Contents of
Alternatives to



by Igor Naletov

The turn from positivism to “scientific realism” is very characteristic of the modern philosophy of science. This trend, which is only two decades old, has already managed to define its stand with sufficient clarity despite all the diversity of the individual approaches and opinions of its adherents. However, none of the current views of “scientific realism” as a methodological alternative to positivist philosophy is ripe enough to claim authority. Representing the materialistic viewpoint, “scientific realism” somehow falls out of line with the general historical trend of philosophical development and seems rather odd because of its apparent spontaneity. Indeed, in its attempt to evolve a new philosophical doctrine “scientific realism” has started from scratch and is denying or passing over in silence any affinity with traditional philosophical trends. This is partly attributable to the fact that many of the newly converted active exponents of materialistic ideas reflect the direct needs of science rather than some purely philosophical tradition.

It cannot be said, however, that new materialism is completely free from any philosophical links in general. The new school, for one, admits in some form or other to its inheritance of certain aspects, problems and principles from positivist philosophy. “scientific realism” represents an obvious attempt to smooth over the contradictions which have led to a complete break of science with positivist philosophy. This feature also accounts for the attitude of “scientific realism” to the problem of the objectivity of knowledge. On the one hand, the new trend discards the positivist interpretation of objective knowledge, including its latest versions; on the other, it shows an obvious influence of many positivist dogmas.

Coming out against the concept of intersubjectivity, most of the “realists” oppose both the positivist and Popper’s doctrines. Neither do they accept the Kuhn-Lakatos concept as manifestly relativistic. Yet they do not go beyond postulating reality independent of man and sidestep the main issue—the concrete solution of the question of the nature of objectivity and relationship between the objective and the subjective in scientific knowledge. This circumstance essentially weakens the position of “scientific realism” exposing it to criticism on the part of its opponents. “The realist,” writes, for instance, Roger Trigg, “starting from objective reality rather than man’s knowledge of it, will not be surprised if some portions of it elude man’s grasp for ever. He will insist that though this limits man’s knowledge, it cannot affect the nature of what exists, since reality is self-subsistent.” [1]

As regards the problem of intersubjectivity, the “realists” maintain that the presence of some common elements in different theories is accounted for by none other than reality, whether perceptible or not. Some “realists” go even as far as distinguishing between the ontological and the epistemological aspects of the problem, i.e. between reality as such and the reality that we know. According to Roy Bhaskar, for instance, the positivists make a typical epistemological error considering that “statements about being can be reduced to or analysed in terms of statements about knowledge; i.e. that ontological questions can always be transposed into epistemological terms”. [2]

Many adherents of the “realistic” trend, however, believe that ontological realism should be supplemented with “epistemological relativism”. This opinion is based on the well-known thesis according to which we are incapable of going beyond the limits of the particular, the concrete, i.e. the knowledge available at a given moment though we are aware of the existence of being. In Bhaskar’s opinion, “whenever we speak of things or of events etc. in science we must always speak of them and know them under particular descriptions, descriptions which will always be to a greater or lesser extent theoretically determined, which are not neutral reflections of a given world. Epistemological relativism, in this sense, is the handmaiden of ontological realism and must be accepted.” [3]

The confusion regarding the relationship between ontology and epistemology, the objective and the subjective sometimes leads the “realists” to counterposing realistic and materialistic viewpoints. A distinction between them does exist, of course, but its actual significance, in the “realists’\thinspace” opinion, evidently lies elsewhere. Trigg contends that realism represents a broader viewpoint than materialism, as it permits accepting the reality of what is not material. “Even a theist,” he writes, “can assert a realist notion of God existing independently of men’s conceptions of Him, and not espouse idealism, because he also accepts the independent reality of the material world.” [4]

Realism and materialism, according to Trigg, are different in the sense that realism pretends to be a neutral doctrine taking no interest in the content of reality. In Trigg’s opinion, many idealistic trends insist only on the independence of reality from human consciousness or sensations and do not accept the existence of God, whereas numerous forms of empiricism could be anti-realistic and atheistic at the same time.

According to Trigg, the controversy between realists and anti-realists was of crucial importance for philosophy. Realism opposes the doctrine which accepts the dependence of the “external world” on man and restricts the world to what man knows about it. Is the world indeed what we take it for? asks Trigg, and answers emphatically: “No!” There may exist galaxies we cannot even conceive of. Besides, many of our scientific beliefs are probably wrong. “It is exceedingly rash,” he says, “to equate reality with the views we happen to have at the moment.” [5] In a sense, reality is considered to be mental rather than material, as the reason which comprehends it simultaneously creates it in one way or another.

Whereas “realism” underscores the existence of reality independent of our notions of it, idealism considers everything to be a function of reason and regards being in terms of man’s mental images or perceptions. Hence, subjective experience may be in contradiction with what is considered

true by general consent. According to Trigg, “\thinspace‘subjective’ can be the opposite of ‘intersubjective’ rather than ‘objective’. To put it another way, the word ‘objective’ can refer in a weak sense to what is agreed on, rather than in a strong sense to what is ‘really’ the case.” [6]

In Trigg’s opinion, the anti-realist will prefer to emphasise the necessity for intersubjective agreement. Anti-realists are inevitably forced, if they conceive the problem in terms of the opposition of mind and matter, to admit the independent reality of other minds. Idealism inevitably becomes objectivist even when “objectivist” is understood in its strong sense.

Epistemological realism, according to Trigg, is sometimes distinguished from the ontological sort, so that one can be an epistemological realist and an ontological idealist. “In that case,” he writes, “only minds would exist, but there would be an external world beyond our judgements. What we know would be in no way dependent on our knowing it, but the reality which is the source of knowledge would be ultimately mental. This means that reality is not ultimately independent of judgement as such. It may be unconnected with what you think or what I think, but it is not unconnected with all minds.” [7] Trigg asserts that the only alternative to “epistemological realism” is solipsism. Epistemological realism is the inevitable consequence of accepting that the world is not one’s own creation, and that as a result one may be mistaken about its nature.

According to Trigg, the principal disagreement between the realists and their opponents springs not so much from the difference in their understanding of the relationship between reality and man in general, as from the distinction between the weak and strong objectivity, between intersubjectivity and objectivity. In Trigg’s opinion, one should not identify objectivity with what one believes in here and now. The history of science shows that even the most firmly established theories can be modified or even refuted.

“Scientific realists” generally avoid identifying their stand, even on special issues, such as the mind-body problem, with the concepts of dialectical materialism.

Expounding his views, Trigg definitely dissociates himself from materialism considering its approach too narrow. He strives to justify his prejudice against materialism by alleging that it disregards subjective reality and grants the status of being to matter only. The origin of this prejudice is not far to seek: Trigg, like many Western philosophers who cannot boast of too close an acquaintance with the materialist tradition in philosophy, particularly with the essence of dialectical materialism, equates materialism with physicalism.

As a result, Trigg identifies Lenin’s views with physicalist concepts widely spread in Western literature, overlooking the fact that it is just against physicalism and its understanding of matter, space, time and causality that Lenin has directed its main philosophical work Materialism and Empiric-Criticism. The irony of the situation consists in that Trigg, coming out in defence of realism, opens a wide door for fideism and actually sets it on an equal footing with science. As we see, the response of scientists to the disintegration of positivism does not always accord with the needs of scientific cognition. Despite the repeated assurances that he is opposed to idealism and anti-realism, Trigg, in fact, sees no possibility of passing beyond the bounds of experience and language.

“We cannot,” he writes, “talk or think about reality without talking or thinking about it... We cannot have a conception of something without employing the conceptual scheme we have at our disposal... We cannot conceptualize reality and then check the concepts we have produced against reality. It is self-defeating to attempt to think of reality as it exists beyond our thoughts. There is no way that we can somehow hold our concepts in suspense, while we compare them with reality.” [8]

Trigg’s realism consists in that he accepts the existence of real ty beyond the limits of man’s present knowledge, this reality including not only what is not yet known, but also, it appears, what is unknowable in principle. He writes: “Realists leave open what is to be meant by ’the world’. We have used the term rather broadly to mean ‘what there is’. The realist can accept that mind, matter and even other kinds of entities might exist. His argument with the idealist is not concerned with the reality of mind. He is merely concerned to hold that the mental does not exhaust reality.” [9] Trigg draws a purely external line of demarcation between what appears to be two different worlds—the reality which is independent of man and has not yet become the object of his knowledge and the reality which has already been drawn into the sphere of man’s cognitive activity and is no longer independent of his thoughts. Such an external border does not seem to be a good solution, as it makes it impossible to correlate more accurately the objective and subjective realities and investigate their relationship in the second world. As a matter of fact, the same applies to Trigg’s first, “unattainable”, world, since it exists beyond our thoughts and cannot, according to his logic, be extracted from our conceptual scheme by any means. The concept of God, for that matter, can also be regarded as one of the versions of conceptualising the uncognisable.

Dialectical materialism is far from ignoring the reality of the concept of God as an element of religious systems. Moreover, it regards this false concept as a reality which should be eliminated by practical means. Marxism not only admits the reality of religious rites but also takes it in all seriousness. It is obvious to any Marxist that religion (but not God) is only one of the elements of a highly complex and heterogeneous subjective reality which includes man’s entire spiritual world with all its diversity and contradictions. Trigg and other realist authors may rest assured that their intellectual stand as well as the books they publish are real to us in a no lesser degree.

Trigg’s realism is a graphic illustration of the confusion resulting from the application of loose criteria of objectivity and lack of dialectical flexibility in the philosophical analysis of scientific development. What is more, after such a “cultivation” vast areas of terra ignorationis are allowed to lie fallow, grow thick with weeds and spread pseudo-scientific seeds all over the adjacent areas of science and philosophy. These weeds often infect the still healthy field of “scientific realism” which, according to Trigg, is called upon to give an accurate theoretical description of reality. In Trigg’s opinion, a scientist will always aspire for the true knowledge of the world though not all reality can be accessible for observation. Some theories may be true at all times, others may need modification, yet they all reflect reality to some extent, though we do not know how profoundly. “The realist in science,” writes Trigg, “does not merely oppose the empiricist’s view about the pivotal role of observations. He also emphasizes that science is about something and that theories attempt to capture reality as it is. It follows that only one completely correct account of the world is forthcoming. Different, competing theories will each view the world differently, but the realist will not be as content with that situation as Feyerabend seems to be and will want to ask which is the right one.” [10]

Contrary to Trigg, Quine contends that competing theories of reality do not give a unique and simple picture of the world. Defending all the basic propositions of “realism” he writes: “We have no reason to suppose that man’s surface irritations even unto eternity admit of any one systematization that is scientifically better or simpler than all possible others. . . Scientific method is the way to truth, but it affords even in principle no unique definition of truth.” [11] Quine also appears to be appreciably closer to positivism in his attachment to the concept of intersubjective test. In his opinion, intersubjective contact assures a single dimension deriving from the similarity of sensuous stimuli. This intersubjective contact provides a basis both for the language of learning and for the construction of a scientific theory. The relevant circumstances attending the utterance of statements are combined by Quine in the notion of “intersubjective observability”. Intersubjective contact “enables the child to learn when to assent to the observation sentence. And it is this also, intersubjective observability at the time, that qualifies observation sentences as check points for scientific theory. Observation sentences state the evidence, to which all witnesses must accede.” [12] According to Quine, this rules out solipsism, since the general accessibility of circumstances attending the utterance of observation statements ensures that we learn one and the same language and that a scientific theory may have a solid foundation.

The leaning towards realism gets the better of Quine in his concept of self-sufficient reality, though he underscores that true judgements can only be made after the adoption of a theory. It causes him, like Feyerabend, to regard theories as being relatively true, but here Quine escapes relativism characteristic of Feyerabend. Any statements, in his opinion, can only be made within the framework of a conceptual scheme and serve as its expression. As a result, no “reality” is conceivable except “through” a conceptual scheme which we ourselves adopt. Hence, the real world which does exist must be described in terms of our conceptual scheme. Quine avoids speaking of “things-in-themselves” or of any philosophical interpretation of scientific propositions. In his understanding, a scientific theory is something taken at its face value.

“As an empiricist,” Quine says, “I continue to think of the conceptual scheme of science as a tool, ultimately, for predicting future experience in the light of past experience. Physical objects are conceptually imported into the situation as convenient intermediaries—not by definition in terms of experience, but simply as irreducible posits comparable, epistemologically, to the gods of Homer. For my part I do, qua lay physicist, believe in physical objects and not in Homer’s gods; and I consider it a scientific error to believe otherwise. But in point of epistemological footing the physical objects and the gods differ only in degree and not in kind.” [13]

Quine, thus, refuses to admit that there is any difference between the “posits” of a theory and reality. In his opinion, reality is what we believe to be existing.

It is significant, however, that physicalism remains a characteristic feature of “scientific realism” and its understanding of the problem of objectivity. This circumstance complicates the task of distinguishing between the positivist and “realist” ideas of objectivity. The distinction, rather a subtle one, consists in that for “scientific realism” the programme of the physicalist reduction of scientific knowledge combines with the programme of constructing a scientific ontology. “scientific realism” not only strives to reduce the language of any science to the physical language and theoretical propositions to observation statements based, in the final analysis, on physical experience, but is bent on reducing chemical, biological, geographical, psychological and other processes as such to physical processes. In other words, it seeks to explain all objects and phenomena of reality through their physical properties and mechanisms. What is more, it regards such reductionism not as a purely scientific procedure intended for a physical explanation— that would be quite justifiable—but defends it as a universal all-embracing scheme thus giving it a status of a philosophical or, in relation to the problem of objectivity, an ontological, principle.

Understandably, the true significance of this feature can only be assessed in the context of the entire philosophical programme of “scientific realism”. The emphasis on the objectivity of biological, physiological and other processes and the attempts to explain them on the basis of the laws of physics represent a manifestly “realistic” or even materialistic trend, requiring, however, further methodological development. On the other hand, the epistemological reductionism, consisting in attempts to interpret biological, physiological or mental phenomena in terms of physical notions with a view to overcoming “metaphysics” identifies “scientific realism” with one or another variety of positivist physicalism. The distinction between them is often quite impalpable and reveals itself in the general tendency and orientation rather than in some tangibles. But then certain atavistic features of the new school are not to be wondered at if we bear in mind that the realistic methodology of science is still in its infancy.

The subtle difference between the positivist and realistic programmes can already be discerned in the philosophical concept of Herbert Feigl, formerly a member of the Vienna Circle, whose evolution has reflected numerous contradictions and vicissitudes of the transition from the positivist paradigm to the scientific-realist world view. The watered-down variants of the main dogmas of the logico-empiricist doctrine, the doubts regarding the distinction between the analytical and synthetic statements, the greater flexibility in the interpretation of the empirical criteria of scientific value characteristic of Feigl’s early works gradually gave way to a more radical departure from the positivist tradition. Physicalism which still holds in Feigl’s concept as the hangover of the early period is evidently regarded by him as the foundation of the new system.

Having outlined his general methodological views mainly with reference to physics, Feigl later devoted much attention to the mind-body problem, i.e. to the relationship between the brain and consciousness. He was at first inclined to regard statements on mental and physical phenomena as two different languages referring to the same facts, but later gave preference to the monistic theory or the “theory of identity” in which the data of experience and certain deduced notions of neurophysiological structures have one and the same reference object and are regarded as two different ways of cognising one and the same thing. Such an identity of the mental and the physical is not yet tantamount to the logical identity of mind and body. Parallelism between them should be established by science, but not by philosophy. Feigl believes that such parallelism is already in evidence and the further drawing together of the two systems is inevitable. From the standpoint of common sense this eliminates any basis for the hypothesis of the existence of two different entities. This line of reasoning brings Feigl to the conclusion that the referents of mental terms are identical with those of physical terms.

Feigl’s evolution from positivism to “realism” vividly illustrates all the most essential stages or steps of this transition: passage beyond the bounds of a purely linguistic approach to the problem, extension of the scope of semantic analysis, emphasis on objective neurophysiological processes as referents of the corresponding theoretical terms.

Feigl distinguishes two different meanings of the term “physical”, the broader and the narrower ones. He writes: “By ‘physical1 terms’ I mean all (empirical) terms whose specification of meaning essentially involves logical (necessary or, more usually, probabilistic) connections with the intersubjective observation languages... By ‘physical2’ I mean the kind of theoretical concepts (and statements) which are sufficient for the explanation, i.e. the deductive or probabilistic derivation, of the observation statements regarding the inorganic (lifeless) domain of nature.” [14] According to Feigl, the “mental” or the so-called raw sensations are identifiable with “physical2”.

Feigl regards the volumes of these terms to be equal if the theory of identity is true. However, in case of emergence, i.e. logical non-deducibility of organic, mental and social phenomena from physical phenomena, the sphere of “physical2” is obviously narrower than that of “physical1”.

As we see, Feigl’s programme implies the reduction of all sciences to physics. One cannot but admit, however, that it is not entirely divorced from the existing practice of theoretical investigations. The peculiarity of this practice was aptly expressed by Einstein who once said that “reason” was commonly believed to be an unseemly word that ought to be avoided in a society of wellbred scientists. Reductionism, as we have already pointed out, is a kind of a semi-official ideology of the modern biological establishment. The practical significance of this tradition, however, is not very large as it reflects a transitory stage in the development of biological, as well as psychological sciences. As Soviet scientists I. Frolov and B. Yudin have justly observed, “reductionism is evidently the natural consequence of every situation in which investigation methods and experimental facilities come to the foreground in scientific research and dictate the selection of problems. Under such conditions the issues prompted by the inner logic of scientific development are relegated to a secondary plan and preference is given to problems whose solution is made possible owing to the application of specific research techniques or experimental facilities.” [15]

Feigl’s concept reveals strong links not only with physicalism, but also with empiricism. According to Feigl, knowledge starts with direct sensory experience, sensory acquaintance, as it were. He notes that the meaning of scientific statements actually consists in that they state the conditions of truth. These conditions, in turn, are evidently represented in the factual content of the relation of the stated knowledge which is represented by sensations. Hence, Feigl understands the theory of truth as a “theory of correspondence”. The meaning of a statement, in his opinion, should be identified in its factual relation, whereas the meaning of scientific terms should be adapted to the set reality. As distinct from the positivist concept of the Vienna Circle, according to which the meaning of a statement determines the method of verification, Feigl lays special emphasis on a different aspect: “After the recovery from radical behaviorism and operationism, we need no longer hesitate to distinguish between evidence and reference, i.e., between manifestations or symptoms on the one hand, and central states on the other.” [16]

As has already been noted in the first chapter, “scientific realism” is characterised in most cases by very arbitrary attempts to join or separate various empirical and theoretical premises of general philosophical nature. A similar tendency manifests itself in the solution of the mind-body problem. Underscoring the empirical status of the identity of mind and body, Feigl, Smart and other “realists” often resort to metaphysical principles in order to substantiate the “theory of identity”. Moreover, the problem itself is regarded by them as metaphysical. Sometimes the metaphysical nature of the terms “mental” and “physical”, as well as of the problem of their relationship is emphasised deliberately in defiance of the positivist doctrine. The term “physical” in this sense apparently acquires a new shade of meaning which does not fall within the framework of “physical1” or “physical2”. It approximates the concept of the world as a whole and can be regarded as “physical3” gravitating to, though not coinciding with, the materialist concept of “matter”.

The presence of two or even three levels in the understanding of the “physical” complicates the mind-body problem, difficult as it is, the more so as the above “levels” are not defined accurately enough. As a matter of fact, the description of the “physical” in terms of space-time and causal relations is characteristic of any theoretical science. “Physical1” related by Feigl to this description can be related to any other scientific description. “From my realistic point of view,” writes Feigl, “it makes perfectly good sense to explain in terms of physical, psychophysical, and psychophysiological theories how e.g. a bell by reflecting light, producing sound waves and being a solid, hard body affects our retina, cochlea, and our tactile nerve endings (under specifiable perceptual conditions) and thus produces the visual, tactual, and auditory data in our direct experience. This is indeed the ‘causal theory of perception’ so much maligned by phenomenalists.” [17]

The excessively broad definition of the “physical” is in fact at variance with the real meaning of this term in physical science which alone gives it quite definite methodological significance. The extension of its limits leads to undesirable. methodological paradoxes. Such an expansion, as is justly noted by Soviet scientist D. Dubrovsky, is tantamount to the absolutisation of the “physical”—either by postulating a single all-embracing “physical substance”, or, given the epistemological emphasis, by implying the unavoidable absorption by physics of all other scientific disciplines. Physicalism is thus linked with the extension of the concept of the “physical” and this alone is bound to have an adverse effect on the development of physics condemning it to endless and futile wanderings. If unduly extended, the concept of the “physical” loses its concrete meaning and turns into an empty abstraction.

Feigl’s doctrine leads to the identification of any objective reality with physical reality. The world is nothing but physical reality painted in different colours. All phenomena are essentially physical processes. This applies also to mental phenomena which are but a subclass of physical phenomena. The mental is identified with the physiological, i.e. with the processes which take place in the human brain. In turn, neurophysiological or biological processes are explained in terms of physical phenomena. This double reduction, given the extension of the chain, must be applied to developing neurophysiology, biochemistry, biophysics, etc. The tendencies in modern natural science are alleged to hold out much promise for such development. According to the new doctrine, materialist philosophy loses its status of a theoretical premise and turns into just another ontological hypothesis which is yet to be proved.

This pretentious claim, by the way, underlies the title of “scientific materialism” assumed by the new school in an attempt to define its own place among the numerous trends representing the modern philosophy of science. True, physicalism has also sprouted in biology and cybernetics, but its models in these fields add but little to the basic physicalist concepts from the methodological angle. Feigl singles out a theoretical level represented by “physical1” or the physical in the broader sense of the word, linking it with the categories of causality, space, time, etc. As a result, one may get an impression that this level is identical with the general philosophical concept of matter. Feigl also links this level with the intersubjective perception of language, though he gives no clear indication regarding the scope of such “intersubjectivity”. For Feigl, it is, evidently, confined within the limits of the physicalist theory. As regards his interpretation of the category of causality, it is based, as one can gather, not on a philosophical, e.g. dialectical-materialist concept of cause, but on the so-called causal theory of perception. This theory, instructive as it is and containing not a few interesting ideas (which have not received, by the way, due Coverage in Marxist literature on causality), has not yet been properly elaborated from the philosophical standpoint. Thus the identity of the mental and the physical in Feigl’s concept rests on the identification of cause and consequence as it is assumed that both the causes and their consequences must of necessity, possess all characteristics of matter.

Hence, Feigl’s crucial concept of “physical1” is also implicitly based on empirical observations. This concept is unacceptable, for instance, to a theoretical physicist investigating the problems of quantum mechanics as it is quite obvious to him that a physical theory at its present level cannot be adequately translated into the language of sensory experience even if it is the intersubjective language of observations, as conceded by Feigl and other advocates of the identity of the mental and the physical. The qualitative difference between the theoretical and empirical levels in the reflection of objective reality has made it clear to many theoretical physicists that one cannot be reduced to the other in principle. The illusions that such a reduction is possible have already revealed their groundlessness in physical science. The more groundless are such illusions with regard to the reducibility of, say, the physiological to the physical.

The exponents of the identity of the mental and the physical often refer to their empirical identity, and that in spite of the fact that the empirical language proves inadequate to express the theoretical content of unobservable phenomena even in physics itself. It holds even more true of mental phenomena characterised by a higher level and greater complexity.

The vulnerability of Feigl’s concept lies already in his assumption of the mental identity of “physical1” and “physical2”, since the former as the theoretical level in the investigation of phenomena and processes is restricted, on the strength of its definition, to the limits of intersubjectivity, i.e. the empirical level of cognition. Consequently, this assumption is untenable even from the viewpoint of physical science itself which has developed a keen insight into these problems. The controversies in quantum mechanics are in fact much more instructive in this respect than some authors are inclined to think. These questions will be discussed later when characterising the dialectical-materialist methodology of science. Of course, the problem of causality has its own gradations, and qualitative at that, in different fields of modern science. The analysis of the specificity of this problem in physics, biology, chemistry, physiology, psychology and other fields could be helpful in preparing scientists for the acceptance of perhaps even a greater specificity of mental processes and causal relations in the boundary area of psychic and neuro-physiological phenomena. Yet the works published by “scientific materialists” have not revealed, so far, any evidence of such a tendency, nor any sufficiently differentiated approach to processes which could be regarded as psychological, psychophysiological, neuro-psychological, neuro-physiological, biopsychological and biochemicalpsychological.

It stands to reason that the oversimplified idea of the relationship between different levels of reality falls an easy prey to all critics of “scientific materialism” ranging from the less orthodox adherents of physicalism (such as Mario Bunge, Roger Trigg, Joseph Margolis) to the supporters of psycho physical dualism and interactionism (such as John Eccles, Erik Polten, and Karl Popper). In the context of such criticism their stand is presented as purely positivistic. In point of fact, this accusation is not entirely groundless, particularly in the case of Feigl. His present viewpoint differs from the empiricist programme of positivist philosophy by its general orientation, promises and expectations rather than by the actual content. Indeed, Feigl does not go beyond proclaiming the need for an ontology and accepting, together with the entire school of “scientific realism”, the ontological existence of physical reality independent of man and his consciousness though he restricts their relationship to the extent of identifying the mental with the physical.

Feigl’s special emphasis on the ontological aspect of the causality problem must serve as a warning against equating his stand with the paradigm of logical empiricism, i.e. positivism in its latest variants. Polten, like other Feigl’s critics, disregards this warning and confuses Feigl’s viewpoint now with the positivist stand, now with the dialectical materialist concept, thereby revealing a not too profound knowledge of the Marxist views. Nevertheless, he does find the weak spots in the theory of identity. “Now,” he writes, “scientific materialises are committed to hold that all causes and effects have all characteristics of matter. Yet I maintain that the causes of what I distinguish as outer sense are indeed always physical, but the ultimate phenomenal effects—the data which are directly experienced—are mental without exception. I go onto claim that the pauses or grounds of what I distinguish as inner sense cannot be exclusively physical, and that the ultimate effects are also mental in nature.” [18]

In substantiating his viewpoint Polten reasons as follows. Some material [i.e. physical] cause Z, which is lake Ontario, produces probably identical consequences: similar perceptions on a sensory, empirical level of two different observers A and B. This does not mean at all that the same lake will be the cause of similar perceptions of lake Ontario with other observers. Should we consider not external, but internal perceptions we shall have to admit that not only the consequence, but the cause itself cannot be subjected to a material test. When our imagination is building up “castles in the air”, they have nothing in common with material objects. They are purely mental attributes of one man and nobody else is capable of seeing these “castles” in his brain.

The causal theory of perception is based on the principle “identical causes—identical consequences” and does not identify causes if they do not produce identical consequences. Proceeding from this principle, Polten infers that physical and mental processes are independent of one another and that mind is not identical with the central nervous system. But he goes further. Without any profound and concrete analysis he postulates parallel existence and mutual independence of physical and mental processes, asserting, on the one hand, the presence of the world of “things-in-themselves” as the external cause of material phenomena belonging to the sphere of perceptions of the external world and, on the other, the presence of the world of mental events as “things-in-themselves” or the world of pure “Myself” as the cause of mental phenomena belonging to the sphere of perceptions of man’s internal state.

Having thus defined his concept, Polten, as is often the case, begins to doubt the soundness of the dualistic viewpoint, since he proposes in the end to deduce the existence of the physical world from mind: “And it ought not to be supposed that mind is anything derivative in this relationship. On the contrary, mind matters in perhaps every relevant sense: psychologically, chronologically, epistemologically, logically, normatively, and ontologically.” [19] True, he hastens to specify that this assertion is not substantiated in his work which means that he adheres for the present to a more moderate opinion seeking to prove that mind does exist and that it is different from matter. It goes without saying that matter is understood by Polten in the purely physicalist sense: “It is perhaps of some interest to note,” he writes, “that Feigl’s physicalist definition of existence is quite like the Marxist-Leninist account of matter. Any Marxist text will repeat the definition of Lenin that the sole property of matter is the property of being objective reality, existing outside consciousness, given to us in sensation. Of course, even consciousness is material for Marxists, as for Feigl.” [20]

We do not mean to say that Polten deliberately distorts the Marxist viewpoint. We are rather inclined to think that Polten has rather a vague idea of it and very scanty knowledge of the corresponding works by Marx, Engels, and Lenin. In any case, his views on the “Marxist-Leninist account of matter” are very far from the truth. First, the dialectical materialist concept of matter does not coincide with the notion of the physical as understood by Feigl, even if we compare it with his more general interpretation of the physical as “physical1”. Besides objective reality, Marxism recognises subjective reality, the reality of senses, emotions, thoughts, ideas, etc. Moreover, Marxism not only recognises these realities, but demands that they be considered in their interaction. In this context it would be in place to recall Lenin’s well known words: “Of course, even the antithesis of matter and mind has absolute significance only within the bounds of a very limited field—in this case exclusively within the bounds of the fundamental epistemological problem of what is to be regarded as primary and what as secondary. Beyond these bounds the relative character of this antithesis is indubitable.” [21] Second, Lenin’s stand has very little in common with positivist empiricism which is characteristic of Feigl’s views, since sensations to Lenin are by no means the only source of knowledge and the only means for the cognition of reality, but they are indeed the only form of man’s connection with the surroundings and even with his own inner world.

Every philosopher more or less familiar with Lenin’s works knows perfectly well that Lenin made a clear distinction between the physical concept of matter subject to elaboration with every new significant discovery in physics and the philosophical or epistemological concept representing the sole property of the infinitely diverse objects and phenomena of the world—the property of being an objective reality. None other than Lenin, developing the ideas of Marx and Engels, came out against the identification of these different levels in the cognition of reality. Later on we shall dwell on this aspect of the problem at greater length but at present our point is to emphasise that Polten’s criticism of “scientific materialism” in the person of Feigl, Smart, Armstrong and others distorts their viewpoints in at least three aspects: in their attitude to positivism, i.e. logical empiricism, in their attitude to dialectical materialism and in the confusion of the methodological and ontological treatment of the mind-body problem.

As we see, the viability of the programme of “scientific realism” depends primarily on its ability to overcome the physicalist viewpoint. It is all the more important as physicalism is in fact entirely alien to true philosophical materialism and seriously limits its theoretical and methodological possibilities. Physicalism, as well as reductionism in general, restricts the scope of scientific investigations and tends to turn them onto a beaten track paved with elaborate physical theories. Everyone knows how easy it is to tread along such tracks, yet every true scientist is equally aware that the easiest way is not the shortest one. Science which represents the forefront of human thought has always followed and will follow untrodden paths. Widely known are Marx’s winged words: “There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.” [22]

Of course, physicalism and reductionism are not a transient phenomenon. They are not brought about by some specific concurrence of circumstances in scientific development, but make themselves manifest each time the philosophers, natural scientists or sociologists attempt to apply certain general principles and methods of scientific explanation beyond the sphere where they hold good. Reductionism can be likened to intermittent fever of scientific cognition which seizes now this, now that field of science. It is essentially connected with the passage from one level of knowledge to another and plays an important part in a scientific explanation, though it is evidently not confined to the limits of this cognitive pattern alone.

Physicalism is but one of the forms of reductionism which seeks to translate specific phenomena and processes into the language of physical mechanisms and laws. It should be noted that we do not apply the terms “physicalism” and “reductionism” to scientific explanations which reflect the laws of objective processes and fall in line with the trends of scientific cognition. With us, these terms always carry a negative meaning denoting an attempt to squeeze certain phenomena into the Procrustean bed of known laws relating to different systems and phenomena.

The modern philosophy of science is characterised by complex internal processes and sweeping reappraisal of values. No sooner had Michael Ruse published his Philosophy of Biology, advocating reductionist and patently logico-empiricist views, than the scientific community produced other works, such as David Hull’s Philosophy of Biological Science which treats practically the same range of problems, but from an entirely new position claiming to represent the “realistic” approach. Contrary to Ruse who denies theoretical biology the status of a science, Hull proceeds from the actual status of biology in a typically “scientific realist” manner. For him, the existence of a highly ramified and systematised biological science featuring a high level of theoretical development needs no proof—it is selfevident. Understandably, this initial premise lays a foundation for an entirely different system of reasoning.

Defining his attitude to positivism and its methodological programme, Hull declares that the logico-empiricist analysis of reduction is at best inadequate, and at worst utterly wrong. The paradigm of physicalism proceeds from the possibility of solving all problems at the lowest level of analysis, i.e. at the level of quantum mechanics, whereas biologists use not only analysis, but also synthesis to investigate the phenomena in interest since they deal with highly organised living systems.

Between the living and the dead Hull sees not only a quantitative, but also a qualitative difference. This is particularly true of man as a living being. “It is certainly true,” he writes, “that nothing is more obvious in the study of nature than the existence of complexity and levels of organisation. Now here are the levels of organisation more stratified and the complexity more complex than in the organic world. But ontological levels, individuals, parts, wholes, and so forth are hardly the ’givens’ of experience—rather these notions emerge as phenomena are investigated and need not coincide with common sense notions... Man is qualitatively different from other species.” [23] It is also indicative that Hull stands for the independence of biology as a science not only on the empirical, but also on the theoretical levels recognising the right of biology to have its own laws and theories which have not been formulated by physics and are not reducible to physical laws and theories. Biology, in his opinion, provides convincing evidence that the concept of life leaves no room for any metaphysical entity. The ability to create and reproduce ever more complex structures is inherent in the elements themselves which constitute living matter. The ascent from elementary particles to man includes a series of different integration levels and “interruptions in development”. Yet it is a continuous process, both in time and space, with no “vacuum” to be filled with immaterial entities. The transition from inanimate nature to the world of living beings is so continuous that the analysis of molecules and organels of the cell has already got into the hands of

physicists. This does not mean, however, that biology is turning into an appendage to physics and that its field of investigations is becoming, so to speak, a subsidiary to a more complex system. Each level of organisation features new properties and new laws. Not a single separate molecule can reproduce itself. This ability is only inherent in such a formation as cell. Yet the emergence of life changes the rules of the game. Natural selection makes a greater demand on a higher level system, such as a population of cells, yet simultaneously offers it new forming possibilities. Living organisms remaining subject to the laws that govern inert systems acquire new properties which do not play any part at a lower level. Biology calls for a new theory.

Of certain interest is also Hull’s criticism of vitalism. In his opinion, the vitalist doctrine results from the failure to understand the connection between such key categories as things and substances, on the one hand, and properties, on the other. Life, according to Hull, is nothing but time, space, gravitation and magnetism. To this must be added the “organisational property” of living systems. The materialistic approach to the problem of life is quite obvious here, at least within the limits typical of “scientific realism”: Hull offers to explain life by the specific features of the organisation of living matter itself, but not by postulating some spirit or vital force. Hull agrees with some anti-reductionists in that the successful development of biology calls for the ontology of many levels, stressing at the same time that it is far from sufficient to divide all reality into several layers and levels—the main thing is to determine the specific properties and laws characteristic of each of them.

Hull’s recognition of the existence of specific, qualitatively different levels, important as it is, cannot yet ensure the solution of the problems facing modern biology. His approach, though essentially materialistic, is still limited. Hull has inherited from positivism its special accent on cognitive structures and carries it onto static organic structures. Yet one of the fundamental properties of living matter at all levels consists in its ability for development and self-reproduction. Hence, one can hardly expect any essential progress in the creation of theoretical biology without a general theory of development, i.e. dialectics. Moreover, such progress cannot be ensured by mechanically “applying” dialectics to the analysis of living systems—it calls for a new approach which is to be worked out by biological science itself. It means that the processes of differentiation should be considered in unity with those of integration, synthesis, and that the structural approach should be combined with the historical one.

In order to study differentiation phenomena, the scientist must possess some kind of an analytical instrument. Good headway has already been made towards this goal in the field of investigation of molecular-biological mechanisms. More difficult appears to be the development of a comprehensive approach to such regulating and controlling systems as the endocrine or nervous system, as it must take into account the specificity of each system and each level of living matter. Biology could evidently greatly benefit from the principle of historicism which would help it to explain the reactions of a developing organism to changing external conditions in terms of adaptability, i.e. to regard the interaction of the organism and the environment as a unity resulting from a prolonged adaptive evolution. Without a historical approach all reactions of an organism may look like a heap of absurdities determined exclusively by the.internal factors of development, quite fortuitous at that and in no way connected with external condition. In order to use to advantage all available analytical means of investigation, the biologists must first of all overcome their prejudice against dialectics and get down in earnest to studying its real theoretical and methodological content from classical works permeated with truly creative spirit.

The results achieved in molecular biology could not have been duly appreciated if it had not been for the intensive development of the idea of selfdevelopment and for the turn to Darwin’s theory of evolution. The synthesis of genetics and the evolution theory carried out in the 1930s and expounded by S. Chetverikov, R. Fischer, S. Wright, and other scientists undoubtedly played an important part in paving the way for the ideas and methods of molecular biology. The concept of microevolution, disputable as it is, has had a beneficial influence on the development of biology if only for its role in preparing appropriate coordination between structure analysis and evolutionary research, i.e. in the integration of experimental biology and theoretical investigations. It should be remembered that though the elimination of the principles of integrity and historism in favour of analytical methods and means does produce an immediate effect and gives tangible and demonstrable results, it can never be anything more than just the first, though sufficiently flexible, approximation to the truth in the process of cognition of living organisms. As A. Szentgjörgji has figuratively put it, with reductionism employed as a universal method, life passes, as it were, between one’s fingers. The significance of each of the above methods in the development of modern biology can only be assessed from the standpoint of dialectics as a science concerned with the most general laws of development.

Numerous philosophers and biologists showing interest in the above problems note the paradoxical fact that such outstanding physicists as Schrodinger, Bohr, Heisenberg, and Wigner have sided of late with the most resolute opponents of reductionism in many fields, including biology which is far removed from their special interests and which is regarded by some physicists as a kind of their private domain. In making such observations they overlook the fact that physics has already recovered, in the main if not completely, from this intermittent fever. There are few physicists now who still hope to reduce the theory of relativity in its present “dominion” to the principles of classical mechanics or to translate quantum phenomena into the language of classical Laplatian determinism [24]. It becomes increasingly clear to scientists that reality cannot be reduced to the totality of observable facts and that epistemological reduction as one of the dogmas of positivism is untenable. It should be noted in this context that physics with its philosophical theories appears to be again far more instructive to biology than vice versa. As regards the approach to the problem of objectivity, the solutions offered by physics and its philosophers feature a notably higher standard of both empirical and theoretical investigations.

It looks as if experimental biology were only approaching the stage at which it will be confronted with the problems of the inseparable connection between the object, subject and instrument, and the relations between the object and the means of measurement. So far, we have not yet come across a philosophical work discussing these problems in the light of experimental investigations in biology. The theoretical level of biological science is evidently not yet high enough to permit a serious philosophical analysis of the means of the objective cognition of biological phenomena. By contrast, all these problems are not only given extensive coverage, but are also treated at a high theoretical level in the literature on physical problems, e.g. in the works by “scientific realist” Bunge. This philosophical trend occupies far more advanced positions in physics than in other fields of science.

One of the important aspects of Bunge’s concept appears to be his analysis of the problem of the conceptual representation of facts in theory. In his opinion, theory can hardly be regarded as simply an image of reality, something like a picture. It is rather a conceptual reconstruction of reality. Yet conceptual representations of facts are no less objective, though they are only partial and provide at best but an approximation to the truth. Not every theoretical construct represents something. For instance, logical notions are not representative at all, even if they have their referents. According to Bunge, reference and presentation are independent of each other, since non-referential constructs, such as multitudes, can be used for representation whereas non-referential constructs, e.g. a tautology, may be completely unrepresentative. The truth is that scientific theories can be both referential and representative.

The difference between the referent and the representation is of no small significance for philosophy. According to Bunge, biologists are more and more frequently engaged in controversies over which of the three biological systems is the true referent of the synthetic theory of evolution—the individual organism, the population or the species. No convincing argument has been presented so far in favour of any of the contending theses. The difference between the referents and the representations becomes clear in developed sciences, such as theoretical physics. Here a certain function probability will refer to some system or state, whereas the values of this function may represent certain dispositions of this system, like, for instance, the function of mass refers to bodies in general, whereas its particular value will represent the mass of a given body. In quantum mechanics each dynamic property of a system, such as a pulse, is represented by a certain operator in the Guilbertian space, i.e. a given operator represents a certain property of its referent. If the relationship of reference in factual sciences compares constructs with things or with aggregates of things, the relationship of representation compares a construct with a certain aspect or property of a given thing or an aggregate of things. Hence, the purpose and the result of a theory is not the representation of selected aspects of alleged things. Theoretical notions are nothing but developed mathematical structures which cannot be defined in terms of empirical operations or constructed as logical functions on the basis of given observations. Empirical checks consist of operations planned in the light of subsequent theories. Besides the experience bridging the gap between theory and reality, there also exists a semantic bridge constructed with the help of the semantic propositions of the given theory.

According to Bunge, the ideal of objectivity characteristic of factual theory is preserved in quantum mechanics to no lesser degree than in classical mechanics. The object neither disappears nor merges with the subject. The only change consists in that our modern notions of microobjects are incorporated in a whole chain of connecting (mediating) links. “The subject,” notes Bunge, “does not occur among the basic predicates of our version of QM [quantum mechanics]. Neither does he occur in the theory of measurement: indeed, physical theory is unconcerned with the psychical events going on inside the observer’s skull: a physical theory of measurement is concerned only with the physical intersection between two or more physical entities, at least one of which must be a macrosystem.” [25]

From Bunge’s viewpoint, the standard formalism of quantum mechanics can be adequately expressed in terms of physics without any reference to the subject, i.e. psychology. In other words, quantum mechanics can be interpreted in the same way as classical mechanics on the assumption that the entities referred to by theory, such as electrons, atoms, molecules, etc. have an independent status. That does not mean, of course, that the experimentalist cannot modify them, for instance, by filtering out certain states or by providing evidence that some microsystems are purely imaginary. Yet to achieve this aim the experimentalist must use physical means without summoning the ghost of the Copenhagen school. Bunge views the observer as an entity capable of influencing physical events with the help of physical means either directly, through the agency of his body, or indirectly, through the mediation of automated devices. The physicist’s mind invents formulae used for prediction of physical events and for interpretation of physical phenomena under investigation and therefore has no direct bearing on theory itself.

For objective interpretation of quantum mechanics Bunge proposes to free it, first, from the notion of observable value and, second, from subjective probability. In his opinion, it is irrelevant to speak of an “observable value”, of the observer changing it, of obtaining the true knowledge of the observable value, etc. All of these notions relate to the subject, as well as to some of his actions and mental states. Typical quantum properties are not observable (in the epistemological sense of the word), and changeable values are nothing but approximations to values calculated theoretically. The notion of certainty is no less alien to physical theory. The latter must contain the objective interpretation of probability as an ordinary physical property, but not as a degree of faith or a measure of certainty.

According to Bunge, the axiomatisation of the existing quantum theory is the radical means of its restructuring. Axiomatic substantiation should rest on such notions as the “microsystem” (or quanton), the “surroundings” (macro- or microphysical systems), the “conventional (configurational) space” or the “space of states”, the “property of the microsystem”, the “operator representing it” (the “observable” in the Copenhagen version), etc. These notions will give the quantum theory a kind of an initial basis subject to no further determination. The postulates of this “realistic” version of quantum mechanics determining each of the initial notions must be justified by their ability to give successful theoretical explanations of experimental facts. Hence, axioms are determined both formally and semantically. Measurements only come into play at the checking stage. As regards the properties of the microsystem and their conceptual representation, Bunge always strives to avoid the term “observable”. He contends that, first, they cannot be perceived, though they are amenable to indirect investigation; second, there is no complete clarity about the specific methods of their measurement. In Bunge’s opinion, the subject should be barred from theoretical physics if we do not wish to confuse it with psychology or epistemology. The subject’s role consists in constructing and checking a theory, but not in posing as its referent. It is for these reasons, according to Bunge, that we should not use the word “observable” with dynamic variables in quantum mechanics.

Specific parameters inherent in quantum-mechanical systems are chance variables in the sense that they are associated with a definite distribution of probabilities. It is true, in particular, of the position and momentum of a microsystem which should rather be called a quantum position (quosition) and a quantum momentum (quomentum), to emphasise their non-classical nature. Bunge points out that the function representing the quantum state meets the axioms of the calculation of probabilities. It means that quantum mechanics today contains no latent variables. According to Bunge, Bohm’s prohibition of latent variables directly ensues from the conventional approach to the notions of the axiomatic system and from the proof of the chance character of all dynamic variables.

In Bunge’s opinion, the fundamentalism of quantum mechanics can be understood in two different ways. One way is to assume that it refers not to an individual quanton, but to a statistical ensemble. From this assumption it logically follows that different components of a certain ensemble in a given quantum state have different values of the coordinates and of the momentum. Yet quantum mechanics is also applicable to an individual microsystem (e.g. to an electron passing through a crystal grid and getting onto a screen). The theory is not checked by means of large quantum ensembles. Thus, a calculated distribution of positions is compared with a “diffraction” pattern on the screen when the number of collisions increases. In other words, the function of the state (like any other chance variable) refers to an individual quanton and its exact form is checked with the help of the quanton statistical totalities.

The other way referred to by Bunge consists in regarding quantum-mechanical properties as latent or potential rather than actual, i.e. as properties which reveal themselves in the interaction of the system with the measuring instrument. During this interaction the properties become dependent on the observer, since it is in his power to conduct or suspend the experiment. Yet here, too, Bunge strives to free quantummechanical properties from the subject’s influence. As a rule, a quanton has neither an accurately defined position, nor a definite momentum, possessing only point distributions. These distributions change with time under the influence of the environment irrespective of whether this environment is included in the experiment or not. Specifically, a quanton can be fairly well localised in space, for which purpose it is necessary to fulfil appropriate operations in order to prepare a localised state. Such operations quite often take place under natural conditions. According to Bunge, we only repeat the experiments staged by nature itself by fixing, for instance, the position of the atoms or by producing a monochromatic electron beam.

From Bunge’s viewpoint, the quantum theory does not lend itself to an empirical interpretation since none of its basic symbols has any empirical content. Moreover not a single basic symbol of quantum mechanics can be explained in empirical terms whence it follows that the quantum theory has no empirical content whatsoever. It does not mean, however, that it is not testable— it simply means, in Bunge’s opinion, that its facts are quantum transitions lying above the level of sensory experience. Here Bunge somewhat exaggerates the existing gap between classical and quantum mechanics, sensory experience and theory, observability and non-observability. Though not directly observable, many quantummechanical formalisms and symbols can at any rate be visualised and therefore lend themselves, at least partially, to empirical interpretation. Besides, an empirical test involves the use of additional theories connecting microprocesses with macroprocesses, as well as theories explaining the behaviour of the macrosystems included in the process of measurement. The semantic content of the quantum theory is thus determined not only by the factual level reflected in theoretical concepts, but also by concepts which can be translated, at least partially, into the empirical language. To be sure, this circumstance makes the test of the quantum theory much more difficult and is accountable for the controversies (still going on) over the possibility of the interpretation of quantum mechanics. Bunge strives for the simplest and most radical solution of the problem of objectivity in quantum mechanics proposing complete separation of the empirical and theoretical levels and banishment of all observable and measurable values from theory. In point of fact, it is the reverse of “ousting metaphysics”. This way can hardly lead to a satisfactory result. Just like an experiment cannot be freed from its theoretical canvas, so the quantum theory cannot and evidently need not be “relieved” of all the observables. If compared with the stand of the Copenhagen school, it is just the other extreme, prompted by the desire to solve the problem of objectivity in quantum mechanics by surgical means.

One will hardly take exception to Bunge’s contention that a notion cannot be defined as primary or secondary outside a definite theoretical context, that the axiomatisation of the theories of relativity and quantum mechanics has made it clear that they deal with objects rather than measurements and that these theories are not directly related to the observer and his mental states. It is not quite clear, however, in which way the axiomatisation of the above theories helps to reveal their objective content or, the more so, serves as a means for making knowledge more objective. Nevertheless, Bunge’s idea appears to be constructive enough, particularly if the proposed axiomatisation could be supplemented with other methods of the objective interpretation of the quantum theory. As we shall try to show later, such possibilities should evidently not be discarded.

Besides the weaknesses noted above, Bunge’s concept is depreciated by the mutual isolation of classical and quantum mechanics. He draws a sharp line of demarcation between the two theories leaving just one connecting link—the instrument whose indications are described in terms of classical physics but at the same time do not yield to empirical interpretation. Here Bunge appears to be unable to fit things to one another and shape them into a streamlined philosophical-methodological system. He stops in hesitation when confronted with the need for a more flexible, i.e. dialectical, approach to the relationship of theories. What is needed, however, is not only a more flexible apparatus to investigate the relations and links between theories, as well as between a theory and its empirical basis. Of crucial importance, alongside a greater determination to delimit theory and sensory experience, is an effective methodological concept of development. A concept of this kind is necessary not only for understanding the interdependence of the classical and quantum theories, but also for defining the future trends of the development of modern physics. It is very important, for instance, to envisage the prospects of the modern non-relativistic quantum theory and the theory of relativity, as well as the effect of their possible integration on the theory of elementary particles. It is quite obvious that the solution of these problems calls for a dialectical approach to the analysis of modern scientific knowledge and for abandoning the view that the quantum theory revised in accordance with Bunge’s requirements is the ideal for all sciences. The materialistic substantiation of the latest physical theories cannot be complete without dialectical analysis. It is not fortuitous that the weakness of this link in the system of Bunge’s views leads him to a number of idealistic conclusions. As has been shown above, Bunge’s approach to the interpretation of quantum mechanics, the general problems of the relationship of philosophy and science, as well as to the mind-body problem cannot but suffer from certain eclecticism due to his prejudice against dialectics.

Bunge’s concept features rather a contradictory and even odd combination of the objective understanding of probability in quantum mechanics with the mechanistic interpretation of causality. Bunge’s mechanicism in this field is traceable to his earlier works and, as his latest ideas show, has not been completely cured. It must be admitted that Bunge has come out with argumentative criticism against the Machist concept of causality and opposed the attempts of Schlick, Frank and Mach himself to substitute functional dependence or the connection of states for causal relations. He repeatedly disclosed the futility of all attempts of positivism to contrast causality and quantum mechanics and to undermine the idea of causality by counterposing it to Heisenberg’s correlation of uncertainties. His efforts, given a most serious attitude to dialectics, could be very fruitful in achieving a common goal—to give an objective substantiation to the microworld theory. However, Bunge has always refused to avail himself of this methodological support.

Bunge’s stand is largely attributable to the fact that his concept of causality is based on the simplest form of causal relations lying on the surface in everyday experience: the action of one object on another. Expressing the principle of causality in a more strict logical form, Bunge presents it as follows: “If C happens under the same conditions, then (and only then) E is always produced by it.” [26] According to the author, this formula includes all the obligatory components of causality, namely, the conditionality of the consequence upon the cause, the uniqueness of the connection, the unilateral dependence of the consequence on the cause, the constancy of the connection and its genetic nature (or productivity).

Ascribing such features as uniqueness and necessity to causal relations, Bunge discards by his formula the possibility of one and the same consequence being brought about by different causes. In his analysis of different definitions of causality Bunge gives preference to the one identifying the cause with the necessary and sufficient condition. He includes all the accompanying conditions in the concept of the efficient cause. In his opinion, if the accompanying conditions were contingent upon the cause, the formula of causality would express more than a simple, direct causal bond and the cause would then be regarded as the unchainer or triggerer of a process [27]. Bunge’s formula, however, complicates the problem of the relationship of the internal and external conditions in the analysis of some complex process, particularly in a living organism or any developing system. No less difficult becomes also the analysis of the behaviour of a quantum-mechanical system which figures prominently in Bunge’s works.

The solution to the internal-external dilemma in the causality problem proposed by Bunge is very, if not too, simple: he identifies both the internal and external conditions either with the necessary or with the sufficient conditions required to ensure the causal process. This brings him in obvious contradiction with his own concept of determinism. It should be noted that Bunge distinguishes between the principle of causality and the principle of determinism. The latter rests on a broader notion of “determination” which includes the processes of simple causality. One might infer from this stand that causality in its simplest and clearest form must underlie any kind of determination, including the statistical one. Yet Bunge, though never giving a clear-cut definition of necessity and chance, makes it quite plain that the changes contingent on the very nature of phenomena and resulting from the operation of internal factors should be regarded as the necessary ones. Chance, according to Bunge, is what results from external circumstances. Now let us see if this approach will help in any way to understand the nature of quanum-mechanical processes or throw additional light on the problem of completeness of the quantum theory.

In his book on causality Bunge still regards with favour Bohm’s hypothesis of the existence of “latent parameters” determining the statistical behaviour of microparticles and contends that, once defined, they would enable the scientists to abandon the probability interpretation of quantum mechanics and of the behaviour of microparticles. Yet in his Philosophy of Physics, written later, he changes his views and offers a different programme: to eliminate completely the subject (psychological determinations, measurements, observable values) from the quantum theory. In this way he evidently seeks to eliminate the subjective interpretation of probability as well. To this end Bunge uses the expression “mean value” instead of the psychological “expectation value” and prefers the terminology of probability of quanton’s presence in a given volume to the vocabulary of the Copenhagen school and Percy Bridgeman’s operationalist concept “(presence is a given volume when the measurement is practically completed”). Bunge goes even as far as substituting the terms “scatter” and “spread” for “uncertainty” and “indeterminacy”.

Here, however, a tricky question suggests itself: is it to be inferred that a statistical process proceeding at a certain level of the organisation of matter is a direct effect of the cause operating at a deeper level? Schrodinger’s equation is known to be in some sense mechanistic, just like Newton’s. Both equations describe the changes caused by external effects, yet the latter, unlike the former, represents a simple causal relationship. The quantisation of states brings in a new qualitative element which distinguishes modern from classical mechanics. The essential difference consists in that the former equation regards matter as a wave process, whereas the latter one treats it as the totality of particles. The difference here is brought about by the inner quality and not by external forces. Yet in both situations the principle of causality is used to explain motion in terms of mechanics (wave mechanics and classical mechanics respectively). Should it be assumed, then, that simple causality rejected at one level owing to statistical interpretation must be restored at the next basic level as being better suited for the explanation and prediction of processes?

When we pass on to microprocesses, we encounter a relative increase in the role of internal factors and a corresponding decrease in the role of external factors in determining the properties of physical systems. Here again, how are we to tally necessity resulting, according to Bunge, from the operation of internal factors of physical and all other phenomena, and chance regarded by him as a totality of external conditions with the view that any future theory explaining the mechanical displacement of microparticles in space and time will be a statistical theory?

Suppose now we still hope that one fine day it will prove possible to describe the behaviour of microparticles in terms of simple causal relations. All the same, the lessons taught by quantum mechanics have not been lost on us and we now understand that causality need not at all be rigidly and for ever linked with necessity and that necessity, for that matter, cannot be divorced from chance, except by the sheer force of abstraction from concrete conditions. Hence, any causal connection includes both necessity and chance. If that is so, as surely it is, causality can never be separated from probability unless it is viewed as a fixed relationship, something in the nature of a bronze casting, which cannot be different from what it is.

So, we are again bound to come to the conclusion that disregard for dialectics and the inapt use of its instruments let down even the most talented representatives of “scientific realism” and account, directly or indirectly, for their inconsistencies and concessions to idealism despite the ostensibly materialistic premises of their concepts.


[1]  Roger Trigg, Reality at Risk: A Defence of Realism in Philosophy and the Sciences, The Harvester Press, Ltd., Barnes & Noble Books, Sussex, N. J., 1980, p. IX. [—> main text]

[2]  Roy Bhaskar, A Realist Theory of Science, The Harvester Press, Ltd., Hassocks, N. J., 1978, p. 36. [—> main text]

[3] Ibid., p. 249. [—> main text]

[4] Roger Trigg, Reality at Risk..., op. cit., p. XIX. [—> main text]

[5] Ibid., p. 2. [—> main text]

[6] Ibid., p. 22. [—> main text]

[7] Ibid., p. 23. [—> main text]

[8] Ibid., p. 1. [—> main text]

[9] Ibid., p. 28. [—> main text]

[10]  Roger Trigg, Reality at Risk..., op. cit., p. 66. [—> main text]

[11]  Willard Van Orman Quine, Word and Object, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1960, p. 23. [—> main text]

[12]  Willard Van Orman Quine, “The Nature of Natural Knowledge”, in: Mind and Language, Ed. by S. Guttenplan, Oxford, 1975, p. 74. [—> main text]

[13]  Willard Van Orman Quine, From a Logical Point of View. Logico-Philosophical Essays, Harper & Row Publishers, New York, 1963, p. 44. [—> main text]

[14]  Herbert Feigl, The “Mental” and the “Physical”, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 1967, p. 57. [—> main text]

[15]  I. T. Frolov, B. G. Yudin, Preface to the Russian translation of M. Ruse’s book Philosophy of Biology, Moscow, 1977, p. 18. [—> main text]

[16]  Herbert Feigl, The “Mental” and the “Physical”, op. cit., p. 28. [—> main text]

[17] Ibid., pp. 84–85. [—> main text]

[18]  E. P. Polten, Critique of the Psycho-Physical Identity Theory. A Refutation of Scientific Materialism and an Establishment of Mind-Matter Dualism by Means of Philosophy and Scientific Method, Mouton, The Hague, Paris, 1973, p. 19. [—> main text]

[19] Ibid., pp. 21–22. [—> main text]

[20] Ibid., p. 113. [—> main text]

[21]  V. I. Lenin, “Materialism and Empiric-Criticism”, Collected Works, Vol. 14, 1977, p. 147 (here and hereafter Progress Publishers, Moscow). [—> main text]

[22]  Karl Marx, Capital, Vol. I, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1974, p. 30. [—> main text]

[23]  D. Hull, Philosophy of Biological Science, Englewood Cliffs, N. J., 1974, p. 131. [—> main text]

[24]  Hopes for such a reduction were once expressed by Einstein, and later by David Bohm and other scientists in the hypothesis of latent parameters. Now these hopes are considered groundless. [—> main text]

[25]  Mario Bunge, Philosophy of Physics, D. Reidel Publishing Company, Dordrecht, Holland, 1973, p. 102. [—> main text]

[26]  Mario Bunge, Causality. The Place of the Causal Principle in Modern Science, Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Mass.), 1959, pp. 48–49. [—> main text]

[27] Ibid. [—> main text]

Contents of
Alternatives to

SOURCE: Naletov, Igor [Naletov, I. Z. (Igor´ Zinov´evich)]; translated from the Russian by Vladimir Stankevich. Alternatives to Positivism. Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1984. 470 pp.

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