Unreal Nature

January 17, 2015

Away

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:47 am

… sense data and ordinary judgment are the raw materials which science processes, transcends, and explains — very often away.

… Our theories … are … like growing organisms, with perishable and mutually controllable parts.

This is from Intuition and Science by Mario Bunge (1962):

… Science, despite the efforts of some metascientists, does not try to reduce the new and strange to the old and familiar; it does not propose to “understand” the nonvulgar in common sense terms. On the contrary, science constructs theoretical concepts and systems which by transcending ordinary experience and common sense, enable us to unify, explain, and predict — in short, account for — whatever, at the level of common sense, appears to be radically diverse, mysterious — though obvious upon occasion — and unpredictable. Science, especially psychology, far from attempting to “understand” reality in terms of ordinary knowledge, explains it in terms of laws describing the relations among increasingly abstract and refined concepts. Most of these concepts are not found in presystematic or intuitive thinking; suffice to recall the explanation of the blue of the sky by molecular physics, or of psychoses by psychochemistry.

Common sense is for science a starting point and a problem: sense data and ordinary judgment are the raw materials which science processes, transcends, and explains — very often away.

[ … ]

… Mathematical and logical intuitionism are prized to some extent despite their peculiar dogmas, because they have contributed — though perhaps not as much as has Gödel’s work — to the disintegration of alternative dogmas, particularly the formalist and the logicist ones.

Those who concern themselves with the so-called foundations of mathematics and logic (foundations the very existence of which ought to be questioned) no longer have the right to adopt the secure, triumphant, definitive tone of the formalists and logicists of the beginning of our century, who believed they had built infallible and consequently definitive “foundations.” Mathematical theories are hypothetico-deductive systems. They do not start with certainties but with assumptions, i.e. corrigible statements, or at least with statements that can be reformulated and rearranged in the interest of consistency, depth, and fruitfulness. The propositions that are taken as basic in a given systematization are not incorrigible intuitions but tentative hypotheses, almost as tentative as in factual science. Gone are the days of perfect and secure foundations, and, perhaps, of foundations at all, as suggested by the rich interrelations of the various chapters of mathematics, and by the fact that the analyst does not worry about the difficulties faced by the set theoretician. Our theories, whether formal or factual, are not like buildings that crumble if their foundations are replaced; they are rather like growing organisms, with perishable and mutually controllable parts.

My previous post from Bunge’s book is here.

-Julie

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