University of Tasmania
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On the studies of space : in physics and metaphysics

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posted on 2023-05-27, 10:38 authored by Lim, AKJ
In this essay, I will discuss and analyse the nature of space from both historical and modern perspectives, as well as from physics and metaphysics perspectives. The argument about the nature of space is usually regarded as the debate between two doctrines, substantivalism and relationalism. Substantivalism is a doctrine positing space, as an independent existence. Whereas, relationalism is a doctrine regarding space as relational and to say that space as an independent existence is redundant and superfluous, as relationalists argue that one can still get to various prominent theories without referring to substantial space. Hence, relationalism is a preferable background in doing physics. To resolve the problem between substantivalists and relationalists, one needs to look at what substantial space, or space as an independent existence, really means. Then, I argue that, either from historical or modern physics, some theories, if not many, still have a sort of substantial space lurking under these theories, even though it is not explicitly implied. Additionally, I argue that, from a metaphysical standpoint, it is impossible to conceive without space. In other words, space is a necessary condition for conceivability. So, if we can conceive, there must be a space. This essay is divided into five chapters and some sections. In the first chapter, the historical expositions of the nature of space will be articulated. Two leading figures, Issacs Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, will be discussed to help with the articulation of the nature of space. In the second chapter, the modern picture of the argument between substantivalists and relationalists will be introduced. Additionally, I will briefly talk about some geometry. To help the overall argument, some studies of geometry is necessary. In chapter three, with all the geometry knowledge in chapter two, we will be able to see how relationalists can reformulate a substantivalists' theory, Newton's mechanics, into a relationalists' theory. In chapter four, I will be focusing on the essence of the argument between substantivalism and relationalism. That is I will be looking at what exactly they are at odds. Once we have a clearer picture regarding their disagreement, I will argue for substantivalism in chapter five. In chapter five, I will conclude that the notion of space is indispensable.


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