Stanley Jaki on Science, Einstein, Wonder, Realism, Kant and Theology

‘Einstein was not the only giant among modern physicists to recognize that wonderment was the heart of scientific understanding and that no wonderment was meaningful if that understanding did not carry one to an objectively existing physical reality. Nor was Einstein the only one among those giants to lapse back on occasion into Kantianism while reflecting on that wonderment.  He spoke not simply the world but “the world of our sense experiences” as he declared that “the fact that it is comprehensible is a miracle.” Nay, in the very same context he credited Kant “with the great realization” that “the setting up of a real external world would be senseless without that comprehensibility.” On Einstein’s part this implied a curious lapse of memory, for he had already dismissed Kant’s a priori categories of comprehensibility sixteen years earlier, during his famous visit in Paris in 1922. Voicing his wonderment about the comprehensibility of the world, and about the same time Einstein did, de Broglie similarly fell back on Kantianism as he noted that “the great wonder in the progress of science is that it has revealed to us a certain agreement between our though and things, a certain possibility of grasping, with the assistance of the resources of our intelligence and the rules of our reason, the profound relations existing between phenomena.” What is Kantian here is the implicit belief that the mind has rules which it can know without knowing the world. Moreover, modern science made it clear that the true resource of reason is to be in intimate union with reality and not to impose itself, a la Kant, on reality. A reason which tries to act in terms of Kants precepts deprives itself of the right to remark with de Broglie: ‘We are not sufficiently astonishment by the fact that any science may be possible.”

Such a wonder is not something that can be understood in terms of science itself because, to recall an incisive remark by Gilson, “the question posed about the possibility of science in general is not susceptible of a scientific answer because this implies the existence of science for its own justification. The answer to the possibility of science can therefore only come from metaphysics, though only from a metaphysics not yet detached by Kant from its moderate touch with reality and not yet divested if itself, under Hume’s guidance, by a purely instinctive, naive reveling in the flow of sensory data. Of course, if a physicist does not wish to consider the possibility that the mind is capable of understanding reality because both mind and reality are the products of the One who disposed everything according to “weight, measure and number,” then the very same physicist must rest satisfied with what Gilson called “the paradoxical experience of the unintelligibility of intelligibility”.  Einstein, who was resolved not to” fall into the hands of priests,” was indeed forced to claim that “the very fact that the totality of our sense experience is such that by our means of thinking…it can be put in order…is a fact which leaves us in awe, but which we shall never understand.” The real flaw in this attempt to escape the Ultimate is that it vitiates the reasonableness of the awe in question. Clearly, if one does not wish to hear the highest answer of metaphysics, one should not delight in raising its deepest question.

Any resort to Kantian epistemology in order to escape the full logic of a realist metaphysic is discredited not only by the marvel which modern science provokes about the mind’s understanding of the world in general.’ (Stanley Jaki, ‘The Roads of Science and the Ways to God,’ p. 258-259)

Jaki’s penetrating remarks carry remarkable weight today, when realism and any notions of an objective reality is subject to scorn. For my part I count myself fully in line with Jaki’s moderate realism.


A More Platonic Take on Language

My take on language should be somewhat known to readers of my blog – but perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps a more platonic philosophy of language is correct. I’m fairly Wittgensteinian – but let’s think about an alternative.

Let’s say that somewhere out there is the form of every word – and all our words are approximations of that form. Would this make sense? For a pure form of every word to exist? What would such a form look like?