extension which is the form of your experience does not have a correlate in reality—it is just that: the form of your experience. However, that does not mean that space does not exist, as if it is purely relational then the spatial relations of an object are real properties of that object and are not, like nihilists or transcendentalists on space think, purely modes by which we intuit and cognize objects.

    If space is actual (i.e., a substance), then, effectively, the extension (i.e., the depth)(e.g., the swelling of something) actually exists in reality just as much as what you phenomenally experience.

    By analogy, imagine a video game: one can perfectly coherently code a game that deploys spatiotemporal relations between objects within the game while having no code to render actual extension and temporality onto a computer screen (e.g., imagine an old game that just has a prompt for a frontend interactive user interface).

    A person who claims space and time are purely relational are claiming that the spatiotemporal relations between objects are real (just like the code in a video game gives reality to spatiotemporal relations in that game) but the actual extension and temporality are not (just like how the game could very well have no means of rendering any extension or temporal sequences for the player to see).

    A person who claims that space and time are substances are claiming that the extension and temporality are real (e.g., the extension on the screen isn’t the only actual extension: it is a representation of the real extension out there in the real world).

    My only quibble is breaking this down into two separate considerations of substances in reality vs things in themselves

    There has to be an epistemic split, because our conscious experience is a representation. This opens the door to such conversations as this: is space and time purely relational or actual?

    To my notion, a thing in itself is nothing that can really be understood except as a logical notation.

    I am unable to parse this: could you elaborate? What do you mean by “logical notation”?

    The logical necessity is basically that some 'thing' needs to be there for us to observe.

    No. Logical necessity is when it is logically impossible to posit any contrary (i.e., one cannot posit any contrary without violating a law of logic): it has nothing to do with what needs to be there for us to observe.

    I just think the separation of substance and things in themselves is unnecessary. You can simplify by stating that space and time are properties of things, and all of your points still work. A real 'thing' is always assumed to have a thing in itself behind it that we cannot identify, and thus is largely irrelevant unless we're in very specific discussion about knowledge.

    Saying space and time are properties of things doesn’t entail itself what I argued in the OP: I am arguing that, beyond that, space and time are pure relations and not substances of things; because actual space and time are nothing more than the forms our experience and are not real, but that the spatiotemporal relations of which we represent are real. This distinction I am making doesn’t exist if you remove the consideration of phenomenality vs. nouminality.

    Bob
  • Fire Ologist
    65
    I think you could perfectly coherently claim spatiotemporal relations exist between the things in-themselves and that the actual extension and temporal sequences do not exist. Positing that space and time exist as a relation is not the same as a substance (as far as I can tell). Therefore, you have not posited actual motion, space, or time when positing matter.Bob Ross

    So would you say matter is a substance, and motion, space and time are relations between material substances? Or is motion more substantial than relational, but maybe both?
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    So would you say matter is a substance, and motion, space and time are relations between material substances?

    I would say that matter is the substance and motion, space, and time are relations of and between entities that are made up of that matter.
  • Philosophim
    2k
    ‘Swelling’ certainly, as a word, refers to something spatiotemporal, but not what space nor time actually are. In order to understand space better, I have split, conceptually, the concept into two: purely relational vs. actual space (i.e., a pure relation or a substance).Bob Ross

    True, 'swelling' is more of an implicit intention. My point is I don't think you need to introduce space as a 'thing in itself'. Anytime we try to define a 'thing in itself" beyond the barest logical necessity of its existence, we have to remember that we can't. The thing in itself is beyond understanding, identification, or knowledge.

    If space is purely relational, then the actual extension which is the form of your experience does not have a correlate in reality—it is just that: the form of your experience.Bob Ross

    What is it for something to be purely relational? We have to relate something. And that thing has to exist somewhere in some form.

    However, that does not mean that space does not exist, as if it is purely relational then the spatial relations of an object are real properties of that object and are not, like nihilists or transcendentalists on space think, purely modes by which we intuit and cognize objects.Bob Ross

    Ah, that's your target. I don't think you need "a thing in itself" to prove this. All you have to note is that objects represent things in themselves, and that space is a property of objects. I mean, all you have to do to a nihilist is ask them to volunteer to have a rock dropped on them from above if they don't think its real. :D

    If space is actual (i.e., a substance), then, effectively, the extension (i.e., the depth)(e.g., the swelling of something) actually exists in reality just as much as what you phenomenally experience.Bob Ross

    We can't conclude that about the thing in itself. What we can conclude is that if we judge space correctly, then for our viewpoint of reality, the thing in itself does not contradict our conclusion. Does that mean our understanding of space represents the thing in itself's entire space accurately? We can't know because we cannot identify or know a thing in itself beyond it correlation or violations of our perceptions and judgements.

    A person who claims space and time are purely relational are claiming that the spatiotemporal relations between objects are real (just like the code in a video game gives reality to spatiotemporal relations in that game) but the actual extension and temporality are not (just like how the game could very well have no means of rendering any extension or temporal sequences for the player to see).Bob Ross

    That's just silly then. A good ol' rousing game of "Drop the rock" will cure that.

    The logical necessity is basically that some 'thing' needs to be there for us to observe.

    No. Logical necessity is when it is logically impossible to posit any contrary (i.e., one cannot posit any contrary without violating a law of logic): it has nothing to do with what needs to be there for us to observe.
    Bob Ross

    We can't observe nothing, so we have to observe something. That something is the 'thing in itself'. Our representations of that observation are the way we view the world. As such we can never claim to identify or know "the thing in itself" only our observations of it.

    What you seem to be going for is whether spacetime is substantive or imaginative. Which is fine. I just wouldn't use the terminology 'the thing in itself' combined with any explanation of identity or assertions of what it must be. This sentence in particular:

    I find it very plausible that spatiotemporal relations are real constraints and properties of the things in themselves.Bob Ross

    We can't ascribe properties to things in themselves. We can represent thing as having properties, and that may, or may not match a thing in itself. Such things are outside of our knowledge. Like I said, it was a quibble of terminology, not a disagreement with the overall intent of your points.
  • L'éléphant
    1.4k
    It seems like denying spatiotemporal relations sideswipes all of knowable reality and replaces it is with a giant question mark, and makes reality (which we can speak of) phantasms.Bob Ross
    Space-time is always a part of existence. I don't know if "property" is the correct word. We can't perceive anything unless it's space-time because our constitution and the mechanism of perception is designed to function in space-time, nowhere else.

    I think, though, you might be thinking of the "temporal" definition such that something is perceived in a particular unit of time or sequentially. I always have a hard time trying to explain this, so I hope I am making sense. Human cognition is temporal, that is: sequentially; but a computer memory is not.

    Here is an explanation:

    An example is the human feeling of impatience or tiredness -- something took too long to finish or to arrive. A computer will not have an accompanying subjective feeling of tiredness for waiting, or boredom from waiting, or simply, giving up because something is taking too long to complete. Or a computer will not have the feeling of unfairness because a first-come-first-serve rule is violated.

    Another attempt at explanation: If I am walking in a street and see a tall electric tower, I expect that tower to be there on my way back using the same route. I can even gauge at what time I'm going to see it again given the length and distance I've traveled so far.

    PS: I am better at 'getting it', rather than explaining it.
  • substantivalism
    206
    You seem to be giving a sparknote of the landscape, but I am more interested in what your take is on space and time. What do you think?Bob Ross

    In lieu of my sparknote comments, I tend to want to think of them more as metaphorical tools in the physicists/philosophers tool box rather than as 'substances' or 'emergent non-thing's'. Think of how we use spatialized language to talk about time and how popular its gotten since Minkowski or Einstein (whether they intended it or not). Rather than think of such a language as wrong/right or as properly 'carving nature at its joints' rather we should consider it to be nothing more than poetic/practical story telling. Beautiful metaphor that overlaps in certain ways with certain intuitions and clashes with others while not being too overly comfortable. Course, sometimes that type of story telling outlives its usefulness. . . or leads us astray in a practical sense. . . so perhaps rather than the spatialization of time we go towards a temporalization of space instead as Milič Čapek has presented.

    Perhaps, its time for a language that is reductionist about time but realist about space as quantum theories of gravity seem to 'gravitate' (no pun intended) towards rather classical views of absolute simultaneity. . . ergo. . . the language of Newtonian space realism might resurge once again with a few tweaks. Perhaps before I'm dead. . . it will go into hibernation again.

    If there is a lesson I've learned from meta-philosophy and all those who have been advocating for dissolving these discussions, to put them into the irrelevancy bin, its that they may not disagree on as much as you think they do. A-theory or B-Theory of time. . . spacetime realism vs. anti-realism. . . emergentism vs. non-emergentism. They say a myriad of the same things and only differ when important, indeterminate/subjective, decisions of practicality in terms of scientific advancement (or personal worldviews) comes to light.

    A scientist likes his spacetime realism and the concreteness of it to do abstract work. The lived person might enjoy more the process philosophy of Whitehead to understand the onward flux of appearances. Not that you couldn't combine the two or intermingle to your hearts content.
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    My point is I don't think you need to introduce space as a 'thing in itself'

    Space as thing in itself is a necessarily postulation for this OP, because it is explorer which position is best to take on that subject: should space to be considered purely our form of experience, a substance, or objective relations?

    If it is a substance or an objective relation, then it is, in this sense, a thing in itself.

    Anytime we try to define a 'thing in itself" beyond the barest logical necessity of its existence, we have to remember that we can't.

    I think that our experience is an indirect window into reality and, as such, is indirect knowledge of the things in themselves; so we can say things about them beyond assigning them a giant question mark.

    What is it for something to be purely relational? We have to relate something. And that thing has to exist somewhere in some form.

    The objects, as they are in themselves, would exist without any literal motion, extension, or temporality; but, each object would be related to the other in such a way that they have temporal ordering, and spatial properties.

    Back to the video game analogy, imagine a game with no code to render anything onto a monitor: instead, it just gives the player a prompt. Imagine this game is about a character that lives in a 3D world, so the character has spatial properties (like width, height, etc.) and spatial relations to other objects (e.g., 3 feet from the door, etc.). Even though there are spatial properties and relations, there is no literal extension because there is no monitor to represent it with extension: it just has a prompt.

    Ah, that's your target. I don't think you need "a thing in itself" to prove this. All you have to note is that objects represent things in themselves, and that space is a property of objects

    If space is only a property of objects, then space is not a substance and is not real; but, rather, the pure form of one’s experience.

    I mean, all you have to do to a nihilist is ask them to volunteer to have a rock dropped on them from above if they don't think its real. :D


    That's just silly then. A good ol' rousing game of "Drop the rock" will cure that.

    Not at all. Neither nihilists nor transcendentalists deny that we experience objects in space and time. That’s not what is under contention here.

    We can't know because we cannot identify or know a thing in itself beyond it correlation or violations of our perceptions and judgements.

    We can nevertheless use our experience to ground sufficient justification for believing that space is a substance or not. Just because our knowledge is not 100% certain nor that it is contingent on our representative faculty, does not entail it is not knowledge.

    We can't ascribe properties to things in themselves. We can represent thing as having properties, and that may, or may not match a thing in itself

    If we consistently and collectively experience an object with a property and we have no good reasons to doubt that object has the said property, then we are justified in believing the object in-itself has that property.
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    I understood your points and don't really disagree with them; but I am unsure as to whether you believe space and time are substances or not. What do you think?
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    Is sounds like you are saying that you do not believe space and time are substances nor that they are objective relations or properties of objects, is that correct?
  • substantivalism
    206
    Is sounds like you are saying that you do not believe space and time are substances nor that they are objective relations or properties of objects, is that correct?Bob Ross

    I attempt to be 'quiet' about the choice metaphysically speaking. Whether they are substances or pure relations are question only with answers internally (in Carnap's sense) to a particular language. The choice between them is pragmatic and if anything more impulsive a choice. . . I.E. asking which is "correct" is an external question which is subjective at its core.

    Course, I'm also using Carnap in a sense that is. . . hopefully. . . differentiated from the analytic/synthetic distinction and rather is founded on our intuitive sense of metaphor.
  • L'éléphant
    1.4k
    I understood your points and don't really disagree with them; but I am unsure as to whether you believe space and time are substances or not. What do you think?Bob Ross
    They are not substances. If you recall Aristotle, and others, have written about things like substance, form, essence, etc., all within the template of space-time, and never outside of it. We cannot separate space-time from the universe, therefore we cannot separate space-time from existence. It is a zone -- a multi-dimensional zone in which things exist. To speak of space-time as thing in itself is nonsensical. A thing in itself is anything that has its own properties and dimension existing within space-time. Tangible objects are things. Humans are things. But a universe is not a thing.
  • Philosophim
    2k
    Anytime we try to define a 'thing in itself" beyond the barest logical necessity of its existence, we have to remember that we can't.

    I think that our experience is an indirect window into reality and, as such, is indirect knowledge of the things in themselves; so we can say things about them beyond assigning them a giant question mark.
    Bob Ross

    Then you're ascribing an identity to a thing in itself. There is no indirect or direct knowledge of anything about a thing in itself besides the fact that it is logically necessary that there be something for us base our conceptions off of. Anything more is using our conceptions.

    The objects, as they are in themselves, would exist without any literal motion, extension, or temporality; but, each object would be related to the other in such a way that they have temporal ordering, and spatial properties.Bob Ross

    Once again you're ascribing something to a thing in itself that is unknowable. Motion, extension, and temporality are all our personal conceptions we ascribe to things in themselves, but they are never knowledge of the thing in itself. The thing in itself is outside of knowledge. Using the term objects is fine. Ascribing anything to a thing in itself is impossible.

    The game analogy doesn't work here either. There is no 3D in a video game. Its math combined with a spatial illusion.

    Ah, that's your target. I don't think you need "a thing in itself" to prove this. All you have to note is that objects represent things in themselves, and that space is a property of objects

    If space is only a property of objects, then space is not a substance and is not real; but, rather, the pure form of one’s experience.
    Bob Ross

    Its real because it affects us despite our perceptions. That's the 'drop a rock game' :D I can perceive all I want how things will be or turn out, but the result will happen anyway. That undeniable effect is caused by 'the thing in itself'. How we describe and see that thing in itself is everything Bob. The thing in itself is beyond human knowledge. Everything is our attempts at describing what is real, even the description of, "the thing in itself". That's why you only use the thing in itself as a logical necessary footnote. Anything else is overstepping what the concept is meant to be.

    That's just silly then. A good ol' rousing game of "Drop the rock" will cure that.

    Not at all. Neither nihilists nor transcendentalists deny that we experience objects in space and time. That’s not what is under contention here.
    Bob Ross

    We experience everything. If they mean the pure form of experience is something that does not represent reality, that's what empirical testing is for. They can claim space does not represent reality, but then we can test it and show that it is. If they're talking about something else, it sounds like its gobbledygook.

    We can't know because we cannot identify or know a thing in itself beyond it correlation or violations of our perceptions and judgements.

    We can nevertheless use our experience to ground sufficient justification for believing that space is a substance or not. Just because our knowledge is not 100% certain nor that it is contingent on our representative faculty, does not entail it is not knowledge.
    Bob Ross

    Absolutely, but knowledge is never about the thing in itself. Knowledge is our conception of reality that tries to not contradict whatever the thing in itself is. We can never know in any way, shape, or form, what a thing in itself is besides the fact that something must exist for us to perceive and make concepts about.

    We can't ascribe properties to things in themselves. We can represent thing as having properties, and that may, or may not match a thing in itself

    If we consistently and collectively experience an object with a property and we have no good reasons to doubt that object has the said property, then we are justified in believing the object in-itself has that property.
    Bob Ross

    No, we are not justified in believing a thing in itself has that property. Properties are our perception of a thing in itself. A thing in itself is what it is, regardless of our perception of it. Does our perception of the thing in itself align without being contradicted? Then it means, at the time, its viable to use as a concept without contradiction. That is all. A concept not being contradicted by the thing in itself does not mean that it in any way captures what the thing in itself, as the thing in itself is that which concepts are laid upon, but not what it is in itself.
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    Then you're ascribing an identity to a thing in itself. There is no indirect or direct knowledge of anything about a thing in itself besides the fact that it is logically necessary that there be something for us base our conceptions off of. Anything more is using our conceptions.

    So this just depends on whether one believes one can have knowledge of the things-in-themselves or not; and I think we are basically saying the same thing—but our schemas are different.

    I would say we ascribe properties to the things-in-themselves conditionally [as conditioned by the human understanding]; whereas, you would say we ascribe properties to things and things-in-themselves are completely ineffable as a pure negative conception.

    Either way, the OP is about whether or not space and time are properties of things or things-in-themselves (depending on which description you like best above) and what nature they would have.

    Its real because it affects us despite our perceptions. That's the 'drop a rock game' :D

    There is nothing about space and time in terms of literal extension and temporality that affects you despite your perceptions: an object affects you despite your perceptions of it—not space nor time.

    We experience everything. If they mean the pure form of experience is something that does not represent reality, that's what empirical testing is for. They can claim space does not represent reality, but then we can test it and show that it is. If they're talking about something else, it sounds like its gobbledygook.

    You do not experience space and time: they are the forms of your experience.

    If by empirically test them you are referring to scientific tests of how space and time behave (e.g., special/general relativity), then none of it requires space and time to exist (e.g., time dilation is just one’s representative faculties representing temporal sequences differently depending on speed of light and gravitational displacement, etc.). There’s always to metaphysical ways of interpreting that stuff, at its core: there’s actual time and space that affect oneself (and one’s representative faculties are representing that) or one’s representative faculties represent things in space and time differently depending on what it is interpreting as there in reality).
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    They are not substances. If you recall Aristotle, and others, have written about things like substance, form, essence, etc., all within the template of space-time, and never outside of it. We cannot separate space-time from the universe, therefore we cannot separate space-time from existence. It is a zone -- a multi-dimensional zone in which things exist. To speak of space-time as thing in itself is nonsensical. A thing in itself is anything that has its own properties and dimension existing within space-time. Tangible objects are things. Humans are things. But a universe is not a thing.

    It sounds like you are saying they don’t exist in reality at all, and then noting that we cannot think them away.
  • Philosophim
    2k
    So this just depends on whether one believes one can have knowledge of the things-in-themselves or not; and I think we are basically saying the same thing—but our schemas are different.Bob Ross

    Things-in-themselves are not things-as-ascribed. As soon as you being to ascribe something to a thing-in-itself, it is now a thing-as-ascribed. The entire point about using the term thing-in-itself is to give an abstract of something as it exists apart from our ascription.

    I would say we ascribe properties to the things-in-themselves conditionally [as conditioned by the human understanding]; whereas, you would say we ascribe properties to things and things-in-themselves are completely ineffable as a pure negative conception.Bob Ross

    This is true. I think your viewpoint is a mis-application of what a thing-in-itself is. We can never understand a thing-in-itself. If you think you can, then you're just using a thing-as-ascribed and losing the meaning of what a thing-in-itself is.

    Let me tell you why this is an important distinction. What if all of reality is an illusion created by an evil demon Bob? As in, the thing itself which is unknowable. The illusion contradicts you when you deny space or time, but outside of the evil demon's illusions, space and time do not exist. A character in a 3D game will never know they are actually 2D, yet the rules of the world will make it think it is. A brain in a vat will never know that its a brain in a vat, yet the rules of the world will make it think its not. All the character has in each world is ascriptions. They are ascribing something, but what that something is, is forever unknowable.

    And to clarify, these are examples of the abstract of, "That which can never be ascribed to." It is the forever unknowable underlying reality that exists in itself, not as any type of ascription or identity we can give it. We can interpret it through our perceptions and identities, but it will never capture the essence of what it is in itself, only as we ascribe it.

    Either way, the OP is about whether or not space and time are properties of things or things-in-themselves (depending on which description you like best above) and what nature they would have.Bob Ross

    Right, space and time are properties of things. These are representations we view in reality that are not contradicted by the thing in itself, so it works for us. It is impossible to know if our representations capture the thing in itself, as that is something that is beyond ascription.

    Its real because it affects us despite our perceptions. That's the 'drop a rock game' :D

    There is nothing about space and time in terms of literal extension and temporality that affects you despite your perceptions: an object affects you despite your perceptions of it—not space nor time.
    Bob Ross

    Doesn't time have to pass for the rock to fall? Doesn't the rock have to have mass, and therefore space, to bonk me on the head? I'm not understanding your claim here.

    You do not experience space and time: they are the forms of your experience.Bob Ross

    Since space and time are concepts that we create and experience, saying they are forms seems redundant. Otherwise you get into sentences like, "We experience this form of experience, which in this case is the form of space." Its much simpler to just note, "We experience space". Both say the same thing with a lot less unnecessary complication right?

    at its core: there’s actual time and space that affect oneself (and one’s representative faculties are representing that) or one’s representative faculties represent things in space and time differently depending on what it is interpreting as there in reality).Bob Ross

    Right, space and time are not illusionary concepts. Despite our attempts to ascribe them as illusionary, they defy our beliefs by bonking us on the head. Does that mean we can every capture what the underlying 'thing in itself' that our ascription of space is allowed to coexist without contradiction? No.
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    I don’t think you are entirely understanding what is under contention the OP; so let me try to convey it using your more traditional, Kantian, usage of the term ‘thing-in-itself’.

    Just to clarify the terminology, as I am understanding you to mean it (roughly), a ‘thing’ is a sensible object; a ‘thing-in-itself’ is that ‘thing’ as it is independently of any sensibility; a ‘noumena’ is an insensible object (for us); and a ‘phenomena’ is the ‘thing’ as it is perceived, and not merely sensed.

    Ok, with the terms out of the way, you seem to be taking the traditional, Kantian approach that a thing-in-itself, being that it is how a ‘thing’ is independently of any sensibility, is completely unknowable—which makes sense granted the terms I just outlined.

    So, the OP’s contentions do not revolve around one denying this schema (outlined above) or the conclusions therefrom: the question would just need to be refactored slightly.

    Instead of asking “is space and time properties of the things-in-themselves and, if so, what are their natures?”, the question would be “is space and time at least in part a posteriori and, if so, what can we say about their natures?”.

    In other words, you have shifted the conversation from things-in-themselves to things, and the question then shifts to whether or not things should be attributed as having spatiotemporal properties or if spatiotemporal properties are only the modes by which we cognize and intuit objects (i.e., pure a priori).

    Claiming that “because we experience things in space and time, space and time must be properties of things” does not hold, because that we experience things in space and time would be equally true if they are pure a priori.

    Hopefully that helps clarify, as I think we have derailed a bit into our differences in use of the term ‘thing-in-itself’.

    Bob
  • Philosophim
    2k
    Hopefully that helps clarify, as I think we have derailed a bit into our differences in use of the term ‘thing-in-itself’.Bob Ross

    Yes, well done Bob! As I noted from the beginning, I did not have any real issue with the arguments, just the use of thing-in-itself.
  • L'éléphant
    1.4k
    It sounds like you are saying they don’t exist in reality at all, and then noting that we cannot think them away.Bob Ross
    How is a whole paragraph of my answer not show at all that spacetime don't exist?
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    Because you said "They are not substances" and:

    We cannot separate space-time from the universe, therefore we cannot separate space-time from existence. It is a zone -- a multi-dimensional zone in which things exist. To speak of space-time as thing in itself is nonsensical. A thing in itself is anything that has its own properties and dimension existing within space-time. Tangible objects are things. Humans are things. But a universe is not a thing.

    Which sounded to me like you were arguing that we cannot determine what is exactly a posteriori and what is a priori, and that space/time are so entrenched in our thinking (being the forms of our experience) that we cannot make sense of a world without it.

    This sounds like space and time for you are just the forms of our experience, and we cannot say anything about reality as it is in itself because we cannot think away these forms.

    Was I misunderstanding?
  • L'éléphant
    1.4k
    Which sounded to me like you were arguing that we cannot determine what is exactly a posteriori and what is a priori, and that space/time are so entrenched in our thinking (being the forms of our experience) that we cannot make sense of a world without it.

    This sounds like space and time for you are just the forms of our experience, and we cannot say anything about reality as it is in itself because we cannot think away these forms.

    Was I misunderstanding?
    Bob Ross
    Yes, you were misunderstanding. Your conception of spacetime is metaphysical, but what I was trying to explain is it is more than metaphysical -- in fact, we should start with Einstein's spacetime continuum, which consists of the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension which is time. He posits that spacetime can shift shape.

    So with that under consideration, space and time are, in fact, a physical reality. My starting point that human cognition is temporal (as well as spatial) is well within the dimensions of spacetime.
  • MoK
    107
    Yes, you were misunderstanding. Your conception of spacetime is metaphysical, but what I was trying to explain is it is more than metaphysical -- in fact, we should start with Einstein's spacetime continuum, which consists of the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension which is time. He posits that spacetime can shift shape.

    So with that under consideration, space and time are, in fact, a physical reality. My starting point that human cognition is temporal (as well as spatial) is well within the dimensions of spacetime.
    L'éléphant
    It can be shown that we are living in a block universe once we accept the special relativity. You might be interested to read this.
  • Bob Ross
    1k


    So with that under consideration, space and time are, in fact, a physical reality. My starting point that human cognition is temporal (as well as spatial) is well within the dimensions of spacetime.

    I see, so you are claiming space and time are substances—contrary to your original claim. Unless you are just noting that they are not separate substances when you said they are not substances.
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