Torus! Torus! Torus!
July 8, 2018 4:07 PM   Subscribe

Now, if we do not take the removed dough to be the hole, then what do we take the hole to be? Are holes material things, where material things are physical (like tables and chairs), or are holes immaterial things, where immaterial things are not physical (like abstract entities)? Or are holes not even things at all?
Suki Finn explores whether a hole is a real thing, or just a place where something isn’t.
posted by Rumple (87 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
My daughter has begun to anthropomorphize shadows - she gives hers a goodnight kiss before going to bed - so this topic is of interest to me.
posted by clawsoon at 4:13 PM on July 8 [17 favorites]


What do we call the part of the dough that gets removed to create the hole?
This is all much simpler in Canada.
posted by clawsoon at 4:15 PM on July 8 [12 favorites]


The article doesn’t address the far more (imho) interesting psycholinguistic contours of using “donut holes” as a neologism to describe the actual dough balls removed from the—DAMMIT CLAWSOON

:-P


*whyIeventry*
posted by darkstar at 4:21 PM on July 8 [7 favorites]


Well - the philosophy of emptiness esposed by Lao-Tzu clearly says it is NOT.
-----------
Thirty spokes are made one by holes in a hub,
By vacancies joining them for a wheel's use;
The use of clay in molding pitchers
Comes from the hollow of its absence;
Doors, windows, in a house,
Are used for their emptiness:
Thus we are helped by what is not
To use what is.
posted by symbioid at 4:22 PM on July 8 [23 favorites]


I love the philosophy of holes. I had Varzi, whom she righty calls the world’s leading expert on holes, for several classes in undergrad. He’s this small Italian man who couldn’t make it through a two hour lecture without a smoke break and whose website listed all of the things he was not. ‘What’s a hole!?’ He would always yell. ‘Is it something is it nothing? It’s like a bikini is it one thing or is it two things!’ (Read in Italian accent). This was most of every class.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:30 PM on July 8 [22 favorites]


🕳️
posted by Fizz at 4:30 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]




I've got a hole in me pocket.

The black hole
posted by Rumple at 4:39 PM on July 8


Of course holes are real things. They are the positively charged quasiparticles in a semiconductor. Your phone wouldn't work without them.
posted by drdanger at 4:39 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]


There’s a post about teaching bees the concept of zero just below this one is today some kind of theme day, like that time there was a bunch of posts about elephants?
posted by bleep at 4:53 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Let’s look at it this way*: You can dig a hole. You can dig two holes! But you can’t dig half a hole.

* By “this way” I mean semantically and pedantically. Spedmantically.
posted by ejs at 4:56 PM on July 8 [8 favorites]


Also keep in mind that the pupil is considered a part of the body, even though it’s just the space your iris isn’t currently occupying.
posted by ejs at 4:57 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]


The knowledge that Munchkins actually are created by cutting dough out of a nascent donut is blowing my mind. I thought donut hole was just a cutesy name.
posted by bleep at 4:57 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


What if you half-heartedly dig one hole?


And then half-fill it in again?
posted by darkstar at 4:58 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


I mentioned my daughter's relationship with shadows because last night I got halfway through explaining to her that shadows don't actually exist, as they are formed by the absence of light rather than the presence of something, when I stopped myself at exactly this philosophical question.

Luckily, she was paying no attention whatsoever to me.
posted by clawsoon at 5:00 PM on July 8 [20 favorites]


If you can only get your key halfway into its keyhole because the other half was filled in, you might reconsider your position on half holes.
posted by clawsoon at 5:01 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


When you use "cylinder" to describe the part of an internal combustion engine, are you describing the hole or the material around it?
posted by clawsoon at 5:09 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


🕳




🏌️‍♂️
posted by Celsius1414 at 5:09 PM on July 8 [7 favorites]


Any topologist can tell you that a hole is a thing.
posted by scose at 5:15 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Hmm...this thread is literally arguing about nothing. That may be a bit too on the nose, even for MeFi.
posted by darkstar at 5:24 PM on July 8 [16 favorites]


Which, of course, made me think of nostrils...
posted by darkstar at 5:24 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


The Lewises' article is available online for the curious.
posted by kenko at 5:26 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


Then Pargle came along. Pargle, a pragmatist, said, "This is a great demonstration of how language is not a mirror to nature. Let's use "hole" until a more useful description comes along, since we all usually know what people mean when they say "hole." Now, who wants donuts?"
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:35 PM on July 8 [11 favorites]


notorious metaphysical shit-stirring question. ....didn't we do this about a year ago? (not calling out as repost!)
posted by thelonius at 5:38 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


It’s like a bikini is it one thing or is it two things!

A bikini is composed of exactly two kinis.
posted by dephlogisticated at 5:38 PM on July 8 [32 favorites]


...didn't we do this about a year ago?
It was this - counting holes in straws.
posted by thelonius at 5:40 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


In Jim Paul's fairly fantastic book Catapult: Harry and I Build a Siege Weapon, the author chronicles his and Harry's work to build a catapult as an art project (if memory serves, they had a grant of $500.) At one point, Harry and Jim need some holes drilled in their massive steel bow (a repurposed set of truck springs) to anchor the bowstring, so they visit Art at Precision Machining in West Oakland.
"We need to get these springs machined," I said. We lay the steel down carefully on his desk and indicated where the holes had to be drilled. Harry had also drawn tapering lines on the smaller spring to indicate where he wanted it cut. The spring had to be tapered, Harry explained to me, so that it would assume the force of the other spring more gradually. Art seemed to understand all this, but after we'd finished explaining, he turned up his palms and said, "I just don't know."

Spring steel was tough stuff, he said. He could probably do it, but he couldn't give us an estimate on the cost of the work. These holes would have to be drilled slowly, he said, very slowly -- if they could be drilled at all.

"How much do you guys charge per hour?" Harry asked.

"Forty dollars is standard," said Art.

One of the guys in the shop, Art added, had been a soldier of fortune. He'd probably enjoy taking this on. Why didn't we just leave the springs there, and they'd take it from here.

We said fine, left the springs, and got out of there. "Why did you tell him we got a grant?" I said to Harry as soon as we hit the sidewalk.

"I wanted to let him know that someone else was paying us to do this," said Harry.

"Fabulous," I said. "Now he thinks we're loaded."

"And that shop was kind of expensive," Harry said.

"Oh, hell," I said. Let's not worry about it. How much can a few holes cost, anyway?"



A lot, it turned out. The next day I called Art to find out how much it would be. "Your springs are ready," he said.

When I got over there, the job was waiting for me. The leaves had nice neat holes in them. The inner two had been tapered and beveled. That would be two hundred dollars, Art said. These had been, apparently, extremely slow holes.

The bill seemed outrageous, but I didn't say anything. Maybe I was supposed to suffer in order to get this project underway, I thought. Besides, we had bought holes, and there was no returning holes. I wrote Art a check amounting to more than half our remaining budget for the entire project. And for holes, I thought, for having nothing where something was before.
You might be surprised how often the adage, "there is no returning holes," comes up in my mind when dealing with over budget projects.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:03 PM on July 8 [29 favorites]


notorious metaphysical shit-stirring question. ....didn't we do this about a year ago? (not calling out as repost!)

We're on the other side now.
posted by Fizz at 6:17 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


@scose No, a topologist would not say that a hole isn't a thing. Spaces can have a number of holes, but it's not like any hole is in any particular place.

For example, a surface that just contains the 8 corners and 12 edges of a cube has FIVE holes. But there aren't five of anything in a cube!
posted by erniepan at 6:19 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


The most ingenious concept ever in a Looney Tunes cartoon was The Portable Hole, the work of second-team creators Bob McKimson and Sid Marcus, and re-purposed throughout the LT-verse.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:23 PM on July 8 [8 favorites]


re-purposed throughout the LT-verse

they certainly had no scruples about re-using a joke
posted by thelonius at 6:25 PM on July 8


bleep: There’s a post about teaching bees the concept of zero just below this one is today some kind of theme day, like that time there was a bunch of posts about elephants?

That would be elephant day, October 8th.

Today I ruined this particular run, unless you consider imaginary locations semi-related as pseudo-entities ... and if you do, you could probably stretch definitions to include the prior two posts, but that might stir up more of a fight than mirth.


clawsoon: My daughter has begun to anthropomorphize shadows - she gives hers a goodnight kiss before going to bed - so this topic is of interest to me.

Has she read or seen Peter Pan recently? Or started listening to old time radio? Shadows are important pseudo-entities.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:26 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


they certainly had no scruples about re-using a joke
In the pre-TV days when theatrical releases meant that all the toons did not get packaged into a single 'show', recycling jokes was a standard practice and in some ways, a virtue. William Hanna & Joseph Barbera made their reputation and earned a couple Oscars recycling a half-dozen cat-and-mouse gags for Tom & Jerry.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:32 PM on July 8


Props for the title.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 6:42 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


So a hole is a boundary?
posted by nikaspark at 6:55 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


Why not both?

A hole is both a thing and a place where something isn't. It's the abstract concept representing our belief that something isn't there that should be. It can be described more precisely as our belief that part of a thing is gone, but enough of the thing is still there to create a complete boundary around the object... but regardless, it's still just an abstract concept representing human belief about what should be, or once was, there. So a hole is a thing in the same way that compassion is a thing, or numbers are a thing. It is not an object, it is a concept.

Also I have to say I am deeply suspicious of the fact that we keep coming back to conversations about what a hole is, and yet I never see the same discussion about tears, or cracks, or cuts, despite the same problem arising. I don't know what it means, but I'm suspicious.
posted by brook horse at 7:03 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


This seems thematically connected with the post immediately preceding, on the discovery of zero. Is it National Nothing Awareness Week again already?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:05 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


When I was just a toddler, some older kids made a hole in a neighbor's lawn by pushing a running garden hose down about three feet deep. I was fascinated watching them, and when they started to lose interest I asked them, "Can I have this hole?"

I still don't see why that was supposedly such a stupid question.
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:09 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]


My daughter has begun to anthropomorphize shadows...

She may enjoy reading Murakami when she gets older. I read one of them -- it was about sheep -- in Japanese many years ago. I only sort of followed it, but then again, I only sort of followed the ones I read in English later. But I distinctly remember the protagonist having his shadow cut off at the heels by some gatekeeper-guy. The protagonist went on to a dreamy existence involving spaghetti and fucking, probably, while the shadow had other adventures. I think they might have gotten back together in the end.
posted by spacewrench at 7:25 PM on July 8


A buddy of mine just released an album called “a place where nothing was.” It’s certainly something.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:29 PM on July 8


No fun ramble:
Resolving this kind of question requires an appreciation of the difference between intrinsic properties of geometry (properties measured from within a geometric object) and extrinsic properties of geometry (measured from without). Likely you've only encountered the concept of extrinsic geometry, unless you've wasted large portions of your life studying graduate level geometry (or general relativity).

Consider 2D creatures condemned to live on the surface of a torus. They can't pop off to take a look around because they're 2D. There aren't any edges to their world: there's always more torus to travel to in any direction. Can they figure it out? Yes. They can start measuring distances, they can observe that objects traveling away from them eventually start approaching from the other side, objects traveling on parallel trajectories don't collide, etc. This isn't so hard for us to imagine: it's the world of the Asteroids video game. They can work out all the properties of coordinate systems that live on their torus universe, and it turns out there's only one kind of mathematical object that has those: a finite surface with no edges and 1 hole. In this context, it becomes clear that there's no physical location of the hole, rather "finite, with no edges, and 1 hole" is a concise description of the (real) properties of the geometry and how physical objects travel in it, not a physical object in its own right. I'd say it's analogous to the concept of temperature, which is a real, concise description of the dynamics in a system, but is not a physical object.

To give a sense for what punching holes in things does to geometry, consider the surface of a sphere, which has zero holes. Any attempt to set up coordinate systems on a sphere creates "poles" where the coordinate systems converge or diverge, making an annoying mess. The torus doesn't have that, it's quite simple to make a nice square grid everywhere.
posted by Humanzee at 7:34 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


But you can't dig half a hole.

One person can't dig half a hole by themself, but two people can each dig half a hole if they're digging the same hole.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:19 PM on July 8 [10 favorites]


According to Buddhism it is unproduced space which can have many properties (sky is blue even though there is no thing that makes the sky) but fundamentally that it lacks obstructive contact.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:42 PM on July 8 [2 favorites]


@scose No, a topologist would not say that a hole isn't a thing. Spaces can have a number of holes, but it's not like any hole is in any particular place.

A topologist is someone who doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground. But he does know his ass from two holes in the ground.
posted by stevis23 at 9:13 PM on July 8 [11 favorites]


A topologist does know their ass from a hole in the ground, because the hole in the ground doesn't go all the way through.

In fact, a topologist doesn't even know what a hole in the ground is.
posted by a car full of lions at 9:24 PM on July 8 [8 favorites]


Argle and Bargle’s debate is therefore over which of the following individually plausible but collectively inconsistent claims to reject:

(1) There are no immaterial objects.

(2) There are holes.

(3) Holes are immaterial objects.

These are inconsistent because (1) says there are no immaterial objects, yet (2) and (3) together entail that immaterial holes exist: if there are holes, and if holes are immaterial objects, then immaterial holes exist. So which should we reject?
Personally I reject (3), not on the basis that holes have materiality, but on the basis that not all things are objects. This allows holes to remain both existent and immaterial without falling foul of (1).

Perhaps it's an idiosyncratic usage, but I prefer to reserve the word "object" to refer to things that have positive masses as well as relatively well-defined locations and relatively stable constituents. Other kinds of thing which are not objects, in my view, include but are not limited to processes, tendencies, fields, vacuums, relationships, numbers and information generally.
posted by flabdablet at 10:11 PM on July 8 [5 favorites]


In any case, holes are definitely real; otherwise we wouldn't know how many it takes to fill the Albert Hall.
posted by flabdablet at 10:16 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


Any topologist can tell you that a hole is a thing.

And the hole of the thing, as any dwarf can tell you.
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:19 PM on July 8


The hole is an abstract concept, but so is the doughnut, and it is therefore just as real or imaginary, depending on your point of view.

In electronics we talk about 'holes' in a transistor--places where electrons can fit. We even talk about the 'flow of holes' in the transistor. There's nothing material there, where the hole is, yet it is a useful concept in understanding how the transistor works.

My kids like to confuse me by asking me if a straw has one hole or two holes.
posted by eye of newt at 10:32 PM on July 8


otherwise we wouldn't know how many it takes to fill the Albert Hall.

we didn't
posted by otherchaz at 10:52 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]


The hole is an abstract concept, but so is the doughnut

You can eat a donut
You cannot eat an abstract concept
QED
posted by thelonius at 11:55 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]


The knowledge that Munchkins actually are created by cutting dough out of a nascent donut is blowing my mind. I thought donut hole was just a cutesy name.

It's generally been my suspicion that this is a true origin story of donut holes, but that they are now usually just made in that shape in bulk. Anybody here have inside knowledge of the donut business?
posted by atoxyl at 12:00 AM on July 9


After reading both the article and this thread, all I have learned about holes is that they seem to be full of beans. As if each hole in fact contains its very own plate of them.
posted by automatronic at 1:46 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Maybe the solution is that holes are things but not nouns. A hole exists while the mass surrounding it is “holed” (or possibly, “holing”). So a straw “holes,” but, if we cut it lengthwise, the resulting sheet ceases to “hole.” A hole is the sign of a process.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:10 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


two people can each dig half a hole if they're digging the same hole.

Well, sorry, again no, it's impossible in the real world that no matter how carefully two could dig exactly half, one would have dug at least a few atoms more than the other. So two adjacent partial holes but never (mathematically) half a hole.
posted by sammyo at 4:15 AM on July 9


Okay but in ordinary everyday usage, one can split something "in half" without needing to count atoms. Unless that thing is a hair, perhaps.
posted by NMcCoy at 4:41 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


can you define something simply by the set of all the things it is not? Meaning, can you define clay to be that which is not-ketchup, not-wood, not-marshmallow, not-hamster, not-turpentine, etc etc etc x 1,000,000,000,000?

If so then isn’t the hole just that same exact set plus not-clay added?
posted by ian1977 at 4:42 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


If you're not sure if a hole is a real thing, try to put something of yours in it and watch what its owner does.
posted by delfin at 5:31 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


filthy light thief: Has she read or seen Peter Pan recently? Or started listening to old time radio? Shadows are important pseudo-entities.

I think it might've been Peep and the Big Wide World.
posted by clawsoon at 6:39 AM on July 9


Take a piece of paper. Tick a pencil through it. Remove the pencil. You now have a hole. Is the hole a thing? Clearly. You can see it, discuss it, even stick a pencil through it. It is not empty - there is air there, along with the inescapable fabric of space-time. Space-time, which we all agree is very much a thing. We delineate regions of space-time and give them names without any of the philosophical wranglings we are now engaging in over holes. Countries, towns, seas, constellations. These are all no different than a lowly hole, because that's what a hole is: a region of space-time. Specific to holes is that they are defined by the surrounding mass, their contents necessarily absent that same mass. Different mass can occupy the hole and not disturb its holey-ness. For instance: you can dump a bunch of ping pong balls in a ground-hole and one would not say "the hole is no longer there" but rather "the hole is filled with balls." But throw dirt back into that hole and it is gone. A traversable hole in a wall or bucket can be plugged, but that too fails to wipe the hole from existence. The only way to erase a hole is to undisturb the matter which was disturbed. So a hole is also a semantic exercise.
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:42 AM on July 9 [5 favorites]


You can eat a donut
You cannot eat an abstract concept
QED


Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man shall not live on bread alone, but he can get pretty full eating Timbits while contemplating the nature of holes.'"
posted by clawsoon at 6:46 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


grumpybear69: For instance: you can dump a bunch of ping pong balls in a ground-hole and one would not say "the hole is no longer there" but rather "the hole is filled with balls." But throw dirt back into that hole and it is gone.

Innnnnnnnnteresting. Good point.

Would the hole still be there if you filled it with water?

What about concrete?

Gravel?
posted by clawsoon at 6:49 AM on July 9


Anything you say about holes you could also say for other arrangements of stuff. Like knots. A knot is an arrangement of stuff, not the stuff itself. You make a knot out of string, but the string is still there. And yet I have never run into someone saying that a knot is an immaterial object. Personally, I think that grumpybear has it right above.
posted by Hactar at 7:22 AM on July 9


So a hole is also a semantic exercise.

Come, let us bandy.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:45 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


can you define something simply by the set of all the things it is not?

Not if the set of all things that it is not includes itself.

But can a hole can have holes in it? If the air column of a wind instrument is a hole, and the finger holes are holes, then yes...
posted by Foosnark at 8:36 AM on July 9




> ian1977:
"If so then isn’t the hole just that same exact set plus not-clay added?"

And yet, a not-hole is a hole in a tree.
posted by chavenet at 8:52 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


And yet, a not-hole is a hole in a tree.
It's a hole in a board. It's not a hole in a tree. You have to take the tree apart to make it a hole.
posted by Hactar at 9:41 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


I’m a little tired of the hole-ier than thou tone of some of these comments.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:45 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]


Anybody here have inside knowledge of the donut business?
posted by atoxyl


So you're saying you want the hole truth?
posted by Splunge at 9:55 AM on July 9


Incomplete without the theological angle.
posted by clawsoon at 10:20 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


The theory of holes seems neatly evocative of the concept of the container in The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction, by Le Guin.

(Hat tip to another MeFite who recently posted this short essay in another thread.)
posted by darkstar at 10:34 AM on July 9


Personally I reject (3), not on the basis that holes have materiality, but on the basis that not all things are objects. This allows holes to remain both existent and immaterial without falling foul of (1).

This is fine as far as it goes, but providing a rigorous metaphysics of "things", as different from "objects" in a reasonable non question-begging way, is going to turn out to be difficult.

I'm personally an error theorist about holes and am inclined to reject 2).
Our folk intuitions and practices operate as though there are holes but actually there are not. Finn's response to rejecting 2) as a means of solving the problem is a little bit slippery:

"But can every truth about holes be reinterpreted and systematically paraphrased as truths about perforated host objects?"

Finn owes us an alleged truth that allegedly can't be paraphrased into a truth about a perforated host objects if this kind of argument is supposed to have any force-it's not enough to just speculate that such a truth might obtain.

"And does the eliminability of the word in our language really provide us with evidence regarding the thing’s actual existence? Ordinarily, we do not think that, by simply not talking about something, it ceases to exist."

Fair enough, but part (all?) of the evidence *for* the existence of holes in the first part of the paragraph rested on our linguistic practices, in the part about Liza and holes and buckets. Surely being able to fairly easily rewrite the word out of the language is enough to deflect that kind of argument from linguistic pratice that holes do exist.

Hole error theory is going to run into its own problems, but you get a little farther than in other approaches, imo.
posted by Kwine at 10:50 AM on July 9


Now, I'm just a simple country boy that did read TFA, but I'd really like to hear about a hole that isn't defined by the lack of something else, i.e. the space created by where something else isn't; a hole that stands by itself.
posted by achrise at 11:34 AM on July 9


can you define something simply by the set of all the things it is not?

I've long been of the opinion that *all* attempts at definition or designating nomenclature are just increasingly specific ways that communicating parties can specify exactly what they aren't discussing. If I'm talking about a tree, the term 'tree' doesn't tell you much about the tree in discussion, but merely rules out all the non-tree objects/concepts as 'not the subject of discussion'. If I say Maple Tree, that rules out significant subsets of non-maple trees from the discussion. Vermont Maple Tree drills in a step further... no matter how deep you go, you're just cropping large volumes of non-subject from the conversation, and hoping that the potential shared mindspace of the various conversation participants' personal reality tunnels overlaps enough that exchanging ideas is even remotely possible.
posted by FatherDagon at 11:54 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


I'd really like to hear about a hole that isn't defined by the lack of something else, i.e. the space created by where something else isn't; a hole that stands by itself.

A black hole? It's where there's too much stuff, rather than a lack.
posted by Foosnark at 1:16 PM on July 9 [3 favorites]




A black hole?

Is the opposite of a donut - the hole surrounds the thing that makes it a hole - from the event horizon to the surface of the singularity is the "hole" and the singularity itself is the thing that without which the black hole would not exist. my $0.02
posted by achrise at 6:13 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]


See also portable hole.
posted by bendy at 6:27 PM on July 9


providing a rigorous metaphysics of "things", as different from "objects" in a reasonable non question-begging way, is going to turn out to be difficult.

Human reason is a slippery, sloppy, non-rigorous, emergent, adaptive, organic, approximative affair; every attempt to capture its entirety in some rigorous formal system is doomed to fail (we have a rigorous formal proof of that, for what it's worth).

Metaphysics is about as non-rigorous a pursuit as has ever been devised, resting squarely on circular reasoning from the get-go. To my way of thinking, "rigorous metaphysics" is an oxymoron. So I don't experience my own lack of one as troublesome.

A personal metaphysics that I can happily engage in hand-waving parties about with all comers is good enough for me. I'm also pretty convinced that anybody who honestly believes they have some other kind of metaphysics than that is deluding themselves.
posted by flabdablet at 11:45 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


the singularity itself is the thing that without which the black hole would not exist.

I've never agreed with that. I don't think the singularity at the centre of any black hole can reasonably be said to exist. The existence of a thing requires simultaneity with respect to some specifiable observer, but a black hole singularity's time coordinate with respect to any conceivable observer will always put it in their future.

A black hole singularity, then, is a mathematical feature of a black hole's description that never corresponds to any existent part of the physical phenomenon itself.
posted by flabdablet at 11:53 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


which of the following individually plausible but collectively inconsistent claims to reject:

(1) There are no immaterial objects.

(2) There are holes.

(3) Holes are immaterial objects.


Another reasonable refutation of (3): a hole is not an immaterial object, it's a material one. Specifically, it's part of the surface of some (necessarily) material parent object; a part with an anomalous curvature compared to most of the parent's surface.

A hole is curved in such a way as to partially enclose a region that lies outside the bulk of the parent object whose surface it is part of, but even so it's natural to speak of the region so enclosed as being inside the hole, or even being the inside of the hole. But the hole itself can exist only by virtue of being part of some parent object - specifically, part of that object's surface - and as such it inherits its parent's materiality.

The boundary of the region inside a hole is quite ill-defined except at the surface of the hole itself. That inside region is, though, just a region: a range of locations near an object where one could potentially place other objects, rather than any kind of object in and of itself; I think that's enough to get rid of the objection that all I've done is kicked the hole down the road and substituted "inside of a hole" for the troublesome "hole" referred to in the three original claims.

Holes have anomalous curvature compared to that of their parent surfaces either by virtue of being quite small compared to those surfaces, or by being unexpected and unusual - as in "the cannonball tore a hole damn near as wide as his chest".

As supporting evidence for the anomalous nature of a hole's curvature being the attribute that marks a hole as such: one does not typically refer to the region that a ring or a watchband or an elastic band surrounds as a "hole", and even though all of these items are topologically equivalent to doughnuts and drinking straws it feels a bit unnatural to say that any of them has a hole in it. Even drinking straws and kazoos and bugles are usually not spoken of as having a hole through the middle; rather, the object itself is simply described as hollow. And one does not generally use the word "hole" to refer to the inside of an object specifically constructed to contain others, such as cups and bowls and bags.
posted by flabdablet at 9:02 AM on July 11 [1 favorite]


It's interesting that we use the same word for through-holes and one-ended holes. What's up with that?
posted by clawsoon at 3:58 PM on July 11


And we use the same word for two dimensional holes and three dimensional holes. Pits, tunnels and pores are all 'holes'.
posted by tavella at 4:56 PM on July 11


Human reason is a slippery, sloppy, non-rigorous, emergent, adaptive, organic, approximative affair; every attempt to capture its entirety in some rigorous formal system is doomed to fail (we have a rigorous formal proof of that, for what it's worth).

A) I can solve the problem! The answer is: not all things are objects!
B) What's the non-question-begging difference between a thing and an object?
A) ...you see, formal systems are doomed to fail.
posted by Kwine at 5:13 PM on July 11


So, either a hole is in a head (and is black as your soul); or has green grass growing all around, all around; or is in a bucket; or is a treat from a bakery...

I know there are other definitions beyond these.

Holes are easy to identify, really. heads, grass, buckets...
posted by hippybear at 6:43 PM on July 11


B) What's the non-question-begging difference between a thing and an object?

All objects are things. Not all things are objects. As I said in the comment that made the original distinction, I prefer to reserve the word "objects" for things with positive masses as well as relatively well-defined locations and relatively stable constituents. Of these attributes, holes have only the relatively well-defined location; therefore, holes are not objects. I'm not seeing the question-begging here. Can you elucidate?
posted by flabdablet at 11:48 PM on July 11


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