Metaphysics for a World in Evolution
Joseph Andrew Bracken
Metaphysics as theoretical framework for more empirically oriented research in science and in the humanities seems to be either ignored or regarded with great suspicion at the present time. Natural scientists, for example, by and large employ an instrumentalist approach to the study of the laws of nature. Their aim is to deal, not with things in themselves (the Kantian noumena) but with their empirical manifestation (Kantian phenomena) via tentative hypotheses subject to empirical verification. In the humanities, there is deep suspicion of so-called “meta-narratives” that offer a comprehensive vision of reality on the grounds that their authors are consciously or unconsciously trying to control the thinking and behavior of others. Yet, as Colin Gunton points out, human beings, thus faced with an enormous diversity of options in virtually every area of human life, end up making important decisions simply on the basis of momentary personal preference. In this article, I first review the classical philosophical understanding of the relation between the One and Many in which the One is conceived as ontologically prior to the Many as their necessary principle of unity and intelligibility. I then propose a new paradigm for the relation between the One and the Many in which the Many by their dynamic interrelation from moment to moment initially co-create and then sustain the One not as a higher-order individual entity but as their conjoint energy-source and ongoing field of activity. The One can then be readily integrated into a hierarchical ordered system of fields within fields at all levels of existence and activity within nature. In the final part of the article, I indicate how this new field-oriented understanding of the relation between the One and the Many may help to solve controversial issues in natural science and Christian systematic theology.