Science & Metaphysics

The next contribution in our blog event comes from ‘D.B.’ Also worth checking out is this article on how time is running out on time.

D.B., Science and Metaphysics

The limits of what can be known or encountered is certainly a risk and in a risk adverse society questioning the limits of what can be known is certainly an act of rebellion (and only received as a spectacle). From the understanding of λόγος in Ancient Greek rhetoric a seed for questioning the world through a conformed lens split between man and nature unfolded. Thus the risk has become purely of the mind in the sciences and a practice (although great thinkers in the past sacrificed by mind and body for their principles). Prior to any knowledge within pre-Socratic society about the atom, the ability to discern social phenomena and ‘natural’ phenomena has been at best explained by the meshing of this previously ‘grounded’ language which provided much color to the world (and gave evidence for complicated scientific world views without the objective knowledge). Today however is a present demarcation between nature and knowledge and the social that produces the ‘progress’ of expanding understandings of nature as it is or so we claim it to be.

The question of the representations of metaphysics and the sciences themselves is a two-fold problem addressed at the hermeneutic level. Metaphysics has been and currently partially is deemed the handmaiden of science, there to lend a hand it science slips by providing proofs or logic to stem certain possibilities produced in science. This however was influenced from both Kant and a handful of analytical philosophers have provided some interesting metaphysical frameworks for aiding science. This not need be destroyed (although critiqued) as continental philosophers have done in the past. The question that always arises is what ‘role’ does metaphysics play with science (specifically extreme branches of physics)? In what role would a metaphysics suffice to play with the sciences is not only a shallow question by itself but also a political one. It is no different than saying what ‘role’ do minorities have in American politics or what ‘role’ does one have in deeming a law just as if the framework for these questions is pre-established and unquestionable.

The question of authority in the Dahl’s sense must be addressed. Science is ‘produced’ within a participatory system (although never purely egalitarian) and thus it can be critiqued through a political lens. The underlying question of whether metaphysics itself is a necessity for/of science can also be called into question, however as the positivists have shown, a clear lack of metaphysics is inevitably shortsighted or at least prohibited to claim without a metaphysics or sub-physics.

The question of authority, as Dahl puts forth in After the Revolution provides a decent tool for analysis. The criterion of competency is brought for to provide a necessary gauge in which actors (to use Latour’s neologism) are permitted to apply their abilities above others in the case of competency over a given phenomenon or event that demands attention. What comes to mind is how a super or sub structure of phusis can provide, amplify, command, engage or critique a sub field (the sciences) if it is not competent to complete such a task? Is it the job of the philosopher (since metaphysics alone will not stand without ethics when it plays in the everyday-understanding, or becomes ready-to-hand as a tool) now to provide support? No, it certainly is not the job to add more white noise to a crowded system for the sake of the sanctity of a system and its hierarchies. Is there a role to be filled at all?

The authority rests on a contract that assumes that the agent or actor (or entity or object) involved must stand aside if there is a difference of competency regarding a specific event. This however indicates a substructure or ethic in which the gauge of competency is retained. In terms of competency, a scenario in a janitor replaces a pilot flying the plane could be voted or forced to take place.[1] Thus in each event the issue of who is best to serve and who to command is called upon. This however provides little hope for a well-maintained structure to endure. Therefore there must be a way for an authority of ontology and an authority of empirical observation to come together, no?

What has been called upon in the past is a leveling of the field, or a merging of the two distinct parts via logical structures or a supreme rule governed language which could provide a factual account to all possible in which our senses (extended included) perceive as verifiable and repeatedly accurate. This however is at least up until this point in time an idealistic stance which although provides much provoking stimuli is unattainable.

Rather, in a more modest fashion can there be a multiplicity of entities that provide a network in which they emerge? Where each actor has not with there own rules but competencies? Can metaphysics itself lend its way to the science not be merely ‘checking in’ when a thought provoking paper is published, or when an ethical debate emerges (although both of these events are well received in philosophy and are generally debated with vigor) but rather by engaging in discourse with the science itself? Take for example an in vivo image of a brain as a scientific inquiry into the functional networking of various neurons via behavioral patterns and external stimuli on one hand and a metaphysical structure on the other. Is it not the case that the first provides at least pragmatically a more ‘tactile’ sensation and archiving of knowledge? One experiment can provide terabytes of data! What is the equivalent of datum for the metaphysical world? There need not be obviously, as the ontology precedes the empirical observation. The question truly at play here is one of participation not in a grand narrative nor a metastructure but rather an open discourse that provides the necessary tools of engaging the neuron at street level and the ethical in an embedded ontological fashion that denotes the risk of advancement with the reasoning of such ‘progress’. Nothing changes overnight with a new dialectic or a new set of paradoxes, but a series of problems to be solved gives impetus to the notion of an embedded framework from which new problems can be addressed in new ways. The unit operations of this itself can be applied by looking at the network in which the in vivo data is collected and questioning the ontological foundations of the empirical framework from which empericoid (or units of empirical objects that provide ‘evidential actors which confirm observation and ontological necessity’) flow freely in the participatory democracy which is the network of not a New Science but a pragmatic visualization of novel approaches. In other words it is not the system that need be addressed altogether but the visualization of the systems in place that perhaps need be investigated. The terabytes of data is only analyzed in a certain framework, yet is the entirety of data ‘mined’ for all its potential, can it be expressed efficiently to it’s surrounding networks (from the layman to the governmental funders, students and other researchers in different fields)? Today the answer is more often than negatively positioned to provide connections. Here is the case of progressing for progress’ sake and not that of an open discourse. When authority demands not only a competency from its ability but through the horizon around itself, its domain, it becomes tyrannical removing its ability to be competent and replacing it with a monstrosity of its aggression.

Object Oriented Ontology much like Unit Operations, ANT theory and all theories that fall under the term Speculative Realism can perhaps provide a methodology which can provide metaphysics a chance to play with the empirical sciences not merely at armchair level but with professional expertise. The question is how are the sciences not adopting these types of views? Are they already in place yet never questioned? Are they the objet petit a which one’s gaze never leaves but the body never obtains? The preference of no preference is what the goal of objectivity ultimately is yet it is not without its participants.

For when I look at a sphere in my minds eye and then perceive a fuzzy atom at high resolution I can confirm the relation of metaphysics and empiricoids. A theory stems from outside the knowable tangible, thus it is in the realm of ontology and metaphysics. It must then be seen not as a useless tool to aid science but part of the process in the entirety of the production of knowledge. Systems theory provides data but not without the relational system in the abstract and grounding in the pragmatic it is merely a design. Furthermore, it is assumed by merely corresponding the outside world with some model that it is not through ontology but through some mystical insight, the divine inspiration that provides the impetus to drive paradigm shifts of science. No, it must not be the case as an experiment is merely a single ‘operation’ within the larger structure that is the scientific mechanic. Heretofore, it is within the visualization within the proper operation that science even begins to unfold as empirical. Thus the scientific mind is only a shift in operations not the entirety of the system. When the experiment unfolds itself providing the one terabyte of data it only confirms the ontology preceding the evidence. With each new experiment comes new ways of perceiving the data within an ontological frame. The double helix was not an empirical happenstance but an onto-aesthetic relation that provided the necessary tools for further exploration. Furthermore when ether was the onto-aesthetic make up of the universe, scientific rational provided evidence against this stance, metaphysics was abandoned in replace of new representational onto-aesthetic radical views (such as General Relativity Theory and Spinoza’s metaphysics predating it). The difficulty in claiming the relation of metaphysics and the sciences is not one of difference, but one of similarity. Within every claim, every theory, every conjuncture, idea, structure, relation and model there is not merely a preceding empirical fact to provide the next kernel of truth but also an ontological relation that provides the caring network in support to the practice of science.


[1] To paraphrase Dahl from After the Revolution.

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