What could be the Unity of Science Today and do We Need it?

Jan Sebestik
(Paris, France)

Almost all great philosophers of the XVIIth century believed that mathematics could be the foundation of all sciences. The new disciplines constituted in the XVIIIth and XIXth centuries - chemistry,biology, psychology etc. - raised the question of their autonomy and of the specificity of their methods. Eventually, at the end of the XIXth century, physics became unified, encompassing later also chemistry and other sciences. This trend led Otto Neurath to the idea of a unified science, a sort of generalized physics, based on a common spatio-temporal language. Nevertheless, psychology and related disciplines speak in favor of the irreducible diversity of the human and social sciences. A satisfactory answer to this question presupposes the agreement on the concept of science and of its methods. Must all scientific knowledge follow the example of mathematics and physics?

The Flat Analysis of Properties and the Unity of Science

Hossein Sheykh Razaee
(Department of Philosophy, University of Durham, UK)

Heil (2003) presented a flat analysis of properties, composed of two theses. According to the first, which rejects the dominant the layered picture of reality, there is only one flat level of properties, and any two objects sharing a property are exactly similar in the respect of that property. There are not multiply realizable properties. There are multiply realizable predicates designating sets of similar (not exactly similar) properties. The second thesis expresses an identity theory: properties are simultaneously dispositional and qualitative.In this paper, I will argue that the first thesis entails a version of the unity of science. 
Three components can be distinguished in any model of the unity of science. The first concerns the aspect in which, according to the model, scientific theories are unified (in my model the content of laws). The second element concerns the strategy that by following it the unity of science in the alleged respect can be shown (in my model the flat analysis of properties and realization). Finally, the third element concerns the generality of the model. This element indicates that the model covers which theories (in my model special sciences with multiply realizable predicates), and is silent about others. 
Analyzing a special-science law that connects two multiply realizable predicates (P → Q), according to the flat view, reveals that the antecedent and consequent of this law designate sets of similar properties: pis are similar properties designated by P, and qis by Q. 
Prima facie, the content of this law can be analyzed into three elements: (I) a similarity relation among pi properties: p1 ≈ p2 ≈ p3 …, (II) a set of fundamental laws: {pi → qi}, and (III) a similarity relation among qi properties: q1 ≈ q2 ≈ q3. 
First, I will argue that the third component is expectable, if not deducible, from the conjunction of (I) and (II). Then, it will be shown that a special-science law is not so rich that enumerates an endless set of possible and actual similar properties, and an endless set of fundamental laws. Instead, we normally know a few examples of similar pis (say p1…pn) that we had experienced them, and their corresponding fundamental laws (say p1 → q1… pn → qn). However, restricting the content of a projectable special-science law to claims about a few experienced properties contradicts with projectibility of the law. We need an additional clause to guarantee that the law is applicable to new samples. 
‘The Similarity Principle’ solves this problem: under the same circumstances, two similar properties, which in fact have similar dispositionalities, bring about similar results. This principle is a conceptual truth about the notion of similarity and its truth stems from the definition of similarity. By accepting this principle, the content of the special-science law can be analyzed as follows: (I*) a fundamental law expressing that there is a nomological relation between p1 and q1 (or any other particular pair of pi and qi), and (II*) The Similarity Principle: under the same circumstances, any property similar to p1 (say pj), brings about a property (say qj) similar to what p1 brings about (q1).
Now it can be seen that what a special-science law says is in fact a fundamental law plus a conceptual truth about the nature of similarity that is common between all special-science laws. Therefore, there is a unity between the content of special-science laws and the content of fundamental laws. 


Heil, J. 2003. From an Ontological Point of View, Oxford: Clarendon Press.

The Science between bi and tri-dimensional Representation

Dan Simbotin 
Social and Economic Research Institute, Romanian Academy, Iasi, Romenia)

The representation of science until Thomas Khun is simplistic. We can follow the argumentation specific to linearly causal logic, and we can identify the passage from P to C, (where P represents the premises and C the conclusion). This implies the reduction or the reordering of elements identifiable in P, differently ordered in C. We do not intend to make here a Baconian criticism of classical logic, but the explanatory capacity of such inferential structures, irrespective of how complex P or C is, is limited. This has also been identified upon the applicability of causal logic to the demands of quantum physics. The transfer from causal to numeric determines us to think about the necessity to identify non-causal representation mechanisms.

The theory of Thomas Khun describes the science like imagines of the world and it is ones of most known possibilities of interpreting the science. We consider every scientific paradigms like a imagine of world, sum of independent imagines developed by theories and scientific law. In this context we developed a new method of represent the scientific method using a matrix. We call this, matrix of imagine, and it is composed by independent imagines whose was in interrelation conform gestald principle. So we can present the science like a bi-dimensional matrix organisation.  

i11 i12 ……….i1m

 =  I (general image) 

The elements composing the matrix noted with in,m represent, the particular image reflected by a scientific law or theory. The number of these images inside a matrix is infinite, but limited: infinite, because the number of images composing the matrix is in a continuous transformation, becoming and numerical development and, at the same time, limited, because the general image is known and this limit cannot be exceeded. Beyond the knowledge whose image exists, inside the matrix there exist as well unknown elements noted with x, y, z. These are identified by association with the general image and with the other elements of the matrix. The unknown elements inside the matrix are discovered by the association between images on the basis of Gestalt principles: Proximity, Similarity, Continuity, Closure, Figure and Ground.

Every scientific discovery is an identify operation of the unknowns in to a matrix known. This is the operation of discovery into sciences who Thomas Khun called “normal science”. In to “revolutionary sciences” the operation is one of reconstruction of a matrix by new criteria. 

i11 i12 …..…….i1m

ip,q  =  i’11…y’………….

=  I’

Every science has a bidimensional matrix correspondent for her paradigm. But when we consider the science in to a holistic vision, the matrix is tridimensional and the relationship between all imagines is necessary to respect the Gestald principle too. In this case we identify the difference between science in to firsts year of modernity, when the science was a “mathesis universalis” – in this case the matrix of all the science is bidimentional, and contemporary ones when every science have herself paradigm and in the vision of transcurricular aspects, the matrix is tridimentional. In this context the true is percept in different mode. We can tell a bidimentional and a tridimentional true for every kind of science.

Computational Models of Emergence

John Symons
(University of  El Paso / Texas, EUA)

By themselves, computational models are not explanatory. Nevertheless, computational modeling plays a central role in contemporary scientific explanation wherever we investigate systems or problems that exceed our native epistemic capacities. An obvious case where technological enhancement is indispensable is those involving the study of complex systems. However, even in contexts where the number of parameters and interactions that define a problem or that specify a system is relatively small, computational models can serve as a reliable means of tracking those systems through time and, as such, provide researchers with a valuable bookkeeping technique. In addition to leveraging the reliability or computational power of our machines, computational models play a less obvious role in the exploration of conceptual problems. Investigating conceptual problems often involves the construction of various kinds of formal models. This talk examines the role that computational models can play in our understanding of emergence focusing on the concepts of boundaries, objects and laws as expressed in these models. 

The Unity of Science and the Arabic Tradition
Progress and Controversy
The case of Ibn al-Haytham’s against Ptolemy

Hassan Tahiri
(Department of Philosophy, Université Lille, France)

The so called Copernican revolution is Kuhn’s most cherished example in his conception of the non cumulative development of science. Indeed, on his view the Copernican model has not only introduced a major discontinuity in the history of science but the new paradigm and the old paradigm are incommensurable i.e. the gap between the two models are so huge that the changes introduced in the new model cannot be understood in terms the concepts of the old one. The aim of the paper is to show on the contrary that the study of the Arabic tradition can bridge the gap assumed by Kuhn as a historical fact precisely in the case of Copernicus. The changes involved by the work of Copernicus arouse, on our view, as a result of a interweaving of epistemological and mathematical controversies in the Arabic tradition which challenged the Ptolemaic model. Our main case study is the work of Ibn al-Haytham who devotes a whole book to the task of refuting the implications of the Almagest machinery. Ibn al-Haytham’s al-Shuk k had such an impact that since its divulgation the Almagest stopped to be seen as the suitable model of the heavenly models. Numerous attempts have been made to find new alternative models based on the correct principles of physics following the strong appeal by both Ibn al-Haytham and, after him, Ibn Rushd. The work of al-Sh tir, based exclusively on the concept of uniform and circular motion, represents the climax of the intense theoretical research undertaken during the thirteenth and the fourteenth centuries by the so called Mar gha School. Furthermore, not only the identity of the models of al-Sh tir and Copernicus has been established by recent research, but that it was also found out that Copernicus used the very same mathematical apparatus which were developed by the Mar gha School during at least two centuries. Striking is the fact that, Copernicus uses without proving some mathematical results already proven (geometrically) by the Mar gha school three centuries before. Our paper will show that Copernicus was in fact working under the influence of the two streams of the Arabic tradition: the well known more philosophical western stream, known as physical realism and the newly discovered eastern mathematical stream. The first relates to the idea that astronomy must be based on physics and physics is about the real nature of things. The second related to the use of mathematics in the construction of models and countermodels in astronomy as developed by the Mar gha school. The case presented challenges the role of the Arabic tradition assigned by the standard interpretation of the history of science and more generally it presents a first step towards a reconsideration of the thesis of the discontinuity in the history of science. Our view is that major changes in the development of science might sometimes be non-cumulative though this is not a case against continuity understood as the result of a constant interweaving of net of controversies inside and beyond the science at stake. The paper presents a further exploration in Rahman’s concept of unity in diversity.

The Achilles'  heel of the Unity of Science Program

Juan Manuel Torres
(CFCUL / University of Bahia Blanca, Argentina)


More information regarding this Colloquium may be obtained from the website