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Description: This paper critiques Bradley's arguments in his writing 'The Unreality of Space and Time. ' This paper argues against Bradley's position using all logical methods necessary. Critiquing Bradley In his article, The Unreality of Space and Time, F. H. Bradley argues that space and time, as they exhibit themselves, are unreal. For Bradley space and time are unreal because they both possess necessary, yet contradictory characteristics. At this time we will depart from directly addressing the issue of time and restrict ourselves to dealing solely with the issue of space, but note that the conclusion and key premises are uniform to both issues.
For Bradley the problem with space is that it is necessarily both ending and endless. Essential to its being space must continue to an end which it cannot possess. Though unexplained, the contradiction is revealed. Space, either how it is exhibited or how it is perceived is self-contradictory and therefore unreal. In explanation Bradley presents the following argument: Space is a relation. That is to say space is an association- a connection between things.
This associative nature of space derives from that which constitutes space. For Bradley space consists of parts of space in relation to each other. To grasp this premise you might consider any amount of space and imagine that space divide in half. These two halves of space exist in relation to each other. Either or both of these halves could further be divided endlessly into oblivion. The picture one then should have is innumerable parts of space in relation to each other continuing to no final limit.
These infinite relational parts of space constitute the relation that is space, the assumption being that space is, what it is constituted of. A problem arises out of this because if space is a relation it is required that it be relative to something other than itself. It is not difficult to understand the logic behind this. Imagine having a conversation speaking associatively about yourself. Such statements as "compared to myself I am relatively tall" or "relative to myself I am very smart" would surely classify you as a fool. A relation requires an association between two or more things.
And so a problem occurs. The continuity of space is hindered by a necessary discreteness. Space as a whole must have a separateness to it. It must have something to reference itself with, and space itself must be referenc able. By virtue of this condition space fails to be spatial.
Space becomes a substantive, qualitative thing, with boundaries. No longer can space continue endlessly as it appears to, instead a necessary end exists, this end being where the associative link between space and its reference begins. Bradley states that the beginning of this reference is as illusory as spaces end. Both pass beyond themselves, never ending, while an end is essential to their being. With out this end where space meets its reference space is not space, but with this end space is unreal. Without a reference space fails to be a relation or fails to be space but with an end it becomes a thing, a solid, qualitative and non-spatial.
An so the contradiction is revealed- space necessarily is what it necessarily cannot be and is therefore unreal. To aid in considering the validity and soundness of this argument it is re-presented in standard logical form below. 1. Space is constituted of never ending parts of space in relation to each other. 2. If space is to be space it must be the same as its constituents. 3.
Space is space. C 1. Space is never-ending and space is a relation. 4. If space is a relation then it must be relative to something. 5.
If space is relative to something then space must have a boundary. 6. If space has a boundary then space must have an end. 7. If space has an end then space cannot be never-ending without being self-contradictory. 8. Space both has an end and is never-ending. C 2. Space is self-contradictory. 9.
If space is a self-contradictory then space is unreal. C. Space is unreal. This is a valid argument. The form is chain argument and implication which are both valid forms. All support links are in place and so the argument is logistically valid.
Although valid I do not find this argument to be sound. Though Bradley makes a solid case, it appears as though the crux of Bradley's problem derives from a fallible assumption. Bradley assumption is that space is a relation because that which constitutes space is a relation. By condition of being a relation space must be in relation to something and by condition of that space fails to be endless or, in other words fails to be what it must be. The assumption that initiates this great strife is that a whole cannot extend beyond its parts; that is, space cannot be anything but a relation because its parts are but relation.
I find this assumption questionable at best. Little that we know of is but that of its parts. What constitutes water is not water, what constitutes water is 1 part Hydrogen and 2 parts Oxygen. What constitutes air is not air, what constitutes air is 78 % Nitrogen, 21 % Oxygen, and lesser amounts of argon, carbon dioxide, neon, etc.
And even these elements can be reduced to their atomic constituents. Admittedly authorities on atomism consider the atom to be an irreducible structure; This shows that there may be some things that are nothing more than the whole of their parts. Despite this it is obvious that things can extend beyond their constituents. This is sufficient to discredit Bradley's argument.
Although it is possible that space is nothing more than the relation that are its constituents, it is as well possible that space is something beyond its constituents just as with air and water. Space may in fact be endless because of the relational aspects of its constituents. Most who would argue would attack the merit of my opposing argument at the preceding point. Although it is possible that space could be something beyond its constituents it is highly unlikely that it could be the antithesis of its constituents. That is to say that it is doubtful that from x alone -x is achievable, or accurate to this case, from relation alone, non-relation is achievable. This is certainly a formidable challenge and one not easily addressed.
In an attempt to address it I propose this simple experiment. Place a small statuette on a desk. Turn on a flashlight and aim it at the statuette. Change your position adjacent to the statuette while still keeping the light aimed at it. Watch as the shadow moves as you do. Are you not creating darkness out of light?
Certainly the dynamics prove you are in control, for the shadow moves as you do. That which is light is creating dark. The antithesis is achieved. I must admit this is not the solid example requisite to a discussion such as this.
After all the statuette is factor beyond light alone and so light alone is not creating darkness. In any event Bradley never offers an explanation of the nature of space and in his failure to do so does not present what other factors may or may not be in place. In his introduction he states that space may in fact be "the product of non-spatial elements. " Though he does not pursue the notion in farther than this, this single sentence is sufficient enough to show that Bradley believes some factors exist beyond what he presents in the relevant writing. All considered then, factors un-presented by Bradley may exist which would allow space to be the antithesis of its constituents.
And so my opposition to Bradley stands as is. My point of attack is little more than obscure and it falls far short from proving that space is not a relation. All my microcosmic argument shows is that space need not be the relation that Bradley argues it is. Space could be something other than the relations that comprise it. If so then problem does not exist. After all if space is not a relation then it need not be in relation to anything, and so the possibility to be never-ending remains intact.
In all fairness to Bradley he may have a sound argument for why he feels space is as its constituents are. Unfortunately he does not present that argument here and as a result his conclusion that space is unreal is left questionable.
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