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SHAPE Special Issue 12
What is Description?
There are “Laws” and Laws
Idealism and Materialism
The Development of Theory
Which Speculation Do You Choose?
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Welcome to the 12th Special Issue of the SHAPE Journal
Perhaps this edition is long overdue, for it addresses the crucial topic of Theory, both in the sciences and in other disciplines, where revealing explanations of phenomena is required as both the coherent and comprehensive accounts of all answers to the perennial question, “Why?”
It is not merely a cumulative pile-up of individual contributions, which together “make sense”, but rather a close look at how Theory can make discoveries and extracted equations into something more basically understandable and less abstract.
For no Theory is ever the very last word, and hence we cannot see the stages within it as merely new steps up the obvious and single ladder to Absolute Truth.
Indeed, all theories have their drawbacks as well as their apparent conquests, and the trajectory towards some conceived-of Absolute Truth is always indirect, including many detours, false paths and occaisional dead ends.
Yet, the march of Theory is certainly not arbitary: there can be progress of a very real kind. And perhaps the crucial area is when a well-established banker position is finally overturned and the possibilities of a new path become increasingly evident.
Certain crucial questions needed to be both clarified and then addressed, such as the differences between Description and Explanation, and the diametrically opposed conceptions of Natural Laws as the ‘drivers’ of reality, or conversely as the consequences of reality.
Perhaps the main area where robust criticism is required is in the approach we call Formalism,wherein Form, Shape, Pattern and Relation are seen as the causes of certain phenomena (by mathematicians), and the encapsulation of such patterns and relations into formal equations is frequently seen as the ultimate and even the ‘complete’ definition of why a phenomena is the way that it is.
Finally, there is a very strong emphasis upon the approach described as Emergence, wherein all Laws arise out of the resolution of a major system-wide crisis, always resulting in the wholly new - the most significant example of which being The Origin of Life on Earth.
And such a journey would not be complete without a diversion into the thorny, but sometimes unavoidable, subject of Speculation as a part of the process.