Letters of Intent received in 2019

LoI 2021-2093
Cosmology and Cosmologia - 
Towards a new Philosophy and Metaphysics of Nature

Date: 24 August 2021 to 27 August 2021
Location: Busan, Korea, Rep of
Contact: Piero Benvenuti (piero.benvenuti@unipd.it)
Coordinating division: Division J Galaxies and Cosmology
Other divisions: Division A Fundamental Astronomy
Division B Facilities, Technologies and Data Science
Division C Education, Outreach and Heritage
Division D High Energy Phenomena and Fundamental Physics
Division E Sun and Heliosphere
Division F Planetary Systems and Astrobiology
Division G Stars and Stellar Physics
Division H Interstellar Matter and Local Universe
Division J Galaxies and Cosmology
Co-Chairs of SOC: Piero Benvenuti (University of Padova)
Geroge F. Ellis (University of Cape Town)
Chair of LOC: Piero Benvenuti (University of Padova)

 

Topics

• Structure of modern Cosmology
• Domains of scientific Cosmology and Cosmologia
• Methodological and Philosophical Issues
• Cosmologia and Metaphysical implications
• The emergence of life and consciousness as cosmological feature
• Towards a new Philosophy of Nature

 

Rationale

When Galileo in 1609 made the first observations of the sky with an optical instrument, not only he opened a new astronomical era, but he also shuttered down for ever the crystalline spheres of the Aristotelian cosmology. It was obviously impossible, at the time, to replace it with a new, satisfactory model of the cosmos and for about four centuries, mankind remained bereft of a credible cosmology.

More or less at the same time, accompanying the success of the new scientific method of investigation of the physical reality, philosophy lost almost entirely its interest in Nature, considering it the exclusive domain of the new science.

Therefore, until recent times, philosophy (and particularly any discourses on metaphysics or transcending the experimental method) progressed ignoring the results of contemporary cosmology or having as a tacit background the philosophy of nature developed in the past centuries.

The situation has dramatically changed today with the advent of precision Cosmology that characterizes the nature and evolution of the universe with unprecedented accuracy. Although the cosmological model is far from complete (and it may never be), unveiling several unexpected features, its main characteristic, i.e. its evolution from the hot big bang early state, is by now undeniable. The cosmic evolution smoothly connects with the biological evolution on the planet Earth and with the emergence of consciousness. While speculating about any form of “design” in the history of the Cosmos is beyond the realm of science, we have to admit that our very existence is inevitably linked to every step of its evolution: albeit contingent, we are one of the possible outcomes of the cosmic evolution. However one of the things that Is not clear is whether our existence was inevitable, or a matter of chance.

The cosmological model has been developed applying the Galilean scientific method which, it should always be remembered, renounces investigating the essence of reality and contents itself, rather discovering relationships between measurable events by suitable experiments and consequent mathematical modelling. However, when the Cosmos is globally investigated in its uniqueness, the Galilean method is stretched to its limits: first of all because the “cosmic experiment” cannot be repeated by changing the initial boundary conditions, but also because of the limitation in the way measurable information is obtained as well as because of the difficulties in the theoretical modelling of the extreme physical conditions of the early universe. The above peculiarities open the door to hypotheses that, although physically plausible, cannot be intrinsically tested according to the Galilean method and therefore belong to philosophical speculations rather than to Science. The value of these hypotheses, such as the so-called multiverse, should not be dismissed, but the methodological distinction between scientific precision “Cosmology” and the wider quest about the global “Cosmologia” must be highlighted, particularly to avoid confusion and misinterpretations by the generalist media and the man in the street.

In addition to the above issue, there are more elements in the current model of the universe that call for a better structured discourse between scientific Cosmology and Philosophy (and particularly metaphysics). As mentioned above, at the emergence of the new scientific method, Philosophy essentially abandoned its interest in Nature on the wrong assumption that, from then on, the subject was falling under the exclusive jurisdiction of Science (which used to be called Natural Philosophy). Quantum physics at one extreme and the Big-bang on the other, clearly indicate that that naïve assumption was wrong and that the findings obtained by the scientific method need to be interpreted philosophically in order to be meaningful to mankind. In particular, the evolutionary characteristics of the cosmos, partly inevitable and partly characterised by chance, calls for a drastic revision of the Philosophy of Nature as inherited from the ancient Greek model.

Along with the above rationale we propose to organize an IAU Symposium during the General Assembly of the Union in Busan in 2021 with the following purpose:
• To draw a clear and epistemically sound distinction between scientific Cosmology and the wider concept of Cosmologia.
• To highlight the aspects of the scientific Cosmology that requires philosophical and metaphysical attention and interpretation
• To indicate possible paths towards the construction of a new Philosophy of Nature

In the recent past, several initiatives have been undertaken with similar purposes, but we believe that the cooperation between Cosmology and Philosophy needs further fostering and the General Assembly offers an excellent forum to highlight and discuss the issue.