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Whitehead - Concept of Nature

Whitehead - Concept of Nature

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Published by Rogerio Mandelli

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Published by: Rogerio Mandelli on Sep 01, 2011
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04/06/2012

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time-system thus possesses an aggregate of moments belonging to it alone. Each event-particle lies in one and
only one moment of a given time-system. An event-particle has three characters[12]: (i) its extrinsic character
which is its character as a definite route of convergence among events, (ii) its intrinsic character which is the
peculiar quality of nature in its neighbourhood, namely, the character of the physical field in the
neighbourhood, and (iii) its position.

[12] Cf. pp. 82 et seq.

The position of an event-particle arises from the aggregate of moments (no two of the same family) in which
it lies. We fix our attention on one of these moments which is approximated to by the short duration of our
immediate experience, and we express position as the position in this moment. But the event-particle receives
its position in moment M in virtue of the whole aggregate of other moments M{'}, M{''}, etc., in which it also
lies. The differentiation of M into a geometry of event-particles (instantaneous points) expresses the
differentiation of M by its intersections with moments of alien time-systems. In this way planes and straight
lines and event-particles themselves find their being. Also the parallelism of planes and straight lines arises
from the parallelism of the moments of one and the same time-system intersecting M. Similarly the order of
parallel planes and of event-particles on straight lines arises from the time-order of these intersecting
moments. The explanation is not given here[13]. It is sufficient now merely to mention the sources from
which the whole of geometry receives its physical explanation.

[13] Cf. Principles of Natural Knowledge, and previous chapters of the present work.

The correlation of the various momentary spaces of one time-system is achieved by the relation of
cogredience. Evidently motion in an instantaneous space is unmeaning. Motion expresses a comparison
between position in one instantaneous space with positions in other instantaneous spaces of the same
time-system. Cogredience yields the simplest outcome of such comparison, namely, rest.

Motion and rest are immediately observed facts. They are relative in the sense that they depend on the
time-system which is fundamental for the observation. A string of event-particles whose successive
occupation means rest in the given time-system forms a timeless point in the timeless space of that
time-system. In this way each time-system possesses its own permanent timeless space peculiar to it alone,
and each such space is composed of timeless points which belong to that time-system and to no other. The
paradoxes of relativity arise from neglecting the fact that different assumptions as to rest involve the
expression of the facts of physical science in terms of radically different spaces and times, in which points and
moments have different meanings.

The source of order has already been indicated and that of congruence is now found. It depends on motion.
From cogredience, perpendicularity arises; and from perpendicularity in conjunction with the reciprocal
symmetry between the relations of any two time-systems congruence both in time and space is completely
defined (cf. loc. cit.).

The resulting formulae are those for the electromagnetic theory of relativity, or, as it is now termed, the
restricted theory. But there is this vital difference: the critical velocity c which occurs in these formulae has
now no connexion whatever with light or with any other fact of the physical field (in distinction from the
extensional structure of events). It simply marks the fact that our congruence determination embraces both
times and spaces in one universal system, and therefore if two arbitrary units are chosen, one for all spaces
and one for all times, their ratio will be a velocity which is a fundamental property of nature expressing the
fact that times and spaces are really comparable.

The physical properties of nature are expressed in terms of material objects (electrons, etc.). The physical
character of an event arises from the fact that it belongs to the field of the whole complex of such objects.
From another point of view we can say that these objects are nothing else than our way of expressing the

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