Thursday, September 10, 2009

Grand Unified Theory?

There is a correct division of the speculative sciences into physical, mathematical, and metaphysical ones; as Boethius says in his De Trinitate II.:
There are three divisions of speculative science: Natural science¹ deals with motion² and is not abstract³ (ἀνυπεξαίρετος), for it is concerned with the forms⁴ of bodies along with matter⁵, which forms cannot be separated in reality from their bodies. These bodies are in motion (earth, for example, tending downward and fire tending upward), and the form that is joined with the matter takes on its movement. Mathematics does not deal with motion and it is not abstract, for it inquires into the forms of bodies apart from matter and therefore apart from motion, which forms, however, since they exist in matter, cannot be separated from bodies. Theology⁶ does not deal with motion and it is abstract and separable, for the divine substance is without either matter or motion. ¹The terms natural science, physics, and natural philosophy are synonymous. ²Motion means not only movement but also change. ³To abstract means "to consider something separately." ⁴Form is "the essential nature of a species or thing." (New Oxford American Dictionary). ⁵Click here for the difference between form and matter. ⁶Theology here means metaphysics.
Today, however, there is much more division than Boethius envisions. Even within physics, e.g., there is disunity between quantum mechanics and general relativity. Between physics and its subfield, astronomy, there is a culture war, and between physics and biology there is an even greater disunity. A Grand Unified Theory (GUT) or Theory of Everything (ToE) will only be possible if we adopt a "Grand Unified Philosophy." The Society of Scholastics is its proponent:
As modern science has lighted the darkest corners of the discernible universe, the lack of a complete philosophy adequate to synthesize all the empirical results has cloven every field of human knowledge one from the other. Now, each science is autonomous, submitting all reality to its own judgment, and admitting no conclusions outside itself. Every science is an empire and every scientist a tyrant—there is no longer wisdom, only wise men.

The Origin of the Society of Scholastics

Still applicable today is St. Thomas Aquinas's statement (De ente et essentia, pr.; cf. De Cœlo 1, 5, 271b8-13): Parvus error in principio magnus est in fine. ("A small error in principle is a big error in conclusion."). Thus if our premises, postulates, or axioms are wrong; so will be our conclusions. Can you imagine what would happen to Euclidean geometry if we submitted all its axioms to the same sort of free skeptical inquiry that characterizes today's misguided academic freedom? We would more often than not be groping in the dark and obtain a geometry with false conclusions. So with science itself we must place our faith in one, true system of philosophy that serves as the axiom from which we can draw error-free conclusions and clearly communicate our results to others. As St. Thomas Aquinas says in his Summa Thelogica Iª q. 1 a. 8 co.: "sciences do not argue in proof of their principles, but argue from their principles to demonstrate other truths in these sciences."
One system of science alone, amidst the incessant endeavors of the many systems through four centuries to investigate the inmost mysteries of reality, has been able to stand without modification in its fundamental tenets, and this is the system of Scholastic Thomism. Today its stability and breadth is such that it serves as an excellent basis and principle of unification for all the results of scientific speculation reached by the various particular sciences of modern times. We are convinced, and in this we feel confident we are not mistaken, that all who have the courage to pursue his philosophy to the bottom and follow its logical conclusions will agree with us that concerning the analysis of the activity and processes of the mind, concerning the inner nature of body, living being and man, concerning the foundations of speculative science and ethical philosophy, no other man has ever thought and written with the power of Thomas Aquinas. Nevertheless, whilst it is true that our philosophy is intimately associated with the name of Thomas, we wish it to be understood that we do not regard the Thomistic philosophy either as an ideal which one must not attempt to surpass or as a boundary which sets limits to personal activity in thought; but our position is that we regard it as a mark no less of prudence than of modesty to make use of his teaching as a starting-point from which we may go further afield in original speculations and as a constant standard of reference. This we feel called upon to say in reply to those, whether opponents or friends, who may feel tempted to ask if it is our intention to lead back the modern mind to the outlook of the Middle Ages. There is no question of retracing our steps back to bygone centuries. But respect for tradition is no indication of servility of mind but rather one of elementary prudence; respect for a doctrine whose merits have been personally ascertained and verified is no mark of a blind devotee, but of a dutiful disciple of truth.

—Adapted from Cardinal Mercier's Manual of Modern Scholastic Philosophy

1 comment:

  1. At this time, just starting out, no one else knows the “roadways” or “airways” “waterways” or “discoveries” we will be traveling through and over. As a matter of true fact, we will have to determine what kind of material – Real data and facts – we will need to construct these pathways we will travel on. We have to be in the trenches not in the lofty mountains.

    Those of us who join in this quest may be labeled as "Crackpots" but this was true of past thinkers of truly new ways of looking at our Universe. If we receive such titles, it will be from unthinking souls or those of us who have yet to find their way out from under the myriad of unresolved, evermore complex theories that entangle them. The hardware, the tools, and the laboratories (in the trenches) are essential to finding the way out. The “thinking and theorizing” is requiring enormous funding expenses and millions of hours of effort “tweaking” theories to reach out of the entanglement.

    Each of these separate theories is harbored in separate sciences. Only very recently are some of the sciences are finding new – sometimes simplifying – support from an entirely unexpected science. Ultimately, all sciences must be based on a holistic, encompassing set of facts and scientific statements and harmonious equations surrounding TOE, the Theory of Everything.

    So let's start in the trenches with the Nature of the Universe, NOU, and defining the Tools that define NOU, TNOU. “Tools” are the descriptions, text statements, the equations that define the Nature of the Universe. These Tools must be factual. They must be REAL, not theoretical in any manner, not “maybe it is like this” but “this is what it is” and must be what we will all agree with. All of these conditions are “true” because we all see, feel, and understand any one – or all – of these conditions the same – without any question.

    Why start with NOU first?

    What are the definite properties, the Tools, of NOU that have existed before humanoids or equivalent intelligence thought about the Universe about them? And now at this point in history, how are these properties described and/or defined?

    Well, NOU has been around for eons – long before thoughts about why they were alive – Cavemen, Humanoids, Neanderthals. Long before a TOE, Theory Of Everything came into view in anyone’s mind. So, it seems very likely that the Tools to define NOU are the same Tools to find TOU. Now we know

    TNOU = TTOE,

    the Tools of each branch of thinking positively are the same Tools.