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The Enigma Of The Universe : Prof. Margenau's Interpretation

Published: 02.10.2014

Eminent scientist-philosopher Prof. Margenau is also amongst them who, in the philosophical interpretation of theory of relativity, have asserted the reality of space.

As we have already seen, Margenau has introduced a new concept of "construct" to denote reality. With regards to space and time, he holds that time and space have a status commensurate with all the other constructs of physics.[1] Also he has observed: "Let us resist the temptation to think of this new space-time as less "real". It is a construct, to be sure, but so was three-dimensional space, and so are many components of reality...."[2] About the fourth dimension of time, he says: "The "discovery" of the fourth coordi­nate has no mysterious aspects and brings forth no ghosts. It is a discovery in the constructional sense just discussed."[3]

He has also considered that the absolute space is a possible construct. He writes: "The advocate of absolute space bases his attitude on the simple fact that he can intuit three-dimensional space, even when it is vacant of objects. This kind of space is a possible construct, and it is absolute within the frame-work of the initial question."[4]

Further, Prof. Margenau has explained that this kind of absolute space is not adopted by the scientists only because it is not useful to them, but that it does not mean that the absolute space has ceased to exist. He clearly mentions "A strong preference has been expressed for the interpretation of space as a relational entity. It should now be emphasized that this admission reflects no prejudice upon the reality of space."[5] Margenau considers spatial constructs such as point, line and surface as verifacts[6] and hence allots them the same status of reality which is attributed to reified objects encountered by us. Admitting the reality of space, he states: "From points, lines, and surfaces, space can be constructed, and this new entity, though abstract, retains the functional alignment with Nature which has been posited as the character of reality. Physical reality is not synonymous with concreteness, as that term is ordinarily understood.[7]

He also confesses: "We here find ourselves in apparent contradiction with a judgement prevalent among scientists, namely, that perfectly straight lines, perfect triangles, and so forth "do not exist in nature."[8] But, he also clarifies: "For it does not deny reality to the elements of geometry: it merely asserts that bodies do not exist which exhibit perfectly straight lines or perfect triangles, which is true and not contrary to our conclusion. The geometric elements themselves are nevertheless real as constituents of abstract space, which is a physical reality."[9] Thus, it means that even if we may not be able to perceive a perfectly straight line, it does exist between the two points of the space and the space consists of the real point.

We can conclude the discussion on the philosophical interpretation of theory of relativity by saying that there does not exist an undivided opinion regarding the nature of space and time as revealed by the theory of relativity whether space and time are objective or subjective realities still haunts the minds of the scientists.


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Title: The Enigma Of The Universe Publisher: JVB University Ladnun English Edition: 2010 HN4U Online Edition: 2014

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