Monday, September 12, 2016

A damselfly

Some of the cool animals in our local zoo are not part of the zoo. But the space they occupy is part of the zoo.

Artifacts like zoos thus have space as part of them. But what is this "space"? The zoo's space orbits the earth's axis once per 24 hours. It's a movable space. It's something like what I've called the internal space of a substance (except that a zoo isn't a substance).


Michael Gonzalez said...

I think there may be another way of looking at it, viz: Whatever space happens to be present within the established boundaries of the zoo is, for that time period, part of the zoo. This is also the sense in which atoms and subatomic particles can be parts of the zoo, though they are interchanged and replaced regularly. The advantage is that "a movable space" is apt for equivocation in treating physical space as a substance but then speaking of "a space" and not really meaning that substance at all. We mean "an area of space", or something relational like that.

Of course, I don't think space is a substance at all, and I think it's totally relational no matter what the context, but that's neither here nor there (pun intended).

Alexander R Pruss said...

If place and space go together, then the movable space approach explains why I can correctly say: "The damselfly stayed still in the same place for about 30 seconds while I was photographing it", even though due to the rotation of the earth the damselfly moved about 400 meters.

Heath White said...

Well, think about the space inside my car, which moves around (relative to the earth) all the time, but is fixed relative to my car. It's just defined as the approximately concave region marked out relative to the fixed parts of the car. Similarly for zoos.

Also, the sense in which animals are part of zoos, and the sense in which the space they occupy is part of zoos, are different senses. Animals are, so to speak, on the roster. The space is a subregion of the whole spatiotemporal region of the zoo.