The Limits of Science
Serghey Stoilov Gherdjikov
University of Sofia, Bulgaria
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ABSTRACT: Does science have any limits? Scientists say no. Philosophers are divided in their response. The humanities say that science is not "humanitarian," and thus not metaphysically deep. In response, scientists and some philosophers contend that science is the best knowledge we have about the world. I argue that science is limited by its form. Science has no object that derives from the human form. Everything that is incomparable to the dimension of the human body is reducible to notions that are commensurable to that body. This phenomenologically clarifies some of the most important discoveries in contemporary science. The Special Theory of Relativity shows the dependence of space and time on the accounting system. Quantum mechanics displays the limits of observation (Heisenberg) and logical indefiniteness by compelling the creation of a macropresentation of micro-objects and gets around logic (Feyerabend) through the principle of additionality. Experimental science has come out as an artificial projection of human expansion, not as a reflection of the transcendent order of the world itself. "The life world" successfully takes the place of "the objective world" of modern rationality.
Does Empirical Science have any limits? This question is not so interesting for the contemporary philosophy of Science. Not like the questions of reality, objectivity, rationality. I believe, that these questions could be elucidated by answering the question of limitness, or, of form of Science.
Does Empirical Science have any limits? The answer of the scientists is No: Science is unlimited. There are no scientifically unresolvable questions, they have sense. The answer of the philosophers is not clear, but it is close to No. It is shown not only in technology, and philosophers also claim, that Science is the best knowledge we have about the world. It seems clear, that Science will never reach an end.
However, my answer is Yes. Science has a Limit and this limit is the scientific form, or the Form of Science. Form is limit as definiteness. All human artifacts, as defined functional structures (forms) have limits. They can not be unlimited except in the sense of an extensive unlimitedness of a multitude of uniform operations on uniform objects. Science as an artifact is limited in a deeper and more important sense. World is limited as a definitenes of Human form. This answer is developed more definitely in my book "Limits of Science," published in Bulgaria. (1) This article is a short variant of my research.
Man is a form of life. Every living form accomplishes an expansion against chaos; it combats spontaneous disintegration. Man's life world is put in order in accordance with his form and this order fulfills the expansion keeping the human's form ("The First Order"). Now, how is the scientific form established and why? Science is "A Second Order." Empirical science is mankind's creation and it is based on the logos as an "archetype" of order. The logos is doxa, epistema and scientia-opinion, knowledge, science. Empirical science originates in the late antiquity. Archimedes' trials could be pointed to as models of empirical science.
Science orders the world as a conceptual network (Karnap, Quine) in a "epistemological field." Tensions (or questions) are allocated in this field and they promote the expansion of that conceptual form. What is the meaning of this order (scientific rationality)? How far does science go? The sense of this form is to reinforce The First Order and to make it adjust to the power-providing assimilation of the variety of the world which cannot be embraced by spontaneous experience.
Form of Science is re-ordering of the "first order"-the form of human world. The world experienced, described and explained by science is simply The world, not an Objective Reality. World is a Space-Time flowing multitude of defined things and processes. The form of time and space is teleological and has got one goal-expansion. Space is organized around a Center-the embodied mind. (2) The Self, who has a body, fixes accordingly to this body a centered perceptual space. The Center of this space is "here"; it is always limited as a horizon. The visual field, for example, has a form and a limit. Time doesn't flow. What flows is world. In this sense time doesn't exist. (3) Time is organized like space-teleologically. It has, just like space, its Center and it is the embodied mind. The mind is always in the present; "behind" it there always stands the past; "in front" of it-the future is directed. The world floates against the embodied mind in direction from the future through the present to the past: first we expect the events, then we go through them and finally memorize and forget them.
Does the perceived world have a transcendetal form independent from the human's artifacts; a form which is common to all the people? What kind of form is it?
Man is an embodied mind and a community of minds. As a specified body, the human being finds a specifically ordered world. This world is such that the Self experience re-emergence of the world, re-synthesis of the body against disintegration and expansion of its own form. There is an order of the life world which is common to every person-"The First Order." It is characterized by the high integrated up energy which sustains it and defends it from entropy. The first order can be described as the one having time, space corporeality and eventfulness. It is organized by logical definiteness. The first order is not sufficient for survival of the man but it is crucial for the construction of the following strata and order which characterize every culture.
How is the comprehensiveness of the perceived world organized (the sense of causality and the teleology as mental forms)? Thought orders things and events in such way that it is possible to act efficiently at the highest degree on the conditions of the energy that flows out. That means that these actions have a form, trajectory, teleology. The action requires a synthesis of chains of events. Man finds such chains ready-at-hand (causal chains). The causal chains are put and combined with human physical actions. The designation is to reach the goal-survival and expansion.
Science is an artifact. What is the artifact as a form and a plan of ordering? The artifact as a human creation is not alive. It hasn't his own world and couldn't reproduce itself. It is a sign, behavior, psychical and mental form. The artifacts-tools, signs, models of action, manufactures and technologies-have the grounds for their existence outside of themselves-in the Self which is incarnated and whose aim is expansion. The artifacts mediate ways and structures that make possible the orientation and the expansion of the communities.
What is the cultural root of the Western form of ordering of the life world out of which empirical science was generated ? Empirical science has no transcendental roots in the structure of the mind (Kant, Husserl). It is a cultural fact. We cannot find it in the ancient East. It has gone there from the West. Logos is is an order by means of words and numbers, theories and conceptions. According to the Western logos the world is transparent for words and thought.
What are the projections of the logos in the common sense of Western man, in the objective knowledge and in empirical science (doxa, epistema, scientia)? Empirical science-scientia-originates in the most recent antiquity. But as a mathematical inquiry of the movement it domineers and develops from the time of Galileo.
The epistemological field is charged with potentials (questions) among different points. These potentials shape the conceptual network and direct it. The conceptual network gravitates to the first order. It presents every object as put in time and space, as a body and an event-the object is logically defined. Thus the conceptual structure is determined. The conceptual field has a concentric form with two boundary strata-the central one is logic and the marginal one-data. The links between the terms strenghthen in direction from the periphery to the Center: data-facts-laws-universals-logical constants.
How does science work? The empirical investigation is a functioning of the conceptual network. The conceptual framework synthesizes and fulfills an expansion only by means of expressing itself in its own form, the form of the investigation. There are three research operations that correspond to the levels in the structure of the network: observation, description and explanation. The observation synthesizes the data while answering the question what is observed? The description fits the heterogeneous data into an integral picture and answers the question what happens? The explanation unifies the multitudes of facts as projections of certain laws and answers the question why does it happen?
What is the scientific explanation as a research process and as a purpose of science? The explanation is the strongest research operation. The sense of the explanation is a strengthening by means of simplicity, power economy, terms and laws. The explanation is based on the description. When the laws are applied to the description an explained fact is obtained.
The Covering law model (Hempel) is evolved in analytical philosophy. (4) It represents the structure of the scientific explanation as a syllogism and corresponds to the explanation at the level of the first order. But the scientific explanation is not simply a logical following. There is much explicit and implicit synthesis accomplished in it. I offer a matrix model of the explanation which presents not a logical following but a projection of a theoretical element (law) on empirical material (description). As a result of this projection the elements of the explanations are connected with the strongest links between them; as explained facts. (5)
How far does Science Go?
Form is Limit, and Limit is projected as Border. It seems that there is no border here. Science goes on and works, resolving newer and newer problems. The situation is like the un-limitness of living. We live and it seems we never experience Death. But actually we always experience the resistance of chaos against our lives and we finally die. So, science can not resolve the problems outside the limit (the form) of the perceived world. It is not possible to explain the un-observable, the indescribable.
What is the meaning of this order (the scientific rationality)? What are the principles, the standards and the sorts of scientific rationality, the form of the scientific character in the experimental sciences?
Rationality is an ordering of the human creations and actions in conformity to a goal. All the goals are summed up in the keeping of the human form and the expansion. Scientific rationality is the scientific form as efficient, advisable; the one with the best organization. The gravitation to the first order is shown in the form of the conceptual network and the investigation. Conceptual network "paints" the form as characterized by time, space, corporeality and eventfulness; the explanation is an epistemological discourse based on logical definiteness. This sets the following principles of rationality:
(a) Keeping the "data" as a keeping of the form of perception;
(b) Keeping the "definiteness" of the discursive form of treatment of the perception;
(c) A conditional keeping and varying of facts, theories and categories in conformity to the object of the investigation. Every theory bears a change but only when the keeping of the data and the logic is in danger. The theories are refuted and corrected when they contain contradictions or a non-conformity to the data (Popper). (6)
The form of science can vary because it consists of inconstant elements. It can be constructed by words and numbers. These are the two sorts of rationality: Galilean (Pythagorean) and Darwinian (Aristotelian). The theories and the explanations can be constructed with different modalities-probability, necessity, teleology.
What limits does the so outlined form of the science encounter when it works? Non-observable is that which stands out of the perceptive form-space, time, body, event. Non-descriptive is the non-observable and the non-presentable in terms which have their meaning as bodies, events, measurable values, countable multitudes. Non-explainable is the non-observable, the non-descriptive, the illogical, the one that comes out of the modalities of the theories.
The logos, eventually, has its limit. It is the entireness of the world, the floating of the life, the indefiniteness, the inconceivability. Does the history of science encounter boundaries? (Sometimes physicists say that Physics is at its end after resolving the genetal problem. So, Stephen Hawking prognoses the end of Physics after discovering the Great Unification). What kind of dynamic form does the history of science have? The history of science is an expansion of science through time. It moves from a decision to a decision through the avoidance and overcoming of the problematic situation. This form is just the opposite to the Popper's one (from a problem to a problem) as the latter assumes a surplus expense of energy. An event that comes out of the scientific form being logically impossible is historically impossible to happen in science. The scientific form preserves itself over the history of science. Right in this sense science has its limits. Extensively the limit is a boundary as a non-applicability.
Theories cannot be applied to objects that are not formulated in their language and do not contain the values which construct them. Theories cannot explain experimentally indefinite "facts." Limits of sciences and of theories are not defined by the non-strict notions of "spheres" like "physical," "biological," or "social." Science has limits and they are determined by its form. The limits are revealed as impossibilities for scientific research in those fields that come out of the first order-the timeless, the spaceless, the non-corporal, the non-eventful, the illogical. Flow of Life and World is not a scientific object-it cannot be gripped by the logical definiteness and the discourse. There is no defined way to move from the definiteness (artifact) to the indefiniteness (life).
Science has no object that comes out of the human form. Everything that is incomparable to the dimension of the human body is reducible to notions which are commensurable to that body. This phenomenologically clears up some of the most important discoveries in the contemporary science. The Special Theory of the Relativity shows the dependence of space and time on the observer; Quantum Mechanics displays the limits of observation (Heisenberg) and of logical definiteness by compelling the creation of a macropresentation of the microobjects and getting round the logic (Feyerabend) through the conceptual additionality (Nils Bohr).
1. More concrete questions within the framework of the chapters was not preliminarily clear and has delineated in the course of the study. Explicitly or implicitly they were present all over the place where a research unity had been started. Empirical science has come out as an artifactual projection of the human expansion, not as a reflection of a transcendent order of the world itself. "The life world" successfully takes the place of "the objective world" of modern rationality.
2. Thing that really exists is the life permanent situation of ordering which aims the compensation of the disintegration, the preservation of the form or overcompensation-the expansion of the form. To man this continues in the experience and in the creation of an artifactual Conceptual which adjusts to this experience and along with its advance starts off supplying the place of the living perception. Thus we seldom turn to it to describe the world, on the contrary, we more radically fill its place with "the scientific picture of the world."
3. A book that has been written for centuries by thousand authors cannot be started again at once as a new one with another conception. The choice is made and the alternative ways are "cut." This attaches importance to the science as an absolutely steady and undoubtedly knowledge-the only representative of the truth of the Absolute world. Once Western man undertakes the climbing of the mountain of science he always survives due to his successful steps. He cannot give up science because to do so would means to slide down the slope and to break up at its foundation. But after every single step the we look around at the world and discover it one more time and forget about ascending. The ascending, indeed, gives a height to the vision but the picture is always fragmentary and not completed. It lacks the virgin purity and the initial harmony of the live perception.
4. The science is an earning of energy (Ernst Mach) against the entropy. Mind, indeed, saves energy with the support of constructions such as the laws. But I suppose that there is a deeper metaphysics of the mind's striving for "laws."
5. We arrange the world by means of artifacts-signs, languages, tools, machines. Artifacts are absolutely worthless without us. Without those who have created the words and the numbers they have no sense. Our support-the numbers, for example-turns out to be leant on us. Even if the things created by us would have a sense for the reasonable creatures who are bound to live after us-this has no significance to us at all.
6. The perfect definiteness is possible only to pure artifacts. Every movement to a higher degree of definiteness-assessment, deciphering, measurement, specification-is a movement to a cleaning of the artifact from "alloys" of the nature, of the live perception. Abstracting, as it is repeated many times, is a mortification. We can get the exact co-ordinate of the fraction but we will completely loose its impulse (its movement). We can identify the succession of the bases in the DNA but after destroying it We can determine the sequence of the reactions in the peptide synthesis but we must reproduce it in parts out of the cell. We can detach an ideal meter by dividing the strength of the equator into 40 000 but when our meter standard is made it is already wrong. The ideal, perfect artifact is a human creation and it can exist without or independently from the peace of paper (metal, crystal, electronic memory) on which we are describing it. But as such the artifact always depends on the time, grows stale and in the end sinks in the non-existence. If we reach the absolute zero the movement of the atoms ends and the entropy is invalidated-there is no material movement. But the absolute zero is an ideal constant again.
7. Culture is a giant accumulation of artifacts. They carry the notional life of their creators. It is not amazing that the knowledge, the numbers and the words differs in the different cultures. According to Spengler the Apollo's number is corporal and sensuous while the Faustus' one is only a conceivable infinity.Artifacts and the live phenomena must not be confused.
8. Imanuel Kant postulates that the structures of the mind are eternal and does not depend not only on the cultures but even on the reasonable creatures. Kant is a Western thinker and carries the same "Faustus'" soul (Spengler) as Descartes or Leibniz. But he is not historical like the Faustus' soul, he is not dynamical but statical, universal like an "Apollo" man. He talks, indeed, about the infinity as an endless strive for the God or as a infinite divisibility (problematical) of the matter.
9. There are constant human forms (it cannot be otherwise). There is an evolution or a leap from the antiquity to the modern times. The confirmation: the Western mathematicians do not reject the Euclid's geometry but promote it; the Western physicians do not reject the Archimede's static as incompatible with their one but accept it. In this way they do not separate Newton and Einstein.
10. Science lines an unlined world. But the "drawing-board" and the "instruments" for this lining are given in the kernel of the life world-the first order-and after that are complemented in the process of their making. And since this lined world stays in the perception and does not disintegrate by reason of the endurance of the first order we gain the misleading impression that we discover some natural laws-rhythms and forms which the God or the Nature have chosen to outline the world with.
11. Act of seeing some kind of an "Absolute" in this order freezes the spirit of the Western culture and make it rather frail and weak against the disastrous changes that happen on Earth and against the self-produced alterations of the spirit itself.
12. Scientific picture of the world is not directed against the man and never actually leaves in the basic supporting elements of its anthropomorphous form as a first order. Therefore it is a stupid "humanism" to fight against the science calling it senseless or harmful.
13. Metaphysics of the mind's striving for "laws" is the metaphysics of the empty mind (Zen Buddhism), the metaphysics of the pure contemplation of the enigmatic world in which everything is "understood" as a perfect entity and the laws are forgotten as steps of a ladder that is already unnecessary. This is an initial state brought back through self-completing and self-exhausting of the scientific explanation. The expectancy for a wider explanation is, in fact, an expectancy for a reduced presence of laws, for a reducible "scientia."
14. Probably the final goal of science nevertheless is the absolute simplicity and uniformity which lead to absolute peace of mind while keeping the full magnificence of the current multiform world. The sense of the scientific law thus is: from many to one; from perception and thought to calculation. The law wants to bring back the mind to its, as though primordial state of calmness, unity, simplicity, emptiness. The science wants to reduce the things to a minimum of "eternal" truths of existence and, finally, to the unified, to unity. Zen, for example, wants to reduce things to the emptiness which is beyond existence and non-existence.
15. Between this Unity and this Zero remains the gap between the Western and the Eastern world.
And now, at the issue of this study, occurs a question: Does the pre-scientific grasping of the world through logic, space and time really need the "reinforcement" which the experimental science proposes?
(1) Gherdjikov, S. Limits of Science. Sofia, Extreme Press, 1995.
(2) See Heelan, P. Space-perception and the Philosophy of Science. Berkeley-Los Angeles-London, University of California Press, 1983.
(3) See McTagart, J. The Nature of Existence. Northampton, J. Dickens & Co., 1968. Paragraphs 303-351.
(4) Hempel, K., Oppenheim, P. Studies in the Logic of Explanation. N. Y., 1970.
(5) Gerdjikov, S. A Matrix Model of Scientific Explanation.-International Congress "Logic and Methodology of Science." Proceedings. Moscow, 1987. Vol. 6, p. 367- 368.
(6) Popper, K. The Logic of Scientific Discovery. Hutchinson of London. London, 1959.