The recent detection of gravitational waves by the LIGO team has rightly been hailed as “the crowning achievemen of classical physics”. This detection, which came at the end of a decade-long quest, involved 950 investigators, and cost around one billion US dollars, was the scientific star of the year 2015. What, if any, is the philosophical impact of this scientific breakthrough, which Albert Einstein had anticipated one century earlier? To answer this question we start by examining the central equations of (...) Einstein’s theory of gravitation, also known as general relativity. Subsequently we analyze the special case of a hollow sphere, in an attempt to answer the question of the reality and even materiality of space or, rather, spacetime. As well, the view that gravitation is a manifestation of the curvature of spacetime is discussed, and the reality of gravitational waves is regarded as the coup de grâce to that view. (shrink)
This article addresses the following problems: What is a mechanism, how can it be discovered, and what is the role of the knowledge of mechanisms in scientific explanation and technological control? The proposed answers are these. A mechanism is one of the processes in a concrete system that makes it what it is for example, metabolism in cells, interneuronal connections in brains, work in factories and offices, research in laboratories, and litigation in courts of law. Because mechanisms are largely (...) or totally imperceptible, they must be conjectured. Once hypothesized they help explain, because a deep scientific explanation is an answer to a question of the form, "How does it work, that is, what makes it tickwhat are its mechanisms?" Thus, by contrast with the subsumption of particulars under a generalization, an explanation proper consists in unveiling some lawful mechanism, as when political stability is explained by either coercion, public opinion manipulation, or democratic participation. Finding mechanisms satisfies not only the yearning for understanding, but also the need for control. Key Words: explanation function mechanism process system systemism. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to elucidate the notions of explanation and mechanism, in particular of the social kind. A mechanism is defined as what makes a concrete system tick, and it is argued that to propose an explanation proper is to exhibit a lawful mechanism. The so-called covering law model is shown to exhibit only the logical aspect of explanation: it just subsumes particulars under universals. A full or mechanismic explanation involves mechanismic law statements, not purely descriptive ones (...) such as functional relations and rate equations. Many examples from the natural, biosocial, and social sciences are examined. In particular, macro-micro-micro-macro social relations are shown to explain other wise puzzling macro-macro links. The last part of the article relates the author's progress, over half a century, toward understanding mechanism and explanation. (shrink)
In this paper we examine the following problems: How many concepts of function are there in biology, social science, and technology? Are they logically related and if so, how? Which of these function concepts effect a functional explanation as opposed to a mere functional account? What are the consequences of a pluralist view of functions for functionalism? We submit that there are five concepts of function in biology, which are logically related in a particular way, and six function concepts in (...) social science and technology. Only two of them may help effect a genuine functional explanation. Finally, our synthetic approach allows us to distinguish four different varieties of functionalism in biology, psychology, social science, and technology: formalist, black boxist, adaptationist, and teleological. And only one of them is explanatory in the strong sense defended here. (shrink)
pt. I. Matter: 1. Philosophy as worldview ; 2. Classical matter: bodies and fields ; 3. Quantum matter: weird but real ; 4. General concept of matter: to be is to become ; 5. Emergence and levels ; 6. Naturalism ; 7. Materialism -- pt. II. Mind: 8. The mind-body problem ; 9. Minding matter: the plastic brain ; 10. Mind and society ; 11. Cognition, consciousness, and free will ; 12. Brain and computer: the hardware/software dualism ; 13. Knowledge: (...) genuine and bogus -- pt. III. Appendices: 14. Appendix A: Objects ; 15. Appendix B. Truths. (shrink)
Summary Opinion is divided as to whether chemistry is reducible to physics. The problem can be given a satisfactory solution provided three conditions are met: that a science not be identified with its theories; that several notions of theory dependence be distinguished; and that quantum chemistry, rather than classical chemistry, be compared with physics. This paper proposes to perform all three tasks. It does so by analyzing the methodological concepts concerned as well as by examining the way a chemical rate (...) constant is derivable with the help of the quantum atomic theory. The conclusion is that chemistry, and in particular quantum chemistry, is not a part of physics although it is certainly based on the latter. (shrink)
Individualism comes in at least ten modes: ontological, logical, semantic, epistemological, methodological, axiological, praxiological, ethical, historical, and political. These modes are bound together. For example, ontological individualism motivates the thesis that relations are n-tuples of individuals, as well as radical reductionism and libertarianism. The flaws and merits of all ten sides of the individualist decagon are noted. So are those of its holist counterpart. It is argued that systemism has all the virtues and none of the defects of individualism and (...) holism. One such virtue is the ability to recognize that individualism is a system rather than an unstructured bag of opinions--which raises the question whether thorough and consistent individualism is at all possible. Key Words: holism individualism system systemism. (shrink)
Axiomatization is uncommon outside mathematics, partly for being often viewed as embalming, partly because the best-known axiomatizations have serious shortcomings, and partly because it has had only one eminent champion, namely David Hilbert. The aims of this paper are to describe what will be called dual axiomatics, for it concerns not just the formalism, but also the meaning of the key concepts; and to suggest that every instance of dual axiomatics presupposes some philosophical view or other. To illustrate these points, (...) a theory of solidarity will be crafted and axiomatized, and certain controversies in both classical and quantum physics, as well as in the philosophy of mind, will be briefly discussed. The upshot of this paper is that dual axiomatics, unlike the purely formal axiomatics favored by the structuralists school, is not a luxury but a tool helping resolve some scientific controversies. (shrink)
The goal of this article is to answer some of the criticisms of my views on social science formulated by contributors to the symposium on my philosophy of social science. Key Words: emergence mechanism method process understanding.
An objective and relational theory of local time is expounded and its philosophical implications are discussed in Sect. 2. In Sect. 3 certain physical and metaphysical questions concerning time are taken up in the light of that theory. The basic concepts of the theory are those of event, reference frame, chronometric scale, and time function. These are subject to four axioms: existence of events, frames and scales; time is a real valued function; the set of events is compact; and any (...) duration can be subdivided into two contiguous durations. Several theorems are derived, among them the one of the asymmetry of time. And a number of concepts are defined, such as those of time order, instant, and time coordinate. It is argued that the theory, though untestable, belongs to the background of a number of scientific theories. It is also shown that it includes all relational theories of time. The usual confusion between the asymmetry of time and the direction of irreversible processes is clarified. Time reversal is interpreted either as a purely formal operation or as a convenient way of describing motion reversed processes. Time orders are shown to be both relative and objective, apart from the choice of the positive direction, which is conventional. The various attempts to define the direction of time in terms of irreversible processes are shown to be logically untenable and methodologically undesirable. A number of metaphysical questions, such as the one of the reality and the fundamental character of time, are tackled. Finally the occasion is seized to extoll the advantages of systematization over both ordinary language discussions and open context analyses. (shrink)
Factual statements that might qualify for the status of law statements are classed from various philosophically relevant standpoints (referents, precision, structure of predicates, extension, systemicity, inferential power, inception, ostensiveness, testability, levels, and determination categories). More than seven dozen of not mutually exclusive kinds of lawlike statements emerge. Strictly universal and counterfactually powerful statements are seen to constitute just one kind of lawlike statements; classificatory and some statistical laws, e.g., are shown not to comply with the requirements of universality and counterfactual (...) force. Conditions for lawlike statements to be called laws are then examined, and a liberal criterion of lawfulness is finally proposed, which reads thus: A proposition is a law statement if and only if it is a posteriori (not logically true), general in some respect (does not refer to unique objects), has been satisfactorily corroborated for the time being in some domain, and belongs to a theory (whether adult or embryonic). It is claimed that criteria of laws change alongside with the emergence of new usages of the term 'law', and that by adopting a liberal criterion of lawfulness we would conform to contemporary usage and would cease inhibiting the search for regularities in the sciences of man. (shrink)
Two concepts of truth as correspondence of ideas with facts are analyzed. One of them is the thought-external fact relation, and the other is the fact-proposition one. The two maps are then composed, and the resulting map is assumed to formalize the concept of truth as adequacy or correspondence of ideas to facts. Besides, some desiderata for a correspondence theory of partial truth are proposed. Finally, the truth criteria employed in science and technology are recalled.