Unity of science

The unity of science is a thesis in philosophy of science that says that all the sciences form a unified whole.


Even though, for example, physics and sociology are distinct disciplines, the thesis of the unity of science says that in principle they must be part of a unified intellectual endeavor: science. The unity of science thesis is often associated with a framework of levels of organization in nature, where physics is the most basic, chemistry the level above physics, biology above chemistry, sociology above biology, and so forth. Further, cells, organisms, and cultures are all biological, but they represent three different levels of biological organization.

It has also been suggested (for example, in Jean Piaget's 1918 work Recherche) that the unity of science can be considered in terms of a circle of the sciences, where logic is the foundation for mathematics, which is the foundation for mechanics and physics, and physics is the foundation for chemistry, which is the foundation for biology, which is the foundation for sociology, the moral sciences, psychology, and the theory of knowledge, and the theory of knowledge is based on logic.[1]

The unity of science thesis is famously clarified and tentatively argued for by Ludwig von Bertalanffy in "General System Theory: A New Approach to Unity of Science" (1951) and by Paul Oppenheim and Hilary Putnam in "Unity of Science as a Working Hypothesis" (1958). It is famously argued against by Jerry Fodor in "Special Sciences (Or: The Disunity of Science as a Working Hypothesis)" (1974), by Paul Feyerabend in Against Method (1975) and later works, and by John Dupré in "The Disunity of Science" (1983) and The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science (1993).

See also


  1. ^ Piaget, Jean (2006) [1918]. "Recherche" (PDF). www.fondationjeanpiaget.ch. Retrieved 9 February 2017.

Further reading

1935 in science

The year 1935 in science and technology involved some significant events, listed below.

Adolf Lindenbaum

Adolf Lindenbaum (12 June 1904 – August 1941), was a Polish-Jewish logician and mathematician.

He was born and brought up in Warsaw. He earned a Ph.D. in 1928 under Wacław Sierpiński and habilitated at Warsaw University in 1934. He published works on mathematical logic, set theory, cardinal and ordinal arithmetic, the axiom of choice, the continuum hypothesis, theory of functions, measure theory, point set topology, geometry and real analysis. He served as an Assistant Professor at Warsaw University from 1935 until the outbreak of war in September 1939. He was Alfred Tarski's closest collaborator of the inter-war period. Around the end of October or beginning of November 1935 he married Janina Hosiasson, a fellow logician of the Lwow-Warsaw school. He and his wife were adherents of Logical Empiricism, participated in and contributed to the International Unity of Science movement, and were members of the original Vienna Circle. Sometime before the middle of August 1941 he and his sister Stefanja were shot to death in Naujoji Vilnia (Nowa Wilejka), 7 km east of Vilnius, by the occupying German forces or Lithuanian collaborators.His most cited works are Lindenbaum's lemma and Lindenbaum algebras.

Berlin Circle

The Berlin Circle (German: die Berliner Gruppe) was a group that maintained logical empiricist views about philosophy.

Charles W. Morris

Charles William Morris (May 23, 1901 – January 15, 1979) was an American philosopher and semiotician.

Constructive empiricism

In philosophy, constructive empiricism (also empiricist structuralism) is a form of empiricism.

Early adopter

An early adopter (sometimes misspelled as early adapter or early adaptor) or lighthouse customer is an early customer of a given company, product, or technology. The term originates from Everett M. Rogers' Diffusion of Innovations (1962).

Epistemic cultures

Epistemic cultures (most of the times in plural form) are a concept developed in the nineties by anthropologist Karin Knorr Cetina in her book Epistemic Cultures, how the sciences make knowledge. Opposed to a monist vision of scientific activity (according to which, would exist a unique scientific method), Knorr Cetina defines the concept of epistemic cultures as a diversity of scientific activities according to different scientific fields, not only in methods and tools, but also in reasonings, establishing evidence, and relationships between theory and empiry. Knorr Cetina's work is seminal in questioning the so-called unity of science.

Epistemological idealism

Epistemological idealism is a subjectivist position in epistemology that holds that what one knows about an object exists only in one's mind. It is opposed to epistemological realism.

Epistemological pluralism

Epistemological pluralism is a term used in philosophy, economics, and virtually any field of study to refer to different ways of knowing things, different epistemological methodologies for attaining a fuller description of a particular field. A particular form of epistemological pluralism is dualism, for example, the separation of methods for investigating mind from those appropriate to matter (see mind–body problem). By contrast, monism is the restriction to a single approach, for example, reductionism, which asserts the study of all phenomena can be seen as finding relations to some few basic entities.Epistemological pluralism is to be distinguished from ontological pluralism, the study of different modes of being, for example, the contrast in the mode of existence exhibited by "numbers" with that of "people" or "cars".In the philosophy of science epistemological pluralism arose in opposition to reductionism to express the contrary view that at least some natural phenomena cannot be fully explained by a single theory or fully investigated using a single approach.In mathematics, the variety of possible epistemological approaches includes platonism ("mathematics as an objective study of abstract reality, no more created by human thought than the galaxies") radical constructivism (with restriction upon logic, banning the proof by reductio ad absurdum and other limitations), and many other schools of thought.In economics controversy exists between a single epistemological approach to economics and a variety of approaches. "At midcentury, the neoclassical approach achieved near-hegemonic status (at least in the United States), and its proponents sought to bring all kinds of social phenomena under its uniform explanatory umbrella. The resistance of some phenomena to neoclassical treatment has led a number of economists to think that alternative approaches are necessary for at least some phenomena and thus also to advocate pluralism." An extensive history of these attempts is provided by Sent.

International Encyclopedia of Unified Science

The International Encyclopedia of Unified Science (IEUS) was a series of publications devoted to unified science. The IEUS was conceived at the Mundaneum Institute in The Hague in the 1930s, and published in the United States beginning in 1938. It was an ambitious project that was never completed.

The IEUS was an output of the Vienna Circle to address the "growing concern throughout the world for the logic, the history, and the sociology of science..." Only the first section Foundations of the Unity of Science (FUS) was published; it contains two volumes for a total of nineteen monographs published from 1938 to 1969.

John of Reading

John of Reading (Latin: Johannes de Reading, Johannes Radingia, Ioannes Radingiensis; died 1346) was an English Franciscan theologian and scholastic philosopher. He was an early opponent of William of Ockham, and a follower of Duns Scotus. He wrote a commentary on the Sentences around 1320, at the University of Oxford. He argued for the unity of science.In 1322 he moved to a teaching position at Avignon, then the seat of the Avignon Papacy. Reading is buried at Avignon.

Logical positivism

Logical positivism and logical empiricism, which together formed neopositivism, was a movement in Western philosophy whose central thesis was verificationism, a theory of knowledge which asserted that only statements verifiable through empirical observation are meaningful. The movement flourished in the 1920s and 1930s in several European centers.

Efforts to convert philosophy to this new "scientific philosophy", shared with empirical sciences' best examples, such as Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, sought to prevent confusion rooted in unclear language and unverifiable claims.The Berlin Circle and Vienna Circle—groups of philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians in Berlin and Vienna—propounded logical positivism, starting in the late 1920s.

Mapping controversies

Mapping controversies (MC) is an academic course taught in science studies, stemming from the writings of the French sociologist and philosopher Bruno Latour. MC focuses exclusively on the controversies surrounding scientific knowledge rather than the established scientific facts or outcomes. Thus, it helps sociologists, anthropologists and other social scientists get insights not into scientific knowledge per se, but rather into the process of gaining knowledge. Thus, MC sheds light on those intermediate stages corresponding to the actual research process and pinpoints the connections between scientific work and other types of activities.

Otto Neurath

Otto Neurath (German: [ˈnɔʏʀaːt]; 10 December 1882 – 22 December 1945) was an Austrian philosopher, philosopher of science, sociologist, and political economist. Before he fled his native country in 1934, Neurath was one of the leading figures of the Vienna Circle.

Russian Machism

Russian Machism is a political/philosophical viewpoint which emerged in Imperial Russia in the beginning of the twentieth century before the Russian Revolution. They upheld the scientific and philosophical insights of Ernst Mach to be of great interest. Many of the Russian Machists were Marxists, and indeed viewed Machism as an essential ingredient of a materialist outlook on the world.

Stanford School

The Stanford School (humorously also called the Stanford Disunity Mafia) is a group of philosophers of science, the members of which taught at various times at Stanford University, who share an intellectual tradition of arguing against the unity of science.These criticisms draw heavily from research on science as a social and cultural process as well as arguments regarding ontological and methodological plurality found in different scientific fields. This group includes Nancy Cartwright, John Dupré, Peter Galison, Ian Hacking and Patrick Suppes. A notable position put forward by members of the Stanford School is entity realism.

A major conference with all the original members (except Hacking) plus original scientific collaborators, parallel philosophers, and the next generation of philosophers in this vein took place on Stanford's Campus on October 25–26, 2013. An anthology of this conference is being prepared, and will also include contributors not present at the conference.

Unified Science

"Unified Science" can refer to any of three related strands in contemporary thought.

Belief in the unity of science was a central tenet of logical positivism. Different logical positivists construed this doctrine in several different ways, e.g. as a reductionist thesis, that the objects investigated by the special sciences reduce to the objects of a common, putatively more basic domain of science, usually thought to be physics; as the thesis that all of the theories and results of the various sciences can or ought to be expressed in a common language or "universal slang"; or as the thesis that all the special sciences share a common method.

The writings of Edward Haskell and a few associates, seeking to rework science into a single discipline employing a common artificial language. This work culminated in the 1972 publication of Full Circle: The Moral Force of Unified Science. The vast part of the work of Haskell and his contemporaries remains unpublished, however. Timothy Wilken and Anthony Judge have recently revived and extended the insights of Haskell and his coworkers.

Unified Science has been a consistent thread since the 1940s in Howard T. Odum's systems ecology and the associated Emergy Synthesis, modeling the "ecosystem": the geochemical, biochemical, and thermodynamic processes of the lithosphere and biosphere. Modeling such earthly processes in this manner requires a science uniting geology, physics, biology, and chemistry (H.T.Odum 1995). With this in mind, Odum developed a common language of science based on electronic schematics, with applications to ecology economic systems in mind (H.T.Odum 1994).

Vienna Circle

The Vienna Circle (German: Wiener Kreis) of Logical Empiricism was a group of philosophers and scientists drawn from the natural and social sciences, logic and mathematics who met regularly from 1924 to 1936 at the University of Vienna, chaired by Moritz Schlick.

The Vienna Circle's influence on 20th-century philosophy, especially philosophy of science and analytic philosophy, is immense up to the present day.

Among the members of the inner circle were Moritz Schlick, Hans Hahn, Philipp Frank, Otto Neurath, Rudolf Carnap, Herbert Feigl, Richard von Mises, Karl Menger, Kurt Gödel, Friedrich Waismann, Felix Kaufmann, Viktor Kraft and Edgar Zilsel. In addition, the Vienna Circle was occasionally visited by Alfred Tarski, Hans Reichenbach, Carl Gustav Hempel, Willard Van Orman Quine, Ernest Nagel, Alfred Jules Ayer, Oskar Morgenstern and Frank P. Ramsey. Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper were in close contact to the Vienna Circle, but never participated in the meetings of the Schlick Circle.The philosophical position of the Vienna Circle was called logical empiricism (German: logischer Empirismus), logical positivism or neopositivism. It was influenced by Ernst Mach, David Hilbert, French conventionalism (Henri Poincaré and Pierre Duhem), Gottlob Frege, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Albert Einstein. The Vienna Circle was pluralistic and committed to the ideals of the Enlightenment. It was unified by the aim of making philosophy scientific with the help of modern logic. Main topics were foundational debates in the natural and social sciences, logic and mathematics; the modernization of empiricism by modern logic; the search for an empiricist criterion of meaning; the critique of metaphysics and the unification of the sciences in the unity of science.The Vienna Circle appeared in public with the publication of various book series – Schriften zur wissenschaftlichen Weltauffassung (Monographs on the Scientific World-Conception), Einheitswissenschaft (Unified Science) and the journal Erkenntnis – and the organization of international conferences in Prague; Königsberg (today known as Kaliningrad); Paris; Copenhagen; Cambridge, UK, and Cambridge, Massachusetts. Its public profile was provided by the Ernst Mach Society (German: Verein Ernst Mach) through which members of the Vienna Circle sought to popularize their ideas in the context of programmes for national education in Vienna.

During the era of Austrofascism and after the annexation of Austria by Nazi Germany most members of the Vienna Circle were forced to emigrate. The murder of Schlick in 1936 by a former student put an end to the Vienna Circle in Austria.

William Malisoff

William Marias Malisoff, also William Marias Malisov (14 March 1895 – 16 November 1947), was born in Ekaterinoslav, Russia, now Dnipro Ukraine, immigrated to the United States as a child, and became a naturalized United States citizen. Malisoff obtained a BS in 1916, an MA in 1917 and CE in 1918 degrees from Columbia University and a PhD. from New York University in 1925. Malisoff was an associate professor of biochemistry and lecturer in philosophy at University of Pennsylvania from 1922 to 1934. From 1934 to 1942 he was associate professor of biochemistry at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute. In 1938-1939 Malisoff was delegated NEC member of University Federation for Democracy and Intellectual Freedom. He owned and operated United Laboratories, Inc, a company principally engaged in research on lubricating processes for chemical products, war industries and biochemistry. From 1936 to 1942 Malisoff was a regular contributor on science and technology to the New York Times Book Review. Malisoff alongside with Niels Bohr, Bertrand Russell, Ernest Nagel et al sat on the Advisory Committee of the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science. From 1934 to 1944 he was on the editorial board of Philosophy of Science journal. In 1945 Malisoff was connected with the Institute for the Unity of Science for a short time. Chemical researcher Kapok-Milkweed project, United States Navy, 1944; Essex College of Medicine, Newark, New Jersey, 1945-1946; Director of research Longevity Research Foundation, New York, since 1946.


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