Imagine a World Without Force

· Philosophy

Hamlet, in a state of agitation, speaks of “words, words, words” when asked what he is reading. We have arrived at a world where Hamlet’s agitation might well be ours: a world where “words” are overused and abused. The preciousness of silence is often forgotten. This is (at least one reason) why this blog tries to be sparing in words.

But there are things I must write about. The response I have had in the last couple of years to my work on the concept of force has been matter for comedy. With a few exceptions, my work has simply met with indifference or skepticism. A few have said or implied that I really don’t understand anything, or that I should “consult” with someone who understands physics. Underlying their judgment has been the presumption, taken as self-evident, that I wanted to publish my work merely for the sake of publishing, or to get a name for myself.

I have spent too long being preoccupied with this. A world is waiting to be discovered and articulated. Its articulation will constitute a rebirth in the philosophy of science, and perhaps a consequent rebirth in philosophy itself. The exploration of what a renaissance could look like in science, once the old paradigm is gone, is begging to be undertaken. I will do my tiny part, and hope others will contribute.

I wrote before that the implications of a deeper understanding of where “mechanistic” science came from could be immense. What implications am I talking about? Let me start by proposing one point which might illustrate the power of paradigms.

Where did the Hobbesean – Machiavellian politics come from? No doubt it originated, in significant part, from properly political experience, and interpretations to which that experience gave rise. But that experience could not have been interpreted in the way it was if it were not for a more universal postulate: the postulate that there is such a thing as “force” understood not only as a political reality, but as a principle of politics and ethics. But it became a physical principle (articulated to various degrees at various times) before it became a political or ethical principle. If the former had not happened, the latter very likely would not have happened either. The difference that might have made is so vast that it is hard to conceived.

We have now built an entire civilization on the separation of final causes from efficient causes. Many noble souls still hope that the good will still prevail, and they act accordingly. But if one assumes that the good is brought about as an epiphenomenon from agencies which are at bottom blind, tyranny and not freedom will inevitably be the result. We see this in many different ways, in places ranging from the psychological to the ethical to the political.


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  1. James Chastek

    Well, you did convince ME.

    I finished writing my dissertation a while ago, but what I really wanted to write about was your conception of force. I can’t see any way out of the problems we have in the modern philosophy of nature except by following up what you are saying about force. Aristotle’s physics cannot simply become a branch or specialization of ontology. Everyone who knows anything about Aris. Physics recognizes this, but none of them seems to know what to do next. Some of the findings of biology have found their way into Thomism (Laval thomists have been finding a place for evolution even before DeKoninck- Grenier did some good work with it) but the findings of Physics never seem to work their way into a thomist synthesis- and theyonly seem to be brought up when the thomist is refuting them.

    • sdcojai

      Yes, James, I certainly agree with you about all of this — especially when you write that Aristotle’s Physics must not become a branch of ontology. That is just what happens (or rather, what people try to make happen), because scientists and philosophers don’t know how to talk to each other, and resist the thought that they even should.

      I am in the process at the moment of translating a short passage by DeKoninck about this. He is very blunt about it. I’ll send it to you when I finish it.

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