Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science

Volume 5 of the series Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science pp 199-215

Matter, Space and Logic

  • David FinkelsteinAffiliated withYeshiva University

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Physics has a warp and a woof, like a fabric stretched across many levels of abstraction and woven out two millenia long. Across the fabric is a pattern persistent over the entire length in which the levels tend to group themselves into three levels of increasing abstraction: theories of matter and mechanics, theories of space and geometry, and theories of logic. Running along the woof is a second pattern, a sequence of discovery pursued first at the most concrete level and then retraced at deeper levels. In this evolutionary process, the theory first passes from its earliest, most ‘rigid’, form into a different but still rigid form (fracture), and then into a non-rigid or ‘flexible’ theory with a continuum of freedom (flow). This process of fracture and flow of physical theories has attacked the deepest levels, those concerned with the logic of the physical world, only in this century and has yet to run its course there. Its working out at these levels is a principal motif of the present and of the immediate future of physics.