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Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture 10.2 (2007) 38-56

The Importance of Unity and Intelligibility
Reconciling Philosophy, the Sciences, and our Lived Experience
James A. Harold

What is the relationship between the contents of philosophy, empirical science, and our naive lived experience? Can this relationship yield a single vision of reality? Or is it better simply to give up this single vision and live in terms of differing categories that are ultimately unrelated and irreconcilable?

It would seem that despite the differences among these three approaches, there is a tremendous advantage to having them be integrated into a single vision, because after all, the truth does not contradict itself.

On the other hand, it seems that these different approaches contradict each other. For example, take our perception of a table as solid. It seems that the science of physics flatly contradicts this naive lived experience. Physics tells us this experience of the table as solid is contradicted by the fact that the table really is made up mostly of empty space. Naturally, such observations can be multiplied. One can only imagine the consternation our ancestors felt when they were finally convinced that it is the earth that revolves instead of the sun moving across the sky. It seems from these observations that our naive lived experience should be simply jettisoned as untrustworthy. [End Page 38] Thus many scientists espouse a scientism, which gives up on any other source of knowledge besides science as legitimate avenues to truth.

On the other side, however, it seems to border on the insane simply to give up on lived experience. It seems inhuman to only take seriously the abstracted world of theoretical science, where every other avenue to truth is considered untrustworthy and illegitimate. Don't those people ever take out the trash? How could they perform such activities if they simply discount lived experience? Do we really have to accept this intellectually inspired schizophrenia, this living in independent categories? Furthermore, isn't there something to the idea of the unity of all truth? How is it possible for the truth to present itself in one way to our lived experience and in a contradictory opposite way via the empirical sciences? It seems, therefore, that there are strong reasons for searching for ways to reconcile the different sciences with each other and with our lived experience.

What I want to do in this article is to take seriously the idea of the unity of all truth and to show that despite the differences involved in these disciplines, work can be done to integrate them into a single vision of reality. Thus, the content presented to us by philosophy, empirical sciences, and our lived experience should be (in principle) reconcilable. Each of the disciplines needs to include work on finding their proper place in relation to the other sciences as well as to our lived experience, where each discipline and experience is balanced, limited, and corrected by the others into a single vision of reality.

We need then to find explanations for phenomena that do not contradict truths coming from other sources. Thus, for example, on the side of our lived experience we should accept the scientific idea that the earth revolves instead of the sun moving across the sky. What is really given with the example of the sun is not its movement but only the illusory appearance of it. That the appearance of something is different from the underlying reality is not troubling. [End Page 39] There is, therefore, no strict, formal contradiction, as if in our lived experience the sun is really moving and scientifically it is not, leading us to give up on our lived experience. In this case science plays the role not of contradicting our lived experience but of correcting it, explaining how our naive theoretical explanation of the sun moving depends upon a mere appearance, which in turn is dependent upon our particular perspective from earth.



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pp. 38-56
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