A Journal for Western Man
Modern Scientists' Faulty Definitions of Matter
Errors of Post-Classical Fysics Series: Part I
G. Stolyarov II
Issue XLVI- January 5, 2006
Post-Classical fysics, from Einstein onward, is riddled with fundamental errors, not due to a deficiency in experimental techniques or funding—which the modern scientists have gotten plenty of. Rather, the fundamental deficiency is theoretical, since post-Classical scientists have militantly rejected the standards and guidance of filosofy in interpreting their observations. The post-Classical fysicists cannot, however, escape filosofy even in their rejection of it. Their rejection was only made possible by bad filosofy and filosofers. Like Auguste Comte, the post-Classical fysicists have rejected filosofy as “obsolete metafysics,” or, like Karl Popper, they have relegated it to a mere “handmaiden of science.”
Yet, as Ayn Rand pointed out, no man can truly escape the guidance of filosofy, a guidance that underpins all he thinks and does and concludes. The only choice man has is whether to explicitly embrace a correct filosofy—guided by a systematic method of observation and logical reasoning—or to implicitly embrace an absurd one—characterized by defaulting on his conceptual faculty, evading the ubiquitous data of his senses, and committing multiple logical fallacies. A filosofy relegated to a “handmaiden of science” ceases to be based on proper filosofical standards; it becomes arbitrary and contradictory, as many of the theories and conclusions of modern fysicists attest to.
This article series will endeavor to demolish many common, fundamental errors espoused by modern fysicists—errors that stem directly from evasion and neglect of logic and filosofy. Much of the content in this series is derived and extrapolated from my treatise, A Rational Cosmology, which uses filosofy and ubiquitous observation to explain the essentials of reality—essentials far more basic than can be known through highly specific experiments, which are far more narrowly confined in their implications than many post-Classical fysicists presume. I applied my rational cosmology to an extensive discussion on The Autonomist Forum, in response to questions asked about my theory. I adapt these responses here, in a systematic presentation of some of modern science’s flaws. My hope is that every rational scientist, filosofer, and layman reading this will come to understand the need to conform scientific investigation to the rigors of logical thinking.
The first fallacy I shall expose is an extremely fundamental one: mainstream post-Classical scientists’ view of matter itself.
Definitions of Matter: Rational versus Post-Classical
Alexander, an intelligent and thorough poster, contrasted my definition of matter in A Rational Cosmology to the prevailing definition used by modern scientists. My definition, from Chapter III, is as follows:
Matter is .... the constituent quality of entities. Matter is, simply, that, which entities are made of, and without which they cannot have any other qualities.
I further elaborate on this:
It is not the province of ontology or cosmology to describe what the fundamental “building blocks of matter” (i.e., the entities that would represent Democritus’s concept of “atomos”) are. The specific-observational sciences must discover whether such fundamental building blocks exist, how many types of them there are, and how they look like and behave. Cosmology has only to point out that matter exists, and exists as a quality of every entity.
My definition of matter has implications for the concept, “mass.” Mass is simply the measurement of matter; any entity which has any of the constituent quality, “matter,” will have some measurable mass that it will exhibit at all times. The mass can change magnitudes, if it is gained from or lost to other entities, but it must always have some positive magnitude. If an entity ever has “zero mass,” like a “foton” at rest, it ceases to exist. This is why a “foton,” under the very premises from which modern scientists derive the idea, cannot exist.
In contrast to my definition, Alexander presented the mainstream “scientific” definition of matter: “Something that has mass and exists as a solid, liquid, gas, or plasma” (Dictionary.com). Furthermore, he provided the post-Classical definition for “mass:”
A property of matter equal to the measure of an object's resistance to changes in either the speed or direction of its motion. The mass of an object is not dependent on gravity and therefore is different from but proportional to its weight. (Dictionary.com)
He then concisely illustrated the essential differences between my definitions of “matter” and “mass” and the post-Classical definitions:
It looks like one reason you're having so much of a problem with post-Classical physics is because you and scientists are working from different definitions of matter and mass. To them, matter is atoms and above. To you, it's whatever has mass. To them, mass is indicative of how much resistance to change a thing exhibits. To you, it's how much "stuff" there is, however you would measure that.
This is a fair contrast to make. It is also a proper beginning to my illustration of how the post-Classical definitions are riddled with logical fallacies.
Matter is Primary to Mass
Let us first examine the error in the first part of the modern fysicists’ definition of “matter.” In claiming that matter is “something that has mass,” they define matter in terms of mass. This is a reversal of essentials, a putting of the cart before the horse, so to speak. Matter is fundamental to mass, not the other way around. Mass is a measurement of matter; it is a derivative attribute of all material entities. We know, by corollary, that every material entity will also have a mass measurable by some means. However, it has mass because it is material. It is not material because it has mass. That would be akin to defining an entity with length as “an entity that has meters,” or a moving entity as “an entity that has meters per second.” The measurement necessarily follows from the quality, not the other way around.
The better definition in this context would be a definition of mass as a “universal measurement of matter, which all material entities exhibit.”
Entities as Primary to Relationships
Furthermore, I take issue with the second part of the post-Classical definition of matter as that, which exists as a solid, liquid, or gas. “Solid,” “liquid,” and “gas” are relationships, involving many entities. Wherever there is a collection of like entities (such as atoms or molecules), we could call their relative arrangement a “solid,” a “liquid,” or a “gas,” depending on the particles’ proximity and the types of bonds (if any) between them. The second part of the definition of matter as “solid, liquid, or gas” is, again, a reversal of essentials. One cannot define an entity in terms of a relationship, because that would put relationships as primary to entities. But relationships are always derivative from entities. A relationship cannot exist without the entities that relate. There cannot be a solid, liquid, or gaseous relationship without the material entities that form such a relationship. To define the relationship as primary to matter itself would beg the question, “What is it a relationship of?” The modern scientists’ answer? Blank-out.
The fact is, individual atoms and molecules can be neither solid, nor liquid, nor gaseous in isolation from other atoms and molecules. Yet they are composed of matter, nonetheless. If they were not composed of matter, they would not have any constituent quality, and would therefore not exist; they would be just an arbitrarily defined region of empty space.
Thus, the modern fysicists’ definition of matter fails on both counts: neither mass nor the solid, liquid, or gaseous fases are primary to matter itself.
The Superiority of the Rational Definition of Matter
My definition of matter is superior to the fysicists’ definition, because it is more fundamental. It encompasses all entities in existence and does not beg the question of what the lesser, “immaterial” entities are made of. It also conveys useful knowledge: the fact that all entities have a measurable mass, which is a manifestation of their quality of matter.
It is futile to speculate about the causes or constituents of matter itself. The very question is absurd. Matter itself is an irreducible primary; it can be neither created nor destroyed. It is simply there, and it can be measured. Matter is always a quality, and a quality cannot exist apart from the entities which it comprises. We can legitimately ask whether a given entity, thought to be “fundamental,” can be divided into further smaller entities. But each of the subdivisions will always be smaller entities, composed of the fundamental quality, matter.
Now, on to the fysicists’ definition of “mass,” and how said definition is flawed.
Matter as Primary to Inertia and Gravitation
For the reader’s convenience, I will again present the conventional post-Classical definition of mass: “A property of matter equal to the measure of an object's resistance to changes in either the speed or direction of its motion. The mass of an object is not dependent on gravity and therefore is different from but proportional to its weight.”
The problem with this definition is, again, the reversal of essentials. One aspect of material entities is resistance to changes in speed or direction. This is Newton’s undeniable First Law. However, it is not primary to matter, but rather derivative from it. Resistance and change are relationships, and they imply material entities that resist and change. The material entities are primary to the resistance and change, and matter is the quality which enables them to resist and to change. Furthermore, matter is the quality which enables objects to attract each other with a gravitational force. This is why matter itself is unaffected by gravity. It is the cause of gravitation, and the effect (gravitation) can never cause its own cause (matter).
To put resistance and change as primary to matter is to beg the question, “Resistance and change, of what?” The modern scientists’ answer? Blank-out.
Alexander is right to suggest that, in my view, mass is the measurement of the “stuff” entities are made of, if this “stuff” is considered to be a quality of entities. The “stuff” that mass measures is matter, which all entities are composed of. The way one measures that “stuff” is by using instruments that measure mass. One cannot “explain” matter further, except by pointing out that it exists, it is measurable, and that all entities are comprised of it. One can explain the effects of matter, such as inertia and gravitation, but always as derivatives, not as primaries. Material entities cause inertia and gravitation by virtue of their matter, not the other way around. Matter itself just is; it is an irreducible primary.
The Filosofical Error
In their flawed definitions of matter and mass, the post-Classical scientists have erred because they have neglected logic and filosofy. Logic and filosofy take great care not to confuse derivatives with primaries. The derivatives follow from the primaries, and are defined in terms of the primaries. The primaries cannot be defined in terms of the derivatives. They can either be defined in terms of further primaries, or, like matter, be irreducible primaries that cannot be further dissected. Because matter is such a primary, defining it in terms of its effects is absurd. If matter is defined in terms of its effects, and its effects can only be defined in terms of matter, we have an irresolvable circularity. On the contrary, if matter is defined as the fundamental, constituent quality of all entities, then all its effects follow cleanly from such a definition.
G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent filosofical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician and composer, contributor to organizations such as Le Quebecois Libre, Enter Stage Right, and The Autonomist. Mr. Stolyarov is the Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator and a Senior Writer for the Liberal Institute (http://www.liberalinstitute.com). He can be contacted at email@example.com.
Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, at http://www.geocities.com/rational_argumentator/rc.html.
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