Anti-physics

“(..) who cannot reveal himself cannot love, who cannot love is the unhappiest of all. But you do this out of sheer obnoxiousness, you train yourself in the art to become a riddle for others.” S. Kierkegaard, Either/Or, my translation from Dutch.

Kierkegaard and Nietzsche have a common cause in destroying the confusion that places us as an instrument of ultimate truth. They are seen as anti-metaphysical and adopted by many of this very (psycho)physical age – oh, the irony of it! – as evidence that these times, our times, are superior in having overcome that specific Hegelian disease of thinking.

That’s not true. We straightened some wrinkles to find injecting botox has just made us look more preposterous than ever. We now believe physics can solve anything and that it is just a matter of time to resolve the riddle of life. Deep down we believe there is eternal truth; we happen now to believe as well it is just a matter of time before we find it. Some even think that if they live long enough they’ll live forever and don’t stop to think what a ghastly thought that is.

The question in this evidence based world is: what counts as evidence?

Is it the increasingly complex models picking out specific observations designed to falsify it but somehow always winding up verifying something? Or is it the everyday meeting of minds where you make yourself vulnerable to misunderstanding?

Many read Kant as if practical reason was an afterthought of his; as if the limits of theory were the only worthwhile thing he has established. It is reading Kant as if we are all first and foremost scientists are philosophers and only thereafter – somewhat unfortunately – human beings. That is a dogma only scientists could contrive and put as magician’s spell over all of us so we might become more like them, and make their life easier, for them. In their words, life is a war on the original sin of ignorance.

Science looks for certainty in its theories. It’s deeply metaphysical that way. Metaphysics after all was modeled on physics: timeless substantive truth. It reduces uncertainty and it so denies creative life. So it denies life. The best philosophy takes Kant’s pure reason as a real afterthought. What’s evident is so because it is evident between rational creatures so love is the most evident thing of all. Love is the base fact of all because it underlies every possible understanding. Given this we want to do science because we want the condition for love to be as universal as possible. We can do science as long as it helps to do that and not stretch it a nanometer further. In this sense all science is technology at the service of human beings like you and me.

So I’m calling for anti-physics to free science from the stupidity of explaining the world. I believe accepting (un)scientific theories does not divide us as long as we understand they are just theories at the service of us understanding each other. Sure we need to build the best possible theories. How couldn’t we try to make them better? It’s our timeless calling to do just that. But we should not think any of our theories are superior in any way. Once we think that they have stopped to serve our mutual understanding in the day-by-day so we start to have to pay service to them as some form of eternal ideal.

Facts are the type of things you find at home. This is what Davidson, a decidedly analytic philosopher says. Facts available only to some are not facts at all. In this sense facts are – whether you analyze or synthesize them – indeed timeless and therefore pre-theoretical.

 

 

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