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Writings based on Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand's most popular novels are Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, which present her philosophy, Objectivism, in vivid characterizations.

  Metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, esthetics, and  politics are the five main branches of philosophy that she identifies. Utilizing her methodology, one can be rational about all aspects of life. These essays present my understanding of Objectivism.

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Date: Wed, 18 Feb 1998 
Motion, Time, and Energy
Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

Motion is given to us on the perceptual level, and is therefore
defined ostensibly (by pointing to moving objects). The concept
"motion" is created by observing things moving, choosing the
motion of one of them as the standard, and realizing the other
motions observed vary only by measurement -- they either move
more than the standard or less than the standard. Since the
motion of something must be abstracted from that something
(motion does not exist apart from something that is moving), a
working definition can be given as "a change of position (of
something or a part of something)."

But notice that "moving more or less than the standard motion"
can be understood in two different ways: 1) the moving object
can travel a further or lesser *distance* than the standard; or
2) the moving object can *traverse a given distance* more
quickly or more slowly than the standard motion. These two
observations imply that "motion" can only be grasped after
"distance" has been grasped.

It is by focusing in on the second type of observation that one
arrives at the concept "Time." Time is a measure of motion, and
is therefore a subset of "motion" (at least at the beginning).
To arrive at the concept "motion," one not only needs a standard
motion, but also a standard distance over which the motion takes
place. The sun rising and setting can be used as a standard for
time, because it travels from one horizon to the other (as
observed by us); or the shadow of a sundial is observed moving
from one side of the apparatus to the other as the sun changes
position.

More elaborate measures of motion can be obtained by using a
pendulum (where the length of the pendulum arm is crucial), or a
watch (with hands) where the distance between the markings is
crucial. By making the pendulum arm a set length, or by making
the markings (and the inner workings) of a watch consistent,
periodic (or repetitive) motion is obtained, making it possible
to measure smaller and smaller units of time.

Motion (or change of position) is not the only type of change,
however. When we observe wood burning, for instance, we notice a
change even though the wood and/or ash remain in the same place.
We also notice that some wood burns to ash more quickly or more
slowly than other types of wood. So the concept "time" can be
expanded to include these other types of changes, by relating
the burning wood to the standard periodic motion (which
implicitly relates the burning of wood to distance).

The concept "motion" can not be so expanded, so another concept
is needed, namely the concept "energy." In my understanding of
"energy," it is a measure of *any sort of physical change* --
from change of position (kinetic energy) to sub-atomic reactions
(atomic or nuclear energy).

Regarding Relativity, what Einstein did, essentially, was to
show that the concept of "time" is inextricably linked to the
concept of "distance." If one is observing a simply clock, such
as a ball bouncing up and down in a tube (like an "I"), the
distance traversed by the ball is a constant -- *if one is not
moving relative to the clock.* If one is moving relative to the
clock, however, the distance the ball traverses (as observed by
you) actually *increases*, since it follows a motion more like
this: /\. If the standard *distance* traveled by the ball (as
observed by you) increases, then your clocks are no longer
synchronized (providing the bouncing of the ball does not
correspondingly increase), and one has to compensate for the
relative motion if one is going to compare events happening here
versus over there moving at high speeds relative to you.

There is nothing "spooky" or "anti-law-of-identity" occurring
with this observation, though I'm sure this will be a
controversial position on this forum. Though I disagree with
some of the terminology of Relativity (like "space bending"), I
think Einstein hit upon an important fact of existence. I won't
go into more detail in this post, but I've noticed the topic has
come up, and I will discuss it more later. In short, there is no
"universal time." There are specific clocks, and relative motion
of one clock to another must be taken into account, if one is to
be accurate.


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Proud to be an Objectivist -- one who follows Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism: I've earned it.