Is Space Objectively Real?

I promise to be cogent.

Photo by Tom Barrett   unsplash

Consider a few mental processes: counting, adding, multiplying.

We use the mental process of counting to calculate a sum. Is the process and the sum as ‘objectively real’ as the items being counted? If several people have counted their set of objects, is not addition a more powerful mental process to calculate the sum of all objects compared to re-counting all of them to determine the sum?

Similarly, if each person in a large group has the same number of objects, is multiplication not a more powerful mental process to calculate the sum compared to adding each person’s count to a total?

I thought I was just an oddball to consider the idea that space may be nothing more than a powerful mental process we use to calculate the immense number of objectively real forces and causal relationships surrounding us. Lately, I’ve encountered an increasing number of people, many more learned than I, who also think of space as being nothing more than a mental construct or process. It is so imbedded in our thinking and the structure of our brains that like a fish not capable of experiencing thirst, we would struggle to experience the massive matrix of interacting forces and causal relationships without using space as our mental construct.

Having a propensity to engage in meditation frequently, I’ve found that dropping the veil of space especially during simple tasks like walking slowly in Nature, enhances my ability to feel the oneness of Life and our Universe.

To this I have received some positive feedback and more than a little derisive mocking with memes such as, “try walking off a tall building and see if space is real or not”. I’m sure they mean well and are looking out for my good health. Should I ignore them or try to see why they won’t acknowledge my acceptance of the objective reality of forces and causes while still wondering whether space itself should be considered a ‘thing’ and not a mental process?

Newton was convinced space was absolute with objects occupying specific, absolute positions in it. He was happy with action at a distance (gravity). Well, maybe not ‘happy’ but accepting of it since he could calculate results in his absolute space.

Einstein had other ideas. Spatial calculations were relative in his thinking and warped space explained gravity.

This is the crux of why I persist in wondering; has physics found itself pursuing many fruitless dead-ends because it insists on giving space an objective reality with properties it doesn’t have?

They are highly educated people. I’m not, so I can’t engage them using their complex mental gyrations. Instead I used my wonder to create an historical fantasy that doesn’t attempt to solve the riddle but enjoys the mystery.


Anand Purohit — Author (

XNOR — a logical function used to express equivalence. Also an entertaining romp through spacetime and eighteen-century colonial history.


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