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The Enigma Of The Universe : First View

Published: 05.01.2015
Updated: 13.01.2015

The scholastics, Kant and the like hold the first view. According to the scholastic philosophers, space is only a subjective reality, as we experience its existence only as soon as we perceive the extension of the physical objects-in the form that they must have something as their support. Hence, space is not an independent entity, but only created by our mind. When we examine this view on the criterion of logic, it becomes untenable. For, if the support of the real objects itself is not real, how can they get support of a subjective entity? Therefore, one has to accept the objective reality of the space. Again, the scholastic philosophers have also accepted that vaccum space is also possible and space itself is self-supported and eternal. But they believe that it is only "our" conception. They contend:  "Difficulties.

1. Space is self-existent, eternal, independent of everything else,

Reply. Space we thus represent to ourselves, I grant. That space as such is a real existing being with the attributes mentioned, I deny. These attributes, if they were those of a being existing in it and independently of the mind, would identify space with God. Aside from the response given it may be noted that space is divisible, and infinitely so; hence it could not possibly be divine. Again it is absurd to say that God is an extended being.

2. Space is infinite in extent.

Reply. Space is conceived as indefinitely great in extent, I concede. It is actually infinite, I deny. Since space is not a thing existing in itself, it has only that extent which we give it by our minds; but our minds cannot picture actually infinite extent. We define absolute space as conceivably extending beyond any limit you may assign; that makes it indefinitely great but not actually infinite.

3. Before the world was created space existed.

Reply. That there actually existed antecedent to the material world any real extended being, I deny. That it was possible for an extended being to exist, I grant. Unoccupied space is in no sense a being existing in itself. Space as such as we have seen, exists only in the mind. The foundation does actually exist in itself; it is the actually existing body. Real space merely connotes that the space we have in mind is occupied. Possible space means that it is unoccupied.

4. A man at the outer rim of the universe could thrust out his arm. But there must be something there into which to thrust it. Therefore space is an existent something distinct from bodies (Cf. Locke, Essay Cone. Hum. Underst. II, 13, & 21.).

 Reply. We picture him as thrusting the arm into a sea as it were of space, I grant. He actually thrusts his arm into anything, I deny. And if you ask what the man could see beyond him, we answer, "Simply nothing"; for there is nothing there to see.

5. We say that bodies fill space; but they cannot fill unless there be something to fill.

Reply. We picture them as doing so, but we do not mean that the filling is real outside the mind. Otherwise the thing filled should itself fill space, and that fill another space, and so on forever.

6. Particular spaces have a shape of their own.

 Reply. The shape is that of the body occupying the space, or that formed by the bodies surrounding it."[1]

The above arguments presuppose the ubiquitous existence of God and then contend that there would be no difference between space and God. But, the belief that 'God is ubiquitous' itself is not substantiated by logic, and hence, there would be no objection in believing space as "an independent objective reality".

Kant's view about space that 'space is nothing else than the creation of a priori intuition' has been proved to be incorrect on the basis of logic by the scholastic philosophers. For example, the author of Cosmology, James A. McWilliams writes: "Kant held that the notion of space is a part of the mental equipment with which we come into the world. But that conclusion of his was a result of self-deception. The error occurs, in the following manner. I reflect that I always see bodies, and think of them, as in space; they occupy space, they are each contained in just so much space, they are surrounded by space, they are immersed in space, and if they move there must be ahead of them ready and waiting a space into which to move. But if the notion of space thus antecedes the most direct sense perception, that notion must be innate. The deception comes from supposing that we have always, even from our earliest infancy, perceived bodies as in space, and that we cannot perceive them, or thinks of them otherwise. A little analysis of the data of consciousness will reveal the fact that the notion of space is not the first item, as Kant supposed, but the third. The first perception is that of extended bodies, which we become aware of by their color, or their resistance, and by our own movement about or among them. The next mental act is to make an abstraction. We prescient from their hardness or softness, their smoothness or roughness, their color, and all such qualities, and concentrate our attention upon their extent. We now have arrived at the notion of abstract extension, but this is not as yet "space". We have achieved a representation of extension from which all existing and individual bodies are obliterated, of extension as something standing alone by itself and independent of all bodies. The third operation i.e. to restore the bodies to the expanse from which they have been banished. It is only then that we think of bodies as in space. But the whole completed operation is so much a matter of habit in adult life that we are not to overlook the fact that it contains three distinct mental acts instead of one. The seeing of bodies in space is so far from being a primitive fact of consciousness that it is really the last of the trio. The direct perception of bodies does not suppose the notion of space, but is two removes in advance of that notion."[2] Now, after the discovery of non-Euclidean geometry, the belief of Kant has been evidently been proved wrong on the basis of direct evidence. For example, Edmund Whittaker observes: "The Kantian doctrine was subjected to a destructive criticism by Bertrand Russell in the early years of this century, and at the present time is rejected by natural philosophers generally (though the late Sir Arthur Eddington accepted something very like it).

"Physical space is not an intuition, but a construct, a system. Contrast with this the Kantian doctrine, according to which the concept of a material body possessing size is the product of two factors, one of which is a 'thing-in-itself' which does not possess size and is not accessible to observation, while the other is a concept of size which is innate in the human mind and prior to all experience. Such a metaphysical fantasy leads nowhere and explains nothing, and may be disallowed by an application of the principle entia non sunt multiplicanda sine necessitate.

"The mathematician has a special grudge against Kantism....."[3]

We may conclude that the view of Kant about space and time, which is quite different from the Jain view, is not acceptable to modern philosophers and scientists. Its only similarity with the Jain view is that both have accepted the existence of vacuum.


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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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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Bertrand Russell
  2. Body
  3. Consciousness
  4. Eddington
  5. Edmund Whittaker
  6. Euclid
  7. Hans Reichenbach
  8. Heisenberg
  9. Kant
  10. McWilliams
  11. Reichenbach
  12. Russell
  13. Space
  14. Werner Heisenberg
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