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Against Fundamentalism

Leifer, Matthew (2018) Against Fundamentalism. [Preprint]

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Abstract

In this essay, I argue that the idea that there is a most fundamental discipline, or level of reality, is mistaken.
My argument is a result of my experiences with the "science wars", a debate that raged between scientists and sociologists in the 1990's over whether science can lay claim to objective truth. These debates shook my faith in physicalism, i.e. the idea that everything boils down to physics. I outline a theory of knowledge that I first proposed in my 2015 FQXi essay on which knowledge has the structure of a scale-free network. In this theory, although some disciplines are in a sense "more fundamental" than others, we never get to a "most fundamental" discipline. Instead, we get hubs of knowledge that have equal importance. This structure can explain why many physicists believe that physics is fundamental, while some sociologists believe that sociology is fundamental.

This updated version of the essay includes and appendix with my responses to the discussion of this essay on the FQXi website.


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Item Type: Preprint
Creators:
CreatorsEmailORCID
Leifer, Matthewleifer@chapman.edu0000-0002-7177-6215
Additional Information: 10 pages, 1 figure. Second Prize winner in the 2017 FQXi Essay Contest. To be published in A. Aguirre, B. Foster, Z. Merali (eds.), "What Is Fundamental" (Springer)
Keywords: epistemology, FQXi, knowledge, science wars, sociology of science, physics
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
Specific Sciences > Complex Systems
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Logical Positivism/Logical Empiricism
Specific Sciences > Physics
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Specific Sciences > Sociology
Depositing User: Dr. Matthew Leifer
Date Deposited: 13 Oct 2018 21:57
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2018 21:57
Item ID: 15147
Subjects: General Issues > Scientific Metaphysics
Specific Sciences > Complex Systems
General Issues > History of Philosophy of Science
General Issues > Logical Positivism/Logical Empiricism
Specific Sciences > Physics
General Issues > Realism/Anti-realism
Specific Sciences > Sociology
Date: 11 October 2018
URI: https://philsci-archive-dev.library.pitt.edu/id/eprint/15147

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