The Relational philosophy part III, about reality

III.1. The quantum-character

Nowadays we know that all things in reality are made of about 100 different sorts of atoms. And there is even more unity since all these different atoms are made of only 3 kinds of particles, the neutrons and protons in the nucleus of atoms and the electrons around the nucleus. These are the durable particles, the practical building-blocks .

Would these fundamental particles be a kind of billiard-balls made of eternal ivory, and would an atom be a kind of mini solar system, then we could say that physics is (nearly) finished.
And in practice such presentation also works very well and as a scholar one also learns to see an atom as a kind of mini solar system. And even if you become a practical physicist or chemist, you do not really have to adjust this simple idea.

But in reality these fundamental particles behave in a very strange way. They do not behave like billiard balls, they behave as some thing we do not know in our daily reality, as some thing that at first sight can not even be understood.
To see how strange these fundamental particles are, it is useful to translate their behavior to the scale on which processes play in daily reality. Suppose you have a car that can drive 150 kilometer in an hour, but with the peculiarity that its speed can rise and fall only in steps of 1 km/hr. So you can go 50 km/hr or 51 but never 50,5 km/hr.
If you think well about that, you realize that such a thing actually is incomprehensible. For at one moment you drive 50, and if you open the throttle you drive 51 an infinitely short moment later, then 52 and so on.
The problem is lain in that infinitely short moment. If there are no situations in between, so no speed of 50,3 or 50,6 km/hr, then one situation changes into an other situation in an infinitely short moment.
In that infinitely short during moment you therefore must have experienced an infinitely fast acceleration, thus also infinitely high G-forces. In that infinitely short moment your speed must have been infinitely high for an infinitely short period of time.
We also can think of a moon that moves round a planet in jumps of for example 1 whole hour or a day, without being in between, so also without having followed a road between both situations.

That is the way we can represent the phenomena, physicists discover when they measure processes that happen in a very short period of time and in a very small piece of space. Ordinary daily laws of nature, the law of first a cause and later an effect for example, no longer rule there.
And continuity, the gradual change of situations, no longer exists there. Instead of that, one measures so called quantum-jumps, which means that a certain situation changes into an other situation without states in between .
The certainty we have in common reality about for example the exact place, time and speed of things also changes into uncertainty if it concerns atomic processes. If a policeman with a radar-detector measures that your speed was too high at a certain moment and on a certain place, then a judge will feel certain enough to convict you.
However, if your car was a quantum-car, so accelerating in infinitely short during jumps, then it is very well possible that you go free as a result of lack of proof. Because at that certain moment, you could have been at different places, and also could have had different speeds.


Like I already wrote, in practice also the practice of science, this quantum-character of reality is of minor importance. But seen from a theoretical or philosophical point of view, it is interesting. For if certain important certainties we think to have in daily practice do not really exist, how shall we understand reality then?

We, by the way, also know processes in our daily life with a kind of quantum-character, but then we must think of processes of the mind. Suppose you see an intricate pattern of lines hiding a picture of a face. You look and look again but do not see it. And then suddenly, you see the face.
Such kind of insights too happen infinitely fast, without a situation in between wherein you only see or understand half of it.
Or suppose your are phoning with a good friend on the other half of our planet. The words, the sounds you both speak, then need time, at least the time light needs. But your mutual understanding then often does not even need half a word. You immediately hear the fear, the sorrow and the like.
So in our mind we often make quantum-jumps without intermediate states of half understanding or half seeing in between. Maybe we must see the atomic processes this way as well, so firstly as mental activities or something like that. Something like measuring activities, I think. Measuring and being measured, that is all there is, I believe. Measure also resulting in mass.

III.2. Matter, idea and other basic concepts

For Western philosophers reality mainly consists of two categories, described by the concepts matter and idea, or body and mind if it particularly concerns the human. The duality of object and subject can be seen as a parallel, and the same is true for the distinction between quantity and quality.
We in a way consider the world to be a machine built of fundamental building-blocks. And next or even above these machine, there also exists an immaterial world of ideas and qualities. And if an aspect of reality is not matter-like, then it is idea-like for us.

Terms like matter and idea can be called basic concepts or basic ideas, concepts that can be used to express all aspects of reality .
For the science of philosophy it is convenient and even necessary to have good basic ideas and these concepts then must be searched for or even invented. One sees a multitude of different phenomena, millions of different living beings, milliards of things on earth and in space, in solid form, as a liquid or a gas, all kinds of movement, growth and decay, cycles and an innumerable number of other processes. And from the beginning the human has had the idea that behind this intricate multitude of things and events, a deeper unity must exist.
Everything must be made of the same stuff or material, that was the thought the first philosophers already had. And then you must find a concept that can express this unity, the concept stuff for instance, or matter, or atom, or event. Or pixel if it concerns the pictures on this screen.

In the beginning of history of philosophy these basic categories were superficial. Fire, air, water and soil were considered to be the fundamental building-blocks. Later in history we have discovered more and more a deeper and deeper unity, with the result that the basic concepts also became more abstract concepts like matter, mass or atom. Concepts like space and time can be called basic concepts as well since everything you can think of, plays in space and time.

Like I said, the concepts matter and idea or body and mind are the most important basic concepts in Western philosophy. However, a science like physics can not do much with concepts like idea or mind. They can handle a concept like matter there, though they then rather speak of mass. But mind and idea are too vague, can not be expressed as quantities.
Nevertheless physics too uses a concept to express the immaterial aspect of reality, because that aspect also really exists, and then I think of the concept force-field or just field. There are the material particles, protons, neutrons and electrons in particular, and there is something playing between these particles, the field of light and electromagnetism for example, and gravity and the nuclear relations.

So the basic concepts used by physics (particles and fields) differ from the basic concepts used by philosophy (matter and idea). Can we invent basic concepts that can be used by both sciences, so that we can philosophize about physical phenomena?
Yes I think, and then I am thinking of the concepts part and relation.

III.3. Everything is relations playing between parts

Every thing and every happening can be described, in an abstract way, by using only two terms, two concepts, the term relation and the term part.
Think of a bike. The bike consists of parts, like wheel and axle, spokes and rim, rim and tire, chain and cog-wheels, saddle and handlebar and so on. And next to these parts, between the parts, relations are playing. The nuts fit the bolts, the tires fit the rims, the axle fits in the hub, the chain fits the cog-wheels et cetera. The pattern of relations then is the bike.

The Fabike, as pattern of relations. Also see the description and an other picture on this website.

And the bike as a whole also can be seen as one part exactly fitting the shape of the human body. And this combination of a human on a bike then too is a part on its own, fitting the roads followed by the cyclists. And all these cyclists on all these roads then too form a unity, a part, namely the earth that fits the moon and the sun et cetera.

A living being too consists of parts and relations that play between the parts and that also applies to that being just after death, though the character of the relations has changed then. Life as relational phenomenon has gone then, but other relational phenomena, like the electromagnetic and chemical relations, still exist for a while.

Everything is made of parts, fundamental particles in the end. Between the particles, relations play like the four natural forces. Because that is the common aspect of all four natural forces, they all relate particles to each other. They all bridge space-time. That results in atoms and molecules and all bigger things in our reality. That is the subject of the physical sciences.
On a more superficial level, other relations play like the force of life and Eros and the result of these relations is life, the plants, the animals, the human and all these other tiny life-forms. That is the subject of biology and the medical science.
And a human can discover and invent new relations between parts and the result then is our bike, our computer, our plastics, our satellite dish and other techniques, the subject of our technical sciences. Also music and all other art is an expression of these relations between parts made by men.

Whatever you think of, as a thing or as a happening, it always is a relating between parts, music too, and sculptures, paintings, cooking, poems, novels, romance, philosophy et cetera. Everything, matter and ideas, is a relating between parts, always looking like what plays between bolt and nut.

Every relation resembles the bolt-nut relation.

When we see the relations between forms, we say we understand. Do we see harmony in the relations as well, forms that perfectly fit, then we speak of beauty, health, comfort, nice, good and quality in general.

So the concept quality too now is touchable in a way. You can touch the quality of for example a bolt and a nut by feeling that both partners really perfectly fit .
Of course not every quality is as touchable and commonly accepted. Are the relations in this text good? That also depends on your attitude. What fits you, does not have to fit every one and the other way around.

The concepts part and relation clearly are very useful as basic ideas. You can use these concepts everywhere, in art, in industry, in philosophy, in physics, in biology, in technology, in sociology and psychology as well. In the social sciences, human beings are the fundamental parts and partners, while relation-patterns like the family, the school, the factory and the like can be compared with atoms, molecules and the like.
Everything is a pattern of relations between parts, and the parts then are partners. Everything is a partaking, a partnering, a parting as well.

A part then is defined as a piece of space, or space-time, with a certain border or limit. That does not necessarily have to be matter then but can also be a photon or a wave or a tune or a sound. There anyhow is something like a border, a space and/or time limit. 'Something like' I write, because it simply is a fact that one can never draw a sharp border. The border-line then is some limited thing as well, so also with limits and so on. Sharp limits only exist in mind.

So the concept part now is defined as exactly as is possible, as a limited part of space-time. It starts with the fundamental parts, forming atoms and molecules, forming materials, forming things and beings.
A relation is defined as something playing in the emptiness between the parts, or inside the part if the part itself also is a pattern of relations, and by which the forms of the partners fit to each other.

Ideas play behind the things.

The example of the nut fitting the bolt then is very useful. That relation plays in the emptiness, is like an idea, the idea of the screw-thread in this case. That relation makes bolt and nut fit and even belong to each other.
With bolt and nut one can compare man and woman then, with Eros as relating phenomenon. Or proton and electron, with electromagnetism as relating phenomenon, also playing in the emptiness because light certainly is something but has no weight, is not a material thing.
These three examples then form an abstract description of whole reality, nature, life and technique.

So the concept relation is defined as fitting of parts. The concept part as space-time part. More accurately, these concepts can not be defined, I think. And more basically, these concepts can not be made. There also is no need for further explanation.

Now we have two basic ideas that can describe everything, from art to craft, concepts that also are defined in an accurate and scientific way.
The concept part then of course describes the material aspect of reality, so can replace concepts like matter, body, object, quantity et cetera in the traditional Western body-mind philosophy.
The concept relation can, in combination with the concept part as partner, describe every other aspect of our reality, not only idea, mind and spirit but also the working of things and the living of beings, all qualities, the purpose and meaning of things, our feelings and all our enjoyments et cetera.
We really can describe everything as a relating between parts. And every description then in a way is touchable, like the idea of a perfectly fitting bolt-nut couple.

So the relational view can really become a good and useful replacement for the body-mind way of thinking of Western philosophy. Many old philosophical problems then find a simple solution .

Language too consists of parts, the letters or the sounds as parts, and relations between the parts. We use nouns and other names to express the parts of reality. And we use verbs to express all possible relations in reality. Verbs and names, that is the essence of every language, nouns and their adjectives related by verbs. Do you know the 1000 most used nouns, adjectives and other names and the 100 most used verbs, then you will manage well in that strange area.

With these two concepts part and relation, we now also can philosophize about physical phenomena, so about physics.

III.4. The relation as fundament of all

Relations like playing between bolt and nut often are called ideas, the idea of the screw-thread for example, the thought behind it, behind bolt and nut as well. We also call these relations spirit, for example when we speak of the vital spirits or the spirit in techniques.

The vital spirit riding on spirit of techniques.

How important are these immaterial relations? Are the relations just derivations or secretions of the particles? Is the immaterial aspect of our reality a product of matter? Or is it exactly the other way around, and is the essence of everything some immaterial thing?

Do we look at bolt and nut, then we see that the relation playing between both partners is very important. That idea of the screw-thread even existed first, like the idea of a coat, shoe or bike is the origin of the real coat, shoe or bike.
The relation also defines the form of both bolt and nut.
The relation gives meaning to bolt and nut.
The relation also makes the couple work.
Do you think away the relation, then the bolt no longer is a bolt and the nut no nut.

The relations also make reality a unity, they change gaps into bridges, make opposites in form to a unity in the working. The difference then also is the correspondence. For if you look at bolt and nut, you see total antipodes in form. The bolt is long and bulged, the nut is short and hollow, and what the bolt has outside, the screw-thread, the nut has inside.
So there is an enormous difference between bolt and nut. However, that difference also exactly is the correspondence. Would the difference not exist, or would the difference be less, then the unity would not exist either.
So, the more difference, the more correspondence, in this case.

Difference = correspondence.

Difference = correspondence.

The difference then is not a gap but a bridge. Difference = correspondence, an other logic than the Western logic.

In the same way, many differences we experience in our daily reality are no gaps but bridges. Because everywhere in reality you can discover couples comparable with bolt and nut, couples that often are partner again in a bigger unity and so on, like the axle-wheel couple fits in the fork of a bike and the fork again in the frame, and the frame beneath the human et cetera.

These relations playing in the emptiness, often called idea or spirit, clearly play a very fundamental role in reality. They define the form of things and their meaning and function. They make reality a working reality. They also make reality a unity, one big web of relations playing between opposite antipodes like man and woman, bolt and nut, shoe and foot, flower and light and proton and electron in the end.
And in many (even all) cases the immaterial relations, so the ideas, even are the fundament of the material things, of their form at least. That certainly applies to all products made by men. First of all, our human articles of use must fit to our body. Then they must fit to our surroundings. These relations then define the form.
First we had an idea, a pattern of relations in our mind. Later we shaped material into a form so that the relations also really could work. Ideas are the fundament of things then.

That is also how nature works. If you see all these flowers, all these eyes of animals et cetera, you also see the spirit behind it, as a kind of engineer, a mind of an engineer. All sorts of eyes fit the light. That relation defines the form of all eyes.
Even if you deny the existence of such a Nature-spirit, then you can not deny that some patterns of relations are very harmonious. Gold for instance and diamond not only look beautiful on the outside but also inside. Under a microscope you really see harmony in the pattern of relations. And it exactly is this harmony, I call the spirit of Nature.
This harmony also is mathematical. Inert gasses and metals like gold and silver have a very regular pattern of electrons as surface, and that is why they are invulnerable. Harmony not only is beauty but also solidness in this case. Nice often is good and wise.

So the relations in nature and in our culture are fundamentally important. Do you think away all these relational phenomena, then we are left with only isolated particles without significance. Forms like the form of a shoe or bolt, would not have any meaning without relations. Forms would not even exist then, since the form itself is the result of an inner pattern of relations.
Even a proton or neutron, the kernel of an atom, is no ball made of eternal ivory but is a pattern of relations itself, playing between so-called quarks. And what then is a quark? It surely is no eternal matter either. So it must be a relating activity as well, a flux, a space-time movement. Not a thing that fluxes, but just a flux, of space-time.

Everything seems to be a relating between just opposites, between antipodes. Antipodes of no thing versus some thing in the end, I think, between our finite space and the underlying infinity, between inner-space and outer-space as well .

Expanding and shrinking. Inner- and outer-space.

III.5. Quantum-physics

The immaterial relations are very fundamental, that must be clear now. Would all relational phenomena disappear out of reality, so the four natural forces, the force of life, the technical relations in our machines and other constructions, then everything would fall apart like sand into grains; even the grains would fall apart.
What would be left then of reality? Formless stuff, one could think.
However, without relations, one formless particle could not know of the existence of an other formless particle. Particles then would not have any meaning or significance, not even a weight or size. For even to have such a basic property as a size or mass, a relation is needed with something else with an other measure or mass. Mass only is mass in surroundings that are less massive; so mass needs a relation to be mass, mass is a weight.

In other words, the fundamental particles can not be fundamental, not the root of everything. They are products of relations, expressions of relations.

And that also is exactly what physicists discover when they investigate the very small and then are confronted with the quantum-character of reality. Such a fundamental particle apparently does not exist independently from the relations in which it is partner, but in a way constantly is created or at least consolidated in his existence by these relations. The activity of measuring by the physicist, always by means of light, is such a relational phenomenon as well that influences the measured thing. So one can never have a really objective point of view.

And obviously there always is left something like a memory, so that atomic processes stay and play in about the same area of space. And many of such short during happenings in the same area of space, then give the impression, on a bigger scale, of long lasting durability, the durability of atoms, molecules and other things in our reality. And these bigger things as a whole then follow the traditional laws of mechanics we are used to.

In other words: On a superficial scale and level, the immaterial relations define the form, meaning, function, working and living of things and beings. The materiality of these things however, continues to exist if you think away all these superficial relations.
On an atomic scale however, so on the deepest level of our reality, the relations also define the materiality of the particles. Obviously, materiality itself also is nothing but form, just significance. An electron obviously is not a thing with a charge but is just a charge, just a tension, just a relating. And a mass then must be a weighing, a relative thing.

What then is the form of an electron or the form of a proton? An electron encloses or embraces, while a proton is enclosed or embraced. And enclosing and being enclosed is something we can see and measure everywhere in reality. Every relation in a way is an enclosing and at the same time a being enclosed.

Inner- and outer-space. Inner- and outer-space. Inner- and outer-space. Inner- and outer-space.

What then is enclosed in the end, and what is enclosing? Space-time, I think. Inner-space versus outer-space, with border areas in between, that is our reality, I think.
More about this in 'Physics of space-time' on this homepage. Also now a little bit of physics.

III.6. In the beginning there was light

That relations really are the root of everything, that some immaterial thing also is the fundament of matter, is also shown and even proved in physics.
In physics, light or more specifically the speed of light written as c, plays a fundamental role. Light or electromagnetism is the ultimate relating phenomenon in nature . And light surely is something, but is not a material thing. A vacuum too can be full of light and other electromagnetic radiation.

The speed of light can be seen as the spider in the web of equations of physics, and c therefore appears everywhere in physics, though sometimes hidden in an other constant.
In Coulomb's law for instance that defines or actually describes the strength of chemical / electric relations in materials and things, a constant plays a leading part and that also is true for the equation that describes the magnetic force. And these two constants, and , are fully defined by the speed of light c, according to Maxwell's equation = 1/c2.
In other words, would this speed of light become zero or infinite, then both electromagnetic constants would have an infinite value as well, with the result that the electromagnetic force inside and between atoms and molecules, in living beings, machines and all other things, would become infinitely strong or zero as well. And a human or machine then would be compressed infinitely strong, into a zero-point of nothing, or would fall apart into nothing.

Or think of Einstein's well-known formula E = mc2 wherein E is energy, m is mass and c again is the speed of light. Would c become infinitely high or zero, then mass too would no longer have a finite measure. And an infinite mass is no mass, like an infinite measure is no measure. A thing must have limits to be a thing and the infinity has no limits, no borders.

And according to Planck's formula E = hf wherein E is the energy of light and f the frequency of light and h is a constant , light would have an infinite amount of energy if its speed, and as a result of that also its frequency, would become infinitely high. That infinite light then would annihilate everything.

So light must have a finite speed, or in other words, relations must take time, otherwise there can not be anything at all. Would relations not take time, then relations of course would not exist. Then everything really would be 1, and just 1 thing without some other thing, is no thing.
That of course also applies to us and our relations. We often want to become one. But would we really be one, then we would be no one. So we must be grateful to our opposites and antipodes, we also must thank the distances, for they make us.

Also if we just think about an infinitely high speed of light, light coming from the stars for example, we see that nothing can exist then. In our reality light needs time, though little time, and that is why we can say that the moon is relatively nearby and our sun too, while many stars are thousands of light-years far away.
But now suppose that the speed of light suddenly becomes infinitely high? Light that wherever in the cosmos comes to existence, will immediately strike the earth then and every other spot in the cosmos. Concepts like nearby and far away then lose their significance for that infinite light and therefore also for us as observers. And the same is true for concepts like past and future. Because how could we measure these differences then?
Imagine yourself being able to travel with an infinitely high speed, so not just very fast but really infinitely fast. Then you actually are always everywhere and therefore never somewhere. And concepts like here and there or yesterday and tomorrow then have no meaning for you.

And even if only your awareness, the light you shine on the surroundings, would have infinite dimensions, making you aware of every thing and being at the same moment, you no longer can say that you specifically are in your own body. Then you are not some where, not some body but nobody.

So as a result of the finiteness of the speed of light, you are someone and somewhere. Our finite light makes that somewhere, by separating here from there, by taking time.
In the beginning there was light, finitely fast light. Before that beginning light may have been infinitely fast and then there was nothing.

III.7. The relations in nature as the spirit of nature

These relations in nature are often called ideas, the idea of the screw-thread for example, or the idea of the bike and the shoe, the thoughts behind the things. Or we speak of spirit then, the spirit of technique, the vital spirit et cetera. We then always have a relation or pattern of relations in mind, forms that match and fit to each other.

And according to me we always have relations in mind when we talk of spirit or ideas and the like. It therefore would be wise to also define idea and spirit as the relations playing between forms, in nature and in our culture (but everything is nature, a relating between electrons and protons in the end).
I do not want to say that we should no longer use concepts like idea and spirit. I just want to make these vague concepts more understandable, even touchable. I want to define idea and spirit, in a touchable way.

Idea and sprit always play in the emptiness. However, if we realize that there is always something playing then like what plays between the bolt and the nut, then this immaterial aspect of reality also becomes touchable in a way, by touching both bolt and nut and feeling that the two partners fit to each other. Spirit and ideas then are touchable, not living above nature but right in the middle of nature.

Idea of srew-thread.
Idea of srew-thread.The spirit of nature.Idea of srew-thread.
Idea of srew-thread.

A human remains a special creature in the relational view, the only being on earth that is able to also see all these relations in nature, so that he can imitate the relations in his surviving-techniques .
However, since spirit now is something that lives right in the middle of nature, as a fitting of forms to each other, the human in the relational view no longer is elevated above nature, like Plato thought and with him many other philosophers, but stands right in the middle of nature with both feet but also with his mind.

With both feet and with his head in the middle of nature.

Mind is living in all aspects of nature, in the relational phenomena playing on all these different levels of nature, from atoms to stars. Everything we find in there, colors, music, life, techniques, laws of nature, mathematics, beauty, health et cetera. It always is a, more or less harmonious, relating between forms, more or less touchable forms. That is what we really mean with mind and spirit.

And our human mind actually is not a mind, but a seeing of mind. We do not exclusively have a mind in a for the rest mindless nature. Our specialty is seeing the mind. That also is what Plato thought. However, his mind was supernatural, while my mind is very natural.

Maybe the speed of light once was infinitely high. Then there was no time, no space and therefore nothing at all. Once upon a time however, light started to need time, with the result that time came to existence. On that moment it started to take time to bridge space, so that space then came to existence as well. From that moment there was time and space for a finite reality. And that is where we are living in.

What then is the fundamental activity in our reality? I think we must see an atom as a point of view, a point of view that measures with finite time- and space-standards, the surroundings and therefore also itself, compared with these surroundings. This whole of measuring and being measured with finite standards, that is the essence of our reality, I think.

A measuring point of view.

And for clearness sake, such a point of view then does not have mass in the beginning, but is something like pure awareness, measuring with finite space- and time-standards. The activity of repeatedly measuring and being measured then gives the particles a mass. Mass then is the result of light, the sediment of finite light. If you can see the field of light as a field of thoughts, then mass is like memory, while a beam of light is a thought.
We, finite points of view, throw a finite light on each other, and that is why we exist. Would the standards we use, suddenly become infinite, then we would experience nothing.

And actually only such reality of nothing can be called an objective reality, while our reality is subjective or at least relative, only a reality seen in our finite light. And maybe there still is such an infinitely fast light, a divine light who experiences everything as really 1, so no thing. We finite beings however, will never be able to follow that infinite light, not during our life anyhow.

Jan Helderman
end 1999 - beginning 2000

To SiteMapVersion
(if you see this page stand alone)