Feelings in face of Unity of Science

Dina Mendonça  
(Language Philosophy Institut, New University of Lisbon,  Portugal)

Isabel Serra  
(CICTSUL / Faculty of Sciences, Lisbon University, Portugal)

This paper explores, on the one hand, the impact of the status of the unity of science in the emotional processes that format scientific practice and, on the other hand, how certain feelings grant a sense of unity to the practice of sciences.

First, we draw a scenario where we show simplistically the development of the idea of unity of science. We characterize the different moments of the philosophical perspective about the unity of science by choosing certain examples from the history of science to illustrate the different periods. Then, we describe the emotional identity of the different historical periods identified by identifying the mood of the historical period as well as the emotional character of the scientist of the various examples given. 

Second, building on previous research, we introduce the triad “love, faith and hope” as fundamental emotions of scientific practice. We characterize such emotions as complex by explaining how these feelings should be seen as the result of complex response/meta-response emotional processes. Then, we show how the mark of surprise in scientific discovery can also be understood as a complex emotional whole. Finally, we characterize the triad of emotions for the different periods identified aiming at showing how the triad has changed and developed and, simultaneously, how it seems to have remained the same.

We establish a conclusion in two parts. First, we summarize the insights of reflection showing how the unity of science both mirrors and formats the sense of unity of science. Second, we lay down some of the consequences of taking into consideration the emotional identity of the unity of science by tracing its impact in the interpretation of history of science, and how it may serve as a guide to critically evaluate the current practice of science as well as education for science.

Great BelieGreat Beliefs in Scientific Thinking

Elisa Maia  
Isabel Serra  
(CICTSUL / Faculty of Sciences, Lisbon University, Portugal)

In this talk we will bring to light the role of faith in beliefs in the development of the scientific knowledge and also present, in a systematic fashion, its presence in various scientific fields in its various historical moments.

Since the Ancient times faith in certain beliefs has conducted and unified the scientific thinking by permeating all of science. One of the unifying beliefs is the one about the harmony of the Universe. The impact of the faith on this belief is so overpowering that its influence can be seen even on the perspective upon mathematics: the beauty and elegance of mathematical expressions is supposedly an undeniable evidence of the harmonic nature of the Universe. However, sometimes faith in certain beliefs causes controversy and, on occasions, even violent arguments among scientists, as it is seen with the reductionism in biology or the vitalism in chemistry.

No matter what the impact of beliefs is, it is certain that they have, both in an open fashion as well as hidden one, contributed to create and maintain the search for knowledge in the different areas, conditioning not only the development of sciences as well as the teaching of the same scientific fields. The paper will use certain examples to explore in which ways the force of believes formats scientific sense of unity. 

The Cultural Sciences and their Basis in Life. On Ernst Cassirer's Theory of Cultural Sciences

Christian M(Humboldt-University, Berlin, Germany)

Evolutionary Psychology and the Unity of Science

Luís Moniz Pereira
(Centre for Artificial Intelligence /CENTRIA, New University of Lisbon, Portugal)

The XXth Century Physics and the Unity of Science

Rui Moreira
(Faculty of Sciences, Lisbon University, Portugal)

Niels Bohr was the responsible for the introduction of the complementarity principle in physics. This attempt pretended to stress the existence of an irreducible irrational residuum that, following Harald Høffding, the professor of philosophy of Niels Bohr, had emerged in the domain of psychology. He himself tried to extend it to the domain of philosophy. What Niels Bohr has done was to extend this irreducible irrational residuum to the domain of physics. This was an attempt of a kind of reductionism of physics and philosophy to psychology. In fact, following Harald Høffding, every kind of thought should be psychologically possible. The laws we find in the domain of psychology cannot be violated in every level of the human thought activity.

Metaphysics of Impossibility and Unit of Science

Nuno Nabais 
Philosophy Departmentamento, University of Lisbon, Portugal)

Nuno Nabais 
Philosophy Departmentamento, University of Lisbon, Portugal)

Sciences as Open Systems

Vitor Neves
(Economics Faculty, University of Coimbra, Portugal)

Utopia is in the horizon.
I get two steps closer, and it moves two steps away. I walk ten
steps and it is ten steps further away.
No matter how much I walk, it will never be reached.
So what is utopia for? For this it serves: to walk.

Eduardo Galeano 

Does it make any sense to pursue unity of science, after the failure of the Vienna Circle’s project of unification of sciences, and in an era in which the growth of knowledge continues to be primarily the product of specialized research (even if many important scientific advances have always come up as the result of conceptual and methodological borrowings and spill-overs across sciences)? The idea of unity of science seems to face insurmountable difficulties. Not only the possibility of unification of different sciences is widely regarded as a lost cause, lack of unity is also the most common situation within disciplines. It is against this backdrop that I will argue in this paper for unity in diversity, claiming that Science is plural, but that the utopia of unity should be kept at the back of one’s mind, even if just as an aspiration, an unreachable ideal which leads us to transgress disciplinary boundaries (in an overall context of “dialogical encounter” across disciplines), and which keeps us looking for the connections and the totality.

My point is that, against the polar contrast between ever more specialized, fragmentary (closed) sciences and the reductionist projects of unity of science, sciences are to be construed (and developed) as theoretical open systems, with emergent properties irreducible to those of any one of them or to whatever basic characteristic, language or method/logic of inquiry one may consider. By an open system I mean a structure with connections (as any other system) where, in contrast with a closed one, boundaries are semi-permeable and mutable – this way enabling many and various in-fluxes as well as out-fluxes and contamination from other systems – and the constituent components as well as the structure of their interrelationships are not predetermined (a more detailed elaboration will be provided in the paper, in which the works on the meaning of open systems of Sheila Dow and Victoria Chick, e.g. Dow, 1997 and 2002; Chick and Dow, 2005, are central). Emergence, in turn, is meant here as a basic feature of a stratified, multi-layered (understanding of) reality. A stratum (an entity or aspect) of reality is said to be emergent, or to possess emergent properties, “if there is a sense in which it has arisen out of some ‘lower’ level, being conditioned by and dependent upon, but not predictable from, the properties found at the lower level.” (Lawson, 1997: 176), thus turning the higher-level stratum irreducible to the lower-level one. 

In order to illustrate and discuss the above mentioned tension between specialization and unification, and how the alternative view of Sciences as Open Systems may make a difference, attention will be given to Economics (and to its relations with other social sciences). Two issues, in particular, will be explored and the contrasting views of mainstream economics and the “Economics as Social Theory” project highlighted: (1) the language of mathematics (overwhelmingly thought as the required language / instrument of reasoning in Economics) and (2) the rational choice model and the economics imperialist’s claim that it “provides the most promising basis presently available for a unified approach to the analysis of the social world by scholars from different social sciences” (Becker, 1993).

More information regarding this Colloquium may be obtained from the website