Space and time are composed of relations, and so they are in a way the subject of this book. The thrust of this chapter and Chapter 8 is that the struggle to conceptualize change, motion, space and time stumbled upon deeper issues with the ontology of relations. The atomists and Aristotle suppressed the problem of change only by sweeping the real change in their systems into occupancy and inherency relations. Zeno exploded notions of space and time by teasing out the implications of the one–many-ness residing within all real relations. Before our investigation of space and time continues, we should consider some general issues and views about the nature of relations.

The primitive tendency to think that everything that exists is an individual object obstructed enquiry into relations. Many philosophers have even denied that relations have any existence of their own, over and above the things they relate. Crudely put, those who think of relations as real tend to think of them as something like a great stone bridge stretching between two cliffs, and somehow connecting or uniting them. In this picture, a relation connects two particular things, the cliffs, but has some extra being of its own, the mortar and stones in the arch. Russell called these “real relations”, and meant thereby that relations had some reality distinct from what they related. Thus this view can be called realism about relations.

Other philosophers have maintained that only particular things exist and would favour pictures like the following. One tree is taller than another tree because the first has a height of 10 metres and the second has a height of 15 metres. That is, the relation “is taller than” is just an awkward way of talking about the properties belonging to individual trees. The only things that exist are the individual trees and the properties in them; nothing stretches between the trees when one is taller than the other. This is sometimes described as reductionism since the relations are “reduced to” particular things and their individual properties.

Despite prominent exceptions, it is fair to say that for some 2,000 years, from Aristotle to Russell, reductionist views dominated among philosophers. Aristotle rejected realism and his extraordinary fame lent this great weight. But even apart from this, there were three main philosophical reasons for favouring reductionism.

First, as mentioned above, our experience with ordinary objects encourages the view that they are primary. Bodies seem to move without being caught in a web of changing real relations. Talk of anything over and above particulars seems preposterous to common-sense philosophers. (They overlook, however, that we always encounter objects involved in relations: in contact, in the world, in space, etc.)

The second barrier to realism was a phenomenon known nowadays as a “Cambridge change”. Suppose the top of the taller tree is lopped off, and only 8 metres remain. If a relation were some kind of bridge from one tree to the other, then trimming one tree would change the other. During the transformation of the untouched tree from shorter to taller tree it would be violently disconnected from any bridge-like relation that might connect the two trees. This seems odd. How could a change in one tree instantaneously affect a distant tree? In fact, all trees everywhere would suddenly alter their relations to the trimmed tree. This sort of spooky, invisible change has made the very idea of real relations seem ridiculous.

Linknya Ditengah Iklan Gan :)