Philosophy. Articles and books (start from the first article)

Natural Philosophy

    Today, the combination of these words may sound as something incomprehensible. On the other hand, there are chairs of natural philosophy at some universities, mostly in UK. Our era of narrow specialization alienated the natural philosophy from the realm of common scientific and engineering disciplines and restricted its usage by history of science or with the philosophy related contexts. Maybe the terminology itself seems obscure to some people. In Russian, the similar term is more meaningful, which can be interpreted something like this: "scientific philosophy of Nature" or "natural scientific philosophy". In this way, it becomes more clear that natural philosophy deals with philosophy of natural sciences, that is with high level scientific methodologies and generalizations related to natural phenomena. My work relates to project development. I have to solve particular problems and complete the project, whose goal is the delivery of some practical solution for certain problems, or developing products. Often, this could be an engineering project, which at first glance does not require any scientific research. However, the curiosity and desire to find better solution stimulates to go beyond the project's boundaries and, if time allows, I spend some efforts doing sort of researches. When such attempts produce result, I may go further and generalize the result.

    It is very beneficial to obtain a high level general result or develop a new method, than trying to solve problem by available non-optimal methods or build the solution incrementally remaining on relatively low level. In order to illustrate this thought, let me give an example. Once I had to solve the problem of remote sensing data interpretation. The data were already obtained by a satellite radar. The measurements related to observation of rough surfaces. So, I needed a mathematical model of rough surface in order to interpret the reflection, penetration and scattering of polarized electromagnetic waves. However, I did not find the suitable model that could be used for my practical purposes. There were lots of such theoretical models that imposed restrictions which made them useless for my purposes. So, I developed my own more universal model of a rough surface. I solved this and other similar problems using this model (in fact, a series of models). However, it took me one year until I realized that the model is much more universal than I thought. I was walking in the forest, when it came to me that some terms in the same formulas could describe the reflection and emission of any surface, although previously I introduced these values as related to locally smooth surfaces. Was in this episode any element of natural philosophy? I think it was. The general principle I subconsciously embedded into the formulas was a natural philosophical one, it included linear and non-linear superposition of electromagnetic fields, while originally I used only linear superposition without noticing that the approach embraces the non-linear case as well.

    In fact, application of general philosophical and just common sense approaches to find solutions of concrete practical problems began much earlier. I have understand the advantages of general vision and methodology first intuitively and then quite consciously, and purposely applied them in my work. The idea is simple: all natural phenomena are by their nature multifactor. So, if we want to understand and solve the problem, we have to have an adequate knowledge that objectively reflects the multifactor nature of the studied phenomenon; we have to know all meaningful factors and their interrelationships. This can be achieved only by high level vision and general knowledge. This is one thing.

    Another important component of natural philosophical approach is this. We should not warship methods. The best solution is when we invent a method tailored to the problem. Inventing and developing methods is the most natural way of solving problems, any problems.

    Finally, in this short introduction, we should mentioned dialectics as the teaching about the most general laws of Nature that govern evolvement and development of everything, we are aware or not about. Dialectics is an ancient teaching founded by Ionian philosophers, mostly notably Anaximander, but if we analyze the works of famous natural philosophers such as Newton, then we can see that dialectics presents in their works implicitly, as the foundation of their scientific methods. 

    It would be nice to see some day the rebirth of natural philosophy; it is certainly needed today. Its foundation and subject of study is Nature itself. This is the most reliable anchor that could ever exist, which allow to keep a permanent and critical to any scientific inquiry relationship with objective reality. Objective reality and related to our interaction with it, the notion of practice are the only verification and validation tools that we have in order to test our knowledge and our solutions.

 

    I did not write the book about natural philosophy and dialectics yet, although these two works are my cherished projects. Some related material and thoughts were imbedded into more specialized works, and the reader can find some, in my opinion, interesting material in the following books. The philosophical journal "Inquiry" accepted my article for publication, but then their funding was cut off. So, books and articles in Russian at this point are the main sources of my thoughts about natural philosophy and dialectics. The articles are several years old, and the content is somewhat outdated, but people continue to read them and apparently find some useful thoughts. The articles can be found in the Russian version of website, and also here: http://zhurnal.lib.ru/editors/s/shestow_j/