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Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Naturphilosophie, logic and Quine

Cesar Schirmer took the end of my post as suggesting that universal logic could evolve in a direction that would make it into a general study of contingency that sort of pre-empts any effort towards a renewed Naturphilosophie. I'm convinced by Hamilton Grant that some kind of Naturphilosophie is in order. The issue is: what makes contingency possible. There are two kinds of answer, one that says things are just contingent and necessity is rather what needs to be explained and another that has that contingency is to be explained (and maybe necessity too). Among the second kind of answer, there is the thesis that contingency is ignorance. Typically, our ignorance. I take a Naturphilosophie à la Hamilton Grant is not far from this thesis. But it makes ignorance less ours. (Or not only ours.) Contingency is intrinsically natural, but this, contrary to the first kind of answer, is not an unexplainable fact but rather something that calls for philosophy, it calls for Naturphilosophie (that amounts to a Contingenzphilosophie).

What would it look like? I don't know, but I was thinking of Quine's sphere in the end of the Two Dogmas as an inspiration. It is a product of our sovereignty. for Quine, that places some things as less revisable. If we can make sense of the idea that the sovereignty is not only ours, we can say that nature itself places things either in the centre or in the periphery of the sphere and does that by a series of decisions where each one depends on earlier ones. Now, maybe then a Naturphilosophie should ask what (natural) sovereignty is like. Contingency is a natural phenomenon and makes us rethink the split between formal and material (as in logic and physics) in the same way that Quine's sphere does. Contingency and necessity, and whatever else follows from them and much does especially logic, are not indifferent to nature, nor is the carving up of events (or states of affairs) as contingent and necessary. Surely, the notion of contingency comes before we find laws of nature. But then again, nature, for Naturphilosophie, is not the realm of laws.

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