Unreal Nature

March 21, 2015

Beautiful River

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:54 am

” … one does not find the source anywhere, because it is nowhere; the source is in a way scattered over the whole surface of the earth.”

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

… Newton was the first who succeeded in setting forth a physical (as contrasted to a rational) explanation of the motion of bodies, and in framing it in the language of mathematics. The rationalist program advanced by Descartes and consisting in the derivation of all physical phenomena from self-evident mathematical principles was, in fact, definitely turned upside down by Newton who, in opposition to the Cartesian (though without mentioning them explicitly) asserted that “whatever is not deduced from the phenomena is to be called a hypothesis; and hypothesis, whether metaphysical or physical, whether of occult qualities or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy. In this philosophy particular propositions are inferred from the phenomena, and afterwards rendered general by induction.”

… There is a rule, occurring in elementary treatises on probability, which at first sight contradicts the principle of sufficient reason, namely, the so-called principle of indifference, or principle of insufficient reason. According to Jacob Bernoulli, who formulated this celebrated rule, chance events can be said to be equally probable (for instance p1 = p2 = 1/2, as in coin throwing) if we know of no reason why one of them should be expected in preference to the alternative events.

… The causal problem is an ontological, not a logical, question, for it is supposed to refer to a trait of reality, and consequently cannot be settled a priori by purely logical means; it can be analyzed with the help of logic, but cannot be reduced to logical terms.

An elementary proof that the causal problem does not belong to logic is that laws of nature, whether causal or not, are by no means logically necessary; they are not the sole conceivable ones, and they are not necessitated by the laws of logic.

… It is not the business of formal logic to lift the veils hiding the face of the world, but rather to sharpen the rational tools with whose help such a task is performed by the sciences.

… Even by the end of the Age of Enlightenment Lazare Carnot found it necessary to explain, almost apologetically, why he had not deduced or explained the principles of his famous Essai sur les machines en général: “A detailed explanation of these principles was not in the plan of the present work, and might result only in confusing things; in fact, the sciences are like a beautiful river, the course of which is easy to follow after it has acquired a certain regularity; but if one wishes to trace it to its source, one does not find the source anywhere, because it is nowhere; the source is in a way scattered over the whole surface of the earth. Likewise, if one wishes to go back to the origin of the sciences, one finds nothing but obscurity, vague ideas, vicious circles — and one gets lost in primitive ideas.”

For today, I am going to stop with Carnot’s beautiful statement, rather than including Bunge’s efforts to say, in effect, “what he said doesn’t matter.”

Further, while I agree with the statement “It is not the business of formal logic to lift the veils hiding the face of the world”; I disagree, vehemently, with the remainder of that quote, “but rather to sharpen the rational tools with whose help such a task is performed by the sciences.”

To be continued.

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

-Julie

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