Friday, September 18, 2009

The Shadows of Totalization, Part XXXVI

I want to address in detail Christoffer’s question about the last post. Christoffer asked,

“Isnt action just another (but seemingly different from the view of orientation of the first) expression of inertia? Action is that which resists the pull of inertia, and inertia is that which resist the pull of action .. How are they different?”

This question, as I understand it, stems from the problematic relationship of science to philosophy.

When I first saw the question, I considered clearing it up simply by explaining the scientific concepts of force, motion, acceleration, and mass as they relate to the concepts of action and inertia. I still plan to do this, but later. I want to keep the philosophical problem of relating science to philosophy--not brush it away by suggesting it is science which has the effective, true concepts. As I also honor philosophy as a pragmatic practice, I will not bring in the physics just yet.

Briefly, what is the history of philosophy's relationship to these scientific questions?

Philosophy posed, as far back as Aristotle, questions about the nature of force, and in the form of Aristotle’s “natural philosophy”, answered some of them. No advancements were made until the work of Newton,the last great natural philosopher or the first great modern scientist, nearly two thousand years later. It might have been possible for Newton to have revolutionized both natural philosophy (philosophy) and science if not for the intercepting intervention of Kant, who prevented the revolution in philosophy.

Kant, while knowledgeable and enthusiastic about Newton, put the kabosh on Newton in some very difficult to disentangle ways. Because of this, Newton has only influenced philosophy (and social sciences) in very restricted and ultimately perverse and rather harmful ways. Philosophy has been impervious to crucial Newtonian concepts such as inertia. If inertia has been a philosophically-useful concept, it hasn't been as Newton's concept, and it is worth finding out why.

The idea is to feed Newton back into philosophy without making philosophy into science or without losing the pragmatic power of science or philosophy. This project is necessitated (in my thinking) by the growing realization that the problem of Totalization, considered within formal philosophical boundaries, is either ephemeral and delusional, or unsolvable.

Writing under Kant's motto of the Enlightenment (thus treating Kant as emblematic of Enlightenment,) and yet wishing to consider Enlightenment the overcoming of Totalization, we have been baffled. We need to consider Kant's refusal of Newton's revolution and the way this hinders us from having the conceptual vocabulary we require.

8 Comments:

Blogger Nick said...

Philosophy posed, as far back as Aristotle, questions about the nature of force, and in the form of Aristotle’s “natural philosophy”, answered some of them. No advancements were made until the work of Newton,the last great natural philosopher or the first great modern scientist

Sorry, but this is not true. John Phillliponus (6th century AD) objected to Aristotle's theory of motion and proposed the modern, anti-Aristotelian concept of impetus (inertia), which was adopted by many scholars in the 11th and 12th centuries. Galileo and Newton explicitly took the notion from this tradition.

Philosophy has been impervious to crucial Newtonian concepts such as inertia.

I'm not even sure what this means. If you're saying that the philosophy of science has ignored inertia, then that's simply false. If you're saying that Kant opposed the notion, that would also be false. If you're saying that, in general, philosophy of science has been Kantian, that would also be false (Mill, Comte, Carnap, Lakatos, Feyerabend, Kuhn, all non-Kantians).

Could you elaborate on the ways in which Kant "put the kaibosh" on Newton? Also, what are these gifts that newton has for philosophy? It's worth noting that his own conception of science was hopelessly naive (he thought he was deducing his laws when clearly he was not).

3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for commenting, Nick.

"John Phillliponus (6th century AD) objected to Aristotle's theory of motion and proposed the modern, anti-Aristotelian concept of impetus (inertia), which was adopted by many scholars in the 11th and 12th centuries. Galileo and Newton explicitly took the notion from this tradition."

It was poor wording to suggest there was no advancement in physics between Aristotle and Newton. However, it also isn't correct to say John Philiponus proposed the modern theory of inertia. John Philiponus' theory is in error and it is now only of historical significance.. Newton's theory is the real advancement--it is the modern theory and it is correct. It's the one taught and used to this day.

"If you're saying that the philosophy of science has ignored inertia, then that's simply false. If you're saying that Kant opposed the notion, that would also be false. If you're saying that, in general, philosophy of science has been Kantian, that would also be false (Mill, Comte, Carnap, Lakatos, Feyerabend, Kuhn, all non-Kantians)."

Newton's theory of inertia is important to modern science, and philosophy of science, taking modern science as a subject, is not oblivious to this. I don't think Kant opposed any of Newton's science--if he did, I don't know about it. I didn't mean that either. I also don't think all philosophy of science is best characterized as Kantian.

I guess I have to suck it up and just say what it is I mean: what I am trying to say is that philosophy has been passive or passivating except sporadically and fortuitously, and in order to be active and thereby properly philosophical it must incorporate Newton in a way it has not in the past.

I suppose Newton when philosophizing about what he was doing when he was creating physics may have understood himself in ways which were hopelessly naive. But what I am trying to get at is the way that in doing physics Newton was doing philosophy, something indispensible for philosophy, whether even Newton felt that way about it (I think he did.) I know this is outlandish, but I am taking thought to be motion (active force) NOT representation (passive presentation.) This divorces me from most of the history of philosophy and makes certain features of Newton's work seem to offer better possibilities.

-Yusef

11:48 PM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

Was it not Newton who exclaimed that he stood on the shoulder of giants? I think it was. There was obviously advances made by several individuals before Newton, but it is true (I believe so) that they all pretty much was Renaissance thinkers. One of them was danish (like I), Tyco Brahe.

In any case, the question I posed was not one I believe to hold truth (of course), but merely for investigative reason.

I think it has clearly to do with the problem of structure and becoming. A philosophy of action, I think that is nice, let us make one.

9:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, structure and becoming.

Using "laws" of motion instead of kinship lines, grammar, or binarisms to understand structure accomplishes something--escapes a hopeless trap of some sort.

-Yusef

10:42 AM  
Blogger Christoffer said...

If you take this way of viewing structure, as motion, inertia, gravity and so forth (that you might expand on and develop further) and put it inside of a philosophical or scientific text, then you have something that very much resembles deconstruction.

11:16 AM  
Blogger karim said...

Very thoughtfull post on enlightenment. It should be very much helpfull

Thanks,
Karim - Mind Power

12:36 AM  
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