The Universon

File:The incomplete circle of everything.svg

Modern science has restricted the area where one can wildly speculate to some very narrow fields. Gone are the days when natural philosophers could allow their imagination to roam unhindered. Somebody like Leibniz (see my previous post) could still come up with rather crazy ideas. New ways to open up windows into reality, like the microscope invented by Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, allowed Leibniz to come up with new speculations about microscopic universes. So while in the long run, such inventions put ever tighter restrictions on imagination, for some time they even extended it.

Today, however, only small pockets of speculation are left. One is the era of extremely high energies in the first instances of time after the big bang. Energy was so high that it will always remain impossible to reach it in any experiment. If there are different ideas about how the world functioned in that first instance, we will never be able to distinguish between them by any experiment and rule out the wrong ones. Here the borderline between physics and metaphysics is blurred and beyond it, you can still indulge in speculation.

The following idea certainly belongs into that realm of speculation. It certainly belongs into the “crazy idea of the month” category and I am not really serious about it.

An unsolved puzzle is why there is matter, why matter and antimatter did not cancel out each other completely. Perhaps there is some asymmetry between them. Well, it looks like there is one, but it seems to be not big enough. So what happened?

Perhaps matter and antimatter where created in equal amounts and then separated. What could have led to such a separation? One idea that came to my mind is that, although we think of elementary particles as being small, there is, to my knowledge, no known reason why the mass of an elementary particle should not be very large. That the ones we know are small is due to the fact that our particle accelerators, the technology we have to generate them, is limited in its ability to concentrate a large amount of energy in a very small space. But maybe some “elementary particles” are possible that have a mass that is much, much larger. Consider that there is such a particle whose mass equals the mass of the whole observable universe, and perhaps more. Consider a pair of such a particle and its antiparticle are generated in the first instance of the universe, perhaps even many such particle-antiparticle-pairs. They are then separated by the expansion of the universe and then they decay into lighter particles. On of them decays into all the particles that make up our universe, its antiparticle decays equally into the antimatter-particles of an anti-universe. Since all the matter is bundled together into one particle initially and all the antimatter into another one means that matter and antimatter are cleanly separated. The result is a set of universes, each consisting predominantly of one type of matter.

I call this speculative kind of particle the “Universon”.

Granted, this is not science but speculative metaphysics. I don’t believe in it, but it is fun to speculate unabated like that. Maybe the old natural philosophers also did not really believe in all the crazy stuff they invented and published. Did Leibniz believe in his monads and microcosms? Maybe; maybe not. Maybe it was just fun. The restrictions imposed by religion had loosened and the restrictions imposed by science had not yet set in.

Thinking underwent a phase transition, from the solid state of the Scholastic-Aristotelian doctrine to a somewhat liquid or even gaseous state. Later it condensed again and crystallized into the new solid state of modern science. In between everything was possible. The discoveries of the time created enough new information to blow apart the old certainties, but not yet enough constraints to force thinking into new ones.

Speculating about the Universon gives me a glimpse of the intellectual fun possible back in those days.

(The pictures are from and The first picture shows a  “Graphic representation of the standard model of elementary particles”. It is interesting here that the arangement of information in the form of a circle is attempted, not unlike attempts of old alchemists to arange everything into a neat order, while the circle and its segments do not have any clear semantics in this graphic representation.  The second picture shows a depiction of a version of the old geocentric worldview. There was a considerable degree of speculation and variation even back in medieval times (e.g. the idea of the bishop Robert Grosseteste that the universe started as a point of pure light that expanded into everything), but religion put constraints on speculation).


Montaigne and Scholasticism

The essays of Montaigne show, in their structure, an echo of the scholastic treatise. The authors of a scholastic treatise first compiled the opinions and teachings of earlier authors before explaining his own position on the topic. Montaigne often also starts with citations of several classic authors, before developing his own ideas. Perhaps the mottos or citations at the start of some modern essays are a reflection of this tradition.

A Note on Homosexuality in Muslim Culture

How strange! There is a long and rich tradition of Arabian homoerotic poetry that emerged as part of Muslim culture, obviously a trace of homosexual life in old times. Militant homophobia only entered muslim culture as a result of European colonization. As a result of European (protestant, Victorian) uptightness and law, this homophobic attitude entered the muslim mindset, and during the 19th century, homoerotic poetry disappears from the muslim world. Colonialism triggers a kind of inferiority complex among the colonized and then out of shame, they discard those aspects of their culture that are frowned uppon by the colonizers, and integrate the colonizer’s attitudes into their own identity. Stupid and tragic in its consequences.

Philosophical Excavations

I have started a new blog to publish some research into the history of philosophy as well as some reflections and meta-level thoughts about the results of that reserach. I have published an introductory article Starting to Dig and a first research article on the little-known Austrian philosopher Karl Faigl (more articles on him are planned). My first “philosophical digging campaign” is concentrating on some (predominantly right wing) philosophy from eraly 20th century Germany and Austria. If you are interested in this project, just follow that blog. I will only publish occasionally there since the time I can spend on this project is currently quite limited, but I hope that bit by bit I will be able to present some interesting stuff here (about this particular direction of philosophy as well as some others).

There is no Science of Science

There is history of science and there is philosophy of science. There is no science of science. The reason for this is that every formal method is limited (as can be demonstrated mathematically, in computability theory) and as a result, there is no formal or algorithmic way to produce arbitrary scientific knowledge. Every methodology of science must necessarily be incomplete. Therefore, the methodology of science involves creativity, i.e. the ability to go from one formal system to another, and the totality of these processes cannot be described within any single formal theory or algorithm.

As a result, the meta-discipline of science is a branch of philosophy and will remain so, and science develops historically. The meta-disciplines of science are thus necessarily inside the humanities, and will always remain so. There are no fixed laws describing what scientists do. Science, if understood as the description of systems following fixed laws, is not applicable to itself.

A Small Inheritance

My recently deceased aunt passed some books to me, mostly about philosophy and psychology. When I visited her the last time, she had told me how she had received some of these books. Some of these books had come from the library of the theologian Rudolf Bultmann. Bultmann had been a professor in Marburg. When my aunt was a student in that town, she got a job as a prompter in the metropolitan theater of Marburg. One other woman working there had been hired by the old Professor Bultmann to read books to him since he had become almost blind. When he died in 1976, she received some of his books and then passed some of these on to my aunt who was interested in them.

This way, a couple of books from this theologian have now ended up in my possession. My interest in theology is limited,  but this collection of books contains little about theology, but a lot of other interesting material. His theological books obviously went other ways. I cannot tell in every case which of the books I received are actually from Bultmann’s collection and which from my aunt’s (there is a lot of stuff about psychoanalysis, for example, and I am not sure if any of these come from Bultmann or just reflect my aunt’s interest in the topic), but I know for sure that the series of Eranos yearbooks in this stock of books comes from Bultmann’s possession, and there are some others (mostly about mythology and different religions) which I suspect to be from his library as well.

When we buy used books from antiquarian booksellers, we normally do not know the history of those books. By going through the hands of a bookseller, the history of the books, the history about their former owners and readers, is usually stripped away from them. I find it interesting to receive some books of which I know a little bit of the history. These books are intersting for their content, but they are also memory items and it is interesting to see what this particular theologian was interested in, even if I do not share his views.