Cosmology has always been different from other areas of the natural sciences. Although an observationally supported standard model of the universe emerged in the 1960s, more speculative models and conceptions continued to attract attention. During the last decade, ideas of multiple universes based on anthropic reasoning have become very popular among cosmologists and theoretical physicists. This had led to a major debate within the scientific community of the epistemic standards of modern cosmology. Is the multiverse a scientific hypothesis, (...) or is it rather a philosophical speculation disguised as science? This paper offers a review of the recent and still ongoing controversy concerning the multiverse, emphasizing its foundational nature and relation to philosophical issues. It also compares the multiverse controversy to some earlier episodes in the history of twentieth-century cosmology when particular theories and approaches came under attack for betraying the ideals of proper science. (shrink)
This book presents the history of how the universe at large became the object of scientific understanding. Starting with the ancient creation myths, it offers an integrated and comprehensive account of cosmology that covers all major events from Aristotle's Earth-centred cosmos to the recent discovery of the accelearting universe.
In traditional Chinese cosmology, this pattern could be very well explained in terms of the fluctuation of yin and yang, or as the natural order of Heaven. This cosmological explanation fits natural history well. There are natural phenomena such as floods, draughts, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, etc., that are beyond human control. These events have their determining factors. Once those factors are present, a natural disaster, however unfavorably viewed by humans, is doomed to take place. The view that natural (...)history is determined by factors outside the human world can be accepted without much controversy. However, when applied to human history, the role of man in human history becomes problematic under this kind of cosmology. How much of our success or failure is due to our larger cosmological environment -- the ongoing development of the chi'? Can a single individual reverse the flow of yin and yang or the emergence of good times and bad times? On a larger scale, is human history predestined? If there is a necessary rotation of prosperity and chaos, then it can be argued that.. (shrink)
Cardinal Mercier’s Manual of Modern Scholastic Philosophy is a standard work, prepared at the Higher Institute of Philosophy, Louvain, mainly for the use of clerical students in Catholic Seminaries. Though undoubtedly elementary, it contains a clear, simple, and methodological exposition of the principles and problems of every department of philosophy, and its appeal is not to any particular class, but broadly human and universal. Volume II contains sections on natural theology, logic, ethics and outlines of the history of philosophy.
Duhem has generally been understood to have maintained that the major Greek astronomers were instrumentalists. This view has emerged mainly from a reading of his 1908 publication To Save the Phenomena. In it he sharply contrasted a sophisticated Greek interpretation of astronomical models (for Duhem this was that they were mathematical contrivances) with a naive insistence of the Arabs on their concrete reality. But in Le Système du monde, which began to appear in 1913, Duhem modified his views on Greek (...) astronomy considerably; his more subtle understanding included the recognition that many Greeks subordinated mathematical astronomy to physical theory. But he could not completely repudiate his earlier views about Greek astronomy in part because his extreme nineteenth century prejudices led him to continue to insist on a clear-cut demarcation between Greek and Arabic astronomy. The inevitable result is a certain unevenness in the Système and some glaring inconsistencies. (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)
This well-written volume is an introduction, not to world history, but to the special genre of "Big History," as the subtitle indicates. Christian and his fellow big historians, reacting against popular scepticism toward "master narratives," seek to create a new class of grand works that incorporate not only the history of human society, but also of the Earth, its life, and the universe as a whole. Specialists in any of the fields covered by the volume may find (...) rough spots in the treatment of topics they know well, but given the scope of the effort I think it is fair to regard this as something like the first edition of a continuing work. Later editions would be strengthened—as would the Big History movement as a whole—by explicitly incorporating some discussion of teleological reasoning in science, and by deploying clear distinctions between processes that are teleomatic (such as star formation), teleonomic (such as organismal development), and classically teleological (such as intentional behaviour on the part of humans). In "Maps of Time," David Christian has given us a book full of interesting facts, and with ideas to argue for and against in every chapter. It should provoke lively discussion across a whole range of academic disciplines. (shrink)
You Are Here is a dazzling exploration of the universe and our relationship to it, as seen through the lens of today's most cutting-edge scientific thinking. Christopher Potter brilliantly parses the meaning of what we call the universe. He tells the story of how something evolved from nothing and how something became everything. What does a material description of everything and nothing look like? What is it that science does when it describes a reality that is made out of something? (...) In between nothing and everything is where we live. Here, for the first time in a single span, is the life of the universe, from quarks to galaxy superclusters and from slime to Homo sapiens. The universe was once a moment of perfect symmetry and is now 13.7 billion years of history. Clouds of gas were woven into whatever complexity we find in the universe today: the hierarchies of stars or the brains of mammals. Potter writes entertainingly about the history and philosophy of science, and he shows that science advances by continually removing humankind from a position of primacy in the universe, but the universe responds by placing us back there again. With wisdom and wonder, Potter traverses the cosmos from its conception to its eventual end—while exploring everything in between. (shrink)
We have reached the peculiar situation where the advance of mainstream science has required us to dismiss as unreal our own existence as free, creative agents, the very condition of there being science at all. Efforts to free science from this dead-end and to give a place to creative becoming in the world have been hampered by unexamined assumptions about what science should be, assumptions which presuppose that if creative becoming is explained, it will be explained away as an illusion. (...) In this paper it is shown that this problem has permeated the whole of European civilization from the Ancient Greeks onwards, leading to a radical disjunction between cosmology which aims at a grasp of the universe through mathematics and history which aims to comprehend human action through stories. By going back to the Ancient Greeks and tracing the evolution of the denial of creative becoming, I trace the layers of assumptions that must in some way be transcended if we are to develop a truly post-Egyptian science consistent with the forms of understanding and explanation that have evolved within history. (shrink)
Exploring the decisive steps taken by Anaximander of Miletus, this book details the transition from the archaic cosmological world-picture of a flat earth with a celestial vault to the Western world-picture of a free floating earth in an ...
The prediction defended in this paper is that over the next fifty years we will see a return of the ancient tradition of “universal history”; but this will be a new form of universal history that is global in its practice and scientific in its spirit and methods. Until the end of the nineteenth century, universal history of some kind seems to have been present in most historiographical traditions. Then it vanished as historians became disillusioned with the (...) search for grand historical narratives and began to focus instead on getting the details right through document-based research. Today, however, there are many signs of a return to universal history. This has been made possible, at least in part, by the detailed empirical research undertaken in the last century in many different fields, and also by the creation of new methods of absolute dating that do not rely on the presence of written documents. The last part of the paper explores some of the possible consequences for historical scholarship of a return to a new, scientific form of universal history. These may include a closer integration of historical scholarship with the more historically oriented of the sciences, including cosmology, geology, and biology. Finally, the paper raises the possibility that universal history may eventually be taught in high schools, where it will provide a powerful new way of integrating knowledge from the humanities and the sciences. (shrink)
Progress in understanding, clarifying, forming, and devising methods for analyzing, eliminating, or resolving the problems of the philosophies of history and historiography requires integration with other branches of philosophy such as metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of mind, and ethics. Conversely, mainstream philosophical theories would benefit from confronting the problems of the philosophies of history and historiography. Solving the problems of the philosophies of historiography and history requires considering historiography as continuous with philosophy.This approach (...) is exemplified by examining metaphysical issues in the philosophy of history—historical contingency, necessity, determination, causation, over-determination, and under-determination—as well as investigating the epistemology of testimony for its relevance to the epistemology of our knowledge of the past.Inference from multiple testimonies is a particular case of a general model of inference, one in which scientists infer a common cause from multiple sources of evidence that preserve similar information about their common causes. The historical sciences—history, phylogeny, evolutionary biology, comparative historical linguistics, and cosmology—all infer common causes or origins. The theoretical sciences are not interested in any particular token event, but in types of events, whereas, in contrast, the historical sciences attempt to infer common-cause tokens.The main reasons for the absence of decisive progress in the philosophy of historiography along the promising directions the article outlines are external: random, adverse institutional and market conditions that block the professionalization of the field. (shrink)
Richard Tarnas’s The Passion of the Western Mind —acclaimed by leading voices in philosophy, religion, psychology, and history—sets the stage for this major work, thirty years in the making, that dramatically reframes our understanding of the universe in the light of extraordinary new evidence. Cosmos and Psyche is the first book by a widely respected scholar to demonstrate the existence of a consistent correspondence between planetary movements and the unfolding drama of human history. A vast and impressive body (...) of evidence illuminates patterns of meaning and precise correlations between the universe and the world of human endeavor. With meticulous detail, Richard Tarnas takes us on a journey that begins with the ancient Greeks and culminates in our own era and its transformative potential, putting into perspective these chaotic, tumultuous times—from the sixties to September 11, 2001—and pointing the way towards the future. In terms of planetary cycles, our present moment in history is most comparable to the period five hundred years ago—that era of “extraordinary turbulence and creativity,” the High Renaissance. Not since Copernicus conceived the heliocentric theory has the human community faced such a profound realignment of the way we think. Readers of every persuasion will be impressed by the vast canvas here, the wealth of research and analysis, and the profound conclusions that may be drawn—conclusions that reunite religion and science, and restore a transcendent dimension to the universe. (shrink)
This thought-provoking classic investigates how the Renaissance spirit fundamentally questioned and undermined medieval thought. Of value to students of literature, political theory, history of religious and Reformation thought, and the history of science.
We illustrate the crucial role played by decoherence (consistency of quantum histories) in extracting consistent quantum probabilities for alternative histories in quantum cosmology. Specifically, within a Wheeler-DeWitt quantization of a flat Friedmann-Robertson-Walker cosmological model sourced with a free massless scalar field, we calculate the probability that the universe is singular in the sense that it assumes zero volume. Classical solutions of this model are a disjoint set of expanding and contracting singular branches. A naive assessment of the behavior of (...) quantum states which are superpositions of expanding and contracting universes suggests that a “quantum bounce” is possible i.e. that the wave function of the universe may remain peaked on a non-singular classical solution throughout its history. However, a more careful consistent histories analysis shows that for arbitrary states in the physical Hilbert space the probability of this Wheeler-DeWitt quantum universe encountering the big bang/crunch singularity is equal to unity. A quantum Wheeler-DeWitt universe is inevitably singular, and a “quantum bounce” is thus not possible in these models. (shrink)
In this article I am applying the anthropological term of "cosmology" to the study of Christianity in order to place plural Christian settings under a wider methodological perspective. I am drawing on the findings of my fieldwork in Southwestern Ghana, where I met twelve different Christian denominations and five traditional healers operating in one village. I am sketching a concise image of the local Nzema cosmology and then I am launching an attempt to present its Christian equivalent. Informed (...) by the situation in the field, by general history of Christianity, as well as by my personal understanding of it, my cosmological investigation yields three different Christian cosmologies, which all coincide side by side in African contexts. I see, thus, pluralism as inherent to Christianity itself, rather than as an outcome of cultural encounter between Christianity and local pre-Christian religion. (shrink)