Parmenides Center for the  Conceptual Foundations of Science

 
 

A crucial field for understanding thinking – and for making the results of studying thinking practically relevant - are the unresolved foundational issues in science, especially in physics, biology and cognition research. Many members of the foundation continue to work and publish on foundational issues within their academic “home turf”.

For this reason, and in order to systematically utilize emergent synergies between their works, it has been decided to organize these ongoing activities in a specific organizational unit, the Parmenides Center for the Conceptual Foundation of Science.

Background

Many of the most fascinating issues in today’s science seem to be characterized by the fact that further progress requires a new combination between searching for new empirical evidence and reflecting the conceptual frameworks in which the respective phenomena are addressed. In many cases it is even necessary to make the very categorical foundations - that shape the way in which we perceive and think about an issue in the first place - part of our theories.

This holds true for the study of matter/energy in quantum and relativistic physics, and especially for the huge challenge of understanding the relation between the two. It holds equally true for understanding what constitutes life and how the phenomenon of life could emerge out of matter. And it holds true again for the question what constitutes the phenomena of mind and consciousness and how they could emerge out of life and, thus, indirectly also out of matter.

Central Idea

Much of today’s top notch research activities are under a constant pressure to quickly produce results that can be published in high-impact journals. While indeed fostering fast advances in already well-established directions, this attitude has the down-side of an increasing marginalization of the other component of real progress in science, the “slow and lonely work” of deep thinking (Heidegger).

By explicitly focusing on the conceptual foundations, the Center should create an opportunity to focus on these foundational issues in an appropriate way. Interestingly enough, the big unresolved issues in all the three mentioned areas (matter/energy, life and mind/consciousness) seem to have some common denominators. For example, the structure of strong self-referentiality – anathema to classical approaches that assume comprehensive well-definedness and causal closure – seems to play a crucial role in all three fields. Likewise, a concept of temporality that doesn’t reduce time to its linear-sequential footprint in local space-time seems pivotal.

These points of convergence strengthen the argument for focusing on the categorial foundations of research. If we are getting something wrong already “down there”, it must necessarily pop up again in the format of inherently insurmountable problems in all the concerned areas of research.

The central idea of the Center is, therefore to provide a framework in which (a) these foundational, categorial issues can be studied thoroughly for each of the mentioned fields, but where (b) the respective finding can also be exchanged and discussed across disciplinary boundaries, thus enabling to look for cross-cutting patters and identifying the deep, structural issues in the very way we are used to address reality.