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A proposal concerning the application of the principle of complementarity in philosophy Copeland, Brian Dwight


The aim of this paper is to outline a position concerning the unity of knowledge and to provide a model for the relationship between reality and knowledge. This paper is based on remarks made by E.W. Beth in his Foundations of Mathematics, in which he claims a new version of realism is needed. This realism would hold that man is acquainted with four aspects of reality and that the various aspects should be considered complementary. More specifically Beth states: In my opinion, man has on account of his own life experience an immediate and authentic contact with various spheres (perhaps it would be better to say, zones, or aspects) of reality, some of which may be enumerated; physical reality - the world of matter -, social reality - the world of men -, subjective reality - the world of mind -, logical reality - the world of reason or discourse - , in which mathematical entites participate. It seems reasonable however tentatively to consider the various spheres of reality as complementary. . . . (Beth, 1959, pp. 644-645) I will be using the principle of complementarity in its general form to argue for a certain type of unity of knowledge. In the introduction I discuss the general need for unity of knowledge. Attempts at unity in atomic physics are examined in Chapter I, in particular the role of complementarity in unifying the theory of Quantum Mechanics. Chapter II treats complementarity as a thema in Hoi ton's sense, "an unverifiable, unfalsifiable and yet not quite arbitrary hypothesis" that is crucial to the development of knowledge (Hoiton, 1973, pp. 185-192). Chapter II also examines applications of complementarity in contexts other than atomic physics. Having shown the principle in use in different contexts I proceed in Chapter III to develop my main thesis -that the principle of complementarity represents a new model of explanation. When applied to the problem of the unity of knowledge, the principle would suggest the view that knowledge is a description of projections of the actual state, reality, on the observer. This view is compatible with a new version of realism. Complementarity, together with modest realism, modest foundational ism and a prospective conception of truth can be used to provide the outline of an alternative to foundational ism and coherentism. Chapter IV discusses complementarity in relation to other metaphysical and epistemological approaches to the monism-pluralism issue. Chapter V discusses the possibility of a realistic interpretation of knowledge in the special case of science. I conclude with a summary of the argument in this paper.

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