by Arturo Sierra
By M. Alvarado, professor of History of Metaphysics at the University of Santiago de la Nueva Extremadura. Translated from the original German by W. Eguiguren. This research was made possible by a grant from the Imperial Institute for History of Metaphysics, sponsored by His Majesty Karl XIX of the Holy Roman Empire, King of Spain and its Territories.
No theory of metaphysics has been subject to stricter scrutiny than Einstein’s Theory of Sertial Reflectivity (TSR), doubtlessly because of its counter-intuitive nature and profound implication. Since the publication of “On the Instantiation-dynamics of Ideal Reflections” (1905), more than a hundred distinct experiments have been designed to test predictions made by TSR, all of which have confirmed Einstein’s basic proposition. Yet many of its more “outlandish” implications have been impossible to test in abstract due to the lack of sufficiently powerful devices. Only in recent years, thanks in part to the Large Concept Collider, the Hubble Celestial Theoscope, and the Ideal Interferometric Group-Class Observator (LIGO), have these been subject to verification. Yet the experimental context of new tests has been ignored or forgotten by researchers. In order to adequately understand the significance of such developments, it is vitally important to contextualize them in a history of metaphysical experimentation. This paper proposes a brief overview of tests in applied metaphysics, from its origin leading up to Einstein, and the significance they had in rejecting erroneous, materialistic thought.
Contemporary metaphysics is built on the presumption, as stated by Karl Popper, that no real knowledge can be obtained by studying matter or by any empirical methods whatsoever. Indeed, empirical is, in philosophical circles, often used as a slur to discredit insufficiently a priori statements, and pseudo-sciences such as physics and chemistry are held in the same bad regard as homeopathy and economics. But this has not always been so. Only since the early XXth century have empirical thoughts been completely rejected, in great part thanks to Einstein’s Theory of Sertial Reflectivity (TSR).
Rejection of empiricist thought has been a long and arduous process in the history of natural philosophy. A complete account is impossible in the given space, but it is hoped that these pages will give the reader a general idea of how metaphysics, over two-and-a-half millennia, managed to expunge all materialistic ideas from its heart.
Empiricist Thought and its Refutation from Antiquity to the Late 1800s
From the very beginning of metaphysics, it has been admitted that the main obstacle in a properly philosophical understanding of reality comes from the difficulty of testing abstract notions. Even though we now know Plato was fundamentally correct in his description of Pure Ideas, subsequent thinkers of Antiquity were still plagued by physicalist thought. Plato was extraordinarily intuitive, but his observation of the Ideal Plane or Topos Ouranos was so limited, no proper account of it could be given at the time. Thus, Aristotle proposed matter somehow affected essential instantiation, and the Stoic school arrived at the conclusion that esse, which they called halitus, was itself material, though of a very special kind of matter.
Yet to these researchers we owe the first attempts at capturing essence separately from the bodies they instantiated. Naïvely, they tried to imprison Ideas in special bottles, quartz crystals, and gemstones. Much later, Descartes would point out that such methods came down to attempts at making empirical what is abstract, a method modern metaphysics has learned to carefully avoid. However, Aristotle and the Stoics had marvelously clear glimpses of Pure Ideas even as they were misguidedly trying to link them to the physical, and so opened the gates to testable abstract theory.
To the Middle Ages we owe not only the first accounts of God’s effect on esse, but—perhaps more importantly—the first systematic devices of abstract testing. Aquinas proposed one of the better-known such tests: in separate chambers (an extremely primitive black box, in fact) he placed a group of faithful Muslims and Jews, carefully recording the effect their prayers had on God’s surrounding presence. As the Muslim devout were replaced one by one with less fervent believers, the Divinity became sufficiently Yahweh-like to be measured as such, even by Aquinas’ poor observation techniques, and vice versa becoming more Allah-like.
A century later, Occam proved that the less determined God was by faith, i. e. considering Them only as immobile first-cause without attributes at all and only subject to negative knowledge, the more arbitrary the Divinity’s influence became. He arrived at this insight when he noticed that inebriation was immoral on a Tuesday, but acceptable next Wednesday. Abstract experimentation such as this had a profound effect on Western religion, and thus European politics, as the Catholic Church banned untestable beliefs. The dogma of testability resolved the looming crisis of Protestantism, as dissidents and the Pope managed to agree on a common criterion for theological proof.
Though intermediate theories should not be forgotten, it was not until Newton’s Principia Mathematica that metaphysics acquired an exact method for itself. Newton devised a way of manipulating separate Ideas by discovering calculus and noticing the effects he could produce on geometrical entities, such as ellipses, when he made minute alterations in the corresponding equations. In this way, he became the first to change the physical shape of an object simply by altering the mathematical description of its circumference, famously making an apple become roughly cubical by misrepresenting the graph that described its circumference. From then on forwards, researchers had intangible indication that matter is determined by Ideas, never the other way around. Though not abstract in nature, Newton’s alchemical discoveries are worth mentioning, as he was the first to transform lead into gold. Unfortunately, the training and time required to think the necessary Ideas for transmutation was, in the end, more expensive than the gold itself.
At the same time, Leibnitz isolated the essence of mathematical objects using the same calculus, which he developed concurrently. Famously, his tampering with the substance of the number 2 caused the financial collapse of 1701, when bankers and accountants were unable to make any sort of arithmetic using even numbers. The intimate relation between Newton’s and Leibnitz’s work led to a warm friendship between both authors, which has since been a model of what can be achieved by collaboration in all fields of philosophy.
Newton’s discoveries allowed Kant to prove that objects-in-themselves could be known and understood as such. His Critique of Mixed Reason definitively showed that Hume’s thitherto incontrovertible theory of causation was wrong, by testing the relation between cause and effect and arriving at methods that could deduce causation from first principle. On the way to a framework of transcendental aesthetics, he also refuted Wolf’s radical empiricism. Kant’s critical opus became the basis of modern metaphysical metatheory for a century to come, often being referred to as Newton-Kantian mechanics.
It was not long before philosophy had its first practical applications. Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier imbued a large ball of cotton with the esse of a cloud, making it float in the air. In the early 1800s, Richard Trevithick, Matthew Murray, and George Stephenson experimented in transference, imbuing completely mechanical apparatuses with the esse of horses and rabbits, inventing the locomotive in the process. Theoretical and praxical metaphysics have always had a fruitful relation since.
The primacy of Idea over matter was further cemented by Darwin’s Theory of Spontaneity. By leaving carefully calculated amounts of raw notions and random materials in sealed glass containers, he produced life-forms such as worms and mice, and later completely new animals, such as dragons and chimeras. Spontaneity showed that organization would supervene on matter even in the case of living beings, the only physical requirement for supervenience being the presence of the adequate mental ingredients.
The Search for a New Anti-Empiricist Paradigm in Metaphysics
Preceding Einstein’s radical insights, a series of discoveries created a crisis in theoretical metaphysics. On the one hand, Lobachevsky, Bolyai, and Riemann developed non-Eucledean spaces, contravening long held hypothesis about the Ideas of geometrical shapes in the Topos Ouranos. On the other hand, Fizeau partially verified suppositions by celestionomer Christiaan Huygens, who in turn had elaborated on experiments made by Rømer in 1676, and concluded that the speed of light in a vacuum was instantaneous. These developments presented serious questions to Newton-Kantian mechanics.
Indeed, tradition had unanimously held that causality, though intrinsically metaphysical, depended on contact between bodies in order to be transmitted. If light, which had recently been proven to be neither a particle nor a wave, and thus thoroughly abstract in nature, could travel instantaneously to any point in the universe, it meant cause-and-effect relations also had to be instantaneous, or at least could be. Meanwhile, the Circle of Madrid, a group of notable metaphysicians who published under the collective name Jaime C. Maxpozo, managed to isolate ser (‘being’) from esse under laboratory conditions, giving rise to Sertial dynamics, again defying traditionally held opinions about the inseparability of being-itself and being-this-ness.
It had been clear for some time that Newton-Kantian metaphysics was in need of a new theory capable of accounting for such phenomena, but attempts at solving the crisis tended to question experimental results, not reworking the underlaying philosophy. Researchers desperately tried to design experiments that would either restrict the speed of light under certain conditions, describe light as a carrier of momentum and energy, or simply deny it could have any effects on its own, i. e. not without materials objects to shine upon. All of these experiments kept coming back with the same result: light always travels instantaneously, it has no physical properties at all, and does not require an object to shine upon in order for certain effects to take place.
The critical experiment was performed by Michelson and Morley. In 1887, they described an ideal triangle with two angles resting at opposite ends of an infinite non-Eucledean space and one angle inside their laboratory. They proceeded to postulate that the points on its vertices were zero-dimensional prisms that could change the color of a light beam in accordance with their angles in regard to the sides of the triangle itself. Such an experiment could not have been designed before the discovery of four-dimensional numbers (quartenions), necessary to describe the angle of zero-dimensional prisms. Finally, they intended to shine blue light and observed that the color coming from the flashlight was determined by the prisms at the angles on the other ends of the infinite non-Euclidean space, emanating inside the laboratory as red or green no matter how exactly it was described as blue at its origin.
Since the light had not interacted with any physical objects at all, and since it had clear effects on its own color, the color-effect had to have happened simultaneously to its cause, the prism at the other end of infinite non-Euclidean space. Moreover, causality did not require interaction with any material stuff. The consequences of the Michelson-Morley experiments were so drastic, both researched kept trying to refute their own work for over twenty years, until TSR gave a framework to explain the results they had obtained.
Indeed, the revelation was baffling. In short, Pure Ideas could have effects on themselves. In this context, metaphysics as a discipline was thrown into great confusion. The need of new models that could explain the interaction between Pure Ideas with themselves and with instantiated reality seemed urgent. Two decades after Michelson and Morley, Einstein’s contributions, though shocking, were admitted to be a revolutionary novel framework for traditional and new problems in metaphysics.
Arturo Sierra (Santiago, Chile, 1987) has published the novel ‘Mundos por venir’ and the short stories ‘Sub temporis’ and ‘Victor, Whiskey, Charlie.’ Recently won the first price in the Poliedro 7 contest with the story “Lemniscata,” to be published in an anthology during 2022. Member of the Chilean Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature (ALCiFF).
Metaphysics is a tempting way to think about reality. Mostly, because it’s fun — as Borges said, a subgenre of science fiction. But it has a tiny problem: there’s no way of deciding if any of it is true, i. e., no testing, no falsifiability. So ideas become fanciful, and almost every philosopher since modern times has declared himself (always him-self, yes) the re-founder of metaphysics, the first guy to discover “firm grounds” on which to start the work. It has all come to nothing. Ok, but what if metaphysics could be tested for? The results became jaberwockianly absurd much faster than what I could have imagined. The author would like to acknowledge professors Correia and Flores, who inspired this experiment with their enlightening courses.