Pneumatology of Matter: A Philosophical Inquiry Into the Origins and Meaning of Modern Physical Theory

Overview

Throughout history philosophers have posited souls, vital spirits and other active principles in living beings in order to explain their differences from non-living beings. With the arrival of genetics and evolutionary biology, however, it now seems possible to account for these differences without assuming such principles. Living beings are henceforth to be understood mechanically, as products of self-replicating microscopic objects and selective environmental conditions, rather than pneumatically, in terms of ...

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Overview

Throughout history philosophers have posited souls, vital spirits and other active principles in living beings in order to explain their differences from non-living beings. With the arrival of genetics and evolutionary biology, however, it now seems possible to account for these differences without assuming such principles. Living beings are henceforth to be understood mechanically, as products of self-replicating microscopic objects and selective environmental conditions, rather than pneumatically, in terms of active principles. It is very remarkable, therefore, that physics has since abandoned the mechanical model of explanation, which it gave to biology, and returned to the pneumatical model, applying it not merely to living beings but to matter quite generally. The conceptual origins and philosophical significance of this remarkable development are explored in the present work. Part One examines the crucial role played by field theory in the decline of mechanism in physics and its replacement by pneumatism. Part Two discusses the importance of this development for metaphysics and the theory of human nature.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781780991757
  • Publisher: Iff Books
  • Publication date: 1/16/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 464
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

David Gunn has higher degrees in physics and philosophy, and has previously published in the philosophy of physics. He lives in Auckland, New Zealand.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xiii

Preface 1

Methodological Introduction 4

Part 1 Origins

I The Mechanical Theory 17

1 Active principles in Greek mythology, their rejection by the first philosophers, and subsequent reinstatement 17

2 Second rejection of active principles: atomism 21

3 The separation of active principles from material principles: matter as number and figure 27

4 The recombination of active and material principles in ancient philosophy 31

5 The mathematics of motion 39

6 The modern separation of moving principles from material principles: mathematics and pure mechanism 43

7 The recombination of moving and material principles: mechanistic dynamics 48

8 Mechanism and the philosophy of spirit 60

II The Decline of Mechanism: Field Theory 66

9 The field concept and its fluid-mechanical origins 66

10 Lines of force and contiguous action in the early theory of electricity and magnetism 69

11 The mathematical theory of electric and magnetic fields 72

12 Fields from forces: the attempt to explain electromagnetic phenomena and their field-theoretic representation in terms of a mechanical medium 79

13 Forces from fields: classical electrodynamic theory 82

14 The conservation of electrical charge: its explanation and theoretical significance 85

15 Contiguous action revisited 88

16 Field theory and the non-mechanical nature of Nature 93

III The Gravitational Field and Space-Time 98

17 Space and time in physics and philosophy 98

18 The void: an indeterminate principle of being and motion 101

19 Geometry and the shape of space 104

20 Absolute space and absolute time in mechanistic dynamics 108

21 Relativity theory, the decline of mechanism, and the geometrical unification of 'space' and 'time' 113

22 Space-time geometry and its identification with the gravitational field 119

23 Gravitational charge and its conservation 124

24 Dynamics and the materiality of space-time 127

25 The reality and ideality of space-time 133

IV The Dynamics of Fields 142

26 The general character and significance of modern dynamics 142

27 Mechanism, pneumatism, and the metaphysical foundation of dynamics 146

28 Living force, the truth of pure mechanism 152

29 Variational calculus and the mathematics of pneumatism 156

30 The inadequacy of 'living force', and its successor, 'action' 162

31 The principle of least action: economy in Nature 166

32 The generalized equations of motion for mechanical systems 170

33 Stationary action, the truth of mechanistic dynamics 176

34 Stationary action and the dynamics of fields 184

35 Whole and part 192

36 The unified field program 199

V Quantum Fields 207

37 Fields, particles and forces in quantum theory 207

38 The recalcitrance of particles: photons and atoms 209

39 A general theory of material particles 213

40 Dynamics and the formal development of quantum theory 217

41 Particles or waves? The optico-mechanical analogy 222

42 A general theory of material waves 224

43 The statistical interpretation of matter waves 230

44 Particles and the path-integral formulation 234

45 The physical field in quantum field theory 238

46 Appearance and reality I 245

47 Appearance and reality II 250

48 Part and whole 254

49 The measurement problem 259

50 The end of mechanism 262

Part 2 Meaning

VI The Origin of Matter 269

51 The question of material existence 269

52 Primitive and derived matter 271

53 Dynamical symmetry and the mechanical explanation of matter as the movable 274

54 Existence theorem and the conservation laws of physics 278

55 Modern dynamics and the pneumatical explanation of matter as such 284

56 Substance and the genetic principle 293

57 The distinction between form and matter, and its inadequacy 298

58 Dynamical form and the necessity of the world 305

59 What is matter? 310

VII Physics and Metaphysics 316

60 The problem of metaphysics 316

61 Skepticism in modern philosophy, and its scientific origin 319

62 Philosophy and anthropocentrism 325

63 Subjectivity and objectivity in modern physical theory 330

64 The salvage of metaphysics 334

65 The theory-dependence of method 339

66 A world beyond? 344

67 Mechanism and transcendence 347

68 Pneumatism and immanence 354

69 The possibility of a priori knowledge of the physical 359

70 The philosophy of subjective materialism 364

VIII Material Nature and Human Nature 371

71 A physical theory of human nature 371

72 Freedom and reason 375

73 The material basis of freedom of the will 382

74 The material basis of intelligence 391

75 The nature and origin of good and evil 398

76 Value and being 406

77 The human vocation 413

78 The destiny of the soul 419

Mathematical appendices 431

Notes 436

References 447

Index 451

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