Views Of Matter

What exactly is matter, it is not an every day question that one asks one’s own self. When looked at there are many different views on this subject, however because of the numerous numbers of different views, it is only possible to look at three of the discourses. The three discourses of matter to be looked at are; the Religious, Scientific, and Philosophical. Each discourse has evolved through time into the views that we know, and accept today. The distinction between these views on matter differs greatly, however it is possible to say that all three views came from the same place. This place being ancient Greece; it was their belief in gods that brought about religion, philosophy, and then science.
The scientific view of matter has evolved over time. Science for many centuries has been accompanied by philosophical thought, throughout time the mixture of the two is very evident. The beginnings of western science, namely physics, coincide with that of the first period of Greek philosophers. Physics is in fact a term derived from the Greek word “physis” which means “the endeavor of seeing the essential nature of all things” (Capra, 1977, p. 9). The basic ideas evolved from the Greek philosophers, and philosophy remained a big part of science right up until the Newtonian view of the universe.
Newton had a mechanistic view of the universe. He saw the universe as a three dimensional space. This space was unchangeable and always stagnant.
“In Newton’s own words, “Absolute space, in its own nature, without regard to anything external, remains always similar and immovable.” All changes in the physical world were described in terms of a separate dimension, called time, which again was absolute, having no connection to the material world and flowing smoothly, from the past through the present to the future.” (Capra, 1977, p. 43).
The things, which made up the absolute space and time, were material particles. These were perceived by Newton to be a part of all matter, as well as indestructible. Newton’s views were very parallel to those of the early Greek atomists. “Both were based on the distinction between the full and the void, between matter and space, and in both models the particles remained always identical in their mass and shape.” (Capra, 1977, p. 43).
The difference between these two views came in the forces that acted upon the particles. The early Greeks did not elaborate on these forces, they merely accepted that there are forces that do act upon particles. Newton thought that it was the force of gravity that acted upon the particles. He also thought that God created the particles and the forces that act upon them.
Newton’s theory of a mechanistic universe was extremely popular with the physicists of the early nineteenth century. Newton’s laws were seen as the basic laws of nature, however in less than a century, a new set of theories of physical reality was discovered and the limitations of Newton’s theories were exposed.
This new physical reality was no doubt the work of Einstein, but it was not entirely his. There were some other key scientists who’s work contributed to that of Einstein’s. Their names were Michael Faraday and Clerk Maxwell. Faraday was responsible for producing an electric current through a copper wire, and together with Maxwell they both produced a complete theory of electromagnetism. Instead of saying that two charges had an attraction towards each other, they felt it more necessary to say that they disturbed each other. This led to the theory of a force that is called a field. “This was a most profound change in man’s conception of physical reality. In the Newtonian view, the forces were rigidly connected with the bodies they act upon.” (Capra, 1977, p. 48).
Maxwell tried to explain his theories in mechanical terms, “interpreting the fields as states of mechanical stress in a very light space-filling medium, called ether, and the electromagnetic waves as elastic waves of this ether.” (Capra, 1977, p. 48). Maxwell did not focus on the field entities of his theories, but instead on the mechanistic entities. Einstein focused on the fields, and stated that no ether existed, yet that these electromagnetic fields were physical entities themselves. He also stated that they were able to travel