Chapter 7 – Levels in Nature
Chapter 7 Levels in Nature
There may be various ways in which the meaning of terms shapes, and to some extent determines, empirical inquiry, and, in the opposite way, there may be various ways in which empirical inquiry can modify the meaning of terms. In this chapter, I would like to draw some insights from this two-way interaction so as to arrive at a better understanding of the relation between a thing and its various levels of constituent parts. It is widely accepted that, in the course of history, the rise of natural science has resulted in a bifurcated view of nature. We are now faced with a clear divide between the so-called scientific image and the manifest image, with a tension between them. One consequence of this is that the concept of nature, in expressions like “the nature of this thing,” seems to suffer from ambiguity. To Arthur Eddington’s famous question “What is the nature of this table?” there are two answers, as mentioned briefly in chapter two. On the one hand, the table is made up of atoms, with the volume of each being nearly entirely empty space. On the other hand, the table is also an object we can sense as solid, having macro properties like weight, height, temperature, and so on.1 So the quest to arrive at the nature of the table seems to arrive at two correct but different answers. Perhaps surprisingly, human understanding has coped quite well with this bifurcation and sustained...
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