ANIL MITRA © October 3, 2010. Current Rev. © November 09, 2010


On law

The idea of law employed here has the kind of physical law or theory. It may be possible to fit moral law within this framework. The idea of law in a legal framework probably does not fit but is not excluded because some positive inference may later or elsewhere follow from such neutrality

A law is a pattern that we (sentient beings with certain cognitive powers) read into the World or Cosmos (this part of the Universe)

A law may be local or (conceivably) Universal. We do not know any scientific law that is demonstrably Universal. We will see later that perhaps even the ‘laws’ of logic are not Universal

Consider the kind of physical law known as ‘dynamics’ or ‘mechanics.’ These are perhaps the most fundamental of physical laws: they concern our attempts to discover and observe the most fundamental entities of the known universe and their patterns of behavior (which implies patterns of behavior that are inconsistent with the laws.) Our conception of dynamical law evolves. In Aristotle’s time it was vague. Newton formulate dynamics as a set of laws for ‘point particles’ moving in Absolute Euclidean Space and Absolute Uniform Time. In the twentieth century there were two fundamental modifications to Newton’s laws: relativity and quantum mechanics. Some philosophers of science concluded that a scientific law is never verified, always has a hypothetical character. This is not a necessary consequence of scientific revolutions because the history of science does not rule out that a final system of laws may be found. However, the philosopher Hume argued that because scientific laws are always based on partial observation, the laws are not necessary or logical consequences of observations (he did not say that it was impractical to use scientific laws)

There is however, a more discriminating point of view. The actual relation between Newton’s Mechanics and the newer theories is not merely that the newer have shown the older to be wrong. The older (Newton’s) falls out of the newer in certain limiting cases, e.g. speeds that are small compared to the speed of light. We can say that there is a definite domain (of space and time) in which Newton’s laws hold and reveal patterns of behavior. It may be countered that even if speeds are small, Newtonian Mechanics is still merely a very good approximation. We can respond by interpreting Newton’s Theories as saying that, within the domain in question, they restrict patterns of behavior and require them to lie within very fine or narrow limits (that we may often but not always be able to compute.) In other words, a ‘good’ scientific theory may be seen to reveal actual local patterns or hypothetical Universal patterns. (In fact, from the ever present possibility—so far—of revolutionary science, it now seems doubtful that we should regard scientific theories as even tentatively Universal. Does this mean that scientific theories are merely local? There is an intermediate position between mere locality and final Universality. It is that a new hypothetical system may be a candidate that pushes out the empirical and conceptual limits to a significant degree on many fronts. It does appear, however, from developments to be presented subsequently in this narrative that there is strong doubt that Universal physics shall be attained or is perhaps attainable—except in the most general of terms; these arguments are entirely independent of any apparent impasse in modern theoretical physics)

Two important conclusions may be drawn from the discussion of scientific law

The first conclusion concerns the question of Universality. Consider the ideas (1) That there are be infinitely many cosmological systems beyond the known ‘universe’ and (2) That there are ghost cosmological systems moving silently through ours with no measured interaction. Are these violations of physics? They may seem to be. However, our observations go only so far: experiment shows what is in the Universe but not what is not in the Universe. The ghost and the infinitely many do not violate physics even if they violate the sensitivities of physicists, philosophers and ‘lay persons.’ What if the infinitely many and the ghost systems do not obey the known laws of physics—What if there is an infinite variety of physical law (and no Universal law)? Is this a violation of science (or common or practical knowledge)? Again, science and practice show what is in the Universe but not what is not. Therefore there is no violation of science (or physics.) A counterargument arises. Science shows more and more, the counterargument goes, of what is in the world and so what remains outside the world revealed by science is very little and the logical possibilities (ghost systems etc.) are extremely improbable (the practical argument is similar.) This argument is invalid in that we only know what we see and therefore we may naturally think that the Universe is rather as in our experience (including the experiments and ideas of science.) However this, too, is an invalid argument. As far as science is concerned, what lies beyond the theoretical-experimental frontier and its size are completely unknown: that outside may be rather small or infinite. A further argument is that it is practical to accept scientific theories as describing the world. That has some truth (it is not entirely true because the theories have limits but this is not our point) but it does not imply the Universal truth of the theories. A final argument that is one version of positivism sometimes called ‘scientism’ (treating science as religion) is that ‘if it is not described in science it does not exist.’ It is hardly worthwhile responding to this argument but it may be worth noting that it implies that the Universe changed when Newton developed his ideas, it expanded with Maxwell’s work on electromagnetism, and it became drastically different with Heisenberg, Schrödinger, and Dirac (some discoverers of quantum mechanics) and Einstein

The conclusions just drawn will be useful later

The second conclusion concerns locality and has already been made: here, this conclusion will be repeated and interpreted. The conclusion is that certain laws of physics reveal actual local patterns—i.e., even though the laws are expressed in terms of concepts and laws that may be written down as mathematical equations that determine behavior, the laws reveal something definite about the world, an aspect of its Being, even if what is revealed is local and not Universal (that I am finite does not imply that I do not exist.) This conclusion fleshes out what will be determined immediately below

The idea of Law

A law is a pattern that is read into the World. A law may be local or (conceivably) Universal—this is repetition from the previous section (it leads into what follows and is new in the present discussion)

The Object of what is read—we do not necessarily know it as it is but we know that it is there—is here labeled Law (capitalized.) That it is there, that it has Being, is equivalent to saying that is some (at least) local pattern. To some the conclusion may seem obvious. One typical view of scientific theory is as Universal hypothesis. Another view is that of local truth (describing local Being and the articulation of this view brings into question the possibility and significance of ‘Universal hypothesis’ which may of course have seemed reasonable at the time of Newton and before the age of scientific revolution.) The purpose of the discussion at the end of the previous section was to make its truth transparent to those who have not reflected much on science or those who have but conclude otherwise from the widespread ‘Universal hypothesis’ and the, as we have seen unwarranted, ‘science defines the limit of the world’ viewpoints. The conclusion is now summarized:

A Law has Being. A Law is a Being