What does it even mean to begin a journey at both ends? Is that even possible? Are we simultaneously able to read both the start of a novel, and its end, to arrive at the mid-point for a full scope of the story? I’d like to think so… And yet- I’ve been faced with quite a bit of disagreement over the years. That’s fine, of course… It just surprised me to discover the source from which some of those opposing opinions originated, and where they were being perpetuated.
It was during my years as an undergraduate student when it finally occurred to me that I was attempting to step into a realm that very few had ever traveled. Honestly, I was shocked to notice the completely independent realms of my two main areas of study, namely, Physics and Philosophy. All my life, I experienced them as being nearly one-in-the-same, intertwined in such a way that one could not be fully engaged without the use of the other. It wasn’t until I declared the two seemingly disparate majors that I was faced with the bold assertion that they were simply too far apart in kind for me to be able to complete a dual major in the time allotted me. (This, of course, was ridiculous, and I graduated not only on time, but with high honors.) Engaging equally in each area, I befriended my professors, often staying after class or visiting during office hours to complete a conversation or delve into random tangents of thought I spun off into during the course of the class discussion. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not putting this all out there to say that I was some brown-nosing teacher’s pet (although, I’m sure that was some of my peers’ experience of me). No. I am beginning with this simply to set the scene into which I walked when I decided to pursue the endeavor of bringing these two subjects together, as they always should have been.
I was blown away to sit down in my physics classes and hear jokes from my professors about the uselessness of philosophy. I was then as equally blown away to sit down in my philosophy classes to hear passive dismissals of scientific bearing on philosophical principles. I just could not comprehend how these people, whom I respected and honored for their years of study, practice, and expertise, were so flagrantly blinded to the fact that they were two sides of the same coin. I often caught the sideways eye when I would speak up to defend my other area of study as relevant to the topic at hand. What was interesting to me, however, was that within the glance of that sideways eye, I also caught the glimpse of curiosity. Making my point as respectfully as I was able, I would like to believe that I changed a few minds during my years there, and hopefully, inspired a dialogue between the two departments. I really should check in and see what has come about… Perhaps I will share what I find in my next post, if I am able to uncover anything by then.
Although my attempt and journey is not mine alone, I find that there are very few who advocate the way I do for the need of practitioners of these two subjects to meet each other in the middle for an open and uncharged discussion of how each needs the other in order for itself to exist. Even the highest upon high in these fields fling accusations and insults at one another, attempting to make the other’s subject seem like an immature or outdated endeavor. Stephen Hawking himself has said that “philosophy is dead” because philosophers haven’t kept up with what is happening in the scientific community. I love Stephen Hawking. I do not love that he dismissed the importance of philosophy to scientific experimentation. How can we study the physical world if we do not first set the premise that there is a physical world to study? Premises may be claimed as part of science, but they come first from philosophy- no question. So what has brought these two areas to such a hostile stand-off? Could it possibly be that practitioners of each think that it is only through their own path of discovery that we may arrive at a Truth? What is the Truth we are seeking in the first place?
I begin here, at both ends of this journey… I look forward to building the connections with my peers, readers, and fellow thinkers that will be necessary for us to see the story as a whole.
Never stop asking, “What does it mean?” –MM