Episode Twenty – Reviewing “A Rational Cosmology”, Part Two


Today are are continuing our discussion of “A Rational Cosmology”. We discuss space and matter and whether of them … matter!

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Episode Transcript

[Note: Please note that this transcript may not exactly match the audio. However, there should be no significant differences.]


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Hi everyone! This is episode twenty of the Metaphysics of Physics podcast and today we are going to continue our discussion of “A Rational Cosmology”, a book we started discussing in episode seventeen of the podcast. You might want to listen to that first. You can find the link to that episode in the transcript.

Today we are going to continue our discussion of the book and spend more time discussing some of the book’s philosophical issues.

We are still on some basic metaphysical issues. In this article, we will discuss space and matter. Why there is no such physical entity as space but there is space as a relationship. Then we move on to the pervasive qualities of matter.

You can find the book at the link provided in the transcript.

Without any further ado, let us get started.

Essay XI: Why There is No Such Thing as Space

This essay starts on page 19. It starts off with this:

“There is no such thing as ‘space.’ In order to be defined as an entity, space would need to meet the first ontological corollary, which states that an entity is the sum of its qualities. In order to pass this test, space must have some qualities in the first place.

But space lacks any qualities whatsoever. ‘Space’ cannot be said to have mass or a finite volume. As previously proved, there is no finite boundary at which “space” officially ends, nor is there a finite shape that “the entirety of space” can be fit into. “

It is true, there is no such physical entity as space. It is a mental entity, a concept used to indicate relationships between positions. When the author says “entity” he is always discussing physical entities. We shall stick to this convention and when we say “entity” this what we are discussing unless we say otherwise.

Is an entity the sum of its qualities? No. That implies that qualities are primary. And that entities are made out of their qualities. Which is not the case. Physical entities exist and that implies that they possess qualities. If that is what the author means, then that is perfectly fine.

What is space?

It is a concept which indicates relationships between positions. What does this mean?

Suppose that we consider a room in our house, say the living room. The living room is that part of the house between the four walls of the living room and between those four walls is some “space”.

The “space” within that room simply indicates relationships between the positions of those four walls. One wall is over here, another wall is over there and the other two are other there and there. In between is all this space. The space essentially refers to the separation between objects. This “space” then forms some area or volume in which you can find things.

The space in this room is simply a sum of places.

Space is simply the relationships between boundaries of some kind of container or some otherwise defined set of bounding objects.

So, for instance, you can walk into the living room and say “Well, we have these walls. They are in different positions. There are other positions in between them.”. And the sum of those other positions is the “space” inside the room.

Does this imply that there are no other things in those positions? No. The concept of position only applies to entities and only entities can have a position. There is no position of “a non-entity” or of nothing. Position is a quality and a quality is a quality of something.

Is this space absence of being? Early philosophers tended to think so. But this is not the case. There is no such thing as empty space.

What would empty space refer to? Some kind of “here” where there are no entities. Where nothing exists. But, how can there be any here without something that exists? How can there be any here separate from anything that exists? Unless there is a something there is no here.

Hence, there is no such thing as “empty” space. Or in other words, there is only space where there are things with position. To allege the existence of empty space is to talk about position without entities to have position and is a contradiction in terms.

There is no empty space in outer space! Or anywhere in the vast universe!
There is stuff in all of it!

No, space is not the absence of objects. It is not some backdrop upon which you can lay things that exist. For there to be any space, something must already exist.

Is it a combination of dimensions, as alleged by modern physics? Most certainly not. What would that even mean?

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