Special Issue "Contemporary Natural Philosophy and Philosophies"

A special issue of Philosophies (ISSN 2409-9287).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 October 2018)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Gordana Dodig-Crnkovic

1 Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Chalmers University of Technology, 412 96 Gothenburg, Sweden
2 School of Innovation, Design and Engineering, Computer Science Laboratory, Mälardalen University, Sweden
Website | E-Mail
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
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Marcin J. Schroeder

Akita International University, 193-2 Okutsubakidai, Aza Tsubakigawa, Yuwa, 010-1211 Akita, Japan
Website | E-Mail
Interests: philosophy of information and computation; philosophy and history of science and logic; foundations of physics and mathematics; mathematical formalization of scientific theories

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

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
Prof. Dr. Marcin J. Schroeder
Guest Editors

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Published Papers (9 papers)

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Open AccessArticle Induction and Epistemological Naturalism
Philosophies 2018, 3(4), 31; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies3040031
Received: 26 August 2018 / Revised: 24 September 2018 / Accepted: 30 September 2018 / Published: 18 October 2018
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Abstract
Epistemological naturalists reject the demand for a priori justification of empirical knowledge; no such thing is possible. Observation reports, being the foundation of empirical knowledge, are neither justified by other sentences, nor certain; but they may be agreed upon as starting points for
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Epistemological naturalists reject the demand for a priori justification of empirical knowledge; no such thing is possible. Observation reports, being the foundation of empirical knowledge, are neither justified by other sentences, nor certain; but they may be agreed upon as starting points for inductive reasoning and they function as implicit definitions of predicates used. Making inductive generalisations from observations is a basic habit among humans. We do that without justification, but we have strong intuitions that some inductive generalisations will fail, while for some other we have better hopes. Why? This is the induction problem according to Goodman. He suggested that some predicates are projectible when becoming entrenched in language. This is a step forward, but not entirely correct. Inductions result in universally generalised conditionals and these contain two predicates, one in the antecedent, one in the consequent. Counterexamples to preliminary inductive generalisations can be dismissed by refining the criteria of application for these predicates. This process can be repeated until the criteria for application of the predicate in the antecedent includes the criteria for the predicate in the consequent, in which case no further counterexample is possible. If that is the case we have arrived at a law. Such laws are implicit definitions of theoretical predicates. An accidental generalisation has not this feature, its predicates are unrelated. Laws are said to be necessary, which may be interpreted as ‘“Laws” are necessarily true’. ‘Necessarily true’ is thus a semantic predicate, not a modal operator. In addition, laws, being definitions, are necessarily true in the sense of being necessary assumptions for further use of the predicates implicitly defined by such laws. Induction, when used in science, is thus our way of inventing useful scientific predicates; it is a heuristic, not an inference principle. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Natural Philosophy and Philosophies)
Open AccessArticle Time and Life in the Relational Universe: Prolegomena to an Integral Paradigm of Natural Philosophy
Philosophies 2018, 3(4), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies3040030
Received: 1 September 2018 / Revised: 12 October 2018 / Accepted: 12 October 2018 / Published: 16 October 2018
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Abstract
Relational ideas for our description of the natural world can be traced to the concept of Anaxagoras on the multiplicity of basic particles, later called “homoiomeroi” by Aristotle, that constitute the Universe and have the same nature as the whole world.
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Relational ideas for our description of the natural world can be traced to the concept of Anaxagoras on the multiplicity of basic particles, later called “homoiomeroi” by Aristotle, that constitute the Universe and have the same nature as the whole world. Leibniz viewed the Universe as an infinite set of embodied logical essences called monads, which possess inner view, compute their own programs and perform mathematical transformations of their qualities, independently of all other monads. In this paradigm, space appears as a relational order of co-existences and time as a relational order of sequences. The relational paradigm was recognized in physics as a dependence of the spatiotemporal structure and its actualization on the observer. In the foundations of mathematics, the basic logical principles are united with the basic geometrical principles that are generic to the unfolding of internal logic. These principles appear as universal topological structures (“geometric atoms”) shaping the world. The decision-making system performs internal quantum reduction which is described by external observers via the probability function. In biology, individual systems operate as separate relational domains. The wave function superposition is restricted within a single domain and does not expand outside it, which corresponds to the statement of Leibniz that “monads have no windows”. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Natural Philosophy and Philosophies)
Open AccessArticle Sciences of Observation
Philosophies 2018, 3(4), 29; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies3040029
Received: 31 August 2018 / Revised: 1 October 2018 / Accepted: 2 October 2018 / Published: 10 October 2018
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Abstract
Multiple sciences have converged, in the past two decades, on a hitherto mostly unremarked question: what is observation? Here, I examine this evolution, focusing on three sciences: physics, especially quantum information theory, developmental biology, especially its molecular and “evo-devo” branches, and cognitive science,
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Multiple sciences have converged, in the past two decades, on a hitherto mostly unremarked question: what is observation? Here, I examine this evolution, focusing on three sciences: physics, especially quantum information theory, developmental biology, especially its molecular and “evo-devo” branches, and cognitive science, especially perceptual psychology and robotics. I trace the history of this question to the late 19th century, and through the conceptual revolutions of the 20th century. I show how the increasing interdisciplinary focus on the process of extracting information from an environment provides an opportunity for conceptual unification, and sketch an outline of what such a unification might look like. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Natural Philosophy and Philosophies)
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Open AccessArticle We Need to Recreate Natural Philosophy
Philosophies 2018, 3(4), 28; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies3040028
Received: 24 August 2018 / Revised: 8 September 2018 / Accepted: 25 September 2018 / Published: 27 September 2018
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Abstract
Modern science began as natural philosophy, an admixture of philosophy and science. It was then killed off by Newton, as a result of his claim to have derived his law of gravitation from the phenomena by induction. But this post-Newtonian conception of science,
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Modern science began as natural philosophy, an admixture of philosophy and science. It was then killed off by Newton, as a result of his claim to have derived his law of gravitation from the phenomena by induction. But this post-Newtonian conception of science, which holds that theories are accepted on the basis of evidence, is untenable, as the long-standing insolubility of the problem of induction indicates. Persistent acceptance of unified theories only in physics, when endless equally empirically successful disunified rivals are available, means that physics makes a persistent, problematic metaphysical assumption about the universe: that all disunified theories are false. This assumption, precisely because it is problematic, needs to be explicitly articulated within physics, so that it can be critically assessed and, we may hope, improved. The outcome is a new conception of science—aim-oriented empiricism—that puts science and philosophy together again, and amounts to a modern version of natural philosophy. Furthermore, aim-oriented empiricism leads to the solution to the problem of induction. Natural philosophy pursued within the methodological framework of aim-oriented empiricism is shown to meet standards of intellectual rigour that science without metaphysics cannot meet. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Natural Philosophy and Philosophies)
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Open AccessArticle Natural Philosophy and Natural Logic
Philosophies 2018, 3(4), 27; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies3040027
Received: 30 July 2018 / Revised: 17 September 2018 / Accepted: 17 September 2018 / Published: 21 September 2018
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Abstract
1. Nature has its own logic, which does not follow the human will. Nature is itself; it exists, moves, changes, and evolves according to its own intrinsic ways. Human and human society, as a product of a specific stage of natural development, can
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1. Nature has its own logic, which does not follow the human will. Nature is itself; it exists, moves, changes, and evolves according to its own intrinsic ways. Human and human society, as a product of a specific stage of natural development, can only be a concrete manifestation of the logic of nature. 2. In the broad sense, nature refers to all, both phenomena and processes, in the universe. It includes human society spiritual phenomena. In a narrow sense, nature refers to the world outside the society and opposed to society as well, or refers to the research objects of natural sciences 3. The narrow natural philosophy is in the intermediary position between the natural sciences and the overall philosophy (the supreme philosophy, an advocation of Kun Wu’s philosophy of information. For further detail, please refer to the subscript in the following.). Furthermore, it is an independent sub-level philosophical discipline; the broad natural philosophy is a meta-philosophy or supreme philosophy, stipulating the entire world from the dimensions of nature itself. 4. Natural philosophy reveals the laws of nature’s own existence, movement, change, and evolution. This determines that the way of expressing natural philosophy is necessarily natural ontology. The construction of the theoretical system of natural philosophy is inevitably a process of abandoning cognitive mediums of human beings through reflection. It is necessary for us to conclude that natural philosophy is the stipulation of nature itself, which comes out of the nature itself. So, we must explain the nature from the standpoint of the nature itself. 5. The true philosophy should move from the human world to the nature, finding back Husserl’s suspended things, and establish a brand-new philosophy in which man and nature, substance, information, and spirit are united. This kind of philosophy is able to provide contemporary ecological civilization with a reasonable philosophical foundation, rebuilding natural philosophy in a new era, which is a very urgent task for contemporary philosophers. 6. The unity of philosophy and science cannot be seen merely as an external convergence, but also as an intrinsic fusion; a true philosophy should have a scientific character, and science itself must have a philosophical basis. The unity of such an intrinsic fusion of science and philosophy can be fully demonstrated by the practical relationship of development between human philosophy and science. 7. In addition to the narrow path along epistemology, linguistics, and phenomenology, the development of human philosophy has another path. This is the development of philosophy itself that has been nurtured and demonstrated during the development of general science: On the one hand, the construction of scientific rationality requires philosophical thinking and exploration; On the other hand, the progress of science opens the way for the development of philosophy. 8. In the real process of the development of human knowledge, science and philosophy are regulated, contained, and merged with each other in the process of interaction. The two are inlaid together internally to form an interactive dynamic feedback loop. The unified relationship of mutual influence, regulation, promotion and transformation presented in the intrinsic interplay of interaction between science and philosophy profoundly breeds and demonstrates the general way of human knowledge development: the philosophicalization (a term used in Kun Wu’s philosophy of information. For more details please see in Kun Wu, 2016, The Interaction and Convergence of the Philosophy and Science of Information, https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies1030228) of science and scientification (a term used in Kun Wu’s philosophy of information. For more detail, please see in Kun Wu, 2016, The Interaction and Convergence of the Philosophy and Science of Information, https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies1030228) of philosophy. 9. We face two types of dogmatism: one is the dogmatism of naturalism, and the other is the dogmatism of the philosophy of consciousness. One of the best ways to overcome these tendencies of dogmatism is to unite natural ontology, and epistemic constructivism. The crisis of contemporary philosophy induced by the western consciousness philosophy seems like belonging to the field of epistemology, but the root of this crisis is deeply buried in the ontology. The key to solving the crisis of contemporary philosophy lies precisely in the reconstruction of the doctrine of natural philosophy centering to the nature itself and excluding God. The task to be accomplished by this new natural philosophy is how to regain the natural foundation of human consciousness after the God has left the field. 10. Since the 1980s, the philosophy of information established and developed in China has proposed a theory of objective information, as well as the dual existence and dual evolution of matter and information (a key advocation in the ontological theory of Kun Wu’s philosophy of information). It is this theory that has made up for the vacancy existing between matter and mind, which apparently exists in Cartesian dualism, after the withdrawal of the God’s from the field. Philosophy of information in China is first and foremost a natural philosophy that adheres to naturalistic attitudes. Second, this natural philosophy explains the human, human mind and human society in the interpretation of the process and mechanism of natural evolution. In this connection, philosophy of information (a key advocation of Kun Wu’s philosophy of information) in China is a system of meta-philosophy or supreme philosophy. This system undoubtedly has the nature of a new natural philosophy. At the same time, this philosophy can better reflect the philosophical spirit of the information age. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Natural Philosophy and Philosophies)
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Open AccessArticle Dimensions Missing from Ecology
Philosophies 2018, 3(3), 24; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies3030024
Received: 20 August 2018 / Revised: 6 September 2018 / Accepted: 7 September 2018 / Published: 12 September 2018
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Abstract
Ecology, with its emphasis on coupled processes and massive heterogeneity, is not amenable to complete mechanical reduction, which is frustrated for reasons of history, dimensionality, logic, insufficiency, and contingency. Physical laws are not violated, but can only constrain, not predict. Outcomes are predicated
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Ecology, with its emphasis on coupled processes and massive heterogeneity, is not amenable to complete mechanical reduction, which is frustrated for reasons of history, dimensionality, logic, insufficiency, and contingency. Physical laws are not violated, but can only constrain, not predict. Outcomes are predicated instead by autocatalytic configurations, which emerge as stable temporal series of incorporated contingencies. Ecosystem organization arises out of agonism between autocatalytic selection and entropic dissolution. A degree of disorganization, inefficiency, and functional redundancy must be retained by all living systems to ensure flexibility in the face of novel disturbances. That physical and biological dynamics exhibit significant incongruencies argues for the formulation of alternative metaphysical assumptions, referred to here as “Process Ecology”. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Natural Philosophy and Philosophies)
Open AccessArticle Perspectives on Natural Philosophy
Philosophies 2018, 3(3), 23; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies3030023
Received: 6 August 2018 / Revised: 22 August 2018 / Accepted: 22 August 2018 / Published: 28 August 2018
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Abstract
This paper presents a viewpoint on natural philosophy focusing on the organization of substance, as well as its changes as invited by the Second Law of thermodynamics. Modes of change are pointed to as definitive of levels of organization; these include physical, chemical,
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This paper presents a viewpoint on natural philosophy focusing on the organization of substance, as well as its changes as invited by the Second Law of thermodynamics. Modes of change are pointed to as definitive of levels of organization; these include physical, chemical, and biological modes of change. Conceptual uses of the subsumptive hierarchy format are employed throughout this paper. Developmental change in dissipative structures is examined in some detail, generating an argument for the use of final causality in studies of natural systems. Considerations of ‘internalism’ in science are presented along the way. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Natural Philosophy and Philosophies)

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Open AccessEssay The Utterly Prosaic Connection between Physics and Mathematics
Philosophies 2018, 3(4), 25; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies3040025
Received: 5 September 2018 / Revised: 17 September 2018 / Accepted: 17 September 2018 / Published: 20 September 2018
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Abstract
Eugene Wigner famously argued for the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” as applied to describing physics and other natural sciences in his 1960 essay. That essay has now led to some 58 years of (sometimes anguished) philosophical soul searching—responses range from “So what? Why
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Eugene Wigner famously argued for the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics” as applied to describing physics and other natural sciences in his 1960 essay. That essay has now led to some 58 years of (sometimes anguished) philosophical soul searching—responses range from “So what? Why do you think we developed mathematics in the first place?”, through to extremely speculative ruminations on the existence of the universe (multiverse) as a purely mathematical entity—the Mathematical Universe Hypothesis. In the current essay I will steer an utterly prosaic middle course: Much of the mathematics we develop is informed by physics questions we are trying to solve; and those physics questions for which the most utilitarian mathematics has successfully been developed are typically those where the best physics progress has been made. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Natural Philosophy and Philosophies)
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Open AccessBook Review In Praise of and a Critique of Nicholas Maxwell’s In Praise of Natural Philosophy: A Revolution for Thought and Life
Philosophies 2018, 3(3), 20; https://doi.org/10.3390/philosophies3030020
Received: 10 August 2018 / Revised: 16 August 2018 / Accepted: 20 August 2018 / Published: 20 August 2018
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(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Natural Philosophy and Philosophies)
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