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Glossary

 

Action. (1) Working, agency or operation. (2) Manifested or actualized *force. (3) A *dynamical quantity appearing in *Hamilton’s principle: the time integral of the *Lagrangian.

Active principle. A primitive *force or power of some kind, especially one that animates or constitutes *matter. It might be physical or non-physical. *Soul, as conceived by Plato or Descartes, is a non-physical active principle that animates matter. Newtonian *inertial force is a primitive physical power that constitutes matter.

Aesthetic. (1) n. A theory or philosophy of sensation, taste, beauty or art. (2) adj. Of, or pertaining to, sensation, taste, beauty or art.

Analysis and synthesis. The scientific method endorsed and applied by Isaac Newton. The first part (analysis) employs general theoretical principles to extract from the phenomena knowledge of their causes or grounds. The second part (synthesis) uses this knowledge to explain the original phenomena and other phenomena not subjected to the initial analysis.

Being. (1) adj. That property which real or actual entities possess by virtue of their reality or actuality. ‘Being’ is sometimes considered synonymous with ‘existence’, although whether existence itself is a property has been disputed by philosophers. (2) n. A real or actual entity, e.g. a *substance. (3) adj. The nature or essence of a thing.

Bosons and fermions. The two basic classes of physical *fields or particles, as defined by the “rotational” properties or spin, and corresponding statistics, of these entities. Photons and gluons, having integer spin and Bose-Einstein statistics, are bosons; electrons and quarks, having half-integer spin and Fermi-Dirac statistics, are fermions.

Cause. An origin of change (becoming) or stability (being). E.g. a *force.

Conservation principles. Physical laws which state that certain material quantities—such as the total amount of energy or electrical charge in a closed physical system—remain constant over time. Although these laws are commonly referred to as principles, they are in fact derivable from more basic laws, namely, *Hamilton’s principle and *symmetry principles.

Critical idealism. The mature philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). Also known as transcendental idealism, Kant’s philosophy is an *idealism in holding matter or Nature to depend on (finite) *mind. But it is also critical in subjecting the mind to an examination of its powers and limits, and concluding that it (finite mind) can know things only in so far as they appear to it, not as they are in themselves, i.e. independently of sense experience. In this latter respect—i.e. in so far as things-in-themselves are held to transcend thought—Kant’s idealism approaches *realism.

Dynamical. Of, or pertaining to, *dynamics.

Dynamical principle. A primitive and general law of physical *force or *action. Examples are Newton’s laws of motion and *Hamilton’s principle. Such laws specify the universal form of physical action, to which more determinate laws, like Newton’s law of gravity, must conform.

Dynamical variables. Mathematical variables that appear in a physical system’s dynamical laws, and which specify the system’s state (at any given time).

Dynamics. The general theory of physical *force or *action, and of the motions produced or affected by such. ‘Dynamics’ derives from the Greek word dynamis (δύναμις), which means force or power. Compare *kinematics, *statics.

Empirical. Based on, or justified by, sense experience (rather than reason). Compare *rational.

Equivalence principle. The physical principle that motion under gravity is (identical or equivalent to) *inertial motion. One of the principles on which *general relativity theory is based.

Evolutionary biology. The scientific theory, or class of such theories, according to which living forms (species) are not fixed or immutable but have evolved from other living forms via successive adaptations to the environment. In the (now largely discredited) evolutionary theory of Lamarck adaptation arises from organisms altering their characteristics through use, and passing on these alterations to offspring. In the (prevailing) theory of Darwin and Wallace adaptation arises principally by natural selection, i.e. from the environment favouring the survival and propagation of those organisms whose (inherited, “unalterable”) characteristics make them most fitted to it.

Fields. Elementary material entities that are continuously extended in space (rather than localised, like particles), and which behave in many respects like waves. For example, fields are mutually superimposable: two or more of them can coexist throughout the same region of space. In the nineteenth century many physicists (including Maxwell but not Faraday) maintained that fields, like water waves, are dispositional rather than substantial, and as such require a material medium to support them. This view was decisively undermined by Einstein, who showed that such a medium was not only superfluous to field-theoretic explanations of electromagnetic phenomena but also contrary to the observed invariance of such phenomena (including the speed of light) under change of *inertial reference frame.

Field theory. (1) The theoretical framework in physics which states that matter is either partly or wholly made up of *fields. (2) A specification or an instance of (1). Modern physics rests on two such instances: *general relativity theory, which is Einstein’s theory of gravity, and *quantum field theory, which is itself a theoretical framework incorporating the specific quantum field theories of electromagnetism and nuclear physics.

Force. That which acts, or by which something acts. An agent. It can be self-determining (pneumatical) or other-determining (mechanical). Compare *action, *cause.

Free will. A power of, or capacity for, self-determination in human beings. Compare *soul.

General relativity theory. Einstein’s theory of gravity. It is based on the *relativity principle, the *equivalence principle, and the existence of a finite, invariant speed (the speed of light). The theory is a classical (i.e. non-quantum) *field theory, in which the gravitational field is identified with the geometry of space-time.

Genetic principle. The principle that something (being) can neither come from nor go into nothing. A foundational principle of early Greek philosophy, and one respected to this day in the *conservation principles of physics. Compare the *principle of the permanence of substance.

Genetics. The modern scientific theory of biological heredity, i.e. of the transference of biological characteristics from parents to offspring. According to the theory such characteristics are encoded in genes, or sequences of DNA molecules, that are present in the cells of all living things, and which are propagated during conception. The mutation of genes is considered a significant source of diversity in species. In so far as mutation leads to varying degrees of fitness to the environment, it generates the raw material upon which the evolutionary mechanism of natural selection can act. See *evolutionary biology.

Hamilton’s principle. The *dynamical principle that a physical system’s *action is stationary, i.e. either a maximum or a minimum. Named after the Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865) who formulated it, the principle is also known as the principle of stationary action.

Human nature. That collection of characteristics—including physical, biological, psychological, and social characteristics—which belongs to human beings as such, or essentially.

Idealism. In *metaphysics, the theory that whatever exists is either mental or dependent on mind for its existence. The opposite of *realism. Idealism assumes that mind is an *active principle that is *pneumatical and non-physical. Compare *materialism.

Ideology. (1) In philosophy, the concepts, principles and theories that together constitute a particular outlook, worldview or paradigm. Compare *methodology. (2) In politics, the philosophical prejudices of the other party. (3) In social theory, assumptions about reality and the good that have been smuggled into public discourse by vested interests. Or, the ruling ideas of the ruling class. Or, philosophy that (mistakenly) supposes human history to be governed by ideas rather than by concrete human beings, their modes of material production and resulting forms of intercourse. Or,…

Inertial force. In Newtonian physics, the force by which a body continues in its present state of motion and resists efforts from without to change its state. Its measure is the mass or quantity of matter in the body.

Inertial motion. Free or “unforced” motion. More accurately, the motion of a body that is not subjected to unbalanced external (i.e. *mechanical) forces.

Inertial reference frame. The frame of reference of a body in *inertial motion.

Kinematics. A purely mathematical or descriptive (rather than explanatory) theory of motion, i.e. one that does not take into account the forces operating. Kinematical concepts include ‘velocity’ and ‘acceleration’, but not ‘mass’, which is the measure of *inertial force, or ‘momentum’, because it involves ‘mass’, or *action. Compare *dynamics.

Lagrangian. A function, appearing in *Hamilton’s principle, that specifies the *dynamical content of a physical system. It is named after the Italian-born French mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange (1736-1813), who introduced the function into *dynamics. For a system of classical material particles the Lagrangian takes the form L=T-V, where T is the total kinetic energy and V is the potential energy.

Logic. In philosophy, the formal theory of inference or valid reasoning.

Loop quantum gravity. A quantum theory of gravity that (unlike *string theory) respects the *equivalence principle, and (unlike *general relativity theory) conceives space-time as quantized or granular rather than continuous.

Materialism. In *metaphysics, the theory that whatever exists is either material or dependent on *matter for its existence. Present-day materialism usually assumes that matter ultimately consists of particles or *fields of some kind. This assumption is rejected in the Pneumatology of Matter, which argues that a *force that is physical and *pneumatical is ultimate. The resulting materialism is a *pneumatical or *subjective materialism. Compare *idealism, *realism.

Matter. (1) That which is studied in a scientific way by physics. (2) That which belongs to all natural beings as such. (3) The most universal kind of being in Nature.

Mechanical. Other-determining or other-directed. The opposite of *pneumatical. The term applies, but is not restricted to, cases in which one thing determines another through contact.

Mechanism. (1) The theory that all material action is ultimately *mechanical in character. Together with *materialism this theory implies that all action whatsoever is ultimately mechanical. Compare *pneumatism. (2) A system whose actions are not self-determined—not original to the system as a whole, in other words—but are the products its constituents’ actions and (perhaps) external factors.

Metaphysic. (1) A theory of reality in general. (2) A theory of a transcendent or non-physical reality.

Metaphysics. That part of philosophy which concerns (1) the nature of reality in general, or (2) the nature of a reality which transcends, or exists independently of, material reality, or (3) theoretical knowledge that is true a priori, or independently of sense experience, but is neither logical nor mathematical knowledge. (This last usage is due to Kant.)

Methodology. A study of the principles and procedures used to confirm, justify or falsify theories, ideas and beliefs. Such principles and procedures may be *empirical, *rational or *aesthetic in character. Compare *ideology.

Mind. (1) That which is studied in a scientific way by psychology. (2) That which, or by which one, thinks, perceives or feels. Mind has been conceived as a non-physical *active principle, but also as the mere form (behaviour) of the brain or body. According to *subjective materialism mind is an *active principle that is physical, *pneumatical and constitutive of *matter, and as such prior to the brain.

Momentum. The quantity of motion of a body, as defined by Newton. Its measure is the body’s mass multiplied by its velocity.

Necessary being. A *being, or kind of being, that cannot not exist. A being whose idea, concept or essence implies its existence. The traditional candidate is the god of monotheism, however the Pneumatology of Matter argues that mere matter exists necessarily.

Newtonian analysis. See *analysis and synthesis.

Ontological. Of, or pertaining to, *ontology.

Ontology. That part of a *metaphysic which specifies the constituents of reality and classifies them according to their properties.

Pneumatical. Self-determining or self-directed. The opposite of *mechanical. The Greek word pneuma (πνεῦμα) means breath and, in philosophical and religious contexts, *soul or spirit, a principle of life and self-determination. The earliest known use of pneuma was made by the Greek philosopher Anaximenes (c.585-c.528 BC), who denoted by it the element of Air as cosmic principle.

Pneumatical materialism. See *subjective materialism.

Pneumatism. The theory that all action is ultimately *pneumatical in character. It might be an *idealism (e.g. Leibniz’s monadology) or a *materialism (e.g. *subjective materialism). Compare *mechanism.

Pneumatology. The science of *pneumatical forces or powers. Traditionally, metaphysics and theology have taken such powers to be non-physical, the assumption being that self-determination is possible only through non-physical powers, while physical forces, on the contrary, have been deemed entirely other-determining or *mechanical in character. This assumption is rejected in the Pneumatology of Matter, which argues that physical force is itself fundamentally self-determining, and that, consequently, non-physical powers do not exist.

Principle. (1) A primitive or underived statement of a theory. An axiom. (2) A fundamental constituent of reality, possibly an *active principle (soul, primitive force) or a material principle (particle, field, string).

Principle of bivalence. In *logic, the law that any given statement is either true or false. Compare the *principle of contradiction.

Principle of contradiction. In *logic, the law that a statement cannot be both true and false at the same time in the same sense. Compare the *principle of bivalence.

Principle of the permanence of substance. In *metaphysics, the law that the total quantity or magnitude of *substance neither increases nor decreases over time. Compare the *genetic principle.

Purposive. Serving, or apparently serving, some purpose or end.

Quantum field theory. The most theoretically mature and empirically successful form of quantum theory, which is the modern theory of matter (gravity excepted). Originally a synthesis of Heisenberg’s particle-theoretic quantum theory and Schrödinger’s matter-wave theory, it constitutes the ideological framework of the quantum theories of electromagnetism and nuclear physics. The fundamental constituents of matter posited by these theories are physical *fields whose corresponding *dynamical variables are (non-commuting) operators, and whose observed quanta are material particles.

Quantum principle. The heuristic or methodological principle that all fundamental physical laws, including those of gravity, should be consistently quantizable, meaning that they should all be formulated in such a way that their *dynamical variables are (non-commuting) operators.

Rational. Based on, or justified by, reason (rather than sense experience). Compare *empirical.

Realism. In *metaphysics, the theory that some things, particularly matter, are neither mental nor dependent on mind for their existence. The opposite of *idealism. One form of realism is dualism, which states that mind also exists independently of matter. Another form is *materialism, which states that mind depends on matter—this holds, at any rate, in “traditional” materialism, though not in *subjective materialism.

Relativity principle. The symmetry principle, formalised by Einstein, that the laws governing physical systems are independent of the position, velocity and orientation of the systems relative to any given observer.

Skepticism. In philosophy, (1) The view that a certain kind of knowledge—especially that sought by *metaphysics and systematic philosophy, but sometimes also by science—is unattainable. More radically, (2) the view that all knowledge is unattainable.

Soul. A *principle of life. That which, allegedly, makes living things alive. It is usually conceived as a non-physical *active principle of self-determination and organic unity, although some thinkers have held it to be the mere form (behaviour) of a living body. Compare *free will, *vital spirit.

Statics. The study of physical forces in so far as they bring about equilibrium or stasis in matter.

String theory. A unified theory of matter and its fundamental interactions, including gravity. It is based on the *quantum principle, the *relativity principle and *supersymmetry, but not the *equivalence principle. It posits strings—minute filaments of energy—as the basic material objects. The different vibrational modes of these strings correspond to particles with different properties. A version of string theory, known as string field theory, is formally analogous to *quantum field theory: here strings are not absolutely basic (just as particles are not in quantum field theory) but are manifestations of underlying physical *fields.

Subjective materialism. The *metaphysic established in the Pneumatology of Matter. It asserts that reality, at bottom, consists not of physical objects but of physical force that is subjective or *pneumatical, and as such animates and constitutes matter. *Mind, according to subjective materialism, is a high-level instance of this force, and therefore prior to the brain.

Substance. (1) An independently or continuously existing thing. (2) A thing that acts or is capable of action. (3) A primitive constituent of reality. (4) A *being in the fullest sense.

Supersymmetry. A symmetry principle which implies that *bosons and fermions are related in such a way that for every boson there exists a corresponding fermion, and vice versa.

Symmetry principles. Physical principles which state that the (Hamiltonian) *action of a physical system remains unchanged under certain transformations of the system’s *dynamical or space-time co-ordinate variables. E.g. the *relativity principle.

Synthetic a priori knowledge. Knowledge that is *rational (a priori) but also synthetic, i.e. its truth does not follow simply from the meanings of the terms employed (as does the truth of ‘Every effect has a cause’).

Teleological. That which is *purposive or directed toward some end.

Theological. Of, or pertaining to, the study of a god or gods.

Transcendental. Of, or pertaining to, a being or world that exists independently of the material world.

Vital spirit. A non-physical *active principle whose alleged presence in living things accounts for their differences from non-living things. Compare *soul.

 
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