Platonism in modern science (was Re: Genealogy of Specious Dualisms)

Dace edace at
Sun Apr 2 22:28:18 PDT 2000

Hi Gordon.
>> There is no such as a brick. What exists intrinsically is molecules and
>> electromagnetic bonds. The "brick" exists only insofar as we imagine
>> set of molecules to be a "brick." There is no "brickness" in the world.
>On the contrary, molecules and electromagnetic bonds are, like
>bricks, human mental constructions _as_far_as_we_know_. That
>is, they are organizations of phenomena. In any case, even
>if they were really real, if you were to dissolve a brick into
>its component molecules and the energy of its bonds, I'm pretty
>sure you would find something was now missing from your world
>that was suspiciously like an instance of brickness. That
>is, the _form_ of the brick would have disappeared, even though
>its material and energetic "substances" remained. Where did
>it go? Maybe home to the Empyrean, eh?
Yes, the form of the brick would disappear, except that it wasn't a brick in the first place. "Brick" is in our minds. You're right, though, that this also applies to "molecules." However, this does not apply to anything whose form arises organically. So, for instance, a spider is actually a spider (regardless of what we call it.) Spiderness exists in the world. This applies to at least two other things as well-- hydrogen atoms and galaxies. There doesn't seem to be any physical cause for the existence of these things, both of which appeared spontaneously about 300,000 years after the "Big Bang." Once the hydrogen atom appeared, all the matter of the universe got swept up into this micro-form, while at the macro level, everything became galaxies. We see this phenomenon all the time with crystals. There are many kinds of crystals, and if you try to manufacture a totally new type, it's very hard. But once the new type has been established, the process of making more crystals of that type gets progressively easier. Though the crystal is not alive, its form tends to arise organically. Just goes to show that there's no absolute distinction between living and nonliving things.

>The process could be repeated with the alleged molecules and
>energy, probably, breaking them down into quarks or strings,
>so that the molecules too would disappear. Things seem to be
>a piling-up of forms within forms. And as the Buddhist mantra
>goes, "The form is empty; empty is the form."
This is from the Heart Sutra. The theme of this sutra is that reality is other than the way we think of it. "Form" means the forms that we project onto everything.

>And yet everyone knows what a brick is, and can call to mind
>the shape and weight and texture of one held in the hand.
There's an old Zen koan in which two students come upon a stone and begin arguing over whether it exists in their minds or in the world. They ask the Zen master which one is correct. The master answers by knocking them both in the head with the stone.


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