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The universe as a whole

  1. Jan 29, 2004 #1


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    I have some problems with the terms ‘universe’, ‘whole’ and ‘everything’. My phylosophical background is not pretty good, therefore I would like to share my thoughts and I hope someone could clarify.

    Consider a swarm of bees. It has some properties as a whole: some cohesion, some average speed in a specific direction, etc. We can consider the swarm as such because we are looking at it from outside. By looking from outside we allow the swarm to ‘exert’ its properties. If we zoom in, we see single bees and are not able to get the the properties and the impression of the whole swarm.

    In everydays experience we are confronted with the opposite procedure. We find single entities and we assume that they belong to a whole. If we assume that there is an universe, or a whole, that contains everything, then we are assuming an entity that exists as such.

    To exist, it must have some properties as a whole. But since there is no outside to the universe (by definition), the universe cannot act as such. Sets of things act on the different observers inside of the universe in different ways, but it is meaningless to consider the universe as an entity.

    Is this a reasonable way of arguing, I am fundamentally wrong, or is this a trivial idea, which is known to everybody…?

    From this reasoning I would infer that cosmology can treat only about properties of the set of things acting on a specific sort of observers. In the usual current cosmology the ‘comoving’ reference frame is used. OK, but it seams to me that as soon as we try to explain things about the whole universe, such as its birth, we are faced with this contradiction...

    Comments are wellcome. Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 29, 2004 #2


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    The properties of a whole are not necessarily solely directed outward-- the properties of the whole can also act on those parts that comprise the whole. Think of an angry mob, for example. If an angry mob could somehow exist perpetually in vacuo, the collective properties of the mob would not affect anything outside of itself (since by definition there would be nothing outside of the mob to affect), but it would still act inwardly on its constituent parts (the individual angry mobsters).
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