Unreal Nature

February 28, 2015

Dissectio Naturae

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:40 am

… An entirely organismic approach to reality, as the one preached by contemporary holistic philosophies, would be powerless to perform that dissectio naturae demanded by Bacon, which gave us and is still giving us modern science and its applications.

Continuing through Causality and Modern Science: Third Revised Edition by Mario Bunge (1959; 1979):

… The fact that nonlinear theories are rare is not so much a peculiarity of nature as a sign of the infancy of our science. Nonlinearity involves large mathematical difficulties; besides being mathematically clumsy, it affects the very symbolic representation of physical entities. Thus forces that add nonlinearly (as gravitational forces do) cannot be exactly represented by vectors, since the addition of the latter conforms to the superposition “principle.” From the moment it was discovered that the laws of ferromagnetism are nonlinear, it has been more and more clearly suspected that all physical phenomena may turn out to be at least weakly nonlinear, linearity being only an approximation which is excellent in some cases but only rough in others.

Since nonlinearity entails noncausality, we see once again that causality is a first approximation, that is, so to speak, a linear approximation to determinism.

[ … ]

… Real determination is probably neither wholly causal nor strictly functional. However, in some cases determination can be approximately described as causation, and in other cases as interaction — which suggests that sometimes we are in the presence of predominantly (but not exclusively) causal processes, whereas at other times we are confronted with predominantly (but not exclusively) functional dependencies. It is likely that in most events both causation and interaction take part, in combination with other determination categories.

… Yet, the tremendous historical and methodological importance of the hypothesis of the (approximate) independence and hence superposability of causes should be realized. An entirely organismic approach to reality, as the one preached by contemporary holistic philosophies, would be powerless to perform that dissectio naturae demanded by Bacon, which gave us and is still giving us modern science and its applications. The more or less explicit recognition of the principle of superposition of determiners, on the other hand, makes an analysis of real situations possible; most of our science involves it. The exteriority of causes, like the remaining defects of the doctrine of causality, should then be criticized from a progressive standpoint, that is, from a point of view which, instead of proclaiming the utter impotence of the analytic method, acknowledges instead that causal analysis is not the sole kind of analysis needed in the scientific treatment of problems of determination.

A constructive critical attitude toward the problem of the superposition of causes should rely on the recognition that the neat separation and isolation of determiners, while not the last stage of research, is a very important preliminary stage, whereas the tenet of the unanalyzability of wholes blocks ab initio every advancement of knowledge. The hypothesis of superposition is, then, neither an absolute truth nor utter nonsense; like so many simplifying hypotheses of science and philosophy, it is true to a first approximation.

Once more, we conclude that causation does not exhaust determination, but the latter necessarily entails the former as one of its varieties.

To be continued.

My most recent previous post from Bunge’s book is here.

-Julie

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