Notes On Attention Paid

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Bertrand Russell, The Analysis of Matter, Part I, The Logical Analysis of Physics, Chapter II, Pre Relativity Physics

… i am feeling up to the challenge… we will see how it goes…

  • starting with some words on Newtonian physics, because, modern day physics amends rather than replaces Newtonian physics…1
    • Russel says of the world described by Newton in Principia: nature is convenient for the mathematician2… not so for modern physics…
  • Newtonian physics describes a world situated in absolute space and absolute time, posits that particles are eternal and reduces the interaction of particles to force, mass and acceleration…
  • there are epistemological questions that haunt Newtonian physics which are less problematic for relativity, though not entirely unproblematic… 3
  • epistemological: relating to the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion: what epistemological foundation is there for such an artificial discrimination?
  • absolute space, absolute time, is the most significant epistemic question… it would subsequently be proved that these are not necessary…
  • reasons for rejecting absolute space and time:
    • everything we observe concerns only the relative position position of bodies and events… Russell believes this argument has no force… he argues there is no logical reason that we can’t infer things to exist that are not directly evident… he further argues that the science of physics collapses if we are not able to infer…
    • points and instants are not a required hypothesis and Occam’s razor requires we dispense with them (Russell believes this argument is false as far as Newtonian mechanics is concerned, but not for Relativity)

  1. i am reminded of my idea that thinking of the world is flat was an accurate assessment of the situation if the extent of your travels was less than 25 miles from “home” during an entire lifetime… as we travel greater distances, weather physically or virtually, we encounter facts, such as roundness of the planet, that have to be accounted for… similarly, as our capacity to measure refines, our theories about how the world is made have to refine too [return]
  2. Bertrand Russel, The Analysis of Matter, p 13 [return]
  3. i am wondering if he is foreshadowing the difficulty of finding a starting place for consciousness and the idea that consciousness must be a fundamental quality… [return]