Philosophy:Absolute theory

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In philosophy, absolute theory (or absolutism)[1] usually refers to a theory based on concepts (such as the concept of space) that exist independently of other concepts and objects. The absolute point of view was advocated in physics by Isaac Newton.[1] It is one of the traditional views of space along with relational theory and the Kantian theory.[2]


The absolute theory holds that space is a homogeneous structure with a free-standing existence and is independent of other things.[2] The Newtonian arguments of this theory, particularly those concerned with the ontological status of space and time, had been related to the existence of God through the concepts of absolute space and absolute time.[3] It was proposed that the universe was finite in extent and was said to have begun in time.[3] Additionally, space exists prior to the body or matter that occupies it and it was held that the universe - as a finite material - is merely situated within it.[4]

Aside from Newton, the theory was also promoted by his followers during the 17th and 18th centuries such as Samuel Clarke and Roger Cotes.[5]

Related theories

An absolute theory is the opposite of a relational theory.[6] Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the main proponent of relational theory, argued that there is no absolute space and time.[4] He maintained that space is not independent nor a container of the matter that occupies it, explaining that physical objects or forces are ordered spatially and that space is merely a system of relations.[4] According to the relational theory, without objects, there is no space.

Martin Heidegger’s own theory of space also opposes the absolute theory with his criticism that it is founded on metaphysical dichotomy of separated subject and object.[2] The thinker maintained that this nature keeps absolute theory from explaining the true nature of space.

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Absolute and Relational Theories of Space and Motion" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Bachelard, Jerome (2014). Governance Reform in Africa: International and Domestic Pressures and Counter-Pressures. Oxon: Routledge. pp. 18. ISBN 978-1-134-69855-4. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Khamara, Edward J. (2006). Space, Time, and Theology in the Leibniz-Newton Controversy. Piscataway, NJ: Transaction Books. pp. 6. ISBN 978-3-11-032830-1. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Thomson, Garrett (2012-05-21). Bacon to Kant: An Introduction to Modern Philosophy, Third Edition. Long Grove, Illinois: Waveland Press. pp. 106. ISBN 978-1-4786-1045-8. 
  5. Buroker, J. V. (1981). Space and Incongruence: The Origin of Kant’s Idealism. Dordrecht: Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 8. ISBN 9789048183630. 
  6. "Absolute and Relational Theories of Space and Motion" (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) theory was the original source. Read more.