CFP: /Philosophies/ Special Issue: The Nature of Structure and the Structure of Nature
Submission deadline: October 1, 2022
You are invited to submit an essay for inclusion in a Special Issue of Philosophies, ‘The Structure and Nature and the Nature of Structure’.
1) Background: For 2000 years, Aristotle’s views dominated philosophical and scientific thinking in the West. A central feature of the Aristotelian picture is that nature behaves according to teleological principles: material objects have ends and act on the basis of sympathies. On such an account, there is no particular difficulty in finding a place for human beings in the natural order, since our rational capacities for speech and thought can be assumed to arise straightforwardly from the reason-like principles that govern ordinary matter in space and time. Hence, there is continuity between natural and human explanation.
The scientific revolution of the 17th century changed all of this. Instead of teleological explanations of motion, early modern scientists and philosophers offered a mechanical conception of change, according to which material bodies follow mathematically strict laws that make no reference to goals or purposes. As a result, the existence of uniquely human characteristics, such as acting for reasons, linguistic creativity, and the recognition of norms, came to seem quite mysterious – how can a mechanical world of causes be combined with the normative realm of reasons? In short, what room can we find for human nature in the natural world?
In many ways, philosophers have been grappling with this divide ever since. Given that human investigation into reality is guided by adherence to normative concepts such as relevance, evidence, logic, and reasonableness, it is not clear how such a system can track the properties of a reality that is causal−mechanical and, therefore, devoid of normative structure (there is no sense in which material change is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’).
One historical response to this question is to adopt a stance of incompleteness, according to which our perspective on reality interferes with our ability to comprehend it fully. This position has been nicely summarized recently:
In our attempts to understand the empirical world we cannot get outside the empirical world. In our attempts to understand ourselves as human beings we cannot get outside ourselves as human beings. This is not… to say that we cannot understand anything. But it is certainly to say that we cannot understand everything. (Bryan Magee, Ultimate Questions, Princeton University Press, 2016, p. 16.)
Another response is to deny that there is reality that is independent of us. Instead, the structure of the world is determined by the human mind:
if the subject or even only the subjective constitution of the senses in general, be removed, … all the relations of objects in space and time, nay space and time themselves would vanish. As appearances they cannot exist in themselves, but only in us. (Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, “Transcendental Aesthetic” II, sec. 8).
Classical mechanics misled us into thinking that we could … access, at least in theory, a vison of reality entirely independent of the observer. But the development of physics has shown that, at the end of the day, this is impossible. (Carlo Rovelli, Reality is not what it Seems, Riverhead Books, 2017, p. 253).
Accordingly, the question arises whether it is possible to gain knowledge of the world as it is independently of us, or whether all knowledge content is either partial or relative to our structure or the structure of our inquiries.
2) Aim and Scope: Can we explain human reasoning in terms that are consistent with our theories of space, time, and matter? Assuming we are physical beings, it would seem that this is a necessity, but it is unclear whether the two worldviews can be reconciled given the differences in their underlying logic. If they cannot, does this entail that we are not part of the natural world? Is it, therefore, possible to construct a picture of reality that includes ourselves and our perspective on that reality?
The aim of this issue is to explore the questions that arise from the attempt to construct a scientific picture of reality, humans included. The goal is to look at these issues from a variety of contemporary perspectives, including natural science, social science, linguistics, cognitive science, and philosophy.
3) In this Special Issue, original research articles and reviews are welcome. Research areas may include (but are not limited to) the following:
- What is the relationship between the structure of the world and our human perspective on it?
- Can we explain human reasoning in terms that are consistent with our theories of space, time, and matter?
- What is the current status of scientific realism?
- What is the structure of scientific theories (general or particular)
- What is the structure of language? Of thought?
- What is the relationship between language and thought?
- How, if at all, does the structure of language enable it to capture the structure of reality?
- Why is mathematics so effective in describing reality? What is the structure of mathematical thought?
- Is the structure of the world mathematical? Logical? Metaphysical?
- What is the structure of time, causation, matter, etc.
- Is a scientifically informed metaphysics possible?
- What are natural kinds?
I look forward to receiving your contribution.
Prof. Dr. Joshua Mozersky
- mind independence
- natural kinds
Philosophies (ISSN 2409-9287, https://www.mdpi.com/journal/philosophies) is an international peer-reviewed open access journal. The journal is indexed by Scopus and Emerging Sources Citation Index (ESCI) in Web of Science.
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