Arcadian Functor

occasional meanderings in physics' brave new world

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Marni D. Sheppeard

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Time from Being

In his Science of Logic, Hegel writes about the difficulties of knowing where to begin a philosophy. His analyses are so thorough that he finds he cannot solve this problem without understanding subjective time itself as an emergent phenomenon from a circular whole, where the Being of the beginning is also the end. He says:

But the modern perplexity about a beginning proceeds from a further requirement of which those who are concerned with the dogmatic demonstration of a principle or who are sceptical about finding a subjective criterion against dogmatic philosophising, are not yet aware, and which is completely denied by those who begin, like a shot from a pistol, from their inner revelation, from faith, intellectual Intuition, etc., and who would be exempt from method and logic. If earlier abstract thought was interested in the principle only as content, but in the course of philosophical development has been impelled to pay attention to the other side, to the behaviour of the cognitive process, this implies that the subjective act has also been grasped as an essential moment of objective truth, and this brings with it the need to unite the method with the content, the form with the principle. Thus the principle ought also to be the beginning, and what is the first for thought ought also to be the first in the process of thinking.

Hegel's concepts are organised in what he viewed as canonical triples, an idea later developed by C. S. Peirce, whose work on diagrammatic reasoning we often discuss. For example, the triple of Being is Quality, Quantity, Measure. One can't help thinking that the originators of quantum mechanics must have been fond of Hegel when one reads:

Everything that exists has a magnitude and this magnitude belongs to the nature of the something itself; it constitutes its specific nature and its being-within-self. Something is not indifferent to this magnitude, so that if this were altered it would continue to be what it is; on the contrary, an alteration of the magnitude would alter the quality of the something. Quantum, as measure, has ceased to be a limit which is no limit; it is now the determination of the thing, which is destroyed if it is increased or diminished beyond this quantum.

But the idea of number as reality is far older than Hegel's work. The ideal of number was at the core of the philosophy of the ancient Pythagoreans, for instance.


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