Unification of sciences?
One of the important features of human existence is to strive for perfection. Evolutionists may ascribe the same tendency to all existents. Whether all strive or not, whether the process is a deliberate, conscious choice or it is natural are not the issues here at all. What is stressed is that we are the beings who ceaselessly seek Perfection-as, say,“endaimonia,” (Aristotelian ‘excellence’) or, “Moksha” (i.e. spiritual perfection). It may be said that to be human is to seek perfection. It is, precisely, this human tendency which takes us to the unification of Knowledge.
Knowledge-empirical or Spiritual-can be presented merely as a body of information. At the dawn of the 21st century, we witnessed the information explosion. Various search engines enabled us to access unfathomable information related to the sciences. All sciences, including social ones, have a plethora of problems and propose solutions advanced by theorists-classical and contemporary. This is so not only in pure sciences but also applied sciences . With the idea of specialization, each natural science started branching out to be followed by social sciences. Sociology, political science, economics, psychology have been developed independently and are regarded as autonomous enterprises. However the reconciliation, if not unification of their results is the need of the hour. The first step in this direction is to adopt an interdisciplinary or multi-disciplinary approach. The insights of two or three disciplines are, usually, integrated in, say, Peace-studies of Gender-studies. Hence, I believe that, the logical implication of such attempts is nothing but the unification of “KNOWLEDGE”.
To begin with, the results of all sciences need to be brought together. However, it is not just compilation or conglomeration of facts. The binding thread for all facts has to be discerned. What is, “avibhaktm vibhakteshu,” i.e. undivided among divided ones, may not be realized at this stage as transcendent but it is transcendental. This fundamental principle enables the synthesis of social sciences in particular and various other sciences, art, religion later. We have digitalized the data, up to a great extent. To put it differently, the available information is available easily in these domains. Knowledge-management is also no more just a possibility but actuality. Logically, the next step should be to seek unity of all forms of knowledge.
Let me clarify here that I intend the unification not only of the social sciences but also of all the other sciences and the rest of the forms of human knowledge. Bearing in mind that this is not a personal wish or dream but rather an informed opinion of what I think the future holds. Just as the information explosion and knowledge management are the facts, so also the unification of knowledge will be accomplished, perhaps in near future itself. The unification may be pursued the way biochemistry, biotechnology and bioinformatics have integrated insights.
A couple of questions may be anticipated and answered.
Firstly, has the idea of unification of knowledge been explored in the past? Secondly, what will be the philosophical foundation of the unification?
Let me assert that historically, philosophers have maintained the idea of “synthetic philosophy”. Herbert Spencer has explored and developed the idea of philosophy as unification of all sciences. A.J. Ayer, in his well-known “Central Questions of Philosophy”, repudiated the idea stating that such activity is rather impossible. Moreover, as explained by him, granting that it is attainable, it will be obsolete the moment it is accomplished.
However, with the information-explosion and Knowledge-management, we will have to consider the possibility in a new light. Nowadays, the idea is more feasible than it was earlier, because of the latest technological advancements.
Going back to the second query, what is the philosophical foundation of such unification? It will not be out of context to state that Aristotle criticized Plato for explaining “Many” (particulars) by inventing “Many”(Ideas).A good philosophical theory explains “many” by referring the “One”. “Ekam sat, vipraha bahudha vadanti,” i.e.the reality is “One”; the wise speak of it differently. Thus, the “Oneness” is the philosophical principle involved in the unification of Knowledge.
Before attempting the unification of the sciences, it is necessary to begin at the micro level. The theme of the refresher course centers on the problems in the social sciences. Each social science has its own set of problems- both classical and contemporary. At times, social scientists keep on experimenting, discussing and debating various dimensions of the problems in both pure and applied sciences. The role played by human intelligence is, no doubt, crucial, undeniable and perennial, but my point is that it needs to be redefined.
I believe that most social scientists share the same process. They focus on a particular problem, work on it and then arrive at a definite solution. However, this solution is not absolute and is often modified. As Sartre said, “Man is a useless passion,” who keeps on pursuing interests ceaselessly. At both micro and macro levels, there are certain problems, the solutions of which are not final or conclusive. Again, until the feasible solution is arrived upon, the individual scientist as well as the community tends to be restless. This is where I believe that the digital aid is possible. For all problems in history, geography, sociology, politics, economics, psychology,….(traditional or modern, global or local) the solution will be digital in nature.
Such digital solutions will be a welcoming change in the social sciences. What I want to assert is that digital solutions in the form of various applications (or, “apps,”) are possible catering to the needs of individual’s inclinations and capacities. These will have a prescriptive force and may not be binding on the scientists. In other words, these will be suggestive in nature. The outline of nature and structure of such solutions will be presented during the session. The SWOT analysis of these solutions is intended. A questionnaire is prepared which is to be filled by the participants following which discussions will be held.
In nutshell, my focus here is twofold. One is, to maintain the possibility of open and transparent digital solutions- the use of which is optional to the individual. It is not my suggestion or recommendation but rather belief that this is what the future entails. Secondly, I have made an attempt to reveal the idea of Unification of (social) sciences. To conclude, such automated results will be objective and unbiased. Moreover, System-building philosophy may be one, or alternative systems giving alternative unifications do not seem improbable. Such innovations can be criticized on the grounds that there will be lesser scope for creativity, uniqueness and spontaneity. Human capacities get encroached upon if readymade solutions are provided. The adverse effect on human reasoning is a definite possibility but what I argue is that such an effect is inevitable. The technological advancements in the software will culminate in the development of the System as Spencer envisaged or alternative systems, as we have in Logic, unifying knowledge.
The idea was shared as a resource-person at Dept. of Geography, University of Mumbai on 30th August, 2018 at the Refresher Course for Teachers organized by Academic Staff College.