Parallel currents in the natural and social sciences

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Abstract

Einstein's relativity and the subsequent quantum theory have split physicists into two camps. One argues that the apparent inconsistencies between the mechanistic order of Newtonian physics and the holistic properties of matter revealed by relativity and quantum theory will eventually be resolved within an overall mechanistic order. The second argues that these holistic properties are genuine and require a drastic change in our overall world view. This tension between the mechanistic and holistic conceptions of the world has always existed in the life, human and social sciences. The force behind their emergence and development was the dialectical tension created by the inconsistencies between the mechanistic-Cartesian order, which dominated science, and the holistic properties which are apparent in the domains of life and human society. This recent split among physicists thus creates a new reality, in which the tension between the holistic and mechanistic conceptions of the world is no longer a tension between the scientific natural sciences and the non-scientific 'humanities', but rather the tension of science as a whole. The paper discusses the development of these parallel currents in the natural and social sciences and explores their implications.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-238
Number of pages12
JournalGeoforum
Volume16
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1985

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