Special Issue "Contemporary Natural Philosophy and Philosophies"
A special issue of Philosophies (ISSN 2409-9287).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 August 2018
Prof. Dr. Marcin J. Schroeder
Akita International University, 193-2 Okutsubakidai, Aza Tsubakigawa, Yuwa, 010-1211 Akita, Japan
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Interests: philosophy of information and computation; philosophy and history of science and logic; foundations of physics and mathematics; mathematical formalization of scientific theories
Prof. Dr. Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic
1 Department of Applied Information Technology, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, Sweden
2 School of Innovation, Design and Engineering, Computer Science Laboratory, Mälardalen University, Sweden
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Interests: computing paradigms; computational mechanisms of cognition; philosophy of science; epistemology of science; computing and philosophy; ethics of computing; information ethics; roboethics and engineering ethics; sustainability ethics
From the program of the Philosophies, one of the main aims of the journal is to help building a new unity in diversity of human knowledge, that would include both “Wissen” (as in “Wissenschaft”) and “scīre” (as in “science”). As known, “Wissenshaft” (pursuit of knowledge, learning, and scholarship) is concept of knowledge broader than “science” as it implicates all kinds of knowledge, including philosophy, and not exclusively the one in the form of directly testable explanations and predictions. The broader notion of scholarship is incorporating the role of a learner and the process of growth of knowledge and its becoming, not only the final product and its verification and validation. In other words it is knowledge inclusive of both short term and long-term perspectives, local and global, critical and hypothetical (speculative) that breaks new ground. This new synthesis or rather re-integration of knowledge is expected to resonate with basic human value systems, including cultural values.
As knowledge spontaneously tends to fragment as it grows, Philosophies are taking existing diversity as a resource and a starting point for a new synthesis. The idea of broad knowledge is actually not so new. From the beginning natural philosophy included all knowledge about nature. Newton was natural philosopher. And so were Bohr, Einstein, Prigogine, Weizsäcker, Wheeler—to name but a few. Today the big picture of the natural/physical world as given and constructed is sorely missing in the scientific point of view.
From profound need for connected knowledge, new trends emerged in last decades towards synthesis. One big theme is complexity science, especially when applied to biology or medicine that helps us to grasp the importance of connections between present day disparate pieces of knowledge—frameworks, theories, approaches, etc. Related is the emergence of network science that studies structures of nodes (actors) and edges as connections between them.
This Special Issue answers the call of Philosophies from isolated knowledge islands to build a new, networked world of knowledge with domain specialists of different disciplines interacting and connecting with the rest of knowledge-producing and knowledge-consuming communities in an inclusive natural-philosophic manner. In this process of synthesis, scientific and philosophical investigations enriching each other—sciences informing philosophies about the best current knowledge of the world—natural and human-made—while philosophies scrutinizing ontological, epistemological and methodological foundations of science, providing scientist with questions and conceptual analysis. All of that is in order to extend and deepen our existing knowledge of the world, including ourselves, both as humans and as societies and humankind.
Obstacles to new synthesis
The dialogue between science and philosophy is especially interesting when it comes to the philosophy of science and the question what constitutes the scientific method, which has become less and less clear. There are three major methodological challenges:
- Demise of natural philosophy - a very conservative position still quite frequent, of those who believe (as it was fashionable in late 19th and early 20th century) that science has to emancipate itself from the "philosophical nonsense of the type of metaphysics". The followers of this view naively believe that there is no need for philosophy in scientific research.
- “Idol of Numbers" in reference to Bacon's idols, is not less conservative, and if possibly more dangerous in the era of “big data” and data-driven science. The followers of this view dismiss everything that is not presented in terms of numbers and trust in “objective character” of whatever is given in the numerical form, such as expressed in the maxim “let the data speak for themselves”.
- Isolationism and self-sufficiency of research disciplines. To the previous two obstacles to the new synthesis, we should add the third, associated one. That is the difficulty of communication between different domains of knowledge, which makes the role of inter-disciplinarity/cross-disciplinarity and transdisciplinarity central for construction of our contemporary knowledge of the world.
Possible avenues of re-connection
When modelling a phenomenon, multiple theories should be connected to contribute understanding of its structures and temporal behaviours.
One very successful approach in that direction was the development of multiscale models for complex physical, chemical, biological and cognitive systems, including human brain. Multiscale models combine and connect earlier approaches focused on single scales of time, space, and topology by integration of data across spatial, temporal, and functional scales.
Another promising path is reconceptualization (as in conceptual engineering) of the basic concepts used to describe different natural and artifactual systems—physical, chemical, biological and cognitive. In this new framework, information is considered as the fabric of reality (Deutsch)—for an observer. The dynamics of information can be modelled as computation, thus making the basis for info-computational modelling of variety of systems—from physical to cognitive. According to Kun Wu and Brenner, philosophy of Information presents a revolution in philosophy and provides means of informational metaphilosophy of Science that is philosophy of philosophy of science. We can add also that information together with its dynamics (computation) presents a new possibility for a development of modern philosophy of nature/natural philosophy.
A nonexhaustive list of possible topics
- What is the current state of the philosophy of nature / natural philosophy?
- What might be the role of the philosophy of nature / natural philosophy?
- Can philosophy of nature be based on our best current scientific knowledge? (thesis of the “Everything must go” book)
- How can interdisciplinarity/crossdisciplinarity/ multidisciplinarity/transdisciplinarity help tie-in knowledge from different disciplines and interdisciplines at different levels of abstraction into a common intelligible philosophy of universe with cosmos and chaos, non-living and living parts in it?
- What would be the new role of research methods in this new high-level take on human knowledge?
- Can we imagine any higher authority in matters of truth and existence than the consensus view of our current humanity?
- Sciences of the artificial, AI and philosophy of nature;
- Informational universe—Floridi—Wu Kun—epistemology—ontology;
- “Mechanism” and “materialism” as bases for understanding of nature;
- Nature and mind—role and character of the mind/cognition agency in the development of the universe;
- Evolving universe—being and becoming in contemporary philosophy of nature;
- Emergent universe;
- Connecting variety of levels of abstraction;
- The role of life sciences with biology and cognitive sciences for the new natural philosophy;
- The role of the observer for the new synthesis.
Prof. Dr. Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic
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