The Negation of Instantaneous Space in the Relativistic Physics

  • Milič Čapek
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 7)


In various expositions of the special theory of relativity, whether they are technical, popular or semi-popular, we do not frequently find the expression which I placed as the title of this chapter. We do not read about the ‘negation of instantaneous space’. All we read is ‘the negation of absolute simultaneity’. In truth, we read, if not more frequently at least as frequently, about the ‘relativization of the simultaneity of distant events’. In such a formulation the true significance of the revision to which the classical concept of space was subjected is semantically obscured. The most interesting and philosophically most significant implications of such revision are then inevitably notgrasped. This is just another illustration of the fact that radical conceptual revisions require radical revision of the language; otherwise we are pouring a new wine into the old vessels with the familiar result. Though in this case the famous Biblical simile should be slightly modified: the old vessels do notbreak apart, since nothing is more stubbornly resistant than “ordinary language,” whose resistance measures the inertia of the mental habits of which it is a depository. In any case the ‘new wine’ is inevitably spoiled. For if one thing should be clear, it is that the new concepts of physics are notexpressible in the language of homo faber, in the language fashioned by the macroscopic milieu.


Distant Event Contemporary Physic Causal Action Absolute Space Absolute Motion 
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© D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland 1971

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  • Milič Čapek

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