Synopses & Reviews
The three spatial characteristics of length, height and depth are used in the same unreflective way by laymen, technicians and scientists alike to describe the forms, positions and measure of bodies and hollow bodies. But how do we know that the space we live in has just these three dimensions? The question has occupied philosophers and scientists since antiquity. The answers proposed have become ever more presumptuous and have increasingly lost sight of everyday intuitions and have sacrificed explanatory power. In Euclid's Heritage Janich shows that all explanations of three-dimensionality hinge on an unreflective geometrical language which seems to accept the lack of an alternative for the three sorts of entities -- points, lines and planes -- that bound the three extended entities -- lines, planes and solids. This is a Euclidean heritage in a dual sense: Euclid himself adopted a geometrical language from the art of figure drawing, and left a tradition of doing geometry as planimetry and of doing stereometry by rotating plane figures. The systematic approach offered here starts out from operational definitions of the spatial forms -- plane, straight edge and perpendicularity -- and proofs that only three planes can intersect pairwise orthogonally. This is the constructive solution in the frame theory of action, providing an unequivocal characterisation of spatial relations in the physical world. The traditional order of geometric concepts turns out to be the most important obstacle to the methodical ordering of everyday scientific concepts.
Synopsis
Arguing that all explanations of three-dimensionality hinge on an unreflective geometrical language, this work offers a systematic approach starting out from operational definitions of the spatial forms and proofing that only three planes can intersect pairwise orthogonally.
Synopsis
We live in a space, we get about in it. We also quantify it, we think of it as having dimensions. Ever since Euclid's ancient geometry, we have thought of bodies occupying parts of this space (including our own bodies), the space of our practical orientations (our 'moving abouts'), as having three dimensions. Bodies have volume specified by measures of length, breadth and height. But how do we know that the space we live in has just these three dimensions? It is theoreti cally possible that some spaces might exist that are not correctly described by Euclidean geometry. After all, there are the non Euclidian geometries, descriptions of spaces not conforming to the axioms and theorems of Euclid's geometry. As one might expect, there is a history of philosophers' attempts to 'prove' that space is three-dimensional. The present volume surveys these attempts from Aristotle, through Leibniz and Kant, to more recent philosophy. As you will learn, the historical theories are rife with terminology, with language, already tainted by the as sumed, but by no means obvious, clarity of terms like 'dimension', 'line', 'point' and others. Prior to that language there are actions, ways of getting around in the world, building things, being interested in things, in the more specific case of dimensionality, cutting things. It is to these actions that we must eventually appeal if we are to understand how science is grounded."