Relativity and the Problem of Space (Part 5 & 6)


NOTE: Einstein’s statements are in black italics. My understanding follows in bold color italics.


We still have something essential to add to this sketch concerning the psychological origin of the concepts space-time-event (we will call them more briefly “space-like”, in contrast to concepts from the psychological sphere). We have linked up the concept of space with experiences using boxes and the arrangement of material objects in them. Thus this formation of concepts already presupposes the concept of material objects (e.g. ”boxes”). In the same way persons, who had to be introduced for the formation of an objective concept of time, also play the rôle of material objects in this connection. It appears to me, therefore, that the formation of the concept of the material object must precede our concepts of time and space.

Objective formation of physical phenomena seems to start as electromagnetic disturbance of background SPACE, which then progresses into the formation of sub-atomic particles, atoms, molecules and matter. From this matter we abstract our concepts of space-time-event.

All these space-like concepts already belong to pre-scientific thought, along with concepts like pain, goal, purpose, etc. from the field of psychology. Now it is characteristic of thought in physics, as of thought in natural science generally, that it endeavours in principle to make do with “space-like” concepts alone, and strives to express with their aid all relations having the form of laws. The physicist seeks to reduce colours and tones to vibrations, the physiologist thought and pain to nerve processes, in such a way that the psychical element as such is eliminated from the causal nexus of existence, and thus nowhere occurs as an independent link in the causal associations. It is no doubt this attitude, which considers the comprehension of all relations by the exclusive use of only space-like concepts as being possible in principle, that is at the present time understood by the term “materialism” (since “matter” has lost its rôle as a fundamental concept).

We do not know exactly how matter emerges from the background of zero dimension, zero inertia and zero change. But once matter is formed we abstract from it not only the concepts of space-time-event, but other psychological concepts as well. This may be called a materialistic approach to the understanding of the universe. But there seems to be a spiritual element underlying the very formation of matter in the first place.

Why is it necessary to drag down from the Olympian fields of Plato the fundamental ideas of thought in natural science, and to attempt to reveal their earthly lineage? Answer: in order to free these ideas from the taboo attached to them, and thus to achieve greater freedom in the formation of ideas or concepts. It is to the immortal credit of D. Hume and E. Mach that they, above all others, introduced this critical conception.

It seems that life and thought evolve from matter. But we cannot just label it as materialism. Matter is also an evolutionary step. Spirituality underlies the very formation of matter.


Earlier notes by Vinaire (5):

Space is the background of objects. Time is the background of changes in objects. Changes are not independent of objects. Therefore, time is not absolute in itself but it is an aspect of space. We represent this as a four-dimensional continuum of “space-time”.

Objects are both material and conceptual. We use logical consistency as a gradient to form concepts out of material objects. Material and conceptual objects, therefore, appear as gradient of logical abstraction.

Thus we have a “dimension of abstraction” that starts from concrete and extends into abstraction. The key characteristic of this dimension is logical consistency. Abstraction is not independent of objects, therefore, it is also an aspect of space.  We may present this as a five dimensional continuum of space-time-abstraction.

Hopefully this would take care of the psychological origin.

Earlier notes by Vinaire (6):

By “space-like” concepts, Einstein refers to the simple fundamental concepts to which all other concepts reduce. Concepts from the field of psychology are quite complex but they do seem to reduce to space, time and abstraction.

Science focuses on space-like concepts to come up with fundamental relationships having the form of laws. What Einstein refers to as “elimination of psychical element” is actually the removal of logical inconsistencies in conceptualization. These logical inconsistencies come about as a result of “personal filters”, such as, biases, prejudices, fixed ideas, assumptions and blind faith.

When Einstein refers to “exclusive use of only space-like concepts”, he means“exclusive use of logic in conceptualization”, which is the characteristic of “Dimension of Abstraction”.

The word “materialism” is a misnomer. It does not mean the supremacy of the material world. It simply points to the objectivity brought about by the use of the 5-dimensional continuum of the universe.


Previous: Relativity and the Problem of Space (Part 4)
Next:  Relativity and the Problem of Space (Part 7)


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