Transdisciplinary Reality – merging the horizons of Theology, Science and Philosophy

  1. Lemma
  2. Realitatea transdisciplinara. O fuziune de orizonturi ale teologiei, stiintei si filosofiei.
  3. Orthodox theological tradition and practice > Patristic studies - Modes of interaction > Integration - Various approaches to the problem of correlation between science and theology - Concepts of knowledge and modes of reasoning > Philosophy of science/epistemology
  4. 20-1-2017
  5. Memelis, Gabriel [Author]. Transdisciplinary Reality – merging the horizons of Theology, Science and Philosophy
  6. Transdisciplinary Reality – merging the horizons of Theology, Science and Philosophy
  7. transdisciplinarity
    1. The collective volume Transdisciplinary Reality – merging the horizons of Theology, Science and Philosophy brings together the efforts of three researchers from Ploiesti, who formally represent three different fields of knowledge: Gabriel Memelis, Adrian Iosif, and Dan Raileanu. What they have in common is the passion for the complex issue of the relation between what is perceived as real and the Real itself.

      This volume aims to provide a new perspective on reality and its concept, which results from the transdisciplinary interaction of a number of areas that deal with this topic, namely Christian Orthodox theology, natural sciences (in particular, physics), artificial intelligence (virtual reality) and philosophy.

      The books aims to reformulate the basis of the dialogue between Science and Theology within the cultural space of Europe. In order to achieve that, the authors assume that a new perspective on reality and on its conceptualization is needed, by means of a new methodology of approaching all different disciplines: the transdisciplinary interaction.

      The authors begin their discussion with an audacious theological statement: they believe their endeavor is legitimized by the undeniable transreligious spirit of Christianity. This statement is supported with many examples from the Bible, showing that the attitude of Jesus Himself was consistently transreligious, in that particular historical context. The authors show that the transdisciplinary method, if correctly understood, is perfectly compatible with the Christian spirit. What is more, it promises to open scientific knowledge to a mode of methodological and terminological flexibility that helps broaden the horizons of knowledge beyond reductionist models and linguistic clichés, towards an "apophatic" space of science. In a very similar way, the Fathers of the Church never “sanctified” some philosophical system paradigm, a conceptual framework or the theological terminology (which they have often semantically reshaped by the revaluation of the current philosophical language); they always strived to save poetically the meanings behind these means of knowledge and expression.

      Taking into account certain outbursts of criticism from the mainstream school of Romanian Orthodoxy prior to the publishing of the book, the authors’ engagement on the path of stirring up the sedimented richness of the patristic thought is altogether courageous and worthy. The research does not follow the common, accessible path of relating to the resemblances between Science and Theology, but discloses the “congeniality” or conformity of the scientific and theological spirit by revealing the formal correspondence between modern sciences and the Judeo-Christian paradigm.

      The theological section of the volume opens with the Preamble: Orthodox Theology and the transdisciplinary spirit. Further on, the text refers to Necessary “exorcisms” and “counter-anathematization” of old and new clichés. Arguments for a congeniality of Religion and Science, which is the most substantial part. It is followed by a section devoted to The Eastern Christian perspective on reality, and "Ta onta ouk ex onton": creation “out of nothing”, or about the difficulties and solutions of grounding a theological ontology. The closing section is entitled The “perspectival” founding of reality: the world “in front of God”.

      The theologian Gabriel Memelis, who is the author of the section, clearly  demonstrates that the fundamental anti-empiricism of the Mosaic Law – considered by him “the first scientific religion and science of making religion” – became the backbone on which, later on, modern science developed. Without the methodological distancing between subject and object that characterizes the Law of Moses, the birth and growth of modern science could not have been possible. The Christian faith, in Memelis’ view, fulfilled the anti-empiricism of the Old Testament and “extended it over the jurisprudence, ethics and theology”. However, in its historical development, Science radicalized the “emancipation” of the subject from the object adopting at times an almost completely sealed off attitude toward nature. Gabriel Memelis maintains that “from the point of view of Theology, the scholastic slip-up, following which the separation between man and nature seemed plausible, does not cancel the congeniality we are talking about: in its unaltered setting, the subject-object distinction belongs to, and is in complete accordance with the Judeo-Christian matrix” – a very pertinent assertion.

      The author also warns of the current existence, of a bigoted theological and monastically-homiletic discourse, and of a rhetoric theology, all of them exalting the empirical side of the religious experience opposing it to any theological theoretical instruction. Memelis insists on the fact that this attitude is at odds with the way the Fathers of the Church experienced the togetherness of life and theology as one. Referring to the problem of Reality in relation to the godly act of creation “out of nothing”, the author explains the importance of placing the creation, in its entirety, in a “suspended state” in relation to God, a sort of ontological, but never topological distancing.

      The section "The perspective of Natural Sciences" includes Methodological assumptions and then The becoming of Modern Science. Reality as a clear distinction between subject and object, followed by The Theory of Relativity, and The Quantum Revolution. Further on, the author focuses on The virtual reality, and finally on The transdisciplinary reality.

      The author Adrian Iosif starts off with a question about the “obsessive” interrogation regarding the “things that are” – that is, about the very nature of reality. He notes that there are only very few scientists who did not express their opinions about the nature of reality – “In what measure can it be postulated that – without leaving the probity characterizing the scientific act – something is, that an entity can be considered objectively as being a part of reality? ‘That is the question’…”.

      The author presents the general methodological assumptions that have so far determined how the issue of reality was dealt with, and states that his personal choice starts “from the subject-object relations scheme” developed within the frame of Transdisciplinarity – this approach offering the benefits of a re-balancing of the subject-object relation “by asserting a unity conserving the distinctions between subject and object inside the frame of a multiplicity of levels of reality”. He also points out the necessary distinction between Real and Reality: Reality being ‘that which resists our experiences, representations, descriptions, images or mathematical formalizations that we make’ (Basarab Nicolescu, "We, the Particle and the World"), while the Real is ‘that what is’. ‘The Real is, by definition, forever hidden, while Reality is accessible to our knowledge’ (Ibidem)”.

      According to Adrian Iosif, the modern revolution of Science supposed a complete “blooming” of the subject, like an ejection of it outside the object. Basically, the transformation of Science from its medieval, pre-modern state to modernity reveals a “pullback” of the subject from the object.

      In reference to the evolution of modern Science, the author looks at the main scientists that showed interested in the Reality theme. The first change in the classic model that guided modern Science came as a consequence of the theory of special relativity, Einstein’s first theory, which changed the physicists’ perception of reality, by coming up with a content it never had within the classical paradigm. The quantum revolution that came afterwards affected even more the conceptual approach of reality, and deeply changed our representation of it. Paraphrasing Basarab Nicolescu, the author claims that “the subject and the object are what they are because the subject as well as the object have a distinct but simultaneous within the same processual unity” – an excellent synthesis of the transdisciplinarity problematics, having a huge theological potential, which is certainly worth exploring.

      Adrian Iosif notes that within the dialogue between Science and Christian Theology there are biased quantum interpretations inferring theological truths. However, these observations appears to refer to fictitious theology, a slanted approach of the problem of God disconnected from the original spirit of the patristic thought (crossed by a direct and intimate, yet rational knowledge of God).

      The third section, The perspective of Philosophy, written by Dan Raileanu, includes Preliminary considerations. The distinction Subject-Object (with its underlying The distinction thing-phenomenon, and The distinction Real-reality), and Perception and reality.

      “We cannot have a mature understanding of the concept of ‘reality’ without addressing the relation subject-object from a philosophical perspective, which is central to both the theological and the scientific discourse. This relationship also includes the distinction thing (in itself) -phenomenon and the dichotomy real-reality. Despite the fact that those two concepts can be inter-defined, a separate analysis of each one is necessary”. That is what Dan Raileanu is carrying out in the following pages: an in-depth analysis of the relation between subject and object, starting with some historic considerations. In that context, the author considers that the relation noetic-ontological can be considered “as a setting into the general frame of thinking of the relation subject-object”, Plato operating the first break between the noetic and the ontological, although only at methodological level. Further, we follow the separation up to the 20th century, when it was overcome by the transdisciplinary methodology, in which the subject and the object, although completely distinct, are consistent with an interaction that makes possible the knowledge beyond Cartesian ontology. Hence, the author asserts the necessity of “a triple perspective over reality: metaphysical, epistemological and analytical. A coherent approach of the reality should assume the problematics of being, as well as the possibility of its knowledge and expression”. Dan Raileanu points out that while the analytical perspective is paying tribute to the philosophical thinking of the 20-21st century philosophical thought, the epistemological thought, in particular the metaphysical thought, come as a result of over two and a half millennia of philosophical thinking.

      For Dan Raileanu, the Real “has always been the obsession of the thinkers”. He adheres to the opinion that it was always supposed that beyond the complexity of the empirical knowledge there could be certain fundamental structures of reality. In his view, all that remains to be done in order to reach these structures is to (re)unite the main three great levels of theoretical knowledge: “the level of observations, the level of empirical knowledge and the level of theoretical knowledge”.

      The author identifies that within the specificity of each resides presuppositions and notions attempting to construct and reconstruct the rational meanings of the world, and there is the place where we can find a methodology akin to the apophatic expression, all in an attempt to justify the ultimate truths.

      The closing statement of Dan Raileanu synthesizes his entire essay: “Nevertheless, if now, at the end of the road, we are to look back reflexively over the entire development that the history of philosophy offered us, we could say that, to the question about the nature of reality it is possible not to find a definitive answer, because the question itself should be rephrased as a consequence of a fortifying act of our own intuitions, so we could assume the concept of ‘reality’ in an ‘intuitive’ manner as a primary concept. Hence, it would be more appropriate for us to ask: ‘to whom can we attribute reality?’…”.

      The conclusion is that there are two contact areas in which a ‘shared understanding’ of the concept of reality can be identified. It also indicates that Eastern Christian Theology is able to address the most recent challenges of the scientific and philosophical analysis that surround this topic. A merging of horizons based on the congeniality of Theology and Science is considered possible, and implicitly the “understanding itself” in a transdisciplinary territory. Tha authors stress that this offers a richer, novel vision on the world, which is entirely different from a mere collection of complementary points of view.