David, we see principles at work in each field of science and physics and biology, and even
in the social sciences, different ways of organizing observations.
And some would say that some of these principles are very similar, so they try to build
so-called general systems theory that take observations and laws from different parts
of human knowledge and look for deep underlying principles that can be applied in each
Yes, I'm not sure that the existing approaches to general systems theory is the actual
way of integrating all sciences, but I think the idea that all sciences are integrated
by their principles at the fundamental level is correct and has to be correct.
An obvious principle that unites all science is just the principle of testability, that the truth
about nature takes the form of testable theories.
I think that the principle of testability is a special case of a much more general principle,
the principle of good explanation, a good explanation being one that is hard to vary while
still accounting for what it purports to account for.
Well, there are things that perhaps are good explanations that cannot be testable of what
I may like all the second symphony and you may like Brahms first symphony as your favorite.
Now, those are real facts about the world, but they're certainly not testable in any way,
Exactly, so this is what characterizes science within the realm of human knowledge is that
science has testable theories and the truths about the physical world consist of testable
But this idea of a good explanation reaches beyond science into even you mentioned aesthetics,
It's customary to say so and so is a matter of taste to mean there is no truth of the matter,
It really is objectively true that, for example, Mozart is better, produces better sounds,
more aesthetic sounds than cavemen banging rocks together.
And although we may not have a sophisticated enough knowledge of aesthetics, especially in
explicit form, to know which is which, we know that it is there, the distinction between
better or worse exists objectively in aesthetics as it does in the morality and in every
That's a fairly dramatic statement because to defend it by comparing Mozart to cavemen
with their rocks sounds like it makes sense, but now if you compare Mozart to Beethoven
or Mozart to Brahms, I don't think you can have an objective in it.
What's happening there is that we do not know yet what the better way of analyzing these
But in that case, is that is that analyzable even in principle?
I think it must be and for the following reason.
You cannot separate these fields, science and aesthetics and so on, totally from each other.
As Jacob Bernofsky said, for example, you can't do science, you can't make progress in
science unless you also have certain moral values such as tolerance, respect for the truth
So these things are matters of moral philosophy, but they are essential to science as well
and therefore they are essential to how the physical world is put together.
So these different fields are only separated from each other for pragmatic reasons.
If you look in sufficiently fine detail at the boundary between all these different fields
of philosophy and between philosophy and science, you find they merge into each other and
So we have a number of ideas that we can classify as the principles that you feel really
Are there any others that are fundamentally can be used to unify the science?
Well, I think that good explanation is the fundamental one as far as it is known at present.
I mean, I don't believe that there is ever an absolute foundation to be found to knowledge,
but I think the deepest thing we know at the moment is the principle of good explanation,
which implies all sorts of things about science, it implies the principle of testability.
In politics, it implies proper criterion that governments, the institutions should be constructed
in such a way that governments and policies can be removed without violence and so on.
So basically you are saying that general systems theory is correct, but it's only correct
if we have one general systems theory principle and that's good explanation and within
that broad category, there are various subsets, including testability and science.
Now, an explanation would not have to have a quantitative comparison as a requirement.
Galileo said that the laws of physics are written in the language of mathematics, but
We don't know much about the laws of aesthetics.
And about human society, whether it's politics or sociology, some of that may be absolute,
and some of it may not, but even that which is not subject to quantitative analysis is
subject to rational analysis, which is part of a good explanation.
Rational analysis and objective truth, whether or not it's quantitative.
The aspiration of general system theory is definitely right.
And in all these fields, there is such a thing as objective truth to be found.
And that is part of what will link them, but whether the actual ideas in general systems