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Debates concerning the nature, essence and the mode of existence of space date back to antiquity; namely, to treatises like the Timaeus of Plato, or Socrates in his reflections on what the Greeks called khôra (i. e. "space"), or in the Physics of Aristotle (Book IV, Delta) in the definition of topos (i. e. place), or in the later "geometrical conception of place" as "space qua extension" in the Discourse on Place (Qawl fi al-Makan) of the 11th-century Arab polymath Alhazen. Many of these classical philosophical questions were discussed in the Renaissance and then reformulated in the 17th century, particularly during the early development of classical mechanics. In Isaac Newton's view, space was absolute—in the sense that it existed permanently and independently of whether there was any matter in the space. Other natural philosophers, notably Gottfried Leibniz, thought instead that space was in fact a collection of relations between objects, given by their distance and direction from one another. In the 18th century, the philosopher and theologian George Berkeley attempted to refute the "visibility of spatial depth" in his Essay Towards a New Theory of Vision. Later, the metaphysician Immanuel Kant said that the concepts of space and time are not empirical ones derived from experiences of the outside world—they are elements of an already given systematic framework that humans possess and use to structure all experiences. Kant referred to the experience of "space" in his Critique of Pure Reason as being a subjective "pure a priori form of intuition".

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