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Aristotle's physics properly deconstruct

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One of the people who played an important  part is liberating our thought from the clutches of Aristotle's metaphysics  is  Galileo.  He wrote a thorough deconstruction of Aritstotle's "On the Heaven"  and "Physics" in his (Galileo's)  great book  "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems".  You can  get a fine English translation of this work with a foreword by Albert Einstein.  In addition to being of the the early great physicists Galileo was a fine writer.  In the translation of "Dialogue"  I referenced  his wit  and mordant criticism of Aristotle comes through even in the English translation by Stillman Drake.   You really would be well advised to avoid  getting in a debate with Galileo.  His  wit and words  are razor sharp  and will draw blood (intellectually speaking).

Another book to read  is  "The Galileo Affair"  a documentary history by Maurice A. Finocchiaro  which has within it a translation of  several of Galileo's  letters.  I particularly recommend you read Galileo's letter to the Grand Duchess Christian.  She was the grand dame of the Medici family who supported Galileo in his works on astronomy and his inventions.  In this letter Galileo  establishes the importance of empirically based science in relation to Philosophy and Theology.  You should recall that Galileo lived Italy at a time when the Catholic Church was extremely powerful  not only intellectually but politically as well.  Recall that Giadarno Bruno was burned alive (in 1600)  for his heresies.  Many of the points  that Galileo made in the letter to the Grand Duchess are still valid  today,  perhaps even moreso.  Galileo insisted that the Philosopher and Theologians not make pronouncements about the nature of the physical world even if they derive their conclusion from Scripture.  He pointed out that if physical science can soundly contradict scripture (which it often does)  then our interpretations of Scripture must be altered,  not the scientific  refutation.  What he said about Scripture also applies  to the writing of Aristotle,  which in  17 th century  Catholic Italy were held in has high esteem  as Scripture. 

In "Dialogue"  one of the three interlocutors Simplicio was a mouthpiece for the Aristotelian view on physics and astronomy.  Galileo in the person of the interlocutor Salvati  makes mincemeat out of Simplicio.

Unfortunately for Galileo,  his character Simplicio was seen as  a  cartoon  of Pope Urban VIII,  Mafeo Barbarini,  who was at one time a friend of Galileo.   The Pope did not take kindly to the satirical manhandling that Galileo did  on the  cartoonish surrogate  Simplicio.   

In addition to being a genius and a literary whizbang,  Galileo was also quite arrogant and loved to humiliate his intellectual and political opponents.  Ultimately it was Galileo's literary overkill that put him in the meat grinder of the Inquisition.   He wrote the book in Italian so many could read and understand it,  and his satire and treatment of poor Simplicio was dreadfully unkind.  Had Galileo exercised some literary discretion he could have made all the points he made without being harshly dealt with by the Inquisition.   But that was not the way Galileo was.  He was a wrangler,  a wrestler and a fighter in the realm of dispute and idea.   This ended up with him living the last 8 years of his life under house arrest. 

Galileo was a thorough extrovert who liked talking, writing and even fighting with others.  But  it took  a neurotic introvert   Isaac Newton to finally put Physics on the right path.   Galileo was one of the Giants on whose shoulders  Newton stood.  Newton himself  was a psychologically distorted person who was abandoned by his mother and put in the care of a grandparent.  Newton never got over that.  Even so, Newton was one of the smartest people who ever live.  He invented calculus,  differential equations  and physical mechanics.  Although Newton's physics have been falsified to some extent by Relativity and Quantum theory,  they are so close to being right that virtually all space navigation is does using celestial mechanics based on Newton's theory.  In any case the joining of mathematics and physics  is still the style in which advanced physics is done today.  In a sense,  Newton, a thorough anti-Aristotelian invented modern physics as we know it. 

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Here are a few letters that came up with the search word Newton and Science.

Peter

 

From below: I believe this classical usage is what Rand had in mind when (in ITOE), she wrote: "Epistemology is a science devoted to the discovery of the proper methods of acquiring and validating knowledge. Ethics is a science devoted to the discovery of the proper methods of living one's life." [She also refers to grammar as "a science dealing with the formulation of the proper methods of verbal expression and communication, i.e., the methods of organizing words (concepts) into sentences."]

 

From: Ellen Lewit To: atlantis Subject: The facts of Reality Date: Mon, 28 May 2001 15:49:13 -0400. I am adding in some ideas in case it may help to clear up the fact vs truth debate.  It is in relation to the term "fact". I'm not quoting anyone, just throwing out the ideas as best I can. They are not original but since I accepted them and made them part of me, they are mine. This is a bit long so here is what I talked about. Summary: An explanation of how the facts fit into the objectivist development of metaphysics and epistemology. How we use the word "facts" and how it may lead to confusion. A bit about the contextual nature of knowledge.

 

Existence exists. This says that reality is really out there, it is not some construct made in someone's imagination.  Conscious beings are actually conscious of existence, rather than some copy or shadow of that which exists.  These are the axioms on which the rest is based. And they do take a position with respect to the important early questions of metaphysics, questions like: what exists and can I know about it?

 

That things are what they are - the law of identity - goes a bit farther and begins to discuss how we view existence - we are verging on epistemology.  To view any object - any thing - we must view it from some point of view with some sense organs.  There is simply no other way to be conscious.  Even if we talk about high level abstractions or abstract theories like the atomic theory, what we say is still based on someone's sense perception of objects.  (Dreams and fiction are dependent on memories of previously sensed objects.)

 

Now, since how we view any object depends heavily on our sense organs, we need a way to refer to the parts of reality that gave rise to our perceptions and further concepts built on them.  These parts we will later identify as the attributes and relationships between existents that allow us to view the concretes and to identify them. The word that is often used to denote these bare divisions of the overall flux that is reality without perceivers is "fact".

 

We speak of the facts of reality as those parts of reality apart from any way we may be viewing them.  Sometimes we back away a step and talk about our perceptions as the facts on which we base concepts. Sometime we even use facts to describe lower level concepts on which we base higher more abstract ones.  In all these cases, the word "fact" refers to the lower level of which we are more certain and on which we build to a higher level.  Since the word is used on several levels it may lead to some confusion.

 

Personally, in this argument, I would say that the facts are the parts of reality that just are and we as perceiving and later conceptual beings subdivide what we see into objects on the basis of those facts. We can't even talk about or describe the facts without reference to some other part of our knowledge, hence more confusion.

 

Another important point is that knowledge is contextual.  I think that it is one of the most profound, all encompassing observations that Ayn Rand made.  (It was not entirely new with her, but she explained its significance and pointed out how important it is and used the principle to explain many difficult issues in epistemology and ethics.)

 

It is so much a part of any knowledge and any consciousness that we tend to lose sight of its importance.  When one is speaking about any issue, there is a context to be aware of.  We use words in different ways in different contexts.  We even see different bits of reality as concrete objects based on our context - in this case, our sense organs and previous knowledge.  And to understand ourselves and/or each other we must consider the context in which each is thinking and speaking.

 

Why should it be so important that anyone, even Ayn Rand, be totally consistent in the use of words when it may be clear from the context what was being said?  Why is inconsistency some unforgiveable sin? After all, I may learn things tomorrow (and I hope to) that change some of the opinions I have today, my context would have altered.  I won't make fundamental changes without a very good reason, but even that can be possible if I reformulate the facts in a different format.

 

The history of physics is a good example of this, Newtonian physics did not deny all of the older Aristotelian ideas.  Isaac Newton simply knew more that Aristotle could because he had close to 2000 years of discoveries and better tools.  In his context, Aristotle described what he saw as well as he could.  Later, with the aid of many others, Newton put together the discoveries of his age and formulated a set of statements that are still the basis of our technology.

 

Albert Einstein took the evidence of experiments that teased at the edges of Newtonian mechanics and came up with another set of statements that described what happened at the extreme conditions. It did *not* invalidate Newton's laws, it only said at some extremes they needed expansion.

 

Quark theory (of which I know next to nothing) and whatever new theories may arise can be useful ways of viewing reality, but do not and will not invalidate Newton or even most of the older physics, because they are speaking from a different context viewing the same reality with different tools.  The general cases will reduce to the familiar ones used daily by all of us.  I don't need to know much about physics to know this will be the pattern, because it is a principle of how knowledge is formed, how people think - of epistemology, which is more fundamental than the science of physics.  The details and explanations will change but the fundamental knowledge will be kept.

 

When speaking of the facts we are talking about the underling reality of the issues we are discussing, which may be viewed in different ways. Maybe this helped a little, or opened up some new issues to discuss. At least, it is a different argument and I hope one bound less to who said what than the reality with which we all experience in varying contexts. Ellen Lewit

 

From: Ram Tobolski To: OWL Subject: OWL: Re: Light, Law & Order Date: Wed, 22 Jan 2003 18:45:19 +0200. This is a reply to Neil's post from 1/19. Again, what is at issue is Neil's claims that:

1. That there is law in the universe, but no order...

2. That light does not exist in the universe... but only for us.

 

1. Concerning Law & Order, I asked Neil to define the concepts, so that I could comprehend, how anything can be lawful, and yet without order.

 

Neil did not actually define these concepts, but he did present two arguments:

 

>So when Ram asks, "It seems to me, that anything which is lawful is also ordered, ipso facto," what does this question really mean? First, the referents for the terms "lawful" and "ordered" are different. Yes, the universe is lawful (conforming to natural law), and as human beings we *know* that the universe is lawful, and that as our knowledge of these laws increases so also does our knowledge become more structured, more ordered. The term “lawful" refers to the universe, while the term "ordered" refers to an evaluation of our knowledge, how organized or structured is it, is the arrangement regular and harmonious or irregular and inharmonious?

 

Here Neil's seems to say, that the concept "ordered" applies _only_ to the structure of knowledge, and to nothing else. And therefore the world cannot be "ordered". But this seems to me clearly untrue. "Ordered" may apply to rooms, desks, schedules, to the conduct of a person, and potentially to any sets and structures whatever. It has no special connection with what we know or don't know.

 

>Second, what Ram is doing with this question is conflating two different types of measurements and their underlying measurement scales. One is a categorical measurement and the other ordinal (or ratio possibly in some cases). And this is not allowed.

 

Here Neil seems to be saying that while "ordered" is relative (we can say that this room is more ordered than that one), "lawful" is not. Ok, I said that "lawful" implies "ordered". Ok, then "ordered" relative to what? Well, to begin with the actual world is ordered relative to a chaotic world, a world whose states and events are _random_ (not "random" in the limited sense that quantum physics talks about, but random overall). More generally, the fewer and simpler the laws, the more ordered the world is.

 

Example #1: Newton succeeded in synthesizing Kepler's physics of the heavens with Galileo's physics of earthly bodies, such that everything stems from a very few, simple laws. This means that the world, according to Newton, is more ordered than the world according to Kepler and/or Galileo.

 

Example #2: A free, individualist society is less ordered than a centralized, command society, because each person is a separate law.

 

And a question for Neil: If you now say that "ordered" does not apply to the world at all, it seems to me that you _cannot_ also say that the world is chaotic, a mish-mash; because that would be applying the concept "ordered" to the world. Do you agree?

 

2. Concerning Light: a. In a previous post (1/18) I claimed that "light" refers to that in the world, to that which _causes_ the light-experience. In his reply, Neil thinks that I forgot that the senses (the eyes) are part of the cause, too. Answer: No, I did not forget. It's just that this is not part of the concept. When I form the concept of light, I intend to capture something _in the world_. Therefore I intentionally put aside my own contribution to the cause of the experience, such as the parts that my senses and my brain play, and focus on the contribution of the world, of the not-I to the formation of the experience. My own contribution to the cause of the light-experience is not included in the concept of light (except negatively). And the same goes for most of our concepts of nature.

 

 

b. Neil asks me:  > Let me ask you a question Ram. If human beings, as a species, did not have eyeballs, would there be light in the universe?

 

Yes, of course.

 

>If you answer yes, I would ask you how you would know this? Remember, there is no one to tell you about this strange concept of "light" because no one can see it. So how would you know about it?

 

That's irrelevant. I know that _now_. It doesn't matter whether the people-without-eyeballs would know that light exists. Light exists, whether anybody knows about it, or not. It so happens, that we are _now_ in a position to know that light exists. And the kind of knowledge that we have about light suggests, that it would exist just the same whether anybody knew about it, or not.

 

>If human beings did not have eyeballs, they could still sense changes in the day by means of temperature, for example. They could even build a measuring device that would be sensitive to the energy  radiated by our sun (e.g., thermometer). But since these people-without-eyeballs would not know what light was, they would not call whatever it is they measure "light."

 

Not necessarily. Just as we can form the concept of an "infra-red light", even though we do not perceive it without added instruments, so the people-without-eyeballs may have formed the concept "light" even though they could identify the phenomenon only with the help of added instruments.

Ram

 

From: "George H. Smith" To: "*Atlantis" Subject: ATL: Re: Minor matters Date: Wed, 2 Oct 2002 17:56:36 -0500

Roger Bissell wrote: "For ~centuries~, intellectuals and scientists have been pursuing truth in a way that has resulted in the gradual separation of distinct fields of study from what was originally thought of as philosophy. Once Rand got into the picture, philosophy had already shrunken a great deal, and practitioners were trying to dissolve it away even further. IMO, a distinctive part of Rand's approach to philosophy (as others have mentioned) was to put it on a ~scientific basis~, to approach its fundamental questions like a scientist, looking for the ~facts~, using reason and logic to sort through the evidence, and forming (and revising where necessary) broad generalizations about the nature of reality, knowledge, and human life. I'm sure that other philosophers have ~tried~ to do this, but I think that Rand has been the most successful in pressing the case that it ~should~ be done and in indicating ~how~ to do so."

 

"However, I welcome comments from the neo-scholastic libertarian top-downers on the list, in the event that they have evidence to the contrary. :-)"

 

I think it is a mistake to view Rand as having attempted to place philosophy on a "scientific basis." For one thing, this smacks too much of the kind of positivism that Rand loathed. For another thing, on an number of occasions Rand clearly distinguished between the provinces of philosophy and science, while emphasizing the priority of philosophy and its crucial role in formulating the epistemological foundations of science (i.e., the "philosophy of science.").

 

As Roger well knows, efforts to put philosophy on a supposedly scientific footing date from at least the 18th Century Enlightenment, and such attempts became exceedingly popular during various positivistic movements during the 19th century. In the 20th Century, this attempt manifested itself in Logical Positivism, which was closely affiliated with the "unity of science" movement spearheaded by Carnap, Shlick, Reichenbach, and others.

 

I don't think it is accidental that Rand was vehemently opposed to these movements. Of course, it might be argued that she disagreed with the details of these efforts rather than with the agenda itself, but I cannot reconcile any such claim with her statements on this subject, which consistently treat philosophy as more *fundamental* than science.

 

There is considerable misunderstanding about the impact of the Scientific Revolution on the fortunes of philosophy. The scientific vanguard of the 17th century declared war against "scholasticism," by which they usually meant unjustified metaphysical speculations and the spinning out of scientific conclusions from mere concepts, with no empirical corroboration. (This is what Newton had in mind when he inveighed against "hypotheses," a word that had a much different connotation then than now.) Locke and others concluded that much of what had traditionally gone under the name of "metaphysics" was properly the domain of empirical science, and that philosophers should focus instead on epistemological issues. (It should be noted that the label "epistemology" wasn't coined until the 19th century, and when Locke, Hume, and others wrote books on human "understanding," they were really dealing with a mixture of theoretical epistemology and psychology.}

 

In short, the advance of science did not threaten to leave philosophy a discipline without a domain. What it did was to focus attention on the proper division of labor between philosophy and science.

 

Rand insisted that a correct approach to epistemology is the key to revitalizing philosophy, and that philosophy, in turn, is the foundation of science." ("Philosophy," she writes in ITOE, "is the foundation of science; epistemology is the foundation of philosophy.") In this respect Rand resembles Locke and other early empiricists. I say "early" because, in stressing that all knowledge originates in experience, Locke included "reflection" (i.e., introspection) as a major source of experience. But some later empiricists attacked introspection as unscientific, since it does not deal with observable phenomena that can be empirically verified by others. Hence Auguste Comte (whose influence on 19th thought was tremendous) rejected psychology as a mere pseudo-science, owing to the unverifiability of introspective claims, and this attitude later encouraged a behavioristic approach to psychology.

 

"Science" tends to be an value-laden, honorific  title. When someone wants to give an aura of respectability to his claims, he calls them "scientific" and condemns the beliefs of his adversaries as "unscientific." Yet there have been as many absurd beliefs defended in the name of "science" as those defended in the name "philosophy," and I daresay this trend continues even today.

 

The "look and see" method of empirical verification is not a monopoly of science. Indeed, I would question whether there is even a single "scientific method" per se, apart from the diverse methods of the special sciences. (This is certainly the case when dealing with economics and other "social sciences.")

 

According to an older usage, in which "science" denotes *any* systematic investigation or body of knowledge, philosophy was sometimes called "the science of first principles"; epistemology was called the "science of knowledge';  metaphysics was called "the science of being qua being," etc., etc. I have no objection to this usage, having myself called ethics "the science of human values" in *Atheism: The Case Against God* and elsewhere. But, when doing so, I always try to be clear that I am using "science" in its classical rather than contemporary sense.

 

I believe this classical usage is what Rand had in mind when (in ITOE), she wrote: "Epistemology is a science devoted to the discovery of the proper methods of acquiring and validating knowledge. Ethics is a science devoted to the discovery of the proper methods of living one's life." [She also refers to grammar as "a science dealing with the formulation of the proper methods of verbal expression and communication, i.e., the methods of organizing words (concepts) into sentences."]

 

According to the sociological conception of Thomas Kuhn, a "science" presupposes a community of thinkers who operate according to a common paradigm. It is therefore understandable why Kuhn does not regard philosophy as scientific. Stephen Toulmin (in *Human Understanding*) has argued that a scientific community addresses a common set of problems, and on this basis he condemns the "social sciences" (with the possible exception of economics) as "would-be disciplines." In *The Conditions of Philosophy,* Mortimer Adler maintains that a "science" is distinguished by its specialized subject matter, which differentiates it from the universal scope of philosophical investigations. This latter is the approach that I tend to agree with, and I think it was Rand's view as well. (Generally speaking, this might be called the Aristotelian approach.)

 

In the final analysis, I don't think anything worthwhile is accomplished by a pronouncement that philosophy will henceforth be made "scientific." Except in the sense I mentioned above, according to which any kind of systematic cognitive investigation qualifies as a "science," such programmatic utterances usually end up by cutting down the legitimate functions of philosophy so they will fit into the Procrustean bed of an inappropriate (i.e., supposedly "empirical") methodology. Ghs

 

From: "Dennis May" To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Question for Hard Determinists Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2001 14:16:22 -0500.

Douglas Wagoner wrote: >In a coffee discussion with someone the other day, a question occurred to me and I was hoping that someone that is actually a hard determinist could answer it for me.

That would be me.

>Since your subjective experience of the universe is the same as if you had free will, what is the cash value of acknowledging that you are the interaction of your molecules without the ghost in the machine? Being HD doesn't relieve you from what is effectively epistemology, ethics, politics, art etc.  You still have to behave as if all those things matter, right?  Aside from the issue of truth [which I grant is a big one] how does the HD position play out in your life?  Aren't you still having to make what amount to subjective free will based ethical choices?

 

You are correct.  The issue of truth and consistency is the primary driving factor but HD does not relieve you of everyday behavior.

 

>An analogy would be with quantum mechanisms.  For 99.999999% of my life, I will get by completely fine holding a Newtonian world view.  I use Newton to drive my car, to play catch with a dog, to learn to fly a plane, to obtain food etc.  So, while there is a certain level of truth to acknowledging QM in daily life, it doesn't change much about how I do it. Ad, no, the analogy doesn't map completely so please don't give me a list of the ways that QM changes everything about my life.  I have and enjoy making such lists.  The analogy maps closely enough, however, to get at what I am talking about.  I want the HD version of that list. What would change if I was fully a hard determinist?

 

People do not become fully hard determinists :-) by living ordinary lives.  Very, very few people have the background to understand the full implications of the terms objective, subjective, volition, and hard determinism or the sciences of information theory, quantum mechanics, and physics. Even fewer people have this background combined with a philosophical view of the world.  How would things change if you were to become a hard determinist? I wouldn't know.  I have been a hard determinist since I was 14-15 years old, some quarter century ago. I don't have any difficulty understanding people who don't hold the deterministic outlook.  I find it interesting the many things they will choose to believe instead.

 

I guess the place to start is to list the things you believe which cannot be true if hard determinism is true.  Submit it to hard determinists and see if they agree or not and why.  How will it change your life if you come to understand these things are not true?

 

I have seen a few people undergo religious changes, it usually involves drug use or a mental breakdown of some kind.  In other people it involves cumulative questions resulting in some type of crisis of confidence.  The result is falling into a new pattern of behavior not necessarily better than what they were used to before.

 

In my case I became increasing skeptical of the intelligence of authority figures beginning in 5th grade.  This skepticism increases with every passing year.  By the time I was 14-15 I became aware that there was no complete source of information to turn to giving answers any better than I was able to come up with myself.  My learning has never stopped but new information must always compete to find a place in the big consistent context of things.  Recent comments comparing me to a computer are not new to me, I've heard such comments many times from about 7th grade on.  I am a fairly serious person in some contexts and have been told I act like an old man since I was a young kid.  That doesn't stop me from enjoying "The Red Hot Chili Peppers", a fine looking babe, "Oh Brother, Where Art Thou", "Dune", high and low humor, or a great many other things people might not associate with what they picture me being like. I do not always fit the mold people attempt to place upon me.

 

I do not expect hard determinism to gain much ground any time soon.  It takes a great deal of work and requires thinking outside of the box presented by public education.  The many hurdles you have to overcome combined with the hostility you receive does not exactly provide encouragement.  It is about the truth, not trying to please the many other views out there.

 

Hard determinism was fashionable during the hay-days of scientific growth in the mid and late 1800's.

It is extremely unfashionable today but that's fickle fashion for you.

 

Ming Shan wrote: Dennis, how does your "brand" of determinism differ from Spinoza's? (If it does at all.)

 

Spinoza was before Newton's time so the real foundation for deterministic mechanics had yet to be described.

 

From the web site: http://www.friesian.com/spinoza.htm

 

<<Spinoza today is often cited by people who advocate a reductionistic scientism but who are willing to retain some traditional terminology, so that the term "God" adds nothing to the very same natural world described by science. This overlooks a great deal of Spinoza's metaphysics, ...

 

We find the answer to this question in the realization that Spinoza is not entirely a modern thinker and that his God in fact has antecedents in the Middle Ages. It is too easy to get carried away with the evident conformity of Spinoza's system to the requirements of science and overlook the foot that it still has planted firmly in Mediaeval Jewish mysticism. ...A reductionistic scientism that wants to claim Spinoza as one of its own typically overlooks this aspect of the theory:  Spinoza's God thinks, and also is or does many other thinks that are beyond our reckoning and comprehension.>>

 

The Spinoza God of Einstein has been replaced by mystical interpretations of quantum mechanics and mystical human mental abilities.  I accept none of the above.  I'm a plain old Hard Determinist without god or mysticism. Dennis May

 

From: Ram Tobolski To: OWL Subject: OWL: Re: Concepts of Science: Movement, and the Paradox of the Arrow Date: Tue, 12 Mar 2002 00:06:06 +0200

Concerning my mentioning of the concept of momentary speed, and of its alleged importance during the birth of modern science, Dan Gibson wrote: << Next, there isn't any speed during a moment.  Speed is a relationship, it needs two points to exists.  In order to derive a "momentary speed", reference would need to be made to a previous moment. i.e. two snapshots, with location data and time data, then and only then can a speed be derived.  >>

 

This is a welcome response. We can probably better understand the confusing concept Momentary Speed by examining what kind of concept Speed is.

 

Dan says that speed is a "relationship". It is not so clear to me what does he mean by "relationship". We have in philosophy that distinction between "property" and "relation". A Property belongs to one thing, or to a part of it, for example "x is red". A relation connects two or more things, for example "x is taller than y".

 

Initially, at least, Speed seems to be a property, not a relation. It is a property of a body, one body. But, next, speed (like most properties) is relative to time. A body may have speed s1 at time t1 and speed t2 at time t2. What Dan says, apparently, is that Speed is not intelligible at a moment, but only between two moments. Not "x has speed s1 at the moment t1" but "x has speed s1 between the moments t1 and t2". What would the speed, numerically? I guess d/(t2-t1), where d is the distance that x traversed between the times t1 and t2. Speed is distance divided by time.

 

I disagree. The speed that Dan seems to be referring to is the _average_ speed in the interval between t1 and t2. But like the average person, which is no person in particular, the average speed is no speed in particular.

 

Speed, I say, is a property of a body in a _single_ moment. To prove this, I invite you to think about the _impact_ of a falling body, e.g. a stone. Let's say I drop a stone from the roof of my house. Imagine the impact of the stone if it hits something after it falls one meter. Now imagine the impact of the stone if it hits something after it falls ten meters.

 

The impact of the stone, we know from Newton, is m*v, where m is the mass of the stone, and v is the velocity (speed) of the stone _at_the_moment_of_impact_ (I ignore the effects of the shape of the stone). And since the mass of the stone is constant during the fall, the impact is proportional to the speed  at_the_moment of impact. It is not dependent on any other moment.

 

So, speed is a momentary property. It is not that the moment exists "in isolation". The speed of a body at a moment says something about the movement of the body "in the environment" of that moment. Not in any set environment, in any environment, as small as we please. The speed at a moment thus depends somehow on the neighboring moments, but is does not depend on any one moment in particular.

  

About Dan's distinction between "existence" and "occurrence": I'll welcome further thoughts on this subject. Ram

 

From: Ram Tobolski To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: Concepts of Science: Movement, and the Paradox of the Arrow Date: Tue, 12 Mar 2002 01:54:51 -0800 (PST)

 

David Potts keeps saying that he has nothing new to say about the subject, and then surprisingly he says something new and important. Keep it up...

 

David quoted my quotation of Aristotle's response to Zeno's paradox of the arrow:

>Here is what he [sc. Aristotle] wrote (Physics book VI  >section 9, pages 239b5-239b8):

 >

 >"Zeno's reasoning is invalid. He claims that if it is always true that a thing is at rest when it is opposite to something equal to itself, and if a moving object is always in the now, then a moving arrow is motionless. But this is false, because time is not composed of indivisible now’s, and neither is any other magnitude."

In other words, moments ("now’s") do not exist. And furthermore, extension-less points do not exist, in any context!

 

And then he replies: I do not think that the correct way to interpret Aristotle's often repeated claims that "time is not composed of individual now’s" and a magnitude is not composed of points is to say that moments and points do not exist. Aristotle certainly believed that moments and points do exist. His point was rather that spans of time and magnitudes of space are not _composed_ of indivisible now’s or extension-less points.

 

David says, then, that Aristotle did not intend that "now’s" or moments (duration-less, indivisible points of time) did not exist, but merely that time is not "composed" of them. Similarly, in geometry, that points do exist, but that lines are not "composed" of points.

 

What is this "composition" about? David writes: << If you tried to build a line by placing points next to one another, how long would it take? The answer is, _forever_! In fact, you could never even get started. For points don't take up any space (even in only one dimension). That is what it is to say that points are extension-less. Again, suppose you began dividing a line repeatedly into smaller and smaller segments. How long before you reach points? Obviously, as before, you _never_ do. >>

 

So, by "composition" David seems to mean something like: Lines cannot be _constructed_ from points in a finite process, in a process that would take a finite amount of time. This is of course true, because the number of points in a line (if we agree that there are points in a line) is infinite. However, I cannot agree that this was Aristotle's position, i.e. that indivisible moments did exist, but that intervals of time could not be constructed out of moments.

 

And I can presents two reasons for my disagreement, one more specific and immediate and one more general and remote: If this were Aristotle's position, it would be no answer to the paradox of the arrow! The paradox of the arrow concerns a _single_ moment, a single point. So to the paradox of the arrow it is immaterial whether lines can be constructed of points or not. It is merely about a single point!

 

David had in mind, perhaps, another one of Zeno's paradoxes, which is known (if I recall) as the Dichotomy. It says, briefly, that if you intend to cover a distance of one mile, you have to cover a distance of half a mile first. Again, you have to cover a distance of quarter of a mile first. And so on, ad infinitum. Therefore it seems that you can never get started...

 

2. The idea of construction, which David relates to Aristotle, was actually alien to Aristotle's thought, as far as I'm presently acquainted with it, even outside the context of infinity. In general, in Aristotle's thought wholes were never constructed out of their parts. A human body, for example, is not constructed out of its organs. An arm gets to be a living organ because it is part of a living body, and not the other way around! Even a house is not constructed out of bricks, cement etc. All these are necessary, but not sufficient. As Aristotle would put it, the essence of the house is its form; and the cause of a house's form is not the forms of its parts, but the idea of the house's form in the architect's mind.

 

Aristotle was a holist, in this sense. For him, wholes were prior to their parts.

Ram

 

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: ALT:  Massless Motion? Date: Tue, 17 Sep 2002 17:16:24 -0400

Michael Carrigher writes: Is massless motion the same thing as "entityless" action?  If not, how do the two differ?  If so, isn't the whole concept a contradiction due to the conflation of epistemology (knowledge of the measurement of subatomic particles) and metaphysics (the reality of the existence of subatomic particles)?  >If I have this right, massless motion is hypothesized due to the inability to measure precisely the mass of various subatomic particles that nonetheless appear to have motion.  But the inability to precisely measure the mass of some subatomic particle does not mean that it does not exist as an entity with some mass.  It just means that we cannot measure that mass with current technology. Just as an action must have an entity that caused that action based on or derived from the entity's identity (law of causality), wouldn't a motion require a mass that caused that motion based on or derived from the mass's identity (law of causality, again)?  Or am I missing something?

Michael >I am a psychologist and not a physicist, so it is at least conceivable that I might have missed something.

 

Michael, Please see my post from yesterday titled "Mass/Matter...."  It seems, from your speaking of "a mass," that you're thinking of "mass" as if it's an entity instead of a property of an entity.  Why I find the term "massless motion" odd, as I indicated in a post today to Jason, is because it combines two aspects in a peculiar blend.  I'm waiting to learn if Hall really does use the term "massless motion" – and if he does, what he means by it.  Since "mass" is the property that results in *resistance* to change of motion ("an entity at rest remains at rest and an entity in motion remains in uniform motion, unless acted on by an external force"), I don't know what "massless motion" *could* mean.

Ellen S.

 

From: "Michael Carriger" To: atlantis Subject: ATL: ALT:  Massless Motion? Date: Tue, 17 Sep 2002 19:57:54 +0000

 

Is massless motion the same thing as "entityless" action?  If not, how do the two differ?  If so, isn't the whole concept a contradiction due to the conflation of epistemology (knowledge of the measurement of subatomic particles) and metaphysics (the reality of the existence of subatomic particles)?

 

If I have this right, massless motion is hypothesized due to the inability to measure precisely the mass of various subatomic particles that nonetheless appear to have motion.  But the inability to precisely measure the mass of some subatomic particle does not mean that it does not exist as an entity with some mass.  It just means that we cannot measure that mass with current technology.

 

Just as an action must have an entity that caused that action based on or derived from the entity's identity (law of causality), wouldn't a motion require a mass that caused that motion based on or derived from the mass's identity (law of causality, again)?  Or am I missing something? Michael

 

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Source Book (was RE: Massless stuff) Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2002 00:15:01 -0400

Bill Dwyer asked: >Would someone please define "mass," as it is used here?

 

The definition I'm using is one commonly used in modern physics: that property of an object which results in its inertia.

 

The relationship to inertia has been key since Newton's time, but there's a complex history of changing notions of the exact meaning of "mass."

 

>And, if possible, would he or she be so kind as to relate this definition to the commonly understood meaning of "mass" as "a unified body of matter"?

 

Mass as defined by Newton (this is paraphrasing, not exact quoting) was a quantity measured by the joint product of an object's bulk and density.  The feature which links the meaning of "mass" as "a unified body of matter" and physics definitions is, I suppose, that of density.

 

A book Larry recommends for those interested in the subject is *Concepts of Mass in Classical and Modern Physics*, by Max Jammer, Copyright 1961 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College, Harper Torchbook edition, 1964.  That book of course doesn't include the last 40 years' debate on the definition and nature of mass, but it gives a good historic background for the prelude to current debates.

Ellen S.

 

From: Ellen Stuttle To: atlantis Subject: Re: ATL: Massless stuff Date: Tue, 17 Sep 2002 23:49:05 -0400

Dennis wrote: Per Penrose's work in the late 80's or early 90's [discussed at length in Physics Today] momentum rather than mass should be used when discussing relativistic energy changes.  The use of mass leads to contradictions between reference frames when general relativity is brought into the picture [an observation  known before Penrose spelled out some of the theoretical reasons to use P (momentum instead of mass)].  I do not know if current relativity classes/texts are teaching about this correct usage or not....

 

Larry remembers the Physics Today issue Dennis is talking about, and says he's been meaning to restudy that debate if he gets a chance one of these days (he's been teaching other subjects besides relativity in recent years).

 

In brief, for entities with positive rest mass:

 

momentum = relativistic mass x velocity

 

where: relativistic mass = rest mass x a speed-dependent function

 

 

The general idea proposed, as I understand it (any errors are mine), was to use the term "mass" ONLY for rest mass, which would then be either zero (photons and gravitons, if the latter exist) or a positive value.  The relativistic energy changes would then be accounted for by the speed-dependent function, instead of being called "relativistic mass."

 

Larry says he thinks that how the concept of mass is currently taught varies, though teaching it in the way Dennis considers incorrect is the usual way.  (Dennis of course *presumes* that his preferred solution is "correct," as if there's no possible intelligent reason for the other solution.  It's a little hard, though, to believe that a solution favored by Penrose would be ignored due to resistance from "the establishment," since you'd have to look a long way to find anyone more "establishment" than Penrose. ;-)) Ellen S.

 

From: Michael Hardy To: atlantis Subject: ATL: Re: Massless stuff Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2002 18:50:36 -0400 (EDT)

> Mike Hardy on photons: "THE SAME THING HAPPENS WITH PHOTONS!  A laser emits photons that all have the same mass, i.e., all have the same energy. You observe them while standing on the sidewalk, and measure their mass.  Then you observe them again while moving toward the laser at 35 miles per hour, and measure their mass.  Just s when you observed the car from two different viewpoints, you will find their mass to be greater!  This is an instance of "violet shift"." Are you sure about that?

 

As a non-physicist I'll be cautious and say I'm sure that's what's conventionally taught.

 

 > Wouldn't the relative speed of a photon measured by an observer always be the same?

 

Yes.

 

>I thought that the speed of light was constant, irrespective of reference frame.  So if you're moving at 35 or 6.7*10^8 mph relative to the photon, you'd observe it to be moving at c...

 

Right.

 

>and so its mass wouldn't vary with the relative speed of the observer because the relative speed of the observer could only be c.  Right?

 

Wrong.  The faster you move toward it the more massive, and concomitantly, the more energetic, you will find it to be. That's violet shift.

 

 > The "violet shift" (I thought it was "blue shift") occurs

 

(I've heard "violet shift", but I'm not going to be fussy about the name.  Either way, it's the opposite of "red shift", except that if I had written about red shift, I'd still have been writing about the same phenomenon.)

 

>because the photons hit the observer at a higher frequency; but they always come at the same speed, mass, and momentum... right?

 

Same speed, yes.  But remember something from high-school physics: E = h nu, i.e., energy of a photon is proportional to frequency.  So if it shifts in the "violet" direction, so that you have a higher frequency, then each photon has a higher energy. Mike Hardy

 

From: Michael Hardy To: objectivism Subject: OWL: Re: A rounded view of Aristotle Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2002 22:12:09 -0500 (EST)

David Friedman wrote: If Newton's success was due to his discovery of a philosophically correct approach to discovering truth, isn't it somewhat surprising that he devoted considerable efforts to mysticism, alchemy, et. al.?

 

Was something philosophically incorrect about Newton's work on alchemy?  Admittedly I am not familiar with it, but "work on alchemy" could just mean experimental work on the ways in which new substances are formed from old.  In Newton's day, wouldn't that have been called "alchemy"?

 

Perhaps Newton's most important discovery was that the *same* physical laws can simultaneously explain the behavior of heavenly and earthly bodies.  Notice the non-experimental nature of all empirical

observations of the former.  What is the philosophical significance of that? Mike Hardy

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13 hours ago, BaalChatzaf said:

One of the people who played an important  part is liberating our thought from the clutches of Aristotle's metaphysics  is  Galileo.  He wrote a thorough deconstruction of Aritstotle's "On the Heaven"  and "Physics" in his (Galileo's)  great book  "Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems".  You can  get a fine English translation of this work with a foreword by Albert Einstein.  In addition to being of the the early great physicists Galileo was a fine writer.  In the translation of "Dialogue"  I referenced  his wit  and mordant criticism of Aristotle comes through even in the English translation by Stillman Drake.   You really would be well advised to avoid  getting in a debate with Galileo.  His  wit and words  are razor sharp  and will draw blood (intellectually speaking).

Another book to read  is  "The Galileo Affair"  a documentary history by Maurice A. Finocchiaro  which has within it a translation of  several of Galileo's  letters.  I particularly recommend you read Galileo's letter to the Grand Duchess Christian.  She was the grand dame of the Medici family who supported Galileo in his works on astronomy and his inventions.  In this letter Galileo  establishes the importance of empirically based science in relation to Philosophy and Theology.  You should recall that Galileo lived Italy at a time when the Catholic Church was extremely powerful  not only intellectually but politically as well.  Recall that Giadarno Bruno was burned alive (in 1600)  for his heresies.  Many of the points  that Galileo made in the letter to the Grand Duchess are still valid  today,  perhaps even moreso.  Galileo insisted that the Philosopher and Theologians not make pronouncements about the nature of the physical world even if they derive their conclusion from Scripture.  He pointed out that if physical science can soundly contradict scripture (which it often does)  then our interpretations of Scripture must be altered,  not the scientific  refutation.  What he said about Scripture also applies  to the writing of Aristotle,  which in  17 th century  Catholic Italy were held in has high esteem  as Scripture. 

In "Dialogue"  one of the three interlocutors Simplicio was a mouthpiece for the Aristotelian view on physics and astronomy.  Galileo in the person of the interlocutor Salvati  makes mincemeat out of Simplicio.

Unfortunately for Galileo,  his character Simplicio was seen as  a  cartoon  of Pope Urban VIII,  Mafeo Barbarini,  who was at one time a friend of Galileo.   The Pope did not take kindly to the satirical manhandling that Galileo did  on the  cartoonish surrogate  Simplicio.   

In addition to being a genius and a literary whizbang,  Galileo was also quite arrogant and loved to humiliate his intellectual and political opponents.  Ultimately it was Galileo's literary overkill that put him in the meat grinder of the Inquisition.   He wrote the book in Italian so many could read and understand it,  and his satire and treatment of poor Simplicio was dreadfully unkind.  Had Galileo exercised some literary discretion he could have made all the points he made without being harshly dealt with by the Inquisition.   But that was not the way Galileo was.  He was a wrangler,  a wrestler and a fighter in the realm of dispute and idea.   This ended up with him living the last 8 years of his life under house arrest. 

Galileo was a thorough extrovert who liked talking, writing and even fighting with others.  But  it took  a neurotic introvert   Isaac Newton to finally put Physics on the right path.   Galileo was one of the Giants on whose shoulders  Newton stood.  Newton himself  was a psychologically distorted person who was abandoned by his mother and put in the care of a grandparent.  Newton never got over that.  Even so, Newton was one of the smartest people who ever live.  He invented calculus,  differential equations  and physical mechanics.  Although Newton's physics have been falsified to some extent by Relativity and Quantum theory,  they are so close to being right that virtually all space navigation is does using celestial mechanics based on Newton's theory.  In any case the joining of mathematics and physics  is still the style in which advanced physics is done today.  In a sense,  Newton, a thorough anti-Aristotelian invented modern physics as we know it. 

Thank you.

--Brant

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20 hours ago, Peter said:

 

 

Was something philosophically incorrect about Newton's work on alchemy?  Admittedly I am not familiar with it, but "work on alchemy" could just mean experimental work on the ways in which new substances are formed from old.  In Newton's day, wouldn't that have been called "alchemy"?

 

Newton was on the cusp between old (medieval) ways of thinking and something brand new.  Newton effectively drove the transition from old science to new mathematically based science.

Newton has no idea of the details of the atoms of matter although he was an atomist.  Modern chemistry was born of the efforts of Le Voissier,  Dalton and Avagadro.  So Newton's alchemy did not reduce the validity of his work in mechanics (matter and motion).  Newton himself was a mystic and a God Phreak  and he wrote four times as much on the Hidden Meaning of the Scriptures  than he did on mechanics,  light and astronomy.  Newton created modern science, but he himself was not a modern scientist.

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