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The Enigma Of The Universe : E. Summary

Published: 04.01.2015
Updated: 02.07.2015

We have tried to examine critically the views on the nature of the universe given by the western philosophers, modern scientists and the Jain philosophy through their mutual comparison and contrasting, and we have seen that there are similarities as well as dissimilarities. 'What is the Universe?'-is an important aspect of the enigma of the Universe, and the answer to this difficult question is diversely given by them.

Some of them propose that the God is only real and the rest of the world is unreal.

Some others have proposed that the empirical world is unreal; the actual reality is beyond our empirical experience, and hence, is a transcendental reality.

Some others consider 'perception as the fundamental cause of reality, but at the same time hold that the world of our experience is only a subjective reality.

Some philosophers and scientists consider consciousness (or mind) as real and matter as only subjective, while some others accept only the objective existence of matter and deny independent existence of mind, or consider consciousness as only a creation of matter. According to some others, neither matter nor mind is real. On the other hand, there are some who accept reality of both mind and matter. There are also some who consider "neutral" as real.

Although it is very important to know the view of the philosophy of science regarding the nature of reality, yet, in absence of an unanimous view of the scientists, it is not possible to get a definite view. Here a question may arise as to when the scientists have almost the same view regarding the scientific theory, is it not possible for them to enunciate the philosophy of science unanimously. Let us ponder over this question in the light of our critique we have presented here.

We have seen that we can divide the philosophical views of the scientists into three forms:

1. Idealism
2. Materialism
3. Pluralistic Realism.

The first two are advocates of monism. Any type of monism is fraught with the defect that it does not true hold on the test of logic and experience. The scientists who are idealists insist on believing in mind (consciousness) only as the reality, denying the objectivity of the physical world; on the other hand the materialistic scientists assert "matter" as the ultimate reality. Scientists of both beliefs try to prove that their views are provable on scientific facts. It seems also possible that there is the influence of politics on their philosophical diversity.

The Soviet leaders were very much worried when they came to know that some modern physicists were trying to prove that the philosophy of science was in favour of idealism.[1] Then, they applied themselves to prove that materialism was the philosophy of science. Lenin wrote as early as 1908:[2] "A strong majority of scientists both from the fields of general science as well as physics is in favour of materialism. Only a very few modern physicists seem to be dodged by the idealism. This new idealistic physics which has been propagated recently is only reactionary and transitory."

 In reaction to the above views of Lenin, it seems that Sir Arthur Eddington, Sir James Jeans and other scientists made efforts to establish the existence of God and subjectivity of the physical objects as the scientifically accepted theories.

 Thus, on one hand some scientists made efforts to prove idealism as the scientific philosophy, while on the other hand, others tried to extol materialism as representing the true philosophy of science. It is quite possible that in such efforts the logical and empirical consistencies were made subsidiary. On the basis of our critique, it can be said that neither idealism (even subjective selectivism) nor materialism are fully consistent with science as well as logic.

We substantiate our views by quoting the views of Prof. L Susan Stebbing who has not only severely criticized the idealistic views of Eddington and Jeans and exposed the inconsistencies in their views, but also does not endorse to materialism as the scientific philosophy. She writes very clearly:[3] "The materialists are eager to establish in any way the metaphysical materialism (as the philosophy of science). (They want that) such interpretation of the scientific conclusions be made that their metaphysical ideas are strengthened, because on the basis of these ideas their political philosophy is based in professional way. The metaphysics of the upholders of the dialectical materialism is as inferior as and their philosophy is as imperfect as the metaphysics and philosophy respectively of the upholders of the philosophical idealism........... I want to dispel the possible doubt in the connection. If I become successful in proving that the present day theories of physics, in no way support the idealism, it should not be interpreted that I prove them (the present day theories of physics) as supporting the materialism in any way."

We have already discussed at length the views of Prof. Stebbing, in which she has successfully refuted on the basis of science and logic the philosophical interpretations of modern scientific theories made by Eddington and Jeans and proved them inconsistent. Now, on the basis of the above quotation of Prof. Stebbing, it can be said that Prof. Stebbing is also not prepared to accept materialism as the philosophy of science. One can also easily gauge the political influence on the philosophical interpretations of scientific theories. Thus we may conclude that neither idealism nor materialism can be imparted the status of philosophy of science.

The third alternative is that of dualism or pluralistic realism. The views of Werner Heisenberg, which he has expressed in his famous work "Physics and Philosophy", are specially mentioned here to show that the modern scientific theories can be interpreted unprejudicedly as pointing to pluralistic realism to be the philosophy of science. Heisenberg, in the concluding pages of his work writes:[4]

"The world consists of things in space and time, the things consist of matter, and matter can produce and can be acted upon by forces. The events follow from the interplay between matter and forces; every event is the result and the cause of other events. At the same time the human attitude toward nature changed from a contemplative one..... "

".....the concepts of mind, of the human soul or of life. Mind could be introduced into the general picture only as a kind of mirror of the material world; and when one studied the properties of this mirror in the science of psychology, the scientists were always tempted-if I may carry the comparison further-to pay more attention to its mechanical than to its optical properties. Even there one tried to apply the concepts of classical physics, primarily that of causality. In the same way, life was to be explained as a physical and chemical process, governed by natural laws, completely determined by causality. Darwin's concept of evolution provided ample evidence for this interpretation....."

Coming back now to the contributions of modern physics, one may say that the most important change brought about by its results consists in the dissolution of this rigid frame  of concepts of the nineteenth century. Of course many attempts had been made before to get away from this rigid frame which seemed obviously too narrow for an understanding of the essential parts of reality. But it had not been possible to see what could be wrong with the fundamental concepts like matter, space, time and causality that had been so extremely successful in the history of science. Only experimental research itself, carried out with all the refined equipment that technical science could offer, and its mathematical interpretation, provided the basis for a critical analysis-or, one may say, enforced the critical analysis-of these concepts, and finally resulted in the dissolution of the rigid frame.

"This dissolution took place in two distinct stages. The first was the discovery, through the theory of relativity, that even such fundamental concepts as space and time could be  changed and in fact must be changed on account of new experience. This change did not concern the somewhat vague concepts of space and time in natural language; but it did concern their precise formulation in the scientific language of Newtonian mechanics, which had erroneously been accepted as final. The second stage was the discussion of the concept of matter enforced by the experimental results concerning the atomic structue. The idea of the reality of matter had probably been the strongest part in that rigid frame of concepts of the nineteenth century, and this idea had at least to be modified in connection with the new experience. Again the concepts so far as they belonged to the natural language remained untouched. There was no difficulty in speaking about matter or about reality when one had to describe the atomic experiments and their results. But the scientific extrapolation of these concepts into the smallest parts of matter could not be done in the simple way suggested by classical physics, though it had erroneously determined the general outlook on the problem of matter.....

"The general trend of human thinking in the nineteenth century had been toward an increasing confidence in the scientific method and in precise rational terms, and had led to a general scepticism with regard to those concepts of natural language which do not fit into the closed frame of scientific thought, for instance, those of religion. Modern physics has in many ways increased this skepticism; but it has at the same time turned against the overestimation of precise scientific concepts, against scepticism itself. The scepticism against precise scientific concepts does not mean that there should be a definite limitation for the application of rational thinking. On the contrary, one may say that the human ability to understand may be in a certain sense unlimited.....

"But the existing scientific concepts cover always only a very limited part of reality, and the other part that has not yet been understood is infinite. Whenever we proceed from the known into the unknown we may hope to understand, but we may have to learn at the same time a new meaning of the word 'understanding', we know that any understanding must be based finally upon the natural language because it is only there that we can be certain to touch reality, and hence we must be skeptical about any scepticism with regard to this natural language and its essential concepts. Therefore, we may use these concepts as they have been at all times. In this way modern physics has perhaps opened the door to a wider outlook on the relation between the human mind and reality."

From the above quotations, we may conclude that although the view of the modern science is not clear about the metaphysical interpretation of the concepts of soul (or consciousness) and matter, yet it has accepted the reality of both. It may, therefore, be said that if any philosophical view can be considered as near to the philosophy of science, it is the pluralistic (or dualistic) realism which accepts reality of both mind and matter. This is very close to the Jain view. The Jain view of pluralistic realism together with the non-absolutism can be of much use for making further investigations in the field of metaphysical interpretation of modern scientific theories in the direction of finding solution to the important aspect of enigma of the universe (viz., what is Universe?).

The Jain philosophy is essentially a spiritualistic philosophy, still it is not in favour of absolutist idealism (which denies the reality of physical world). Again, as it accepts the objective reality of pudgala (material world), it is partly akin to materialism, but does not agree with the latter which denies independent existence of soul (or consciousness). Thus the Jain view is very important for bridging the diverse views of idealism and materialism in the field of scientific philosophy. The special propositions of Jain philosophy such as-

  1. The concept of substance, quality and mode
  2. The concept of reality as "persistence-through modes"
  3. The concept of five astikāyas or six dravyas
  4. The concept of loka as an eternal existence
  5. The Non-absolutistic concept of reality having

infinite number of opposite attributes co-existing together in a single entity, and so on are definitely very important both for the philosophers as well as scientists who, if study unprejudicedly the Jain metaphysics and epistemology, can find more acceptable solution of the intricate aspect of enigma of the universe.


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Title: The Enigma Of The Universe Publisher: JVB University Ladnun English Edition: 2010 HN4U Online Edition: 2014

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Astikāyas
  2. Consciousness
  3. Dravyas
  4. Eddington
  5. Heisenberg
  6. Jain Philosophy
  7. Loka
  8. Monism
  9. Non-absolutism
  10. Objectivity
  11. Pudgala
  12. Science
  13. Sir James Jeans
  14. Soul
  15. Space
  16. The Enigma Of The Universe
  17. Werner Heisenberg
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