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A re-conception of energy as the set of rules for how matter moves

  1. Nov 18, 2008 #1
    A standard definition of energy is the ability to do work. Work is defined as the movement of matter through the application of force (measured in newtons).

    Yet in the Standard Model of particle physics, various bosons represent "energy particles" that are the intermediaries for each of the four interactions (gravity, strong, weak, EM). More accurately, the Standard Model is a quantum field theory, so the "particles" are actually fields concentrated at a point-like locus.

    Here's where my difficulty arises: even though mathematically the Standard Model has been wildly successful, its interpretation has led to much confusion, even by its most august proponents.

    It seems to me that a simplified ontology (the branch of philosophy that asks what is real?) may view energy as merely an abstraction. In other words, energy may be defined as the set of rules by which the various types of matter move. Gravity is the set of rules for how all matter moves; EM is the set of rules for how all charged particles move; the strong force is the set of rules for how quarks and gluons move in relation to each other (inside baryons); and the weak force is the set of rules, generally speaking, for how baryons move in relation to each other.

    Philosophically, this leads to a cleaner system in which matter is ontologically real and energy is not. Energy is only known or made manifest through the motion of matter. This conception causes problems with string theory, of course, because string theory envisions the ultimate constituents of matter to be tiny vibrating strings of pure energy. In my re-conception of what energy is, this statement is nonsensical.

    But this re-conception begs the question of what is matter? I subscribe to the Whiteheadian notion of actual entities - essentially events - that consist of matter, duration and experience.

    I'm curious what people think of this re-conception and if it may lead to any mathematical simplifications, as it does from an ontological perspective.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 19, 2008 #2
  4. Nov 19, 2008 #3
    Granpa, I'm a fan of Whitehead and process philosophy more generally, with just a few key distinctions. My re-conception of energy as an abstraction is partially inspired by process philosophy, but Whitehead's conception of energy is different. He holds that what physicists call energy is a manifestation of a more basic concept: creative energy. "Creativity" is Whitehead's term for what I think of as the ether or the ground of being. So creative energy is the ether manifesting its will in the actual universe.

    But employing Whitehead's own "fallacy of misplaced concreteness," we can see that there is a simpler ontology available through envisioning "actual entities" (Whitehead's most basic constituent of the universe) as what physicists call matter and dispensing with energy as an ontological stuff entirely. Instead, energy is just the rules of motion of matter (actual entities).
  5. Nov 19, 2008 #4
    from the article:

    The process metaphysics elaborated in Process and Reality proposes that the fundamental elements of the universe are occasions of experience. According to this notion, what people commonly think of as concrete objects are actually successions of occasions of experience. Occasions of experience can be collected into groupings; something complex such as a human being is thus a grouping of many smaller occasions of experience. According to Whitehead, everything in the universe is characterized by experience (which is not to be confused with consciousness);

    i understand this to mean that occasion of experience=event. so the fundamental 'indivisible atoms' of existance are events. events are neither nouns nor verbs but can be either or both. events can act upon and interact with other events.
  6. Nov 20, 2008 #5
    "Occasions of experience," "actual occasions," and "actual entities" are all synonyms for the most part in Whitehead's ontology. Events are actually a little different in his ontology, though people often mistakenly use this term instead of one of the three terms I just listed. Events are a higher level grouping of occasions of experience (actual entities). But describing the basic constituents of matter in Whitehead's ontology as events does capture the key point: that we should not think of matter outside of time (changeless). Change (process) is fundamental for Whitehead - hence the term "process philosophy." He doesn't deny the importance of substance as fundamental. Rather, he places process and substance together as equally fundamental. There must be things to change in order for change to exist.
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