The special epistemological status of science and modern physics

The special epistemological status of science and modern physics

The question of whether science has a special epistemological status, whether there are criteria that separate it from non-science, pseudoscience, etc., has become especially acute in connection with the development of modern physics. This development has brought to light the properties of rational science that seem to contradict its special status. Based on these properties (phenomena, paradoxes), representatives of the post-positivist philosophical school (Quine, Kuhn, Feyerabend, Popper, Lakatos, etc.) questioned the existence of such a status for science, even to the point of equating it with fortune telling on coffee grounds (Feyerabend). The arguments of the post positivists remained until recently not refuted, as evidenced by both the rapid spread of pseudoscience today, for example, astrology, which claims to equalize it in status with normal science, and the unsuccessful attempts of philosophers and physicists to combat this spread.

The main properties of science, revealed by the development of modern physics and making it possible to question the special epistemological status of science, as well as the reliability of its conclusions, are as follows:

1) When changing fundamental theories describing intersecting areas of reality (such as, for example, classical mechanics, theory of relativity, quantum mechanics and quantum relativistic theory), as a rule, there is a change in basic concepts and conclusions.

2) The fact that the new fundamental theory corresponds to the set of experimental data described by the previous theory (plus – not described by the previous one) leads us to the following phenomenon. Namely: the existing set of experimental data in the field that a certain theory claims to describe, potentially infinite (taking into account possible experiments), but actually always finite, can be covered with conclusions obtained from different theories based on different systems of axioms and with different concepts.

From this, the post positivists (and not only them) conclude that the concepts of science are not tied to experience, that a scientific theory is nothing more than a conventional picture, a scheme, a mnemonic rule that allows one to “explain” all facts known today in a certain area of ​​reality, but not “grasping” the true essence, the ontology of this reality and does not guarantee the reliability of its conclusions in any area of ​​reality. Etc.

The author, on the basis of the theory of knowledge developed by him (“Nerationalism”, Kiev 1992, part 1), formulated a unified method of substantiating scientific theories (Philosophical studies, No. 3, 2000; No. 1, 2001; No. 2, 2002, etc.), which gives science has its special epistemological status, and from which the criteria that distinguish science from non-science, pseudoscience, etc. follow. This method was developed by science itself, physics, first of all, in the process of its development, but has not yet been formulated explicitly form and worked at the level of the stereotype of natural science thinking. This not only made it possible for philosophical speculations on the paradoxes of science (physics, first of all), but also hindered the development of science itself.

The essence of the method is reduced to the way of introducing the basic concepts of the theory and their connection to experience and to the axiomatic development of the theory based on the postulates regarding these concepts. It is shown that the theory substantiated by this method ensures the unambiguity of its concepts and conclusions and guarantees the truth of these conclusions in the field of reality, for which there is a binding of concepts to experience, with a given accuracy and probability. At the same time, the meanings of the concepts “truth” and “theory” have been clarified. The difference between theory and hypothesis has also been clarified (“Theory and hypothesis in modern science”,, which is especially important for modern physics, since it was in it that this difference turned out to be completely blurred. And this blurring has important consequences for society and all of humanity, since often with reference to a theory, which in fact is only a hypothesis, we are convinced of the safety of this or that development or project, and society does not have an instrument to understand the truth of the corresponding arguments. … (It is equally important to establish the limits of the reliable application of the theory, since well-founded theories are often applied beyond the limits of their reliability, which leads to the same consequences as the substitution of a theory with a hypothesis).

It is shown that when the fundamental theories change, in which the concepts and conclusions change, the method of substantiating these theories remains unchanged, all the same by the same unified method. The interrelation of the concepts replacing each other when changing the fundamental theories describing the intersecting areas of reality and their relation to the true ontological meaning is clarified. Namely, the concepts replacing each other form a series of approximations converging to the true ontological meaning at infinity. (That is, absolute ontology is not available, but we can approach it indefinitely).

The criteria that separate science from non-science and pseudoscience follow from a single method of substantiation. Some of these criteria (the requirement for the unambiguity of concepts and conclusions, the requirement for the consistency of conclusions among themselves and experience, etc.) are well known. But these criteria are not enough to assess the scientific character of any theory. A single method of substantiation makes it possible to extract from it a potentially unlimited number of criteria of scientific character (similar to the number of potential conclusions from a sufficiently rich theory).

In practice, the overwhelming majority of scientific theories (in particular, physical) are not built purely axiomatically, which gave rise to a number of philosophers to deny a single method. But the unified method is the same idealization of the real practice of substantiating scientific theories, as the concepts of “solid”, “ideal liquid, etc. are idealizations of real physical objects. By the degree of approximation of the substantiation of a real theory to a single method of substantiation, one can judge the degree of its scientific character. There are objections of philosophers (first of all, VS Stepin) and against the fundamental possibility of axiomatization of an arbitrary “sufficiently rich” scientific theory. In the article “On the fundamental possibility of axiomatization of an arbitrary scientific theory” ( the author refutes these objections.

A single method of substantiation can be used not only in the natural sciences (where it was developed), but also with appropriate adaptation in the humanities and even in philosophy, where it has not yet been known even at the level of a stereotype of thinking. In a number of works (“From Moses to postmodernism. The movement of an idea”, Kiev, 1999; “Bioethics or optimal ethics”,, etc.) the author has demonstrated the possibility of such an application. Considering that the humanitarian aspect of global problems facing humanity today is no less important than the natural scientific aspect, and within the humanities, especially in philosophy, there is no common language between representatives of different schools, the importance of using a single method of justification in the humanitarian sphere can hardly be overestimated.

Worldview Science status Modern physics Special Epistemological Status The science Modern Physics

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