(Pedro: Please Post to FIS)
James Hannam, Stan, Pedro, List:
Thank you for taking the time to express your point of view. For several years
now, I have been studying the origins of molecular biology, seeking a coherent
explanation for the meaning for its predictive powers and the methods which
lead to scientific predictions. I certainly do not speak for the metaphysics of
the physical information theorists, who, perhaps, may be more persuaded by your
style than I.
Your assertion that:
“I sense some scepticism about my contentions that ancient science could never
have developed into what we call modern science. “
is simply illogical and necessarily false.
Why do I confront your logic?
The simple facts are that the basic ideas of Aristotle remain the foundations
of Western science. The developments from Aristotle to the present day can be
By the basic ideas of Aristotle, I mean five specific notions that Aristotle
Rules of thought [identity, non-contradiction, excluded middle]
Categories [substance, quality, quantity, relation, time, place, situation,
condition, action and passion]
Causality [formal, material efficient, telos]
Logic of premises (sorites, pathways of statements from antecedents to
consequences, graph theory, theory of categories]
hierarchy [individual, species, genera, alone with ostension to greater levels]
During the intervening 23 Centuries, our notions of all these terms have
changed substantially. Our very notion of language itself, as well as our
notion of symbol systems, especially mathematics and chemistry has greatly
improved our ability to be specific. Nevertheless, modern science developed
directly from these few simple concepts, particularly of the concept of
identity. The scientific terms of Aristotle continue to serve the sciences well
and continue to be discussed routinely in both the theory and in practice of
If Western science did not develop from these Aristotelian concepts, what
concepts did modern science develop from?
Your focus on motion, as an example, is, in my opinion, ill-advised for your
thesis. The philosophy of physics continues to churn, century after century, it
remains unsettled today. Personally, I smile a wide grin whenever a physicist
announces once again that the foundations of physics must be revised. As one of
my friends loves to say, physics is the only metaphysics we (“modern science”)
have. The other sciences, intimately associated with the logic of calculus,
thrive on the correspondence between observations and predictions.
Is it possible, James, that your training has embedded your thinking so deeply
in the logic of language that the historical role of the logic of calculus in
the development of science is submerged in your writings?
Two ideas are at issue:
The first is your most recent post on the role of the term, “properties.”
“There ARE NO properties of things unmediated by biology and culture.” The
concept of properties is, of course, the bedrock of predicate logic and the
grammar of physics. If you deny the existence of properties in your ontology,
your metaphysics becomes much clearer.
Secondly, the notion of the term, “ostensive””. What is it?
The Latin roots suggests the meaning
“stretch out to view”,
that is, demonstrable. In particular, are you using this term as if it is
unrelated to the concept extension that merely stretches a concept out?
Your defense of the fertility of Western intellectual history of periods
between Aquinas and Newton are important in understanding how our world views
of today are rooted in the deep sense of community that developed during that
I would add that the idea of a “University”, which developed more or less “ad
hoc” from the Paris model, as place to transmit, reflect and create values
should be acknowledged.
The separation of the triverum from the quadriverum was a profound step in the
history of thought as it separated the role of language (rhetoric, grammar and
logic) from the logic of the calculus. James Hannam, as I noted above, appears
to devalue this separation. It is important to keep in mind that the ancient
Summerians (3 rd millenium BC) concept of informational symbols completely
lacked this ability to separate concepts in this manner.
I believe that this separation was critical to the development of our view of
mind (the Modistae of the 1300’s), the development of signs (John of Poinsot)
and most especially the continual development of explication via the technics
of disputation. I might also add that the conceptualization of
“Syncategorimaticism” by Peter of Spain became the foundation for extending
mathematical logic in the 19th Century (by C S Peirce). Of course, this is a
further example of the role of Aristotle’s notion of “relational” categories.
Cheers to All