A Compilation of Islamic Philosophy and Theology [edited]

Chapter Three: The Relation between Science and Philosophy

In the last two chapters we learned that both the subject of science and philosophy and their research methodology are different and thus science can no more solve a philosophical problem than philosophy can solve scientificone. In short philosophy and science cannot replace each other.

However, this does not mean that the two disciplines are totally disconnected and have no influence on each other. The present chapter aims at explaining this point and is divided into three section 1The impact of science on philosophy 2 The impact of philosophy on science and 3. The priority of philosophy over science, which is the conclusion draw from the two previoussection.

The impact of science on Philosophy

Philosophy questions are divided into two groups the first group is not independent from science, in the sense that it is influenced by changes and development in scientific theories while the second group is independent for science. The first group is called philosophy after science and the second Philosophy before science lets us now consider these two types of philosophy issues.

Philosophy after Science

The reason why the change and development of scientific theories influences the outcome of the questions of ‘philosophy after science’ is that in this group of questions scientific theories, in different ways, are taken as presuppositions for philosophical questions. By a presupposition we mean a statement that in a certain field of learning is assumed to be true independent of any proof, for all or some of the questions in that are dependent upon it. The reason its validity is assumed independent of ay proof is either because it is self-evident, or it has been taken for another discipline where it validity has been proved already, or has been accepted with n evidence or reason whatsoever. In what follows we will discuss the different ways in which scientific theories are taken as presuppositions for philosophical questions.

The Scientific Theory raises a Philosophical Question

In some of the questions of ‘philosophy after science’, the philosophical question can e discussed essentially on the basis of a scientific presupposition. In such cases, science discovers a certain thing with characteristics that are either apparently contradictory to some philosophical laws so that the removal of this opposition would create some new issues for philosophy or, at the least, application of clear principles of philosophy to which will necessitate a new intellectual analysis. For example, the discovery of energy, the consequent appearance of the theory of the transformation of matter into energy and the emergence of particles of matter from condensed energy have the raised the questions in philosophy as to what the essence of energy is. Does it have mass or not? If it does, what differentiates it from ordinary bodies? If not, how can something possessing mass change into something that has no mass? In any case, a new material form that has not been discussed in philosophy heretofore has to be accounted for.

The Scientific Theory as a step to Philosophical Demonstration

In such cases the philosophical issue is discussed on the basis of tangible or intuitive issues or according to previous philosophical discussions, rather than on the basis of scientific presuppositions.

However, the philosopher in his attempt to prove the validity of the philosophical position must depend on the scientific theory as one the premises of his demonstration. On other words, in these cases the philosophical question has only a rational-experiment solution. For example, in the philosophy of Avicenna, in order to prove that the number of the abstract immaterial incorporeal existents is ten, the Ptolemaic geocentric theory is employed.

The Scientific Theory determines the Extensions of the Philosophical Theory

In these cases, in the premises used in proving a certain philosophical theory or in the philosophical theory itself the philosopher employs a concept that has a tangible extension, such as the concept of body, the concept of expansion and the concept of contraction, which in the old physics were called ‘penetration’ and ‘condensation’. The role of the scientific the scientific theory is to make the extension of that concept known to the philosopher. For example, the atomic theory, at the time of its advent, showed that the true extensions of the body in different philosophical precepts proved for body are not these observed bodies, but rather the electrons and nuclei. With the fission of the nucleus and the discovery of nuclear particles it has become clear that the true extensions of body are electrons and nuclear particles, and so on. In these cases, besides showing the extensions, the scientific theory often corrects mistakes made by philosophers.

It is clear that in the above cases any change or development in the scientific theory will result in a corresponding effect on the dependent philosophical question. However, it should be kept in mind that few philosophical questions fall within the category.

Philosophy before Science

It has already been said that ‘philosophy before science’ includes that group of philosophical questions that are independent from science and are therefore unaffected by any changes and developments that occur in scientific theories. This group in turn is divided into two further groups. One group does not take any scientific theory as a presupposition at all. Here, not only philosophical questions introduced independently from scientific theories but their solution also is purely rational. No scientific theory is used in proving them and the determination of the extension of the concept employed in them is not based on scientific concepts. The fundamentality of existence, proving the existence and attributes of God, the unity of divine essence and His attributes and actions, the possibility of resurrection predestination, freedom, and in general the most important philosophical questions are included in this group. The other group consists of those that have both a purely rational solution and also a rational-empirical solution that depend on the scientific theories and presupposes them. It is clear that this group is also independent of science, for if developments alter the scientific theory in question and invalidate the rationalempirical solution, it will not leave the question without a solution independent of all experimentation can always be relied upon; the issue of the immateriality of the soul, for example, is one such question.

The above issues, meanwhile, clearly show that the claim made in the last chapter to the effect that philosophical propositions are a priori is only applicable to ‘philosophy before science’ , which includes the main philosophical questions, rather than to ‘philosophy after science’. All the questions of ‘philosophy after science’ are of the posterior type, for the validity or invalidity of their presupposed scientific propositions can be determined only through experimentation. Thus, demonstrating either the truth or the falsity of these questions ultimately depends on experimentations as well.

The Impact of Philosophy on Science

In the last section we explained the different types of scientific propositions relied on in philosophy in order to investigate the way science influences philosophy. In this section, however, we shall explain the different types of philosophical presuppositions relied upon by science so as to show the manner in which philosophy influences it. For that purpose, we must first study the way in which the sciences are dependent on philosophy, for every need necessitates presupposition of particular philosophical law or laws.

The Dependence of Science on Philosophy in Proving a Subject

It was said in chapter one that every real field of learning, including every science, has a subject that in effect acts as an axis that gathers the different propositions of that discipline around itself and gives them the form peculiar to that particular field in such a way that all the propositions of that knowledge in one way or another deal with that particular subject; that is, they delineate it types and divisions, the relationship between these divisions and the laws governing each of them. It goes without saying that the subject of every field of learning must exist outside the mind; otherwise its study will be a kind of fancy rather than a scientific activity. Therefore, in every field of learning, before we begin our studies, we must make sure that its subject has objective existence.

If the existence of the subject of a certain field of learning is evident, it will not need proof; however, if it is not evident, we have to prove it or may even have to discuss its nature. Now, where can we deal this issue? Is it in the particular field of learning itself? No! For, every kind of knowledge begins with the assumption that its subject exists, and no scientist qua scientist needs to prove the existence of the subject of his study. Keeping in mind what was said in the first chapter, proving the existence of things and determining their nature are activities that belong only to the domain of philosophy and not to that of any other intellectual discipline.

Therefore, those fields of study the existence or nature of whose subject is not evident are dependent on philosophy.

Thus, the existence of the subject of these fields of learning and the nature of this existence is a presupposition taken from philosophy.

Dependence of Science on Philosophy in Ensuring the Universal and Necessity of its Laws

By law here we mean the genetic (takwini) laws employed in different fields of learning, including science, which describe phenomena and existents, rather than the conventional laws which are promulgated by the legislative bodies of different countries. The salient characteristic of every genetic law is its universality and necessity, in other words, every law is universal and necessary.

The universality of a law means that, firstly, its subject does not refer to a particular thing, or, technically speaking, it does not refer to an individual; that is, it is a universal rather than a particular concept. Accordingly, the terms used in a proposition indicating a certain law should be common names, such as man, electron, or metal rather than proper name such as Avicenna, Iran, or Rakhsh.

Therefore, the proposition ‘Avicenna is a scientist’ does not express a law, for the term, ‘Avicenna’ which is the subject of this proposition is a proper name and refers to only a particular person.

Secondly, the judgment and the predicate expressed in a law which admits no exceptions include all the extensions of the subject the law applies to, be they extensions that existed in the past, exist now, will exist in the future, or any other hypothetical extensions. Accordingly, a proposition indicating a law should be begin with a universal quantifier, for instance, a word like ‘every’ or ‘none’ or other synonymous words, but not with an existential quantifier, such as ‘some’ or its synonymies. Therefore, the proposition ‘Some metals are expanded by heat’ does not express a law, but the proposition ‘every number is either even or odd’ expresses a law. In logical terms, universal proposition can express a law rather than particular (existential) or personal propositions. In short, every law expresses a particular judgment that includes all the things the subject of the law is applicable to.

The necessity of a law means that once the condition is stated in the law are present that law will never be violated; that is. With the stated condition the subject of the law cannot exist without the judgment mentioned in the law.

Therefore, the fact that all the previous, present and future extensions of the subject possess this quality will not be enough for the law; rather, besides these, once the conditions are present, the law must not be violated. If we claim that the proposition ‘the freezing point of all types of pure water under one atmospheric pressure if 0°C’ is a law, this means that, firstly, this rule include all kinds of water in the past, present and future, and even covers everything that is supposed to be water. Secondly once the stated conditions are present, it will be impossible for any type of water not behave in that manner. The result is that in general, the universality and necessity of scientific laws indicate that in equal conditions similar natural elements would invariably behave in a similar fashion. In short, nature always behaves in a fixed and unchanging manner.

In order to understand the importance of the universality and necessity of scientific laws it will suffice to note that all the progress man has made in industry and technology and the great civilisation he possesses today is due to the discovery of these laws, and their whole importance is due to their predictability. With their help, especially when they put into mathematical terms, we can perceive the past, the present and the future behaviours, conditions and states of phenomena, such as calculating the age of the earth, perceiving the invisible symptoms of a disease on the basis of its visible symptoms, predicting the exact time of eclipses, predicting the exact time and place of landing of a missile fired from a certain station, and so on. Finally, the power of prediction of scientific laws is due to a number of factors that include their universality and necessity. For if a scientific law were not universal or necessary, even if we knew and provided all the necessary conditions for the application of that law, there would be the probability that the law would not be valid, and, therefore, in cases that are supposedly similar to those that have been already experienced, the law would not be applicable. There would also be the probability that even in cases where the law has been applicable up to now, though nothing has changed, the law would not be applicable any longer, and it is clear that with the existence of such probabilities prediction would be impossible. Therefore, because of the possibility of prediction according to scientific laws, we cannot deny the universality and necessity of these laws.

Now, on the one hand we know that the instruments of science are sense and experience and, on the other, according to what was said in the second chapter regarding the domain of those things that are understood directly or indirectly by the senses, the universality of a scientific law (continuous invariability in the behaviour of nature) and its necessity (the impossibility of alteration in the behaviour of nature) are not tangible objects, and according to all philosophers, including the philosophers of science, they cannot be experienced. Therefore, n science can possibly provide the required universality or necessity for its laws. It is here that the sciences once again show their dependence on philosophical presuppositions. For this purpose, they take as their presupposition the three philosophical laws, namely ‘the principle of casualty’, ‘the homogeneity of cause and effect’ and ‘casual necessity’.

Relying on these presuppositions, the scientist forms the scientific law in his mind in a process compromised of four stages. In the first he realizes that in general, on the basis of the principle of casualty, some natural phenomena have a causal relationship with others. In the second stage, he turns to nature and in the special samples selected for the experiment, by employing empirical methods, he discovers in detail which phenomenon is the exact cause of another phenomenon. For example, he discovers that in a few samples of tested metals, heat has been the cause of expansion. In the third stage, on the basis of the law of ‘the homogeneity of cause and effect’, he declares that the discovered relationship is universal (invariable and permanent); that is, in similar samples the same relationship always exist. Therefore, when heated, all other untested metals must also expand. Finally, in the fourth stage, on the basis of the law of ‘casual necessity’, he declares that the stated relationship is necessary and once these conditions are present it cannot be violated.

Of the above four stages, the second stage is not certain; that is, in the tested samples the scientist cannot be certain he has discovered the real causal relationship. For example, he cannot be certain that in those samples heating has been the only real cause of the expansion of the metal. In this stage, ancient scientists used to employ the philosophical presupposition, ‘something accidental cannot be persistent or nearly persistent’. The purport of this law is that two phenomena that always or often happen simultaneously, such as heating and metal expansion, would necessarily have a kind of causal relationship with each other, otherwise it would be impossible for them always o often to occur at the same time. Philosophers of science reject this law, and some famous philosophers, such as Avicenna, have also treated it with great caution. In other words, they have been hesitant to employ it. In any case, rejection of this law or hesitation over its use indicates that in the mentioned example it is possible that the cause of the expansion of the metal could be something other than heating. In that case, in the mentioned samples the coincidence of expansion and heating could be only accidental, and in some other metals that have not been tested such a thing may not happen, and, consequently, at the time of heating the metal may not expand. Therefore, we cannot be certain that in the second stage we have discovered a real causal relationship. Accordingly, though the other three stages are certain, the scientific law, which is the result of all four stages, is not certain and there will always be the possibility that certain new phenomena may be observed or new experiments may be carried out where the scientific law in question may not be applicable. In other words, a posterior proposition is falsifiable and could be invalidated, or, as was said in the previous chapter, exceptive. Therefore, this falsifibility and invalidability stem from the negation of the law, ‘something accidental cannot be persistent or nearly persistent’.

One must take note of the fact that the falsifibility and invalid ability of the scientific law stems from the negation of the law ‘something accidental cannot be persistent or nearly persistent’ (in the second stage) and does not negate the law of ‘casual necessity’ (in the fourth stage).

Therefore, though the scientific law is falsifiable and can be invalidated, it is necessary, otherwise it would necessitate that the scientific law which applied to a certain number of samples in certain conditions in the first test may not apply to the same samples in exactly the same conditions in another test, and this would be unacceptable, even by the scientists.

This is proved by the way scientist deal with invalidated scientific laws. Modern science admits the invalidity of the laws of Newtonian physics, nevertheless it still employs them in a certain domain of nature where physical bodies have normal dimensions and velocity - in technology and industry, for example - and on its basis it makes predictions and is certain of the accuracy of these predictions. What is the cause of this certainty? It is their belief in the law of ‘causal necessity’. The scientist unconsciously believes that though these laws are invalid and only by approximation - apply to the domain in question, rather than exactly and without approximation, nevertheless these laws, with this level of approximation, are necessarily always true in this domain.

We cannot say that sometimes they are true in this domain and sometimes they are not, or sometimes they are true with a certain level of approximation and at other times with another level, etc. This is nothing other than the application of the law of ‘causal necessity’.

We can conclude, then, that the principle of causality and the law of ‘the homogeneity of cause and effect’ and the law of ‘causal necessity’ are some of the necessary philosophical presuppositions of all sciences.

Dependence of Science on Other Philosophical Presuppositions

In addition to what has already been said, sciences are dependent on philosophy in other ways too and this indicates that sciences require other philosophical presuppositions. For example, each science studies its subject by describing it.

In fact, the goal of science is to understand the laws related to its subject.

Therefore, before starting any investigation, every science must assume that it is possible to know natural phenomena - including the phenomena considered as the subject of that science - otherwise its entire would be no more than an exercise in futility. Now, the question arises as to what kind of knowledge determines the validity or invalidity of this assumption or its limits and boundaries. The answer is that field of learning that examines the question of knowledge, namely the field of “epistemology” in philosophy. Therefore, the principle of ‘the know ability of the world for man’ is one of the philosophical presuppositions of all sciences. Moreover, all sciences employ the ‘principle of noncontradiction’ and we know that philosophy is the proper place for careful investigation of contradiction and for defining its conditions. Thus, this principles is one the philosophical presuppositions of all sciences. Moreover, all sciences, more or less, employ the principles of impossibility of contrary and the impossibility of circle and infinite regress, while proving these principles and solving problems with them belong to the domain of philosophy. Therefore, these three principles are also among the philosophical presupposition of sciences.

Besides the above mentioned philosophical principles, which are needed by all sciences and are among common philosophical presuppositions, there are other principles in philosophy which are needed only by certain sciences; in other words, they are philosophical presuppositions particular to those sciences, such as the principle of simplicity, the question of the existence or non-existence of natural movements’, the question of ‘the existence or nonexistence of absolute time’, the question of ‘the existence or non-existence of absolute space’’, which are used in nonhuman empirical sciences, and the question of ‘the existence or nonexistence of the whole as something independent of the parts’, the question of ‘determinism versus free will’, which are used in human empirical sciences.

However, here we do not intend to list all the philosophical presuppositions of sciences, and no doubt further investigation will reveal more presuppositions.

The Priority of Philosophy over Science

So far we have seen that philosophy is assisted by scientific presupposition and sciences are assisted by philosophical presuppositions, with the difference that scientific presuppositions re used only in some philosophical questions (philosophy after science) and there is no scientific presupposition on which all philosophical questions (philosophy before science) do not need the sciences all together.

However, all scientific questions use general philosophical presuppositions, such as ‘the principle of noncontradiction’, the principle of ‘the know ability of nature’, ‘the principle of causality’, the law of ‘the homogeneity of cause and effect’, the law of ‘causal necessity’, and so on, especially the first and the second principles. Consequently, all scientific questions without exception need philosophy. Thus, we can have philosophy without science but no science without philosophy. In other words, philosophy is not dependent on science, but science is dependent on philosophy.

Couched in philosophical terms, philosophy has priority over science. Moreover, the above distinction necessitates another difference related to the way presuppositions are used. In explanation, we can say that the general presuppositions on which all the questions of a science or a number of sciences are dependent are not used as “means”, but the presuppositions on which one or some questions of a particular field of learning depends on often are. When we speak of a presupposition being used as “means” we mean that it is used as a premise in demonstrating a statement or statements in a particular field of learning. This kind of presupposition is productive, because from its combination with other premise of demonstration a kind of deduction is formed, which in turn produces a conclusion, such as the principles of Euclidian geometry, which are used as the premise of the demonstrating for proving the propositions of that geometry. When we speak of a presupposition that is not used as a “means”, on the other hand, we mean that presupposition that is not used as a premise of a demonstration in any arguments; nevertheless, the truth if that presupposition must be accepted in any field of knowledge that includes it. As examples we can mention the rules of interference in logic, the ‘principle of noncontradiction’, the principle of ‘the know ability of the world’, the principle of causality, the law of ‘the homogeneity of cause and effect’, the law of ‘causal necessity’, ‘the principle of simplicity’, assuming the existence of the subject of a field of learning where the existence is not evident, and so on. The philosophical presuppositions of the sciences are often “non-means”, while the scientific presuppositions of philosophy are often “means”. Closer to Islam. It is because of his endeavours that today the philosophy of Avicenna is considered the most nature complete and important expression of Peripatetic Philosophy in the Islamic world. Thomas Aquinas the great medieval European philosopher is one of his book admits this with great respect and modesty.

At the end of his life Avicenna directed his attention to a philosophy he called ‘the philosophy of the select’ and common people. What this philosophy of the select is, is still most entirely clear for as it has already been motioned his Al-Hikmah al- Mashriqiyyah (Oriental Philosophy) that discussed this philosophy is not extant.

Nevertheless some philosopher in their study of the esoteric philosophy of Avicenna, have come to the conclusion that the philosophy of the select or the Oriental Philosophy is not purely demonstrative but rather a kind of philosophy whose ultimate end is resting man from the imperfect and limited either world and guiding him to the higher spiritual world and the pure light, For further explanation see.

1- Ibn Qifti Tarkh al-Hukama edited by bahin Daraie Tehram Tehran University press 137 pp 555 - 570

2- Hanry Corbin History of Islamic Philosophy Henry Thomas The great Philosophy M.Notahharii Collected works nol 13 pp 80-86

3- See Avicenna Al-shifa section of Al-

Mantiq (Logic) and Al-Burhan (Argument) Qon the Library of Ayat Allah Al-Masrashi al-Najafi 1404 AH 4 vols 3 pp 96 - 97

4- for further explanation se hastishenasi (Ontology) by the present author fifty edition Chapter 4 the Second Problem pp 58-64

5- The principle if the Knowability of the world and the principle of noncontradiction are both self-evident and therefore do not belong to the question of any particular discipline, however because they the law and precepts of the absolute existent and therefore, naturally, defining their exact purports, investigating the condition of their validity and refuting the objections made to them mainly belong to the domain of philosophy, they are counted among the question of philosophy. Perhaps in such cases using the term ‘question’ denotes a ‘statement’ that has to be proved.

Therefore it would be better to call such principle ‘philosophical statement “rather than” philosophical question ‘’

6- According to the principle of simplicity, nature performs its task in the simplest way possible. This principle is employed in cases where in order to explain a certain nature phenomenon there are two or more acceptable theories. In such cases according to the principle of simplicity the theory that provides the simpler explanation should be preferred. The preference which scientists given to non- Euclidian geometry concerning is very vast space is based on this principle.