Classical metaphysical theories

In this section we compare physical monism with the metaphysics of Parmenides, Plato, Aristotle, Idealism, Materialism and of Kant.
Parmenides
Parmenides, noticed the incongruence in things with a dynamic nature to have a being and not-being at the same time. And he noticed that if things don’t have a being, then the world becomes unintelligible. So he sustained that things, before being something, they simply are. That is, things have a common and fundamental property in having a ‘Being’. And this being is not multiple but one; and it is also present, invariable, ungenerated and indestructible, indivisible and complete, continuous and homogeneous.
So far, Parmenides’ twenty five centuries old doctrine seems to be almost identical to ours. But there is an important difference. With Parmenides begins what is going to be a long lasting gap between two worlds: the real world and the world of appearance; the world of ‘Being’ and the world of mind. He held that the multiplicity of existing things and their changing forms and motion, are but appearances of a single eternal reality: ‘Being’. With a denial of variation then, physics, as a study of the principles of motion, couldn’t be a science of Nature. We, on the other hand, sustain that there is no duality between both worlds. Both are one and the same world. For us, multiplicity and variation are physical and real, and they are compatible with the existence of a unitary and invariable substance. Unlike Parmenides that believed in a continuous and homogeneous ‘Being’, we sustain that space is one and continuous, but totally inhomogeneous and asymmetric. So there is no conflict between the invariability of space and the dynamics of its asymmetries. In fact, it is precisely because the overall variation on the asymmetries of space is zero that we find laws of conservation in Nature.
Plato
In Plato’s doctrine, the essence of elements is given by what the particulars have in common. This common nature, is what Plato called the ‘idea’ or ‘form’, or what is sometimes called ‘universals’. The idea, not being particular, cannot exist in the world of sense. The idea is not changeable like the world of sense: it is eternally itself, immutable and indestructible. According to Plato then, the supra-sensible world, the world of ideas, is the real world; while the world of sense and particulars is a reflection of reality.
While for Plato the world of unchangeable ideas is the real world, for us, the real world is a physical changeable world constituted by an invariable substance. While Plato’s real world is formed by a multiplicity of ideas or universals, for us there is only one universal: Nature. And it is not given by what a set of particulars have in common, but what everything has in common: Space. Like Plato’s ideas, space is eternally itself, immutable and indestructible. But unlike Plato’s ideas, space has a physical existence independent from our thought. The appearance of entities like ideas that can be invariable and in-themselves is due to perception. Space on the other hand, is physical: and its universal because is unitary; and so is Nature. So objects don’t have an individual essence or nature of their own, but everything existing in space responds to a unitary nature.
Aristotle
Aristotle introduces the idea that the reality of the world cannot rest on such remote entities as the Platonic Forms, but that we must make sense of what lies around to find the foundation of the world. He stand in a middle point between the idealism of Platonic Forms and the materialism of Democritus atomism trying to reconcile them.
He first introduces the concept of substance as the first of ten categories (substance, quantity, quality, relation, place, time, position, state, action and affection). Categories are the kind of things that have being, while substance, is fundamental to the being of all other categories. Substance (primary substance) is individual, a unit and absolute.
Then he introduces physics defending the reality of motion. Nature is given by the principles of motion and stationariness that things have in themselves. In his words, of the things that exist by nature, ‘Each one of them has within itself a principle of motion and of stationariness…’ and ‘…nature is a source or cause of being moved and of being at rest in that to which it belongs primarily…’. Things then, have a nature. And their nature is a substance: individual, a unit and absolute.
And finally he concludes that the first movement, God, is not moved by anything outside itself, it is immovable, it is eternal and it is one. And because it is immovable, it is out of the realm of physics entering in the metaphysical and theological enquiries.
The similarities with Aristotle’s doctrine are that we both find the essence of things on the world around us: we both sustain the reality of motion and the physical world as the source of the first principles. And we both stand outside total  materialism and idealism.
And the main differences are that while he believed in a multiplicity of substances, we believe that there is only one and that there is no contradiction of an invariable substance sustaining a dynamic world. And while he considered objects, time and space to be distinct, we believe that they are a unity in physical space. Another difference is that he had a teleological conception of nature where thing must fulfil a purpose, while we sustain that Nature is a neutral physical order of variation. And finally, he believed in God as the first movement, while we believe that the first movement is indeed invariable, eternal and one, although it is not God, but a physical space whose understanding is not exclusively the subject of either physics or philosophy, but of both.
Idealism and Materialism
From our point of view, unlike in idealism, Nature is not ideal or spiritual but physical. And unlike materialism, the nature of the universe is not of matter but spatial: Nature is given by the behaviour of a physical Space.
There is one thing that we share in common with idealism, which is the non existence of the duality mind-matter. But while in idealism this duality doesn’t exist because of the dependence of the world to the mind, from our point of view, the duality doesn’t exist because the world, with mind and physical elements included, is constituted by a unitary Space.
The idealist faces a difficulty in explaining what sustains a mind creating the world. And to resolve this difficulty they recur to concepts like: mind of the universe, or mind of God -in Berkeley’s idealism-, or community of monads or souls like in Leibniz idealism, etc. We, on the other hand, face the same difficulty when we have to explain what sustains the physical world. And our position is that space contains everything that there is in it: the physical world, our mind and everything that our mind creates.
Kant
Kants’ doctrine reconciles the opposite views of rationalism and empiricism. And to solve the problem on the origin of knowledge, he goes down to the essence of knowledge arguing against Cartesian dualism and the idealism of Hume and Berkeley. For Kant, there is just one world, and the world and how the world appear to us in experience are not two distinct things but two sides of the same thing.
Kant begins his approach, first, by distinguishing a priori from empirical knowledge; where the latter one derives from experience while the former one doesn’t; and where empirical knowledge is about particulars, while a priori knowledge is about universal and necessary relations. Then, he makes a distinction between synthetical and analytical judgements; where on the analytical judgement the predicate is contained on the subject, while on synthetical judgement it is not. So while analytical judgements explains the concept of the subject, synthetical judgements expands its concept and extends our knowledge of objects.
Analytic judgements are obtained by analysis of the subject, so they are always a priori. Synthetic judgements are in general a posteriori obtained from experience. But there are some synthetic judgements that are a priori, and these are of interest for science for they are universal and necessary, and they extend our knowledge of objects. So Kants’ fundamental question in his enquiry is: How are synthetic a priori judgements possible? That is, how is it possible to show that concepts that are not merely defined in terms of how things appear to us in experience, are nonetheless valid of the world that we experience?
Kants’ approach to this problem begins by saying that from experience we have to distinguish -without making distinct- between the physical object, which he calls the ‘thing in itself’, and the associated sense-data, which form the ‘phenomena’ or the thing as it appears to us. At the same time, we seem to have a priori knowledge as to space, time and categories. The phenomena then, is given by the integration of elements from the thing in-itself and elements given by us. To make the world of sensation intelligible, we order elements in a spatial-temporal framework and categories. Time and space are known a priori, and the categories are derived from synthetic judgements. So given that in the sphere of appearances judgements remains a priori, then a priori synthetic judgements are possible. Two of Kants’ conclusions are: first, knowledge of things that we cannot refer to experience is impossible, and to use reason alone, divorced from experience, leads to illusory knowledge. And second, that we can have certain knowledge a priori of the physical object, but we cannot know anything about the object in-itself.
The points that we can agree with Kant are that, there is no duality mind-matter, the physical world and the world that appearance is one and the same world. And we can also agree that it is futile to pursue the knowledge of things out of our experience. From our point of view, the world of concern should be  limited to the physical world, and in agreement with Kant, we cannot know it by means of reason alone without experience.
The differences we have with Kant are that, unlike him that considers physical element in themselves, we sustain that physical elements are not in-themselves. In fact, the reason for which, as he noticed, we cannot know anything about the objects in themselves, it is precisely because they are not in-themselves. Physical elements are literally unintelligible.
For Kant, space and time are known a priori and they are also a necessary condition for experience. Indeed, space and time doesn’t exist outside us, and we cannot experience anything out of a spatial-temporal framework. But while space and time are subjective mental constructions, we sustain that physical space has an objective existence; and that our constructions of space and time are approximations to this existence.
Kants’ fundamental question is how synthetic judgements a priori are possible; and from here, he embarks on a complex epistemological analysis to solve this problem. But if we ask ourselves, why a priori synthetic judgements are possible at all, the clue lies in that a priori synthetic judgements are not associated to elements themselves but to relations between elements: and in particular, to spatial relations between elements. And this is precisely why they are so important for science. What science does, is to superimpose algebraic spaces into physical space replacing mathematical elements with physical objects. The power of mathematics, lies in the manipulation of spatial relations, and not in describing the elements themselves. And this is the key for its success, when applied in science, in describing Nature. When algebraic spaces fits the spatial relations of physical space, then we are able to formulate physical laws of Nature. So the reason for which a priori synthetic judgements are possible, is that Nature itself is given by an order of spatial relations on physical space. How do we reach it, is a complex and difficult problem that would involve the dependence of our mental constructions to a physical nature. But why is it possible to know universal and necessary relations without having a direct experience of them, it is because Nature itself is an order of spatial relations on physical space. Our spatial constructions shall always remain approximations to it; of which our best constructions so far comes in the form of Quantum Field Theory and General Relativity.
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