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jnw PHILOSOPHY 201/301 METAPHYSICS KANT'S ARGUMENT FOR ABSOLUTE SPACE
Introduction: Absolute versus relational views of space '\That is space? Historically, there have been two main views on the nature of space. These are (a) The Absolute Theory of Space and (b) The Relational Theory of Space. Exactly what these theories are is rather difficult to explain. Roughly, the 'absolute' theory of space says that space is a thing. On this view, if we had to list all of the things in the universe, the list might include The Earth The Sun The Pacific Ocean Space New Zealand etc. On this view, space is just another one of the 'inhabitants' of the universe. Metaphorically speaking, it's just another one of the things our universe 'contains'. (Although note: it doesn't literally contain space.) Advocates of the relational theory of space say that this way of viewing things is wrong. They say that the Earth exists all right, and so does the Sun, etc. But it is a mistake to include space in this list. There is really no such thing as space, on the relational view. I think that our initial common-sense reaction favours what I am calling the relational view. Common sense seems to indicate that there is something confused or wrong with including space as one of the things that exist, along with New Zealand, the Pacific Ocean, etc. However, the absolutist (as I will call an advocate of the absolute theory of space) has a reply to this. 'How, then,' the absolutist may ask, 'do you account for the fact that sometimes we say things like "There is space between the book and the coffee cup" or "You have left too much space between these two letters" or "There is a great deal of space between the Milky Vlay and the galaxy of Andromeda"?, Th~se sentences, which we all are prepared. to assert, seem to commit us. to saying that there is indeed a thing called' space' . Consider the follov.ring sentence:
the absolutist may conclude. So. But now consider the following inference: 'There is space between this coffee cup and this book. another entity (lane) and a third entity (friendship) that exists between them. Suppose that we say 'There is friendship between Mary and Jane. we should say that space does exist. How would a relationist reply to this argument? Characteristically. We have only two entities -. and should be replaced by another sentence.Mary and lane -. say. the way relationists reply is as follows. as. .' so 'There is space' that is ' Space exists. then consistency demands that we should also accept the second inference to the conclusion that space exists. are friends. It should be replaced with some sentence such as "This pen and this book are spatially related in a particular way".' Obviously we do not have here one entity (Mary).' The inference from the first sentence to the conclusion' A pen exists' seems to be perfectly acceptable.' This sentence logically entails: 'There is a pen' which is just a way of saying 'A pen exists.' Therefore 'There is friendship. They say: 'The sentence "There is space between this coffee cup and this book" is actually misleading.'There is a pen between this coffee cup and this book. this suggestion by the relationist might seem like a purely verbal quibble.who. a chair might exist between them.' At first. But the point the relationists are making can be brought out by considering another example.' It would clearly be strange to reason: 'There is friendship between Mary and lane.' that is 'Friendship exists. Vole might say 'There is friendship between lane and Mary' but this is just a long way of saying that lane and Mary are both friends.' The absolutist may argue that if we are prepared to accept the first inference to the conclusion that a pen exists.
but that does not mean that there is a third entity -. be interpreted as meaning: This book and this coffee cup are spatially related in a certain way where this does not mean that there are three things: the book. Mal and the relation of brotherhood between them.brotherhood -. (That is why their view is called the reladonis! view of space. Those who adopt a relationist view of space say we can adopt a similar view of statements about space.as well as Mike and Mal.' (2) (1) where (2) does not imply the existence of any entity space. (Just as Mike and Mal are related. advocates of the reladonis! view of space say that statements apparently about space should be properly understood as statements about relations between objects. according to the relationist. Suppose that Mike and Mal are brothers. rather there are only two things. This should.a and b are spatially related. That is. the book and the cup. (2) only implies the existence of the objects a and b.) . We might say 'There is a relation of brotherhood between Mike and Mal' but it would clearly be foolish to conclude that we have here three things: l\1ike. we only have two 'things: Mike and Mal.) We can give a more general characterisation of the relational view of space as follows: Advocates of the relational view of space say that any sentence of the form: 'There is space between a and b. but there are still only two things. l\1ike and Mal are related as brothers. More briefly. Mike Brotherhood Mal Rather. but there are still only two things. Consider the sentence: There is space between this book and this coffee cup. Those two things are related spatially. not three things. the cup and space.' should be understood as asserting .~". we do not have .\Ve can use another example to illustrate the same point.
The absolutists say that space exists. This raises the question of what it is.If space were some kind of substance then it would seem that it ought to be possible for it to.) Similarly the relational view of space should not be confused with the view that the space that actually exists in the universe is some strange non-Euclid~an space. This constitutes a good reason for saying that space is not a substance. A region from which all space has been removed is a vacuum.perhaps something like air only more 'rarefied'. We ". cups._If.. (Euclidean space is just the space of common sense. react chemically with other substances. e. etc.rillreturn to this question later. But such a view seems to be clearly quite VvTong. space cannot be a substance. A scientist could say 'I will see if iron reacts with sulphuric acid' or 'I will see if helium reacts with sulphuric acid'. then it would not be nonsensical to ask whether it could react ". Not only do objects in space such as tables. Yet there is still space inside. But exactly what type of thing is space claimed to be? If it is said 'There is space between this coffee cup and this book' so 'There is space'. the absolute view of space or the relational view? Before we start to critically evaluate the two views. But it obviously cannot do that. it is being claimed that space is the type of thing that can lie between objects. whatever it is. chairs. So. space is not a substance. but it would clearly be nonsensical for him to consider whether space reacts with sulphuric acid. But if space were a kind of substance. So it seems to be assumed that space is some kind of substance -. Another reason for saying that space is not a substance is that it seems to be possible to remove all the substance from a region and yet space remains. say. It is possible to hold that actual space is Euclidean and hold a relational view of space. but space itself does not exist. exist. let us grant that. an evacuated flask. The absolute view of space should not be confused with the view that the space that actually exists is Euclidean space." chairs. but also space itself exists. (There is perhaps one point that needs to be cleared up here. exist. .g. sulphuric acid.) \Vhich view is correct. . we need to clarify the absolute view of space a little. Since it is possible to remove all substance and yet for space to remain.rith e. etc. On the Relational view of space space does not exist.. .In summary The Absolutist yiew of space is that space exists.g. Only objects such as tables. These objects are spatially related.
You can't do it. ~shape of your left hand really is different from the shape of your right hand. Let us also assume for the sake of the argument that the relationist view of space is correct. If it didn't fit into either then we would doubt whether it is a human hand at all. Now. The argument is due to Kant. would be either a left hand or a right hand? Kant argues that the relationist cannot account for this. and so their spatial properties must be different. I \\rill call it Kant's handedness argument for absolute space. Note that Kant is not simply or merely claiming that if a single human hand were the only thing we could not tell whether it was right or left. as we noted before. There are certain differences between them but also certain similarities. your left hand and your right hand must occupy different space. for the sake of argument.the absolute view or the relational yiew? I will now consider a famous argument for the absolute view of space. Rather. let us make two assumptions: Let us assume that there is nothing in the universe but a single human hand. The question now arises. can a relationist account for the fact that a single human hand. Ignore those differences. grant that the hand would have to be a left hand or a right hand. the shape of a thing is a spatial property of that thing. Kant's Handedness Argument for Absolute Space Consider your right hand and your left hand. there would be no difference. Now. a left hand and a right hand occupy different bits of space. existing out in space. You can't fit a left hand into a right handed glove. Still your right hand is different from your left hand. Essentially what Kant argues is this. it would have to fit into either a right hand glove or a left hand glove. according to relationists. there . If there were nothing but a single human hand in the universe.\Vhich view of space is correct -. he is claiming that if the relationists' view of space were correct. Now. to say that something has a certain shape is to make a claim about what space it occupies. So. We will come back to this point later. For example. Recall that. For example. statements about space should be understood as really being statements about spatial relations between objects. Roughly. and if the relationist view of space were correct. so the space a left hand occupies must be different from the space a right hand occupies. Try fitting vour left hand into a right-handed glove. Let us. Kant claims that this hand existing out in space would have to be either a left hand or a right hand. on the back of your left hand there may be a freckle that is absent from the back of your right hand. between it being a left hand and it being a right hand. There are some differences which :wewill ignore. 'What this shows is that the ~.
Consider a left hand existing out in space by itself. And if we assume that there aren't any other objects for the hands to be spatially related to. Now. Now. There will be certain spatial relationships between its parts. They must occupy different space. There is a spatial difference between a left hand and a right hand. So.wouldn't actually be any difference between a left hand and a right hand. if one of them is a left hand and the other is a right hand.they have a different shape. There will be the same angle between the thumb and the index fmger. So. The spatial relationships between the various parts of the left hand will be exactly the same as the spatial relationships between the various parts of (he right hand. There will be certain angles between the other fingers. For example. We have now arrived at the core of Kant's argument. (From 1 and 2) ~ ). there will be a certain angle between the thumb and the index finger.e. So. But if they have all the same spatial relationships. let's consider a right hand existing out in space by itself. . We can summarise the argument as follows: 1. the relationist about space \\rill have to say that the following sentence: There would be some spatial difference between a left hand existing all by itself (i. Ignore differences like a freckle on the left hand that is not on the right hand. There 'Willbe other spatial relationships: for example. because they have a different shape. ") There is a difference in shape between a left hand and a right hand (a left hand won't fit into a right handed glove). as the only thing in the universe) and a right hand existing all by itself. to say that a left hand and a right hand have different shape is to attribute some spatial difference to them. the relationist view of space must be wrong. the right hand also has. then according to the relationist. say. this means that all the spatial relationships that the left hand has. Why does Kant say this? We already know that a left hand and a right hand have a different shape. there must be a spatial difference between them -. is really a statement about objects that are spatially related. Can the relationist say what the difference is between a left hand and a right hand in terms of spatial relations betw~en objects? It seems not. Differences in shape are spatial differences. 3/4 the length of the ring finger. relationists say that statements about space are really statements about objects that are spatially related. etc. The point is. between the other fingers. A left "hand and a right hand occupy different space. the right hand will have exactly the same spatial relationshipsbetween its parts as the left hand. the little finger will be. there can be no spatial difference between them. and so on. But.
They suggest that if a human hand were the only object in the universe. but cannot fit on both. This step is that if a single human hand was the only object in the universe. (From 10. A Critical Eyaluation of Kant's Handedness Argument Step 6 in Kant's argument might be questioned. and a solitary hand that was a right hand would be a difference between the spatial relationships that would hold between the parts of the left solitary hand and the right solitary hand. (From 9) But there is a spatial difference between a solitary left hand and a solitary right hand. (From 5 and 7) But. 11) 5. Why do they say this? To understand this. 10. it would be indetenninate as to whether it was right or left. Then my thumb will point upwards.4. 6.Tistin this way.you put . Suppose .Tong. the relationist view of space is v. my left thumb will point upward. it's clear that only a right hand will fit onto a right v. So. (They have a different shape.) Therefore. it would have to be either a left hand or a right hand. Now. There would be a spatial difference between a left hand existing alone in the universe and a right hand existing alone in the universe. all claims about space are really claims about objects that are spatially related. What does this mean? Suppose I put my right hand against my chest. it would have to be either a left hand or a right hand. against my chest.) (This is 7 again. 11. 8. (From 1. 12. (From 4) If a human hand were the only object in the universe. According to relationists. This is a crucial step in Kant's argument. with my palm. 2 and 6) The relationist must say that the spatial difference between a solitary hand that was a left hand. Call this hand 'the solitary hand'. if I put my left hand against my chest. 7. the relationist must say there is no spatial difference between a solitary left hand and a solitary right hand. Kant's reason for saying this is as follows: i\ny hand must 'fit on' one wrist of a handless human body. we need to look at why Kant said that if a hand were the only thing in existence. and some philosophers have denied it. any spatial difference between two objects (such as a left hand and a right hand) must be a difference between the spatial relationships between the parts of the left hand and the spatial relationships between the parts of the right hand. it would have to be either a right hand or a left hand. According to relationists. so that my palm is pressed up against my chest. 9. there is no difference in the spatial relations that would hold between the parts of a solitary left hand the the parts of a solitary right hand. Similarly.
. . would it be determinate which of its wrists was the right wrist and which was the left? It seems though Kant's argumentfor as saying that the hand must be either right or left is based on the assumption that a human wrist would have to be either right or left.would be a left hand or a right hand. But before I do. This seems to provide us with a way of telling whether a hand -. then the thumb would also point downward when the palm of the hand was pressed against the chest.floating out in space by itself as the only thing in the universe -. If we are to establish that' A or B' is true. If the thumb pointed down. But it seems to be possible to object to Kant's argument at this point. because you know the internal design of what is in the box.Tist. If a handless human body was floating out in space all by itself. point. you know the internal design of the system and what it is like in the box even though you can't actually see inside the box.and then pressed the palm of the hand against the chest. I need to establish a preliminary.Tist. you know that the marble must go into either box A or box B. But this assumption is surely just as questionable as the original claim that the hand must be right or left. It is widely believed by philosophers that Kant's argument is faulty at this point. Consider the following setup: I I Let us suppose that you know what the system is like: Le. do we need to establish that A is true or B is true? At first. that is. Then the thumb would point downward. However.. it might not be clear what the question I am asking is. But now a new problem arises. However. but it can be illustrated with an example. If the solitaryhand were placed on a (handless)right human v. The difficulty is that this provides us with a way of telling whether the hand is left or right only if we know whether it is attached to a left or right human wrist. of assuming (as one of the premises in the argument) the very thing that needs to be proved. is Kant guilty of this fallacy? I will argue that he is not. let us suppose that if you drop a marble in you do not know whether the marble goes into box A or Box B.a left hand onto a right v. if you put a right hand on a left wrist. It seems as though Kant is guilty of the fallacy of begging the question. Similarly. But. then the hand would be a right hand.and the thumb pointed up when the palm was placed against the chest. then the hand would be a left hand.
However. it would have to be a left hand or a right hand. (Step 6 of the argument is simply that a hand existing out in space would have to be either left or right -. if it were attached to the wrist and the palm pressed against the chest.left or right -.What this shO\vs is that sometimes you can know that' A or B' is true even though you do not know which of A or B is true. Now. expressed in this way. On the relationist view of space.it doesn't require that we be able to tell which it is. if a human hand were the only thing in space. it should be noted that many philosophers do not accept Kant's argument. His reason for saying this is that any hand must 'fit on' one wrist of a handless human body. but cannot fit on both. what bearing does this have on Kant's argument? Kant says that if a single human hand were the only thing in the universe. Is it also an argument for an absolutist view of space? It would be if the following argument were sound: Premise One: Either the absolutist view of space is correct or the relationist view of space is correct. sometimes we can know that' A or B' is true even though we don't know which of A or B is true.) So Kant's handedness argument seems to be a powerful one. Now. . if the argument is sound. then it must tell us that the hand must be either left or right (it can't be both) even though it doesn't tell us which one it is. We can represent Kant's argument as follows: If a hand can fit on one wrist of a human body but not on both. it would have to be either a left hand or a right hand. the above argument doesn't assume that any particular wrist is a left wrist or a right wrist.Tistis that. It cannot explain why. Also. it doesn't tell us if the hand is left or right in the sense that it doesn't tell us which one -. then that hand must be left or right. (Remember.the hand is.idely known amongst philosophers. ?remise Two: The relationist view of space is not correct. But.~erlich's Knees We have seen that Kant has an argument which seems to show that the relationist view of space is wrong. then the thumb must point upward. it seems. Many philosophers accept that it begs the question. The points I have just made are not v. there would be no difference between a left hand and a right hand if they were the only things in space. This is an argument against the relationist view of space. Where what it means to say that a hand fits on a v. Therefore: The absolutist view of space is correct. An Extension of Kant's Handedness Argument -.) And this is all that Kant's argument needs.
if we move the right knee around. So the above argument cannot really be regarded as an absolutely conclusive argument for the absolute view of space. This can be shown by the fact that you can't put a right hand in a left glove -. A right knee on the Moebius . one difference between a left hand and a right hand is that they occupy different space. the same effect can also be achieved by certain peculiar two-dimensional spaces. (In fact. then we can never get the right knee to occupy the same space as the left knee. keeping it on the paper all the time. Note that they exhibit many of the same features as hands. But now. Are there any better arguments for the absolute view of space? Yes there are. what happens if we allow the left knee to travel through three-dimensional space? If we lift the left knee off the piece of paper and turn it over. two dimensions and three dimensions. We can represent the space occupied by a left knee by tracing around it on a flat piece of paper. it is easy to then place it on the space occupied by the right knee. If we move the knees around only in two dimensional space. plane. two-dimensional space and three-dimensional space (line. This is. Nerlich's knees are simple counterparts of the hands. like the space represented by the surface of a Moebius strip. In all this. they can be regarded as schematic hands. Nerlich calls these things 'knees': r . Is premise one correct? It may be correct. we need to briefly go into the concepts of one dimension. They are reflections of each other.Graham Nerlich. ordinary space). neither relationist nor absolute. except that it has a mist in it. just as a right hand is a reflection of a left hand.a two-dimensional space like the surface of the blackboard. Now. Also. The surface of a piece of paper or a blackboard can be regarded as a two-dimensional space. It would seem to be at least possible for there to be some third theory of space. And so on. but then again it may not be. Now. Now.) There is a left one and a right one. At this point we must leave Kant and study a contemporary philosopher -. we find that we can't get the right knee to occupy the same space as the left knee. Now. the same thing applies to knees. n The left knee The right knee These things have come to be knO\vnin the literature as 'Nerlich's knees'. then the relationship between the right knee and the left knee seems to be exactly the same as the relationship between the right hand and the left hand.We have seen Kant's argument for premise two. If we restrict the movement of the knees to two-dimensional space. at this point.at least without changing the shape of the glove. We can also speak of one-dimensional space.
or the nature of space. Well. this has relevance for the theory of absolute space. because it can be used to explain certain things. But it is widely accepted that if some thing X can be used to explain that thing it must be real. But. can be used in explanations. let's notice an implication of this.) So what? you may very well ask. if they are restricted to moving around in two-dimensional space. For example.' The point is that this discussion shows that the nature of space can be used in explanations. The theory of absolute space is the theory that space exists and is a real thing. Now. suppose that there is an essential difference between the right knee and left knee. we can explain this by saying 'Because the knees can move through three-dimensional space. What Nerlich's argument shows is that space. then there is an essential difference between a left knee and a right knee. Nerlich's argument seems to show that space exists.e. or is real. How do we explain this? We explain this by saying 'Because the knees are located in a flat (i.strip can be made to occupy the same space as the left knee by taking it all the way around the strip. (But not if you just move it around locally.' Or if there is no essential difference between the knees. This is important because it means that the nature of space can be used to explain certain things. without twists) two-dimensional space. then there is no essential difference between a left knee and a right knee. or exist. or in a t\visted two-dimensional space like a Moebius strip. . So. If the knees can be moved around in three-dimensional space. This leads to the following important conclusion: Whether or not there is an essential difference between a left knee and a right knee depends upon the nature of the space that the knees are in.
then we have good reason to believe that that thing X really exists. So.Why is it thought that if something can be used to provide explanations. or is real? Well.since it is not causal. for example. We can say that there is an essential difference betv. He would say that atoms perhaps caused these yellow flashes. does not seem to provide causal explanations. This is not to say that space is not real. So it seems to be a good principle that if X provides explanations for some facts. which in turn determines whether it is possible to move a left knee into the space occupied by a right knee. it makes certain motions possible. does Nerlich's argument show that space is real? It is important to note that there is a significant difference between the type of explanations provided by atoms and the type of observations provided by space. all this shows is that Nerlich's argument is not watertight. it makes things possible. The shape of space doesn't cause things. We have evidence that they exist because the theory of the nature of atoms enables us to explain th~ results of numerous scientific experiments. If this is accepted. In summary. At this point another fact should be noted. which in turn determines whether there is an essential or real difference between left knees and right knees. What type of thing might the hypothesis of atoms explain? A scientist might use the hypothesis of atoms to explain. So.'een a left knee and a right knee if it is not possible to turn a left knee into the space occupied by a right knee. before we said that we have good evidence that something is real if it provides explanations of things. But we have just seen that space. The shape of space does not cause there to be an essential difference benveen left and right knees. or the shape of space. it's just to say that it's not clear how compelling the argument is. V/hat most philosophers would accept is that if something X provides causal explanations of things. to turn a left knee into a right knee by moving it about. In this sense the type of explanation offered by the theory of atoms is causal explanation. But space does not provide causal explanations in this sense. But whether or not it will be possible to do this will depend on the shape of space. the shape of space determines what movements are possible. then it is clear that the proposed explanation that uses the shape of space is.not a genuine explanation at all -. it is to some extent unclear whether the explanation offered by the shape of space really constitutes a good reason for saying that space is real. Some philosophers say that the only genuine explanations are causal explanations. So. Some of the things that need to be sorted out if we are to settle whether Nerlich's argument is a good one are: What . But we must qualify that a little. then that thing exist. then we have good evidence that X is real. atoms explain certain observations by causing them. Now. or. what evidence do we have that atoms exist? We cannot perceive them. some yellow sparks or flashes observed on a screen. Anyway. rather. We need not worry about the nature of those experiments here. consider.
yes. What this shows is that whether or not there is an intrinsic or necessary difference between a left hand and a right hand depends upon the nature of the space that the hand is in. Could there be a fourth dimension? Mathematically.there could have been a unicorn. The question is.would it then be possible to turn it into a right hand? The answer to this question is 'Yes'.sort of explanation is the explanation that appeals to the shape of space? Is it a genuine explanation? . consider a human hand out in space. But now the question arises: Suppose that we could turn the left hand through four-dimensional space -. then it would be possible to convert the left hand into a right hand by moving it all the way. it's just that there happens to be no such thing. That's OK. At this point. in actual fact there are only three. analogous to the twist in a Moebius strip. if the left knee was put in a two-dimensional space with a twist in it. like a unicorn -. then we could not turn the left knee into a right knee. there could be. The fourth spatial dimension is. you will recall that as long as we moved a left knee around in two dimensional space (flat two-dimensional space.) Now. We all know about the three dimensions. however. \\That we are talking about here is a possible fourth spatial dimension. If you say that there are three spatial dimensions then there is nothing wrong \\ith saying that space is a fourth dimension. If the hand is in a flat (i. not a Moebius strip-type two-dimensional space). But it's just that there isn't a fourth spatial dimension. on this view. it's just that there happen not to be any unicorns. So. if any. around this space. Also.e. if our three-dimensional space had a twist in it. But it's probably less confusing if we just forget about time for the moment. Let us suppose it is a left hand. could there be a fourth spatial dimension? The answer that is generally accepted is ' Yes'. It is sometimes said that time is 'the fourth dimension'. But before we do that we need to go into some preliminary questions about dimensions.Are all genuine explanations causal? Even if it's unclear what sort of explanation. not twisted or bent in any way) three-dimensional space (Euclidean . the most recent theory in theoretical physics is that space may have eleven dimensions. we should note something. (We will briefly note in passing that modern physics has speculated that maybe space has more than three dimensions. a unicorn is a completely possible thing. a fourth spatial dimension is an entirely possible thing. such as the space of a Moebius strip. i. Suppose we move it around in a normal three-dimensional space. Let's now go back to the human hand existing on its own in space. not incoherent in any way. then it was easy to turn it into a right knee. As far as I know. Similarly.e. Now. although we can't visualise it: our minds are three dimensional. But we will not worry about that here. on this view. but you can perhaps think about them if you are interested in \\Titing an essay on this topic. Then we know that we will not be able to turn it into a right hand. in the sense that it is a possible thing. does it nevertheless give us good reason to believe that space exists? We haven't got time to go into these questions here. then it was possible to turn it into a right knee. But if we moved the knee out of two-dimensional space and turned it around in three-dimensional space. \\Thy exactly eleven rather than some other number I have no idea. is employed.
! This would happen. In fact. First of all. that our three-dimensional space did have a twist in it like a Moebius strip. but simply because their body had been turned around by the 'twist' in space. the basic argument for absolute space. Kant evidently assumed that space was three-dimensional and flat. there would not be a determinate fact of the matter as to whether it was left or right. then Kant's assumption is not true. if a human hand were the only object in the universe. But if the hand is in a four-dimensional space.ith a twist in it (like the Moebius strip) then there isn't an essential difference between a left hand and a right hand.space) then there is a necessary difference between a left hand and a right hand. which was what Kant was trying to defend.if. with their heart on the right side of their body. if we replace this premise with something like . If space is not assumed to be three-dimensional and flat -. if a human hand were the only thing in the universe. then. it doesn't. It is worthwhile briefly digressing at this point to consider some interesting implications of all this. Recall that one of the steps in Kant's argument was (B) 6. In Kant's day. what happens to Kant's assumption that if a single human hand were the only thing in the universe it would have to be either a left hand or a right hand but not both? Have we discovered that this pr~mise in Kant's argument is false? We need to state things with care here. for example. seems even stronger. We have just seen that whether or not there is a necessary difference between a left hand and a right hand depends on the nature of the space that the hand is in. If a human hand were the only object in the universe. Now. we can note that a modified version of Kant's argument still goes through. it would have to be either a right hand or a left hand. But if we allow that other spaces are possible. We still need space to account for things. etc. it would have to be either a left hand or a right hand (but not both). they would come back as a left-handed person. that was the only type of space that was known. or a three-dimensional space v. not because their body had undergone any strange mutation or anything.) s Let us now return to our discussion of Kant's argument for absolute space. But does this really refute the basic thrust of Kant's argument? No. it would come back as a right hand! Similarly. for example. four-dimensional spaces are allowed or three-dimensional spaces with 'Moebius twists' in them. Let us suppose. if a right handed person was sent on a trip around the universe in a rocket-ship. So. (Note. or if the body could somehowbe turned around in four-dimensional pace. Then if a left hand was sent on a trip 'around the universe'. We can say (A) If space is assumed to be three-dimensional and flat (Euc1idean space) then. in the light of our discussion. this would only happen if space had a Moebius-like twist in it.
How are we to explain this fact? The answer is that we explain it by appeal to the nature of space.i. since it involves talking about space as a thing. three-dimensionalones. if we do not make any assumptions about space.e. that the theory of absolute space is correct. If a human hand were the only object in the universe. -. flat space. If space can play an explanatory role then we have good reason to believe that it is real. We then take it off the left wrist. But note. But let us not suppose that space is three-dimensional. 'While such an objection would really just be a quibble. it will be able to fit onto both wrists correctly. Then it will be false that if a hand were the only object in the universe. Then it will fit onto a left wrist correctly. or consider all possible spaces -. If every object in the actual universe were destroyed except a single human hand. turn it around in four-dimensional space.. but not both? This argument will not go through. It would then show that one of the things that exist in the universe as it actually is. flat ones. Kant's argument doesn't go through. we can nevertheless meet it by replacing 6' with something like 6". So. But then space is playing an explanatory role. It might be thought that locutions such as 'the space in the universe is the same as the space that actually exists' beg the question against the relationist.of space. But the relationist view of space cannot .e. If this is so. then that hand would have to be either a left hand or a right hand. either way -. for example. four-dimensional ones. or the shape . That is. ones with twists in them. since you would need absolute space to explain why the hand was determinately either right or left. Why is this? Suppose we take a human hand that is a left hand. and so turn it into a right hand. if space is allowed to be four-dimensional. Let us suppose.we still get an argument going through showing that the absolute theory of space is correct. sometimes it will not. Le. is absolute space. the thumb points up). sometimes it cannot. then the argument for absolute space that goes through is the argument: There would be a difference between a left hand and a right hand even if it was the only object in the universe. that it is four dimensional. etc. So. that human hand would have to be determinately either right or left.then we will fmd that sometimes a hand can fit on both wrists. If the hand is in a four-dimensional space.. when the palm is placed against the chest. and the space in that universe was the same as the space that actually exists. But it should be noted that they are different arguments. it would have to be determinately either right or left but not both. if we consider all possible spaces.whether we restrict ourselves to three-dimensional flat space. and then it will be able to fit onto the other wrist correctly. what will happen to Kant's claim that any given human hand v. that is.Tjll e able to fit onto one b human wrist correctly (i. If we assume three-dimensional flat space.6'. then there will be the following fact that requires explanation: Sometimes the hand can fit on both wrists. if we allow all possible spaces -. but not both. Kant's argument would then go through.
So this supports the absolutist view of space. If we allow all possible spaces. sometimes not. If we do not assume three-dimensional flat space but allow any sort of space.. then sometimes there will be an essential difference between a left hand and a right hand. then the above argument does not go through. We can explain this by appealing to the nature of space or the shape of space. But then space plays an explanatory role and this constitutes evidence that space is a real thing.Tongand so the absolutist view of space is right 'by default' as it were. . but another does.account for that. So the relationist view of space is v.
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