Cosmology at the crossroads of the natural and human sciences: is demarcation possible? part 1: introduction

Alexei Nesteruk

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Abstract

The paper discusses the problem of demarcation between the dimensions of natural and the human sciences in contemporary cosmology. In spite of a common presumption that cosmology is a natural science, the specificity of its alleged subject matter, that is the universe as a whole, makes cosmology fundamentally different from other natural sciences. The reason is that in cosmology the subject of cosmological research and its “object” are in a certain sense inseparable. Any study of the universe involves two opposite perspectives which can be described as “a-cosmic” and “cosmic”, egocentric and non-egocentric. Cosmology involves two languages, namely that of physical causality (pertaining to the natural sciences) and that of intentionality (pertaining to the human sciences). On the one hand the universe can be seen as a product of discursive reason, that is as an abstract “physical” entity unfolding in space and time. On the other hand the universe can be experienced through our participation in, or communion with the world understood as the natural context of living beings. This dichotomy between reason and experience, abstract construction and concrete participation, originates in the essence of human persons understood as unities of the corporeal and spiritual. On account of this dichotomy it is hard to set up a strict line of demarcation between the elements of the human and the natural sciences in cosmology. This confirms the intuition that any realistic world view is incomplete without a knowledge of what it means to exist as a human being. Conversely it is likewise impossible to understand human existence without considering its natural setting, that is the universe. We conclude that anthropology is incomplete without cosmology and vice versa.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)560-576
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Siberian Federal University - Humanities and Social Sciences
Volume4
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011

Keywords

  • cosmology
  • philosophy
  • universe
  • knowability
  • humanity
  • participation
  • manifestation
  • phenomenology
  • beliefs
  • coherence of explanation

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