What can Thomistic philosophy of nature contribute to physics?
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To date it is unknown why mathematics is working in physics. Only the fact that it does work is well known. Physics is thus viewed as consisting of two bodies of knowledge – experience and mathematics which are only interlocked, but not organically united. This article searches for such an organic union. In more detail: experimental physics is ultimately based on elementary particles, which Thomistic philosophy of nature can account for by hylomorphism. Therefore, experimental ehysics and Thomistic philosophy of nature share comparable views of their common object. On the other hand, theoretical physics applies mathematical formulae to natural processes. Thanks to their success in describing such processes, these formulae are called ‘laws of nature’. But these laws do not refer to any particular individual material thing the behaviour of which they are supposed to describe, and the reason for their success is unknown. Contemporary theoretical Physics and Thomistic philosophy of nature are far away from each other. In order to find the organic union referred above, this paper proposes a basic idea for obtaining physico-mathematical theories from experience. For this purpose, it analyses experiments and particularly measurements as intermediators between the material world and physico-mathematical theories. It turns out that the object of theoretical physics is experienced reality, but only after two severe modifications. The above-mentioned programme starts from the unmodified experience and has as its philosophical core the thomistic version of hylomorphism and the principle ‘agere sequitur esse’. It is innovative and can be expected to yield more insight into the relationship between physics and mathematics than the division of speculative sciences in metaphysics, mathematics and others proposed by Aquinas in his Expositio super Librum Boethii de Trinitate.
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