Many scientists, if pushed, may be inclined to hazard the guess that the universe is comprehensible, even physically comprehensible. Almost all, however, would vehemently deny that science has already established that the universe is comprehensible. It is, nevertheless, just this that I claim to be the case. Once one gets the nature of science properly into perspective, it becomes clear that the comprehensibility of the universe is as secure an item of current scientific knowledge as anything theoretical (...) in science can be, more secure, indeed, than the most firmly established fundamental theories of physics, such as quantum theory or Einstein's general theory of relativity. (shrink)
The evolution of life on Earth has produced an organism that is beginning to model and understand its own evolution and the possible future evolution of life in the universe. These models and associated evidence show that evolution on Earth has a trajectory. The scale over which living processes are organized cooperatively has increased progressively, as has its evolvability. Recent theoretical advances raise the possibility that this trajectory is itself part of a wider developmental process. According to these theories, (...) the developmental process has been shaped by a yet larger evolutionary dynamic that involves the reproduction of universes. This evolutionary dynamic has tuned the key parameters of the universe to increase the likelihood that life will emerge and produce outcomes that are successful in the larger process (e.g. a key outcome may be to produce life and intelligence that intentionally reproduces the universe and tunes the parameters of ‘offspring’ universes). Theory suggests that when life emerges on a planet, it moves along this trajectory of its own accord. However, at a particular point evolution will continue to advance only if organisms emerge that decide to advance the developmental process intentionally. The organisms must be prepared to make this commitment even though the ultimate nature and destination of the process is uncertain, and may forever remain unknown. Organisms that complete this transition to intentional evolution will drive the further development of life and intelligence in the universe. Humanity’s increasing understanding of the evolution of life in the universe is rapidly bringing it to the threshold of this major evolutionary transition. (shrink)
In this paper I sketch a liberal studies course designed to explore our fundamental problem of thought and life: How can our human world exist and best flourish embedded as it is in the physical universe? The fundamental character of this problem provides one with the opportunity to explore a wide range of issues. What does physics tell us about the universe and ourselves? How do we account for everything physics leaves out? How can living brains be conscious? (...) If everything occurs in accordance with physical law, what becomes of free will? How does Darwin's theory of evolution contribute to the solution to the fundamental problem? What is the history of thought about this problem? What is of most value associated with human life? What kind of civilized world should we seek to help create? Why is the fundamental problem not a part of standard education in schools and universities? What are the most serious global problems confronting humanity? Can humanity learn to make progress towards as good a world as possible? These are some of the questions that can be tackled as an integral part of exploring the fundamental problem. But the course does not merely wander at random from one issue to another. Taking the fundamental problem as central provides the course with a coherent structure. The course would be conducted as a seminar, and it would respond to queries and suggestions from students. (shrink)
We discuss a new theory of the universe in which the vacuum energy is of classical origin and dominates the energy content of the universe. As usual, the Einstein equations determine the metric of the universe. However, the scale factor is controlled by total energy conservation in contrast to the practice in the Robertson–Walker formulation. This theory naturally leads to an explanation for the Big Bang and is not plagued by the horizon and cosmological constant problem. It (...) naturally accommodates the notion of dark energy and proposes a possible explanation for dark matter. It leads to a dual description of the universe, which is reminiscent of the dual theory proposed by Milne in 1937. On the one hand one can describe the universe in terms of the original Einstein coordinates in which the universe is expanding, on the other hand one can describe it in terms of co-moving coordinates which feature in measurements. In the latter representation the universe looks stationary and the age of the universe appears constant. The paper describes the evolution of this universe. It starts out in a classical state with perfect symmetry and zero entropy. Due to the vacuum metric the effective energy density is infinite at the beginning, but diminishes rapidly. Once it reaches the Planck energy density of elementary particles, the formation of particles can commence. Because of the quantum nature of creation and annihilation processes spatial and temporal inhomogeneities appear in the matter distributions, resulting in residual proton (neutron) and electron densities. Hence, quantum uncertainty plays an essential role in the creation of a diversified complex universe with increasing entropy. It thus seems that quantum fluctuations play a role in cosmology similar to that of random mutations in biology. Other analogies to biological principles, such as recapitulation, are also discussed. (shrink)
Among the most exciting experiences in our lives are the ones that arouse a magical rapture within us. This may happen when we become engrossed in a musical piece, when dancing becomes ecstatic, when we are passionately in love (or making love) or when we experience an intuitive perception or an altered state of consciousness, get caught by the spell of the infinity of the Universe or the splendor of nature; it can also happen during telepathic contact or in (...) lucid dreams. What I shall try to outline here is a systematic world-view that gives a basis for the interpretation of the special character of those magical actions. A model for the structure of the Universe is shown in which different levels of existence are sequentially telescoped into each other. This model suggests that the different levels of the material and the inner worlds can be in direct connection, thus offering us a new perspective for participating in the process of Creation. (shrink)
Richard Swinburne, in his The Existence of God (2004), presents a cosmological argument in defence of theism (Swinburne 1991: 119, 135). God, Swinburne argues, is more likely to bring about an ordered universe than other states (ibid.: 144, 299). To defend this view, Swinburne presents the following arguments: (1) That this ordered universe is a priori improbable (2004: 49, 150, 1991: 304 et seq.), given the stringent requirements for life (cf. also Leslie 2000: 12), and the Second Law (...) of Thermodynamics (Giancoli 1990: 396); (2) That it seems as if this ordered universe can be explained by theism; (3) A theistic explanation for the universe is more probable because it is a simple explanation. To this end, Swinburne makes use of Bayes’ Theorem. Symbolically, this claim can be represented as (e) for the evidence of the existence of a complex universe, and (h) for a hypothesis. Swinburne’s argument is that theism has a higher prior probability, P(htheism) > P(hmaterialism), since theism is simpler than materialism. He concludes that P(e|htheism) > P(e|hmaterialism). In this paper I will address only this argument (3) above, and defend the view that it is false: theism is not simpler than materialism, nor it is more probably true. I conclude that theism is less probable than materialism, expressed by P(htheism) < P(hmaterialism) : 2/N(2n+1) < 1/n, where N is the number of possible universes and n the number of entities in existence. (shrink)
Cosmology is usually understood as an observational science, where experimentation plays no role. It is interesting, nevertheless, to change this perspective addressing the following question: what should we do to create a universe, in a laboratory? It appears, in fact, that this is, in principle, possible according to at least two different paradigms; both allow to circumvent singularity theorems, i.e. the necessity of singularities in the past of inflating domains which have the required properties to generate a universe (...) similar to ours. The first of them is substantially classical, and is built up considering solitons which collide with surrounding topological defects, generating an inflationary domain of space–time. The second is, instead, partly quantum and considers the possibility of tunnelling of past-non-singular regions of spacetime into an inflating universe, following a well-known instanton proposal. We are, here, going to review some of these models, as well as highlight possible extensions, generalizations and the open issues (as for instance the detectability of child universes and the properties of quantum tunnelling processes) that still affect the description of their dynamics. In doing so we will remark how the works on this subject can represent virtual laboratories to test the role that fundamental principles of physics (particularly, the interplay of quantum and general relativistic realms) played in the formation of our universe. (shrink)
In this paper I argue for a priori conjectural scientific knowledge about the world. Physics persistently only accepts unified theories, even though endlessly many empirically more successful disunified rivals are always available. This persistent preference for unified theories, against empirical considerations, means that physics makes a substantial, persistent metaphysical assumption, to the effect that the universe has a (more or less) unified dynamic structure. In order to clarify what this assumption amounts to, I solve the problem of what it (...) means to say of a theory that it is unified. There are, I argue, eight different kinds of unity important in theoretical physics, all varieties of one basic idea. This provides us with a precise way of partially ordering physical theories with respect to their degree of unity. It also leads to a hierarchical view of physics, according to which physics makes a number of increasingly insubstantial metaphysical assumptions concerning the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe. Two of these are identified as constituting a priori conjectures. I conclude by arguing that the view developed in the paper resolves the traditional clash between empiricism and rationalism in the philosophy of science, and has important implications for science, and for academic inquiry more generally. (shrink)
Some Radical New Ideas About Consciousness Consciousness and the Cosmos: A New Copernican Revolution Consciousness is our new frontier in modern science. Most scientists believe that it can be accomodated, explained, by existing scientific principles. I say that it cannot. That it calls all existing scientific principles into question. That consciousness is to modern science just exactly what light was to classical physics: All of our fundamental assumptions about the nature of Reality have to change. And I go on, in (...) this work,to spell out a whole new view of Reality, and of the Universe. And so, we'll have some fun! Modern science is already in deep trouble... Lorna Green. (shrink)
According to ‘regularity theories’ of causation, the obtaining of causal relations depends on no more than the obtaining of certain kinds of regularity. Regularity theorists are thus anti-realists about necessary connections in nature. Regularity theories of one form or another have constituted the dominant view in analytic Philosophy for a long time, but have recently come in for some robust criticism, notably from Galen Strawson. Strawson’s criticisms are natural criticisms to make, but have not so far provoked much response from (...) regularity theorists. The paper considers and rebuts Strawson’s objections. For example, Strawson claims that if there were no necessary connections in nature, we ought continually to find the regularity of the Universe surprising. I argue that the fact that the Universe is regular is something we take ourselves (fallibly) to know, and hence, in the light of this knowledge, its continued orderliness is not at all surprising. -/- . (shrink)
I intend to argue for the conclusion that the universe, be it infinitely old or finitely old, causes itself. One might object that no such argument could possibly succeed, because the claim that "the universe causes itself" is incoherent. I agree that this claim is incoherent if it is understood to mean that one individual, the universe, causes that same individual to come into existence. No individual can bring about its own existence, because no individual can bring (...) about anything unless it (already) exists. What I mean by "self caused" in this paper is that there is a certain type of whole of parts, namely, a temporal and causal sequence of different individuals, with each individual being caused by earlier individuals in the sequence. What I mean by "the universe is self caused" is that (a) the universe is a whole of parts, specifically, a sequence of states of the universe, with each part or state being an individual; (b) the existence of each part (state) of the universe is caused by earlier parts of the universe; and (c) the reason the universe as a whole exists is either because it is composed of or is identical with these successively caused parts. (shrink)
I propose, in the context of Everett interpretations of quantum mechanics, a way of understanding how there can be genuine uncertainty about the future notwithstanding that the universe is governed by known, deterministic dynamical laws, and notwithstanding that there is no ignorance about initial conditions, nor anything in the universe whose evolution is not itself governed by the known dynamical laws. The proposal allows us to draw some lessons about the relationship between chance and determinism, and to dispel (...) one source of the tendency among Everettians to introduce consciousness as a primitive element into physical description. (shrink)
In 1949 the great logician Kurt Gödel constructed the first mathematical models of the universe in which travel into the past is, in theory at least, possible. Within the framework of Einstein’s general theory of relativity Gödel produced cosmological solutions to Einstein’s field equations which contain closed time-like curves, that is, curves in spacetime which, despite being closed, still represent possible paths of bodies. An object moving along such a path would travel back into its own past, to the (...) very moment at which it “began” the journey. More generally, Gödel showed that, in his “universe”, for any two points P and Q on a body’s track through spacetime (its world line), such that P temporally precedes Q, there is a timelike curve linking P and Q on which Q temporally precedes P. This means that, in principle at least, one could board a “time machine” and travel to any point of the past. Gödel inferred, in consonance (as he observes) with the views of Parmenides, Kant and the modern idealists, that under these circumstances there could be no such thing as an objective lapse of time, that time or, more generally, change, is an illusion arising from our special mode of perception. For consider an observer initially at point P (with time coordinate t seconds as indicated by his own clock). At point Q (with time coordinate t′) he boards a time machine and travels back to point P, taking time t′′ to do so. In that case, according to his own clock, t′ – t + t′′ > 0 seconds have elapsed, and yet an identical clock left at P would show that 0 seconds have elapsed. In short, there has been no “objective” lapse of time at all. Gödel remarks that in his universe this situation is typical: for every possible definition of an “objective” time one could travel into regions which are past according to that definition. He continues. (shrink)
This article explores the Simulated Universe argument with particular reference to Nick Bostrom’s formulation. After providing an exposition of the argument, I address two problems and conclude that we reject the possibility that we exist in a simulation.
In this paper, I evaluate the adequacy of various multiverse hypotheses relative to classical theism in explaining the fine tuning of the universe to life and the fine tuning of our life to the universe. I conclude that, despite its rational attractiveness in explaining the fine tuning of the universe to us in a more conclusive and arguably simpler manner than the God hypothesis, due to its failure to explain the continuing fine tuning of us to the (...)universe, we should discard even the explanatorily strongest multiverse hypothesis, what I call the ’maximal multiverse’ hypothesis, and instead believe in the God hypothesis. (shrink)
To reach the conclusion that the universe is infinite, physicists (a) make some observations; (b) fit those observations to some mathematical model; (c) find that the neatest model that accommodates the data extrapolates to an infinite universe; (d) conclude that the universe is infinite. In my presentation I will examine the logic by which physicists reach this conclusion. Specifically, I will show that there is no way to empirically justify the move from (b) to (c). An infinite (...)universe should therefore properly be viewed as a metaphysical hypothesis consistent with certain physical theories but hardly mandated by them. By contrast, I will argue that the hypothesis of intelligent design—that a designing intelligence has left clear marks of intelligence in the biophysical universe—is not a metaphysical hypothesis at all but a fully scientific one. In particular, I will argue that whereas an infinite universe does not (and indeed cannot) admit empirical evidence, intelligent design can. Finally, I will indicate why an infinite universe, though sometimes introduced to get around the problem of design, in fact cannot get around it. (shrink)
Even though evidence underdetermines theory, often in science one theory only is regarded as acceptable in the light of the evidence. This suggests there are additional unacknowledged assumptions which constrain what theories are to be accepted. In the case of physics, these additional assumptions are metaphysical theses concerning the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe. Rigour demands that these implicit assumptions be made explicit within science, so that they can be critically assessed and, we may hope improved. This leads (...) to a new conception of science, one which we need to adopt in order to solve the problem of induction. (shrink)
Could God have created a better universe? Well, the fundamental scientific laws and parameters of the universe have to be within a certain miniscule range, for a life-sustaining universe to develop: the universe must be ‘Fine Tuned’. Therefore the ‘embryonic universe’ that came into existence with the ‘big bang’ had to be either exactly as it was or within a certain tiny range, for there to develop a life-sustaining universe. If it is better that (...) there exist a life-sustaining universe than not, then it was better that the embryonic universe was one of this small set of very similar embryonic universes than that it was not. Furthermore, there are no firm grounds for claiming that of this small set of very similar embryonic universes, there is one which would have developed into a universe better than ours. Therefore there are no firm grounds for claiming that God could have created a better universe than ours. (shrink)
Given four modest verificationist theses, tying the meaning of talk about instants and periods to the events which (physically) could occur during, before or after them, the only content to the claim the Universe had a beginning (applicable equally to chaotic or orderly universes) is in terms of it being preceded by empty time. It follows that time cannot have a beginning. The Universe, however, could have a beginning--even if it has lasted for an infinite time.
In this column I want to describe a new possible description of the universe, a cosmological paradigm proposing a universe that is infinite, eternal, and that recycles itself from Big Bang to Big Crunch at regular time intervals. This new model of cosmology is the work of Paul J. Steinhardt of Princeton and Neil Turok of Cambridge, and is inspired by string theory and based on Steinhardt’s own ekpyrotic cosmology, as described in a previous AV column (“Brane Bashing: (...) Big Bang or Big Clap?”, Analog, April-2002 ). (shrink)
The paper first tries to explain how the possibility of "time travel" arises in the Godel universe. It then goes on to discuss a technical problem conerning minimal acceleration requirements for time travel. A theorem is stated and a conjecture posed. If the latter is correct, time travel can be ruled out as a practical possibility in the Godel universe.
In this note a recently developed quantum oscillating finite space cosmological model is described. The principle novelty of the model is that there is a quantum blurring of the classical singularity between cycles, instead of a singularity free bounce. Recently, Quentin Smith (1988) has argued that present theoretical and observational evidence justifies the belief that the past history of the universe is finite. The relevance of this cosmological model to Smith's arguments is discussed.
There is sufficient evidence at present to justify the belief that the universe began to exist without being caused to do so. This evidence includes the Hawking-Penrose singularity theorems that are based on Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, and the recently introduced Quantum Cosmological Models of the early universe. The singularity theorems lead to an explication of the beginning of the universe that involves the notion of a Big Bang singularity, and the Quantum Cosmological Models represent the (...) beginning largely in terms of the notion of a vacuum fluctuation. Theories that represent the universe as infinitely old or as caused to begin are shown to be at odds with or at least unsupported by these and other current cosmological notions. (shrink)
This book is my new scholarly edition of William James, A Pluralistic Universe. The original text has been recovered, annotations to the text added to identify James' authors and events of interest, there is a new bibliography chiefly based on James' sources, a brief chronology of James' career, and I have added an expository and critical Introduction and a comprehensive analytical index.
The cosmological constant is back. Several lines of evidence point to the conclusion that either there is a positive cosmological constant or else the universe is filled with a strange form of matter (“quintessence”) that mimics some of the effects of a positive lambda. This paper investigates the implications of the former possibility. Two senses in which the cosmological constant can be a constant are distinguished: the capital Λ sense in which lambda is a universal constant on a par (...) with the charge of the electron, and the lower case λ sense in which lambda is a humble constant of integration. The latter interpretation has been touted as the means to a solution to various problems in physics. These claims are critically examined with an eye to discerning the implications for philosophy of science and foundations of physics. (shrink)
I discuss the relations between God and spatial entities, such as the universe. An example of a relation between God and a spatial entity is the relation,causes. Such relations are, in D.M. Armstrong’s words, ‘realm crossing’ relations: relations between or among spatial entities and entities in the realm of the spatially unlocated. I discuss an apparent problem with such realm crossing relations. If this problem is serious enough, as I will argue it is, it implies that God cannot be (...) the creator of the universe I also discuss that if God cannot be the creator of the universe, then God does not exist. (shrink)
Inanimate explanation is to be analysed in terms of substances having powers and liabilities to exercise their powers under certain conditions; while personal explanation is to be analysed in terms of persons, their beliefs, powers, and purposes. A crucial criterion for an explanation being probably true is that it is (among explanations leading us to expect the data) the simplest one. Simplicity is a matter of few substances, few kinds of substances, few properties (including powers and liabilities), few kinds of (...) properties, and mathematically simple relations between properties. Explanation of the existence of the universe by the agency of God provides the simplest kind of personal explanation there can be, and one simpler than any inanimate explanation. I defend this view more thoroughly than previously in light of recent challenges. (shrink)
If big bang cosmology is true, then the universe began to exist about 15 billion years ago with a 'big bang', an explosion of matter, energy and space from a singular point. This singularity is spatially and temporally pointlike; that is, it has zero spatial dimensions and exists for an instant (at t=0) before exploding with a 'big bang'. The big bang singularity is also lawless; Stephen Hawking writes: A singularity is a place where the classical concepts of space (...) and time break down as do all the known laws of physics because they are all formulated on a classical space time background. ... [T]his breakdown is not merely a result of our ignorance of the correct theory but represents a fundamental limitation to our ability to predict the future [of the singularity], a limitation that is analogous but additional to the limitation imposed by the normal quantum mechanical uncertainty principle.  The lawlessness of the singularity entails that it 'would thus emit all [possible] configurations of particles with equal probability' . Paul Davies describes this vividly: 'Anything can come out of a naked singularity -in the case of the big bang the universe came out.' . (shrink)
Are the laws of nature real? Do they belong to the world or merely reflect the way we speak about it? And if they are real, what sort of entity are they? These questions have been intensely debated by philosophers. Modern cosmology, however, has given such questions a new twist by introducing a unique perspective on physical reality, the perspective which I shall call the cosmological point of view. In this perspective, the universe as a whole presents itself as (...) a single individual entity that undergoes a radical change with time. Laws of physics, on the other hand, have both local and global significance. They characterize how things behave locally. But they also characterize the entire universe. This suggests an interesting connection between the universe as a whole and what laws of physics hold in this universe. From the cosmological point of view, these two totalities, the laws of physics and the universe, may be related. But how exactly? Are the laws “inscribed” in the fabric of the universe or do they in some sense “precede” it in the order of being? If the latter, what is a “medium,” over and above the physical universe, in which physical laws are “written”? If the former, are they but a consequence of the universe’s very existence? And if so, how could the laws of physics survive the dramatic change the physical state of the universe underwent in the course of time? (shrink)
It is plausible that the universe exists: a thing such that absolutely everything is a part of it. It is also plausible that singular, structured propositions exist: propositions that literally have individuals as parts. Furthermore, it is plausible that for each thing, there is a singular, structured proposition that has it as a part. Finally, it is plausible that parthood is a partial ordering: reflexive, transitive, and anti-symmetric. These plausible claims cannot all be correct. We canvass some costs of (...) denying each claim and conclude that parthood is not a partial ordering. Provided that the relevant entities exist, parthood is not anti-symmetric and proper parthood is neither asymmetric nor transitive. (shrink)
After a brief sketch of the history of philosophical pragmatism generally, and of legal pragmatism specifically (section 1), this paper develops a new, neo-classical legal pragmatism: a theory of law drawing in part on Holmes, but also on ideas from the classical pragmatist tradition in philosophy. Main themes are the "pluralistic universe" of law (section 2); the evolution of legal systems (section 3); the place of logic in the law (section 4); and the relation of law and morality (section (...) 5). (shrink)
The law-governed world-picture -- A remarkable idea about the way the universe is cosmos and compulsion -- The laws as the cosmic order : the best-system approach -- The three ways : no-laws, non-governing-laws, governing-laws -- Work that laws do in science -- An important difference between the laws of nature and the cosmic order -- The picture in four theses -- The strategy of this book -- The meta-theoretic conception of laws -- The measurability approach to laws -- (...) What comes where -- In defense of some received views -- Some assumptions that will be in play -- The laws are propositions -- The laws are true -- The logically contingent consequences of the laws are laws themselves -- At least some laws are metaphysically contingent -- The meta-theoretic conception of laws -- Laws of nature, laws of science, laws of theories -- The first-order conception versus the meta-theoretic conception -- What is a law of nature? -- Some examples of meta-theoretic accounts -- The virtues of the meta-theoretic conception -- Weighing the virtues and shortcomings of the meta-theoretic conception -- An epistemological argument for the meta-theoretic conception of laws -- The discoverability thesis, the governing thesis, and the first-order conception -- The main argument -- The objection from bad company -- The objection from inference to the best explanation -- The objection from bayesianism -- The objection from contextualist epistemology -- The objection from the threat of inductive skepticism -- Laws, governing, and counterfactuals -- Where we are now -- What would things have to be like in order for the laws of nature to govern the universe? -- Lawhood, inevitability, counterfactuals -- What is it for a proposition to be inevitably true? -- What is it for a whole class of propositions to be inevitably true? -- What is it for lawhood to confer inevitability? -- NP and supporting counterfactuals -- The worry about context-variability -- A solution and a look ahead -- When would the laws have been different? -- Where we are now -- The God cases -- Other counterexamples to NP -- A moral-theoretic counterexample to NP -- Scientific contexts and non-scientific contexts -- Scientific God cases? -- Lewisian non-backtracking counterexamples -- Where things stand now -- How could science show that the laws govern? -- Why the law-governed world-picture must include the science-says-so thesis -- What is extra-scientific? -- How can the science-says-so thesis be true? -- NP as a consequence of the presuppositions in any scientific context -- Np as true in all possible scientific contexts -- But how could it be so? -- Attack of the actual-factualists -- Measurement and counterfactuals -- Where we are now -- Measurements, reliability, counterfactuals -- A general principle that captures the relation between measurement and counterfactuals -- What we can learn about lawhood from what we have learned about the counterfactual commitments of science -- A first-order account of laws or a meta-theoretic account of laws? -- What methods are presupposed to be legitimate measurement procedures? -- Why we must adopt a meta-theoretic account of laws -- What lawhood is -- Where we are now -- The measurability account of laws -- Brief review of the case for the mal -- A note about hedged laws -- How plausible is the mal? -- What if we don't care about the law-governed world-picture? -- Newton's God and Laplace's demon -- Beyond humean and non-humean -- Two views of laws -- Humean supervenience and the meta-theoretic conception -- Alleged counterexamples to humean supervenience -- Governing and non-trivial necessity -- How the mal lets us have it all -- Humeanism? non-humeanism? -- What is the significance of the idea of the law-governed universe? -- Where in the world are the laws of nature? -- Appendix: The mal in action : a few examples -- Of scientific theories and their laws -- Newton's theory as a paradigm example -- Classical special-force laws -- Geometrical optics and one of its laws -- Local deterministic field theories. (shrink)
This paper pursues two aims. First, to show that the block universe view, regarding the universe as a timelessly existing four-dimensional world, is the only one that is consistent with special relativity. Second, to argue that special relativity alone can resolve the debate on whether the world is three-dimensional or four-dimensional. The argument advanced in the paper is that if the world were three-dimensional the kinematic consequences of special relativity and more importantly the experiments confirming them would be (...) impossible. (shrink)
This article responds to Quentin Smith's, ‘The Reason the Universe Exists is that it Caused Itself to Exist’, Philosophy 74 (1999), 579–586. My rejoinder makes three main points. The first is that Smith's argument for a finitely old, but causally self-explanatory, universe fails from probative overkill: if sound, it also shows that all manner of paltry event-sequences are causally self-explanatory.The second point is that the refutation of Smith's argument extends to Hume's argument for an infinitely old causally self-explanatory (...)universe, as well as to Smith's two ‘causal loop’ arguments. The problem with all four arguments is their reliance on Hume's principle that to explain the members of a collection is ipso facto to explain the collection. This principle succumbs to counterexamples. The third point is that, even if Hume's principle were true, Smith's argument could not succeed without the aid of a theory of causation according to which causation is production (causation of existence). (shrink)
When the ancient Greeks looked up into the heavens, they saw not just sun and moon, stars and planets, but a complete, coherent universe, a model of the Good that could serve as a guide to a better life. How this view of the world came to be, and how we lost it (or turned away from it) on the way to becoming modern, make for a fascinating story, told in a highly accessible manner by Remi Brague in this (...) wide-ranging cultural history. Before the Greeks, people thought human action was required to maintain the order of the universe and so conducted rituals and sacrifices to renew and restore it. But beginning with the Hellenic Age, the universe came to be seen as existing quite apart from human action and possessing, therefore, a kind of wisdom that humanity did not. Wearing his remarkable erudition lightly, Brague traces the many ways this universal wisdom has been interpreted over the centuries, from the time of ancient Egypt to the modern era. Socratic and Muslim philosophers, Christian theologians and Jewish Kabbalists all believed that questions about the workings of the world and the meaning of life were closely intertwined and that an understanding of cosmology was crucial to making sense of human ethics. Exploring the fate of this concept in the modern day, Brague shows how modernity stripped the universe of its sacred and philosophical wisdom, transforming it into an ethically indifferent entity that no longer serves as a model for human morality. Encyclopedic and yet intimate, The Wisdom of the World offers the best sort of history: broad, learned, and completely compelling. Brague opens a window onto systems of thought radically different from our own. (shrink)
In my book The Comprehensibility of the Universe (OUP, 1998), I argue for a new conception of science that construes science as adopting a hierarchy of increasingly contentless cosmological assumptions about the comprehensibility and knowability of the universe. This view, I argue, solves outstanding problems about science, such as problems of induction, simplicity and verisimilitude. In his essay review of my book (Philosophy 75, 2000, 296–309) Friedel Weinert criticizes me for defending a number of views about science. But, (...) as I make clear from quotations from the book, I do not defend the views that Weinert attributes to me. (shrink)
The arc of the moral universe -- Structure, choice, and legitimacy: Locke's theory of the state -- Democratic equality -- A more democratic liberalism -- For a democratic society -- Knowledge, morality and hope: the social thought of Noam Chomsky: with Joel Rogers -- Reflections on Habermas on democracy -- A matter of demolition?: Susan Okin on justice and gender -- Minimalism about human rights: the most we can hope for? -- Is there a human right to democracy? -- (...) Extra republicam nulla justitia?: with Charles Sabel. (shrink)
In 1907 William James was invited to give the Hibbert Lectures at Manchester College, Oxford. Initially he was reluctant to do so since he feared undertaking them would divert him from developing rigorously and systematically some metaphysical ideas of his own that had preoccupied him for some time. In the end, however, he relented and in the spring of 1908 gave the lectures which were subsequently published as A Pluralistic Universe. As it happened, though, in the course of these (...) lectures James presented some of those metaphysical ideas, though in a popular and informal style appropriate to lecturing. Later on he did get down to working out a systematic metaphysics in proper academic style, but the project was cut short by his untimely death in 1910. The incomplete Some Problems of Philosophy, posthumously published in 1911, recapitulates some major themes of A Pluralistic Universe. (shrink)
Quentin Smith has been arguing for more than a decade that the universe is uncaused. For nearly as long he has also argued that it appeared spontaneously from literally nothing. I have replied to these arguments in many places, including a recent essay in Philosophy. Now, apparently, Smith has changed his mind: in his most recent contribution to Philosophy, he argues not that the universe is uncaused, but that it is self-caused. His motives for so doing remain much (...) the same, however: he would like to undermine the efforts of theists to show that the universe requires an external cause, by arguing that the universe can cause itself (580). I do not think that the arguments he gives for this new position are any more plausible than his older ones for an uncaused universe, so I don't think that he has advanced the cause of atheism. This essay defends that evaluation. (shrink)
This new edition of William James’s 1909 classic, A Pluralistic Universe reproduces the original text, only modernizing the spelling. The books has been annotated throughout to clarify James’s points of reference and discussion. There is a new, fuller index, a brief chronology of James’s life, and a new bibliography—chiefly based on James’s own references. The editor, H.G. Callaway, has included a new Introduction which elucidates the legacy of Jamesian pluralism to survey some related questions of contemporary American society. -/- (...) A Pluralistic Universe was the last major book James published during his life time. It is a substantial philosophical work, devoted to a thorough-going criticism of Hegelian monism and Absolutism—and the exploration of philosophical and social-theological alternatives. Our world of some one hundred years on is much the better for James’s contributions; and understanding James’s pluralism deeply contributes even now to America’s self-understanding. At present, we are more certain that American is, and is best, a pluralistic society, than we are of what particular forms our pluralism should take. Keeping an eye out for social interpretations of Jamesian pluralism, this new philosophical reading casts light on our twenty-first century alternatives by reference to prior American experience and developments. -/- . (shrink)