Monday, May 01, 2006

Today in class, we continued our discussion about whether or not you have the same trashcan on two different days. One response to the argument presented in class was the no coincidence response. This says that the matter is different from the form in which it takes. In this case, in order for the trashcan and the plastic that makes up the trashcan to exist in the same place at the same moment, the plastic and trashcan must have different space-time coordinates. This means, that on a microscopic level, the plastic molecules are actually different and distinct from the trashcan molecules. There are members of one set that are plastic, and members of another that are trashcan. We could think of the molecules as making up some type of grid system, where both types are sort of intertwined with each other, making up the object we see.

If this were the case, then two objects would exist in the same place (percieved by us on a macroscopic level) and time. However, consider the following issue:

Let the set of molecules that are plastic be "Plastic." Let the set of molecules that make up the trashcan be "Trashcan."
Assume that both Plastic and Trashcan weigh one pound, respectively. Logically, when two distinctive objects are weighed together, the number on the scale is equal to the sum of their weights. In this case, it is expected that the weight of Plastic plus the weight of Trashcan is equal to two pounds. However, when Plastic and Trashcan (the plastic trashcan) is placed on a scale, the number actually reads one pound. This proves that the sum of the weights of Plastic and Trashcan is not actually two pounds. Therefore, it can be deduced from this example that it is possible for two objects, such as Plastic and Trashcan, to material coincide. This means that it is possible for two objects to exist in the same space-time coordinates, which initially is hard to accept. This shows that there can be object-matter coincidence.

5 Comments:

Blogger linford86 said...

The problem with your argument against the "no coincidence" response two fold. Namely:

1. The "no coincidence" argument holds that the "trashcan" and the plastic that makes up the trashcan are different things, but one is the object and the other is the material. The plastic is the material; i.e. what physically appears, while the trashcan can be thought of the state of the plastic; that is, the form it takes. Both occupy the same space, but plastic and trashcan do not refer to the same thing - that is, plastic is distinct from trashcan.

2. Since the trashcan is the form of the plastic, it is not itself composed of atoms. In addition, there is no reason to assume that the trash can has to weigh anything; it is a form, not a material object. Thus, your assumption that the trashcan can actually weigh anything is mistaken.

However, your idea that two objects can occupy the same space is not false - it is the case that two objects can occupy the same position in space-time without breaking any law of physics (with a few restrictions.) However, how you arrive at that conclusion appears to me to be false.

That being said, it is most definitely true, as I already alluded to, that two objects can occupy the same place in space-time.

To explain this, let's suppose that I'm trying to "force" my hand into occupying the same space as a table. Obviously, I'm not going to be able to do it - but why?

The reason is because the electrons in my hand repel the electrons in the table; when the hand atoms become sufficiently close to the table atoms, there is an electromagnetic repulsion between them, which causes my hand to not even be able to touch the table (they just come extremely close to each other, so close that we it looks like their touching. But in fact, I could never get my hand infinitely close to the table - there's always some small space between them.)

So, the only reason that my hand can't occupy the same space as the table is the immense forces between them. Incidentally, since something like 99.9999999% of matter is completely empty space, the only reason that I don't fall straight down through my chair as I write this is due to those forces. So, if those forces didn't exist, then two objects could occupy the same space.

If you're arguing that the plastic and the trashcan are two different objects, then since they do not apply any forces on each other, they can occupy the same space.

12:42 PM  
Blogger kipepeo said...

I am going to use an Aristotilian argument to disagree with Dan on the second point as far as the trashcan not having to weigh anything because the trashcan is the form and the plastic is only the substance. I would argue that the trashcan has both form and substance, but is not itself the form. Forms, whether abstract, or more Platonically substantive, seem to be the more perfective ideal of whatever thing it is the form of. For example, the form of an apple is a perfect apple, and the form of a circle is a perfect circle. This doesn't mean that each time we see an apple or a circle on earth that it is in that perfect state. It tries really hard, but it is not quite perfect. The substance is what allows us to touch whatever the object may be, and without the substance, the object is more what we picture in our minds, or ephemeral.

I am going to define another of Aristotle's terms quickly. Essence is that more ephemeral part of a thing, it has also been called "thingedness", so the essence of a briefcase would be its "briefcasedness".

Aristotle argued that in order for a thing to exist it must have both substance and essence. Without both it is not a thing. This means that the essence of an apple is not itself an apple. This also means that the parts that make up the apple are not in themselves an apple either. An apple is only actually a physical apple if it has substance and the essence of "appletude".

To bring this all back to the relevant argument, Dan wrote, "Since the trashcan is the form of the plastic, it is not itself composed of atoms. In addition, there is no reason to assume that the trash can has to weigh anything; it is a form, not a material object. Thus, your assumption that the trashcan can actually weigh anything is mistaken."

To follow the train of Aristotilian logic, the trashcan is not actually the form of the plastic. While it is true that there is a form of "trashcan", the trashcan in question is not itself that form. It has both substance and essence, or "trashcanedness". If it were only the form, then it would not be a physical thing here.

Presumably however, the trashcan in question actually is here as a thing that we can see, touch and recognize as a trashcan. So, if the trashcan is the amalgamation of the substance and essence, then it is perfectly reasonable and perhaps even imperative that the trashcan has weight assuming that its substance has weight. So, the assumption that the trashcan can actually weigh anything is not mistaken.

I'm sorry that that was so longwinded,

~Lisa~

2:41 PM  
Blogger acceber said...

Here is an argument suporting material constitution:

1. A trashcan is made up of plastic molecules.
2. Plastic molecules are matter.
3. If a trashcan is made up of plastic molecules and plastic molecules are matter, then a trashcan is made up of matter.
4. Therefore, a trashcan is made up of matter.
5. If a trashcan is made up of matter, then both the trashcan and the matter exist.
6. Therefore, both the trashcan and the matter exist.
7. If both the trashcan and the matter exist, then the trashcan has different properties than the matter tha composes it.
8. Therefore the trashcan has different properties than the matter that composes it.
9. If the trashcan has different properties than the matter that composes it, then the trashcan and the matter that composes it are two different objects.
10. Therefore, the trashcan and the matter that composes it are two different objects.

Since the trashcan and the matter that composes it are seen as bing in the same space at any instant, this argument shows that two objects can exist in the same space at the same instant.

3:43 PM  
Blogger sam newman said...

In the argument above, I find premise seven to be the most objectionable. You say that "if the trashcan and matter both exist, then the trashcan has different properties than the matter that composes it." What properties does the trashcan have that the matter doesn't? Both have mass. Both are trashcan-like. Both hold trash. I think you're just splitting hairs and calling one thing by two names.

In a different form, this argument makes more sense to me. Start with a ruler. Your argument against no coincidence would say that both the ruler and the inches that comprise it are seperate objects, yet they occupy the same space. There is no reason, however, to conclude that the inches are not the ruler. Sure, if you consider just one inch, that one inch is not the whole ruler, but then the inch and the ruler are not occupying the same space.

When taken all together, the inches have the exact same properties as the ruler. Therefore, the trashcan does have any properties that its constituent matter has.

5:03 PM  
Blogger acceber said...

The matter that makes up the trashcan most definitely has different properties than the trashcan itself. For example, a trashcan doesn't necessarily need to be made from plastic in order to exist. It has the property of holding trash, along with many other broad properties. However, as soon as the trashcan can no longer hold trash, it ceases to do its job, and therefore is no longer a trashcan. If it breaks, or if peices of it get destroyed, it may have once been a trashcan, but it no longer is. However, the matter that makes up the trashcan continues to exist.

Dan was saying today in class that the set of things that makes up the trashcan has always existed and will always exist. I disagree that the this set of things always makes up a trashcan. The matter may have always been around, in different forms, but the trashcan itself was created when it took the form of a trashcan, with its main property being "able to hold trash." The plastic matter that makes it up may have existed before the trashcan was created and may continue to exist long after the trashcan is destroyed. This plastic matter could be molded into many different forms, and it will still be plastic matter. This is due to the fact that the property making it plastic matter is the arrangement of molecules within it, not necessarily its form or function.

7:34 PM  

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