This is Essay XCII of Mr. Stolyarov’s series, “A Rational Cosmology,” which seeks to present objective, absolute, rationally grounded views of terms such as universe, matter, volume, space, time, motion, sound, light, forces, fields, and even the higher-order concepts of life, consciousness, and volition. See the index of all the essays in “A Rational Cosmology” here.
Many post-Classical physicists define matter as “something that has mass and exists as a solid, liquid, gas, or plasma” (Dictionary.com); they further define mass as “A property of matter equal to the measure of an object’s resistance to changes in either the speed or direction of its motion” (Dictionary.com). Both of these definitions are erroneous, as the following analysis will show.
Matter is Primary to Mass
Let us first examine the error in the first part of the contemporary physicists’ definition of “matter.” In claiming that matter is “something that has mass,” they define matter in terms of mass. This is a reversal of essentials, a putting of the cart before the horse, so to speak.
Matter is fundamental to mass, not the other way around. Mass is a measurement of matter; it is a derivative attribute of all material entities. We know, by corollary, that every material entity will also have a mass measurable by some means. However, it has mass because it is material. It is not material because it has mass. That would be akin to defining an entity with length as “an entity that has meters,” or a moving entity as “an entity that has meters per second.” The measurement necessarily follows from the quality, not the other way around.
The better definition in this context would be a definition of mass as a “universal measurement of matter, which all material entities exhibit.”
Entities as Primary to Relationships
Furthermore, I take issue with the second part of the post-Classical definition of matter as that, which exists as a solid, liquid, or gas. “Solid,” “liquid,” and “gas” are relationships, involving many entities. Wherever there is a collection of like entities (such as atoms or molecules), we could call their relative arrangement a “solid,” a “liquid,” or a “gas,” depending on the particles’ proximity and the types of bonds (if any) between them.
The second part of the definition of matter as “solid, liquid, or gas” is, again, a reversal of essentials. One cannot define an entity in terms of a relationship, because that would put relationships as a primary to entities. But relationships are always derivative from entities. A relationship cannot exist without the entities that relate. There cannot be a solid, liquid, or gaseous relationship without the material entities that form such a relationship. To define the relationship as primary to matter itself would beg the question, “What is it a relationship of?” The modern scientists’ answer? Blank-out.
The fact is, individual atoms and molecules can be neither solid, nor liquid, nor gaseous in isolation from other atoms and molecules. Yet they are composed of matter, nonetheless. If they were not composed of matter, they would not have any constituent quality, and would therefore not exist; they would be just an arbitrarily defined region of empty space.
Thus, the modern physicists’ definition of matter fails on both counts: neither mass nor the solid, liquid, or gaseous phases are primary to matter itself.
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