Alright, let us start to cover the book itself. But, where to start? Hmm…
What the Universe Is and Is Not…
This is the first part of chapter one and is the fifth essay. It starts on page 11.
“The term ‘universe’ does not denote an entity, however. It is the sum of all entities that exist. It is not a “whole” in the sense that a person, a planet, or a star is a “whole”
That is true. The term “universe” is “the totality of all things that exist”.
As such, it is not an entity. By which, Stolyarov presumably means a solid, physical thing. A thing which one can point to and say, “this is what I am talking about”.
He then goes on to point out that the universe is neither a quality nor a relationship.
It should be fairly obvious why “the totality of all that exists” is not a quality. What could all the things that exist be a quality of?
“Nor is the universe a relationship. A relationship is an interaction between or among several entities that affects, in some manner, the qualities of these entities”
A relationship need not be an interaction. Relationships can also refer to commonalities between entities. Such as shared qualities. Or ways in which facts about one entity implies things about another entity. Or a causal connection between certain events.
For instance, humans and chimpanzees have a relationship between them. They would even if humans and chimpanzees never interacted.
They are related in the sense that they share common features. And in the sense in which man is also an ape, man must share all defining characteristics of an ape.
Or, take a parent and their children. They are related in several senses. Such as the fact that the children share their parents’ DNA.
And that the children are descended from their parents, which describes a causal connection between the event of their parents mating and the birth of the children.
Nor need a relationship affect the qualities of the relevant entities. A chimpanzee and a human may be related, but this relationship in no way affects the qualities of any living human or chimpanzee.
They are related even if no human or chimpanzee ever interacted with and hence affected each other.
What about relationships between abstractions?
One and two are numbers, which are abstractions. Two is evidently related to the number one. Yet, the numbers one and two do not interact with each other. Nor does it make any sense to speak of numbers “interacting”.
His main argument that the universe is not a relationship seems to hinge on the fact that:
“The term ‘universe’ implies no actions by any entity”
Which reinforces that he thinks relationships involve actions. Which need not be the case. Actions and interactions are not essential to the concept of “relationship”.
A better argument would be that a relationship requires some connection between two or more entities. Or between two or more attributes of a thing. Since the term “universe” already includes everything, what else could there be for it to be related to?
The point is that a “relationship” extends beyond “interaction”. Things do not need to interact to share a relationship. Nor do relationships have to affect the qualities of related entities.
He then points out that the term “universe” is simply shorthand for everything that exists. As opposed to separately listing out everything that exists. Which is obviously impossible and pointless.
Or as opposed to saying “everything that exists” all the time.
This we agree with, of course.
The Impossibility of the Universe Having a Shape, Boundary, or Edge
This is the sixth part of chapter two and is essay number ten. It starts on page 18.
Believe it or not, some physicists like to discuss the “shape” of the universe. They propose that it is donut shaped or torus-shaped or whatever.
They like to ask if it has an edge. Or some kind of boundary?
The author correctly points out that the universe cannot have a shape:
“Shape is a quality pertaining to an entity; it is a quality derived from a given entity’s measurements in three spatial dimensions, such measurements being a topic for later discussion. ‘Boundary’ is another quality derived from the quantitative extent of a given entity’s measurements in three spatial dimensions. Wherever these measurements end is the entity’s boundary.”
It is true, shape pertains to entities. Shape is an abstract concept which identifies certain spatial relationships.
When I say that a piece of paper is “round”, I am simply identifying certain spatial relationships which describe the relationship between the edges of the piece of paper.