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Space is a concept which is very rarely correctly understand by anybody, including modern physicists. However, the purpose of this essay is not to discuss the confusions of others in relation to this concept. My purpose is to introduce a valid concept of space, clearly educed to its referents in reality. It is also meant as an answer to those that damn any and all concepts of empty space as invalid.

Whether or not there is any "absolute" vacuum (even in "outer space") is, according to modern physics, debatable and there are many theories as to whether or not any such areas in space exist or not. However, it is not really impossible from a metaphysical point of view (when I say "metaphysically possible", I mean that from a metaphysical perspective, such is not impossible).

When one considers a "region of space", they are referring to it in relation to separation between a number of entities. This is what space is: a conceptual relationship in which the "space" itself has no physical existence as such.

It is metaphysically possible that regions of "outer space" are empty or that they are a void, provided one recognizes that space is relational concept.

Whatever the separation, the geometrical relationship does, in fact, exist. The relationship can also be said to include the presence of absence of intervening objects (or at least the presence or absence of such objects worthy of consideration in a given context). "Empty" refers to the fact that there are no such objects within that region. This is the so-called "void" of space and, in some contexts, the "void" may refer to a region of space which is alleged to be literally empty of anything at all. It is not metaphysically impossible for this to be so. It is not impossible for this relationship to exist (again, whether or not any such regions exist is beside the point of this essay and is a question for physics to answer, not metaphysics).

Let us analyze "space " a bit more and put this another way: space is a separation between objects. It is a relationship of positions between objects. We say space "contains" one or more objects when there are other objects which exist within the geometrical "boundary" which the bounding objects delimit.

Empty space means that there are no other objects which exist in a position which relates to the objects which are defined as bounding objects in a certain way. By this I mean that there are no other objects which exist according to the relationship of being 'between" objects bound by these objects which we are using to delimit this "space".

This is why it is metaphysically possible to have a "void" in at least one sense, and why it is valid to speak of a void in another sense: the sense that a void is said to refer to "empty " space, to the fact that no relationships of a certain type exist in relation to the objects bound a space. It is an identification of the fact that a certain relationship does not apply in a given case/context.

The void does not "exist qua void"; it has no physical existence. However, it is nonetheless a valid concept and it is appropriate to use it.

Let me make this still more clear: does the fact which I allege "empty space" refers to itself refer to anything in reality? Yes it does. The fact that "there are no objects within this boundary" means that there are some objects in certain locations. The objects and their positions and other objects we wish and their locations are the ultimate referents we are dealing with here.

Now we relate the position of these "boundary" objects in such a way that we form the concept of a "space" between them. Then we consider any other object and we recognize the fact that these objects have location as well, however that location is not within the "space" bound by the boundary objects. We then call that space "empty space" (or we just say it's "empty") to refer to this fact.

However, some people continue to deny the validity of this concept of space and insist on arguing that "reality is a full plenum, it is filled to the brim with something," or some such argument. However, one does need to invent an aether to do away with the concept of "empty space". It is entirely unjustified and rationally impossible to defend on such grounds.

In fact, it is to commit a gross error of its own. It is to assume that "empty space" reifies nothingness, that it is equivalent to claiming that the absence of something is something and that it can be said to be a concept with referents (a valid concept). However, this is false.

It is the identification of a relationship, as explained above. It is not the same as saying that the void exists qua concrete entity. It is simply the statement that certain entities exist with a given relationship to each other. It is not the same as giving nothing metaphysical primacy or stature, and it is most certainly not a contradiction.

In fact, it is to be guilty of yet another error. It is to take the relationship "empty space", which is an abstraction, which refers to objects and their positions, and replacing it with some entity which one then refers to as "the aether". However, this is in fact a logically unnecessary and ridiculous thing to do and, what is more, it is to reify the abstract relationship of space, which is the very error aether theory advocates tend to accuse those that believe in "empty space" of!

So in short: it is metaphysically possible that regions of "outer space" are empty or that they are a void, provided one recognizes that space is relational concept. (If "outer space" is to be a valid term, it must refer generically to any region of "space" which we wish to consider outside of the bounds of the atmosphere of Earth or whichever celestial object one may speak of "outer space" in relation to).

One need not invent an aether for this purpose. One need not treat it as something subject to curvature (which is just another way of reifying space and a failure to recognize it as nothing more than a relational concept).

There is no space in philosophy or physics to treat space as anything but what it is. It is time more people (especially physicists) started doing so.


Original posting by DwayneDavies on Aug 17, 2011 at http://www.braincrave.com/viewblog.php?id=626

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