1 of 5
1
Is ultimate reality gunky?
Posted: 01 June 2010 06:12 PM   [ Ignore ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2012
Joined  2007-10-28

This post is the final part of a trilogy: supertask, mereological nihilism and gunk, a personal philosophical investigation into what is ultimate reality and how it affects us as humans, who (as part of that reality), experience and interpret it with our limited senses.

What is gunk?

Well, it turns out that it is possible that ultimate reality might not be atomistic (there are fundamental entities without parts), but gunky (no “atoms”, all entities have parts and parts have parts ad infinitum) and that includes matter, space and time.

From the wiki on Gunk (mereology)

In mereology, an area of philosophical logic, the term gunk applies to any whole whose parts all have further proper parts. That is, a gunky object is not made of indivisible atoms. In contrast, an atomic individual is entirely decomposable into atoms.

No points in gunk:

If point-sized objects are always simple, then a gunky object does not have any point-sized parts.

Gunk verses mereological nihilism:

Gunk is an important test case for accounts of the composition of material objects: for instance, Ted Sider has challenged Peter van Inwagen’s account of composition because it is inconsistent with the possibility of gunk. Sider’s argument also applies to a simpler view than van Inwagen’s: mereological nihilism, the view that only material simples exist. If nihilism is necessarily true, then gunk is impossible. But, as Sider argues, because gunk is both conceivable and possible, nihilism is false, or at best a contingent truth.

Which philosophy of reality is true, gunk or mereological nihilism?

From this paper on Chopping up gunk

Infinite divisibility, without end:

If matter is divisible without end there seems to be no conceptual obstacle to each of the divisions. Yet how are we to imagine the situation at the end of the hour, when the super-task (call it ‘super-cutting’) has been performed on a quantity of gunk?

From the introduction of this paper by Frank Arntzenius on
Gunk, topology and measure:

There is an alternative that has not been much explored. The alternative is that space and time and matter are ‘pointless’, or ‘gunky’. The idea here is not that space and time and matter have smallest finite-sized bits, that space and time and matter are ‘chunky’. Rather the idea is that every part of space and time and matter has a non-zero, finite, size, and yet every such part can always be subdivided into further, smaller, parts. That is to say, the idea is that every part of space and time and matter has a non-zero size, and yet there is no smallest size.

An infinite ontology:

But if there are no smallest regions, and if there are no smallest parts of objects, then a spatial or temporal decomposition of a region, and of an object, can not bottom out at an ultimate level. The idea that the features of large regions and large objects are determined by the features of minimal-sized regions and minimal-sized objects can not work if space and time, and the objects in it, are gunky, i.e. pointless.Space, time, and objects would simply not have ultimate parts. There would just be an infinite descending chain of ever-smaller parts. A somewhat dizzying prospect.

And, resolving Zeno’s paradox of Archilles and the tortoise:

To put it another way: the world is a true movie, not a sequence of snapshots. To put it even more suggestively: becoming is not reducible to being.

Unlike mereological nihilism, with gunk, the universe and everything in it exist, which is reassuring. Infinity, however, plays a major role in gunk.

[ Edited: 02 June 2010 07:04 PM by kkwan ]
 Signature 

I am, therefore I think.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 June 2010 01:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Member
RankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  137
Joined  2008-10-09

I like yer sig, reminds me of my own twist on it; “I think, therefore I am, I think.”

As to yer attempts to understand ultimate reality, we all have blinders on that make it pretty tough. One pertinent aspect of reality, of which your ‘gunk’ post is is a part of, is dimensional. That is, you are seeking to establish the limits of the spatial dimentions any point in space may have. Our perception on space is pretty lmited. Until we recognized time as a dimension in which reality occurs we pretty much only saw a 2.5 dimesional world (I say two and half because we have a difficult time with vertical and require limits like ground). Within that perspective it makes no sense that you could travel in a straight line and return to where you started. Once we take a step further back and see the entire 3 dimensional earth it makes perfect sense.

The same held true for our paradigm shift into a four dimensinal viewpoint of space/time (thanks einstein), that is alot of things suddenly make sense.

But any speculations to the effect of traveling in a straight line in time and returning to where you began would certainly make zero sense, as we lack the means to take that step back to see the entire subject like we could with the earth.

Or any speculations of us existing in a 2 dimensional universe we simply interpret as 4 also make little sense within our perspective, although mathematicly such views are actually more valid.

I actually forgot what my original point was, so I will simply point out that the fastest anything can travel is c, and the smallest relevent measurement is the planck (sp?) length, and thus the smallest measurement of time is how long it takes light to traverse a planck length. Any measurements past that are likley to be as impossible as they are non relevent, much like measurements and speculations as to what is outside the universe. As such, though the infinite divisibility argument has solid logical foundation, the facts point to a universe that is, effectively, divisible to a finite and measureable point.

 Signature 

My superiority complex is better than yours.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 June 2010 10:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2012
Joined  2007-10-28

I actually forgot what my original point was, so I will simply point out that the fastest anything can travel is c, and the smallest relevent measurement is the planck (sp?) length, and thus the smallest measurement of time is how long it takes light to traverse a planck length. Any measurements past that are likley to be as impossible as they are non relevent, much like measurements and speculations as to what is outside the universe. As such, though the infinite divisibility argument has solid logical foundation, the facts point to a universe that is, effectively, divisible to a finite and measureable point.

That was what I thought, in one of my posts in supertask, to try and resolve Zeno’s paradox. However, since then, my perception on the issue of infinite divisibility, has changed.

From the wiki on Planck length

The physical significance of the Planck length, if any, is not yet known. Because the Planck length is the only length that can be formed from the constants c, G, and ħ, dimensional analysis suggests that lengths of special significance in quantum gravity are likely to be small multiples of the Planck length. In some theories or forms of quantum gravity, it is the length scale at which the structure of spacetime becomes dominated by quantum effects, giving it a discrete or foamy structure, but other theories of quantum gravity predict no such effects. If there are large extra dimensions, the measured strength of gravity may be much smaller than its true (small-scale) value. In this case the Planck length would have no physical significance, and quantum gravitational effects would appear at much larger scales. Because of the tininess of the Planck length (about 10^20 times smaller than the diameter of a proton) there is no hope of directly probing this length scale in the foreseeable future.

And this blogspot on How many regions of spacetime actually exist?

How big space is and how long time is. If space or time was infinite in the large, then even if there were minimum-sized regions, the total number of them would be infinite.

[ Edited: 03 June 2010 10:58 AM by kkwan ]
 Signature 

I am, therefore I think.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 June 2010 10:45 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1594
Joined  2010-04-22
kkwan - 01 June 2010 06:12 PM

Which philosophy of reality is true, gunk or mereological nihilism?

You’re assuming that these are the only two possible ways of representing reality.  I don’t think that you have demonstrated this, even though they seem to be mutually exclusive theories.

To create a stupidly simple analogy, if you’re on a one-dimensional object, a line, it is only possible to travel in two directions.  Add another dimension(s), and even though that line will fit, you need more “mutually exclusive” choices to cover all of your directions.  You have to establish what your logical dimensions are better.  I don’t think that you’re simply sitting on a 1-D line of reasoning.

[ Edited: 04 June 2010 10:48 AM by TromboneAndrew ]
 Signature 

“All musicians are subconsciously mathematicians.”

- Thelonious Monk

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 June 2010 07:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2012
Joined  2007-10-28
TromboneAndrew - 04 June 2010 10:45 AM
kkwan - 01 June 2010 06:12 PM

Which philosophy of reality is true, gunk or mereological nihilism?

You’re assuming that these are the only two possible ways of representing reality.  I don’t think that you have demonstrated this, even though they seem to be mutually exclusive theories.

To create a stupidly simple analogy, if you’re on a one-dimensional object, a line, it is only possible to travel in two directions.  Add another dimension(s), and even though that line will fit, you need more “mutually exclusive” choices to cover all of your directions.  You have to establish what your logical dimensions are better.  I don’t think that you’re simply sitting on a 1-D line of reasoning.

Of course, not. There are other philosophies of reality…...monism, dualism, idealism, realism, anti-realism, phenomenalism, Platonism etc.

They are mutually exclusive, in that their fundamental notions of what constitute reality are contradictory, therefore they cannot both be true.

 Signature 

I am, therefore I think.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 June 2010 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6640
Joined  2007-10-05

This thread is an excellent illustration of the utter uselessness of philosophers trying to do physics. Neither linked paper has any relation to modern physics. In fact, both contradict what scientists know about physics. This Gunk theory ignores the Stand Model of particle physics in favor of a long-discredited view.

Gunk is bunk.

[ Edited: 05 June 2010 02:45 PM by DarronS ]
 Signature 

You cannot have a rational discussion with someone who holds irrational beliefs.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 June 2010 08:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2012
Joined  2007-10-28
DarronS - 05 June 2010 01:16 PM

This thread is an excellent illustration of the utter uselessness of philosophers trying to do physics. Neither linked paper has any relation to modern physics. In fact, both contradict what scientists know about physics. This Gunk theory ignores the Stand Model of particle physics in favor of a long-discredited view.

Gunk is bunk.

Philosophy is not science. Therefore, to imply philosophers should be physicists, is incoherent and dismissive. BTW, what do physicists know about ultimate reality?  The standard model of particle physics is not yet “complete” until the Higgs boson is found and even then, there could be deeper models of reality which might be beyond the capabilities of the LHC or any super-duper particle accelerator to elucidate. And how about the nature of gravity, dark matter and dark energy in the universe?

From the wiki on the Standard Model

Still, the Standard Model falls short of being a complete theory of fundamental interactions because it does not include gravitation, dark matter, or dark energy. It is not quite a complete description of leptons either, because it does not describe nonzero neutrino masses, although extensions do.

You risk putting your foot in your mouth when you try to be dismissive of gunk or philosophy, if there are no good reasons to do so.

 Signature 

I am, therefore I think.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 05 June 2010 11:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6640
Joined  2007-10-05

I did not imply philosophers should be physicists. I implied philosophers should stick to philosophy and leave science to those who are trained and qualified to do science. These guys have apparently not even read any layman’s books on particle physics. The “infinite, descending chain of ever-smaller parts” is not science and will contribute nothing toward discovering the unknown.

Of course scientists don’t know everything. That is what keeps science fun. You and the people you linked are practicing philosophy-of-the-gaps.

 Signature 

You cannot have a rational discussion with someone who holds irrational beliefs.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 June 2010 03:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6851
Joined  2006-12-20

Kkwan,

kkwan - 01 June 2010 06:12 PM

From the wiki on Gunk (mereology)

If point-sized objects are always simple, then a gunky object does not have any point-sized parts.

Is the assumption underlying “the standard model” that “basic building blocks” are point size, if such things exist?

What is a point? Would something that existed only at a point take up any space at all?

This all relates to my trying to understand how things exist over space and time.

Stephen

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 June 2010 06:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2012
Joined  2007-10-28
DarronS - 05 June 2010 11:04 PM

I did not imply philosophers should be physicists. I implied philosophers should stick to philosophy and leave science to those who are trained and qualified to do science. These guys have apparently not even read any layman’s books on particle physics. The “infinite, descending chain of ever-smaller parts” is not science and will contribute nothing toward discovering the unknown.

Of course scientists don’t know everything. That is what keeps science fun. You and the people you linked are practicing philosophy-of-the-gaps.

The boundary of science and philosophy is fuzzy. The great scientists like Einstein, Schroedinger, Heisenberg, Bohr, Hawking, Mellor, Whitehead and others were/are philosophers/scientists. Science was known as natural philosophy. Quite a few philosophers are very knowledgeable in science and came to study philosophy from science, mathematics and engineering to find out and make sense of the nature of the very small (quantum realm) and the very large (universe) and how it relates to the realm of the middle size, where we exist.

“The infinite, descending chain of ever-smaller parts” is an apt description of the state of particle physics now and possibly in the future, with the standard model of particle physics.

That nobody knows everything is a truism. It does not follow that I and others, who are interested in philosophy, are practicing “philosophy-of-the-gaps”, whatever it means. There is no hidden agenda.

 Signature 

I am, therefore I think.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 June 2010 07:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6640
Joined  2007-10-05
StephenLawrence - 06 June 2010 03:54 AM

Kkwan,

kkwan - 01 June 2010 06:12 PM

From the wiki on Gunk (mereology)

If point-sized objects are always simple, then a gunky object does not have any point-sized parts.

Is the assumption underlying “the standard model” that “basic building blocks” are point size, if such things exist?

What is a point? Would something that existed only at a point take up any space at all?

This all relates to my trying to understand how things exist over space and time.

Stephen

No, the underlying assumption of the Standard Model is that the basic building blocks are not point-size. Quite the opposite. If one assumes point-size building blocks the mathematics gets quite messy and yield all manner of strange results. This is precisely the reason physicists developed String Theory and continue to work on it despite its complexity and testing difficulty.

kkwan I will grant that physicists are philosophers, but there inverse is not true. Philosophers are not physicists. Philosophy-of-the-gaps is akin to God of the gaps. Philosophers pile in where physicists have not yet explained everything. Philosophers have may have contributed to our knowledge of the universe in the past (although I cannot think of any off the top of my head), but physics is no longer a subject where the untrained can make contributions. Modern physics takes several years of intense study in mathematics and sciences. Lacking the proper technical background philosophers are wasting their time trying to figure out the underlying structure of reality.

[ Edited: 06 June 2010 07:20 AM by DarronS ]
 Signature 

You cannot have a rational discussion with someone who holds irrational beliefs.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 June 2010 07:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6851
Joined  2006-12-20
DarronS - 06 June 2010 07:15 AM

No, the underlying assumption of the Standard Model is that the basic building blocks are not point-size.

Ok, so if a building block takes up space, we can divide that space in half and come up with two parts of the building block. Granted it’s us doing this rather than those parts objectively being out there necessarily but mathematically we must be able to do that. Have I got that right?

Stephen

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 June 2010 08:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6640
Joined  2007-10-05

Stephen this gets quite unintuitive at the microscopic level. I’ve been reading some layman’s books on particle physics recently and one thing I have learned is we do not have the language to adequately describe what happens in particle physics because we have no direct experience with matter on such a small scale. Describing what happens takes sophisticated mathematical techniques and I’m not there yet. I’ll give it my best try, but to gain a fair appreciation of the subject you’ll need to read a book on particle physics.

As with a musical instrument string there is no single point we can call a particle, it is more a wave along the string. An extremely tiny wave, but nonetheless a wave rather than a point. What appear as point-like particles are actually the intersection of several vibrating Planck-scale strings. They are the strings of String Theory which occupy dimensions invisible to our senses. If you look (metaphorically) beyond the Planck scale matter becomes something akin to a quantum foam, wherein particles spontaneously pop into existence and decay into smaller particles only to disappear into the foam. This violates no physical laws, indeed the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle pretty much guarantees this is the expected behavior at the quantum level.

This gets us back to the original post. Philosophers are not going to figure out reality by sitting around and discussing things without adequate technical knowledge, and especially not without testing their ideas in labs. Aristotle thought he could understand the nature of reality without testing his conclusions, and his school of philosophy stalled science for 1,800 years.

[ Edited: 06 June 2010 08:24 AM by DarronS ]
 Signature 

You cannot have a rational discussion with someone who holds irrational beliefs.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 June 2010 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6851
Joined  2006-12-20

Another question has just occured to me.

Are the basic building blocks getting bigger as the universe expands?

Stephen

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 June 2010 08:19 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6640
Joined  2007-10-05

Nope. Particles pop into existence to fill the expanded space.

 Signature 

You cannot have a rational discussion with someone who holds irrational beliefs.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 June 2010 08:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  6851
Joined  2006-12-20
DarronS - 06 June 2010 08:01 AM

The are the strings of String Theory which occupy dimensions invisible to our senses.

The question is are these dimensions divisible?

Are you saying there is not a yes or no answer?

Stephen

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 5
1