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I understand "plenum" to mean an area in which all locations are occupied. Parmenides reasoned that since nothing doesn't exist, there must only be something, with no "nothing" dividing it, but this always struck me as rationalistic, since it seemed obvious to me that there was empty space between all kinds of things.

I have heard David Harriman refer to the universe as a plenum, and say that "space" is only a legitimate concept when its referent is a relationship between entities. In this conception, space refers to the area between things, not what fills that area, correct?

In that case, might it be that the confusion people like myself experience is due to our taking "space" to refer to an entity, when it really refers to a relationship between entities? In other words, is it the result of our taking "space" to identify what is between things, when it actually identifies that there is something between them, and our consequent conflating of the true idea that relationships do not concretely exist with the false idea that nothing concretely exists in space?

Finally, in connection with my confusion regarding the concept "space," I'd like to know if there is such a thing as an unoccupied location, or if that is a contradiction in terms.

Edit for Clarifying Question: So is it accurate to say that "universe" denotes the non-contiguous sum of existence? In that case, is Harriman using "plenum" differently than I am, since I take it to mean a place in which there are no breaks between existents?

asked Dec 24 '11 at 16:35

CrownOfTheVirtues's gravatar image

CrownOfTheVirtues ♦

edited Dec 26 '11 at 12:20

Space indeed is not a thing that exists, but is merely the relationship between entities. But the universe is not a plenum. Locations are unbounded in number, and there they are not all occupied; but are not existents - they are a construct of consciousness to aid us in identifying the attributes of and relationships between entities.

(Dec 25 '11 at 11:24) Justice Justice's gravatar image

David Harriman agreed with Parmenides reasoning in "Selected Topics in the Philosophy of Science". To think of "space" as "what is between" entities is to reify the concept of space - and when used this way leads to confusion, especially when embraced by the scientific community (esp. in regard to 'curved space', etc.)

He stated that if you "push" a physicist and ask if there are no gravitational, electromagnetic or other types of fields present between the entities, most of them would reply "Of course fields are present."

If you can wrap your mind around the concept of existence in conjunction with Parmenides - and recognize as Peikoff points out - “Outside the universe” stands for “that which is where everything isn’t.” There is no such place. There isn’t even nothing “out there”: there is no “out there.” to which David Harriman adds, "There is no 'there' there." - the same principle applies to "unoccupied location" within the universe as well.

answered Dec 24 '11 at 17:15

dream_weaver's gravatar image

dream_weaver ♦

Of course fields are present everywhere. But fields are not physical things. They are mathematical in nature, not physical. A field is a mathematical function that maps every point in space to a quantity. For an electric field due to an electric charge, it maps every point in space to the force that would be exerted on a positron due to said electric charge if a positron were to come to occupy that point in space. Fields are hypothetical.

(Dec 25 '11 at 11:17) Justice Justice's gravatar image

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Asked: Dec 24 '11 at 16:35

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Last updated: Dec 26 '11 at 12:20