- 西田哲学会年報 (ISSN:21881995)
- vol.6, pp.1-17, 2009 (Released:2020-03-23)
It may sound strange to call Nishida Kitaro a philosopher of science, because he is generally known as a philosopher of religion or a metaphysician. However, in Nishida’s later ten years, his speculation was devoted to studying problems in the philosophy of science. We can see tracks of his struggle for foundation of science in his seven volumes of Philosophical Papers. Nishida’s lifetime(1870~1945)was in the middle of “the crisis of science,”which included the discovery of Russell’s paradox in mathematics, the rise of quantum mechanics in physics, and the controversy between mechanism and vitalism in biology. It is interesting that Nishida identifies himself with heterodox positions in such a controversial situation of sciences, namely Brouwer’s intuitionism in mathematics, Bridgman’s operationalism in physics, and Haldane’s organism in biology.
The reason for Nishida’s sympathy with these opinions is deeply related to his later philosophy founded on the key concept of “acting intuition,”which means intuitive grasp of an object through bodily action as poiesis. As Nishida has stated, “Every conceptual knowledge is stemmed from the historical reality grasped by acting intuition and must be proved on this ground.” From such a viewpoint, he criticizes the law of excluded middle in logic following Brouwer’s analysis of the π-sequence and evaluates the development of quantum physics as “genuine returning to the intuition of bodily self.”
We may call Nishida’s philosophy of sciencein his later stages “anti-realism”because his view of science does not presuppose an ideal scientific world independent of scientists’activities. To put it another way, the natural world is not furnished with an unchanging and everlasting structure, but is malleable to the various operations including scientific measurements and experiments. This position is expressed best by Nishida when he quotes de Broglie’s following words: “as de Broglie said, before analysis by prism there are seven colors in the colorless ray. But they exist in the sense that if we make an experiment, they come out.”From this passage, we realize that the structure of reality itself is involved in the historical formation by acting intuition and bodily poiesis. Nishida also characterizes his position as “radical positivism.”
Nishida’s philosophy of science occupies an indispensable part of his later philosophy, as stated above. However, his achievements of grounding sciences have been unjustly neglected. If we intend to understand the core of Nishida’s philosophy as a whole, we must revaluate his philosophy of science from a contemporary viewpoint.