The Possibility of Motion

Colin McGinn

in Basic Structures of Reality

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199841103
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919529 | DOI:
The Possibility of Motion

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This chapter analyzes the nature of motion. It argues that there is a kind of double narrowing going on in physics, centering on motion, as a consequence of essentially epistemological scruples, which results in a distorted picture of the nature of the physical universe. First, there is the restriction to the notion of relative motion, which stems from verificationist assumptions: nonrelative motion is also a reality, undetectable and incomprehensible as it may be. There is simply more to motion, as it exists objectively, than change of relative position. Second, the focus on motion itself results from the epistemological commitments of operationalism: if operational definitions serve to make the phenomena thus defined measurable and observable, they also deflect attention from the intrinsic nature of what is so defined. But that nature still exists as an ingredient of reality, hard to fathom as it may be. There is more to matter and motion than these epistemological and methodological restrictions permit us to appreciate. In effect, physics gives us the kind of biased view of matter that behaviorism gave us of mind.

Keywords: relative motion; physics; physical universe; Newton; operationalism

Chapter.  13880 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Science

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