Thread on Matter (Label Free)

#1
The previous thread on matter devolved into a discussion about what defines skepticism. (What a surprise!) I wanted to start a new thread with perhaps some more directed parameters for discussion.

Please refrain from talk about who is skeptical or what defines a skeptic in this thread. Actually. It would be good if we refrained from using labels to describe people in this thread. No skeptics. No proponents. No pseudos. Just discussion.

I would like the thread to center around some basic questions:

1. Do we know what matter really is?
2. What is the difference between a model, say the model of an atom, and the actual reality of the thing modeled?

Thanks,

Mandrake
 
#2
Good topic, I'll give it a shot.

1. Yes and no.

Yes:
We generally know what the word matter means (though we do not always agree on this). We invented the word and the concept of matter. As such, we have defined it in terms that we understand.

No:
Do we know what the "stuff" behind the label matter is? For that matter, do we know what anything really is, at it's core? No. We can only describe things in terms of other things. Our descriptions are all models. To think that we understand matter because we understand what our own invented concept "matter" means, is to mistake the map for the territory.

2. A model is a simplified description of something which contains only a subset of information about whatever is being modeled. A model of the atom is limited by our knowledge of atoms and our ability to study them. The reality of the thing that we call "atom" exists as it is, regardless of our understanding of it.

A truly complete model of any "thing" would have to include the thing's environment. Very quickly, this leads us to the realization that no model can be complete unless it includes everything else in existence.

"Just as no thing or organism exists on its own, it does not act on its own. Furthermore, every organism is a process: thus the organism is not other than its actions. To put it clumsily: it is what it does. More precisely, the organism, including its behavior, is a process which is to be understood only in relation to the larger and longer process of its environment. For what we mean by "understanding" or "comprehension" is seeing how parts fit into a whole, and then realizing that they don't compose the whole, as one assembles a jigsaw puzzle, but that the whole is a pattern, a complex wiggliness, which has no separate parts. Parts are fictions of language, of the calculus of looking at the world through a net which seems to chop it up into bits. Parts exist only for purposes of figuring and describing, and as we figure the world out we become confused if we do not remember this all the time."
-Alan Watts
 
#3
Thanks for getting it started, MysticG. In the house!

My gut feeling is that it is turtles all the way down. But matter is so pervasive and nothing could be more obvious! It confronts us.

Is it fair to say that we build the model of the atom based on its predictable behaviors. So we know how it will act, but what do we know of its true nature? What is the atom?
 
#4
1 No. And conventional science is not able to do so.

2 - An unanswerable question. Or to be more accurate - a question that has no answers that fit within what most see as rational guidelines. One would have to know what the actuality is (not achievable via conventional science) and then ascertain the difference between that actuality and specific models.

- Models serve the purpose of (ideally) being the most encompassing representation that can be determined by conventional means. Although conventional science can't glean what matter is, it can identify the attributes of such. Those attributes can then be used in physical applications.
 
#5
Thanks for getting it started, MysticG. In the house!

My gut feeling is that it is turtles all the way down. But matter is so pervasive and nothing could be more obvious! It confronts us.

Is it fair to say that we build the model of the atom based on its predictable behaviors. So we know how it will act, but what do we know of its true nature? What is the atom?
I suspect something similar, perhaps nature is an infinite fractal structure like the Mandelbrot set. As above, so below.

In that case, our universe may just be an "atom" in some larger universe structure. Similarly, if we could zoom in far enough within the atom, perhaps we would find...ourselves! Or something like us.
 
#7
Isn't that mind blowing? What is more basic than matter? We can model its behavior but we have no real clue about its true nature?
- Not at all.
- For one - primary consciousness.
- Yes because that"we" continues to look via conventional means and for physical evidence. Other people know a bit about it's nature but as their knowledge doesn't fit the parameters set up for the physical it is not accepted by the status quo.
 
#8
Thinking about the popular notion of 'time', I think it's worthwhile thinking about how you reliably (and practically) pass information forward in time, so that you can usefully use this information again, perhaps a month into future at the same location?

It's interesting to list some examples....
 
#9
Thinking about the popular notion of 'time', I think it's worthwhile thinking about how you reliably (and practically) pass information forward in time, so that you can usefully use this information again, perhaps a month into future at the same location?

It's interesting to list some examples....
The most regular one I use, is to write myself a note using pen and paper.
 
#11
- Not at all.
- For one - primary consciousness.
- Yes because that"we" continues to look via conventional means and for physical evidence. Other people know a bit about it's nature but as their knowledge doesn't fit the parameters set up for the physical it is not accepted by the status quo.
For someone who has (rightly) concluded we don't really know what matter is, you seem manically convinced of what it is, and isn't, capable.
 
#12
Matter gets a bad rap TBH, and I used to dislike it myself. But now that I have discovered other philosophies beyond straight dualism and materialism, and that matter is weird in the world of QM, I'm no longer so hostile towards it.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#13
I suspect something similar, perhaps nature is an infinite fractal structure like the Mandelbrot set. As above, so below.

In that case, our universe may just be an "atom" in some larger universe structure. Similarly, if we could zoom in far enough within the atom, perhaps we would find...ourselves! Or something like us.
Good stuff MysticG, reminds me of this interview with physicist & Bohm colleague Basil Hiley:

GM: Because you shouldn’t think of it in terms of a mechanistic motion of particles?

BH: Yes, it’s nothing like that. It’s not mechanism. It organicism. It’s organic. Nature is more organic than we think it is. And then you can understand why life arose, because if nature is organic, it has the possibility of life in it.

Let’s start this way. You’re looking for a fundamental particle. So you divide the material into atoms and think: this is where the real essence lies. Rutherford divided the atom and found the nucleus. OK. The nucleus is where matter resides. And then you look inside the nucleus and you find neutrons. OK, now we’re there. But then there’s quarks and we’ve never got a hold of a quark. We take a proton, an anti-proton, and it goes, poof, into radiation. So where is the solidity of matter? Where does it lie? Because wherever we look at it…

GM: …it falls through our fingers.
 
#14
1. Well, we certainly think we do. And I suppose we do, to a point. It isn't until you get really far down the line that it stops acting "normal". At the scale we view on a daily basis, it is obvious that matter is around us, and interacts in relatively predictable ways. Then you get away from the macro and into the micro, and it stops making sense.

2. The whole concept of a model is that it is either an idealized version of something, or that it is something similar to something else objectively real. Obviously there has to be something objectively extant to be modeled after, it just becomes a question of how close to reality a given model is.
 
#15
Began to consider the atom and realized it was only a model. A series of observations of behaviors that we could use to predict the behavior of an object. These observations and predictions are not even related to the true nature of the atom. We don’t know the true nature of the atom, and we cannot. Can never. The atom is turtles all the way down, but it isn’t even true turtles. The turtles are all models. Atoms into protons and neutrons. They into quarks. Quarks into who knows what. All models! All just observations of qualities. Like saying about an apple that it is red and roundish. These are qualities, not the true nature of what an apple is.

We can never know the true nature of any thing. We can only create models of observations and predictions. This is absurd. There is no thing in this world of matter that we can know in any way that is true.

Now to the human. We are a thing as well. And as such must be model unto ourselves. Thought. A model. Love. A model. These are conceptions. Pointers to something, but the something is really just so much smoke. There is nothing there. Everything is the same nothing.

Everything is the same nothing. It is all pointers into nothing. It is going to take a while to fully process this one.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#16
Love isn't an abstraction though, it's an experience. You could argue it's directed toward models made to represent loved ones, but I don't think those models are as false as the ones used to model the seemingly material world.

And it's not there's nothing there, it's just that certain intrinsic essences aren't accessible to quantitative analysis via the five senses. Lee Smolin talks about in relation to both matter & consciousness:

We don't know what a rock really is, or an atom, or an electron. We can only observe how they interact with other things and thereby describe their relational properties. Perhaps everything has external and internal aspects. The external properties are those that science can capture and describe - through interactions, in terms of relationships. The internal aspect is the intrinsic essence, it is the reality that is not expressible in the language of interactions and relations. Consciousness, whatever it is, is an aspect of the intrinsic essence of brains.
 
#17
Love isn't an abstraction though, it's an experience. You could argue it's directed toward models made to represent loved ones, but I don't think those models are as false as the ones used to model the seemingly material world.

And it's not there's nothing there, it's just that certain intrinsic essences aren't accessible to quantitative analysis via the five senses. Lee Smolin talks about in relation to both matter & consciousness:
Yes. I think it depends where you are coming from. Let's look at it from an experiential level, which is verifiable. The idea of love is almost certainly a conception. When we think of the idea of love. As a conception it can be reduced to a thought. A thought of anything is fleeting. There is no real existence to any particular thought. It is impossible to hold one thought in the mind for eternity. And even so, we have even less of an idea of the true nature of a thought than we have of matter. Feelings are the same. We can feel love, but if it is not just the idea of love, if we can identify the feeling within the body, it will be fleeting. The feeling of irritation or hunger will be right behind it. To say that thoughts and feelings have some firm reality is like saying clouds have some firm reality. Once again, we can model them. We can describe them, make predictions about them. But all we can really say about them that is certain is that they are ephemeral.

People are deceptive, I think. You can take your self as a case in point and attempt to find the self. Many have tried before and what you will find when you look is just a web of thoughts, feelings and memories that have congealed into castles within castles. You can keep opening the doors, but they only open unto more doors. I know that you have made posts about people talking about the nature of the self, but I am pointing you to do the work yourself. Sit down, get quiet and try to find Sciborg S Patel. If you find them, you will be the first. Ultimately there is nothing there. So any loved one that you can point to is just as empty.

What is an experience that makes it less fleeting, more knowable than matter?
 
#18
For someone who has (rightly) concluded we don't really know what matter is, you seem manically convinced of what it is, and isn't, capable.
You make a classic error. One doesn't have to know exactly what something is to know what it isn't. One also doesn't have to know exactly what something is to know general things about what it is.

BTW that you use "rightly" and "manically" only shows that you have strong opposition to a perspective that you haven't yet attained. I'd guess you are among those who fervently believe that intellect and rationality will bring the answers to everything.
 
#19
Everything is the same nothing. It is all pointers into nothing. It is going to take a while to fully process this one.
Wait, why nothing?
Atoms, or (later) subatomic particles or (now) boiling fields of energy are something, no?

The biggest "trouble" for me is not the "ultimate" substance of matter but its morphogenesis. Lego bricks are interesting but what is fascinating is how they are put and held together to create beautiful, working constructions. The rules. Information.
 
#20
Wait, why nothing?
Atoms, or (later) subatomic particles or (now) boiling fields of energy are something, no?
Well, what are they then? That is the point of this thread. All I can see are models, attributes and behaviors. What is the underlying reality? If we define atoms in terms of X and X in terms of Y and Y in terms of Z, then when does it end? All those terms are nothing but models. You wouldn't need to call it nothing. You could say mystery or unknown.

It seems safe to say that we don't really have any real idea of the true nature of matter. Would you disagree with that?

The biggest "trouble" for me is not the "ultimate" substance of matter but its morphogenesis. Lego bricks are interesting but what is fascinating is how they are put and held together to create beautiful, working constructions. The rules. Information.
Right. Ultimately our body, the sun, dog crap. It's all matter. Morphogenesis gets into the whole concept of time.
 
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