When I checked, Amazon interestingly classifies The Nature of Physical Existence (now retitled to omit the “The”) by Ivor Leclerc in “Math & Science > Astronomy & Space Science.” Since the topics delve into the fundamental assumptions of physics and the nature of infinities, I suppose it certainly touches on Astronomy and Space Science. But that’s not, directly, what this book is about. This is an in depth epistemological examination of the universe, the things in it, and what we can know about how they exist. Some call it a metaphysical treatment as well. But I didn’t see it that way. Rather, Leclerc targets the roots of contemporary scientific thoughts and places those roots (not what we’ve made of them) under the microscope of scrutiny.
The result is an involved discussion that is as relevant today as it was when it was introduced to me in 1973 by Philosophy Professor Robert Keseau (thank you, Bob), or at the outset of mathematical science, or even (maybe especially) at the dawn of the age of reason.
Many conclusions can be drawn from, or questions can arise out of, this work. As a language-organized species capable of constructing massive, useful collective fictions, we are all saddled with a world view developed by philosophers over time in conjunction with the evolution of human collective abilities. But have those ideas guided us toward a scientific socio-evolutionary dead end, where humanity reaches an impenetrable epistemological boundary of its own making? The Nature of Physical Existence examines deeply some of the most ingrained concepts of existence, showing (to me) that these concepts are no more than thought experiments of an earlier day and questioning (as I see it) whether the world we experience isn’t better described by a paradigm shift that reanalyzes the ubiquitous dualistic foundation of modern physics.
This is neither pop science nor a philosophical how-to for dummies. The Nature of Physical Existence requires thought and reflection—a welcome break from the breezy, sound-bite dialogue that dominates our daily culture. From the infinity-skipping sleight-of-hand invented by Leibnitz and Newton and others in the Calculus to the question of whether the mind is a “something,” this book can open your eyes to the forks in the road that we have passed and show that some paths not traveled remain available at crossroads before us. A judicious understanding of those paths, and where and why they align or stray from the one we’re on, may some day affect our future in ways we cannot today fathom.