Dualism and Duality

Duality Science Academy

This website examines two historical terms, dualism and duality, whose origins have their roots in 16th and 17th centuries in philosophical discourse and geomtric analysis. The goal of this website, in the context of modern science, is to provide evidence that all disciplines, scientific as well as non-scientific, have a component which can be characterized as dualistic. Hence the name DualityScience.

The terms duality and dualism were originally associated with (1) scientific investigations of Huygens and Newton into the properties of visible light, (2) philosophical ideas of Descartes and especially the mind-body problem, and (3) development of projective geometry by Descargues in the study of projective art. The investigation into the scientific, philosophical, and mathematical associations of these terms are relevant in understanding the contemporary usage of these terms.

The terms duality and dualism refer to phenomena having a twofold nature and characterized by states that are mutually exclusive. Duality differs from dualism, however, in that the dichotomous  states are mutually interdependent, complementary, and even interchangable. Duality principles, surprisingly, span a spectrum of disciplines, scientific and non-scientific, and are not restricted to the mind-body problem of philosophy. The two terms in modern times are sometimes used interchangeably and is the reason the terms are considere equivalent.

Dualism and duality constructs can be found in almost every scientific and non-scientific discipline and seem to have universal applicability. Dualistic systems and models are ubiquitous can be found in the natural sciences (physics, biology, chemistry); the social sciences (sociology, political science, economics, etc.), the humanities, medicine, mathematics, and philosophy.

René Descartes (1596 -1650)

Duality Science Academy
René Descartes

Rene Descartes wrote Meditations on First Philosophy in 1641. The year 1642 is very significant in the history of science. It is the year that Galileo Galileo died and Issac Newton was born. Descartes influenced both physics and mathematics and the Cartesian coordinate system was named after him. He is also credited as being one of the inventors of Analytical Geometry, the other was Pierre de Fermat. This bridge between algebra and geometry, both static mathematical systems, was essential before Leibnitz and Newton were able to develop the CALCULUS, the mathematics of motion.

Philosophy vs Natural Philosophy

It was in the early 1800s that natural philosophy (science) and philosophy began to part ways. Prior to that it was common for philosophers to ask  metaphysical questions like What is Motion?, What is Matter?, and What is Force? Empirical studies in the physical world demanded that metaphysical questions be answered. Rational and logical methods and physical investigations were not separate enterprises. At the end of the 17th century the philosopher John Locke wrote disapprovingly that "natural philosophy  is not capable of being made a science." History has proved this statement to be wrong.

The Scientific Revolution and Age of Enlightenment in the Western world began with the  discoveries of Copernicus, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton. Twentieth century physics, dominated by general relativity and quantum mechanics, has turned every physicist into a meta-physicist (philosopher). 

Most scientists are dualists even though they may pursue monists goals. Notable German philosophers who are monists are Immanuel Kant and Georg Hegel. Dualists who unified laws in physics are: Galileo Galilei showed that the laws of physics are the same in any inertial frame of reference (the original theory of relativity); Isaac Newton unified principles of celestial and terrestrial mechanics; James Clark Maxwell unified theories describing electricity and magnetism; and Albert Einstein unified theories applying to gravitation and acceleration (non-inertial) frames of reference. 

Einstein's ultimate quest for a "unified field theory" failed but his effort lives on. See the discussion about string theory by clicking on the Dualities across the disciplines tab above.

Origin of term Metaphysics

The first major work in the history of philosophy to bear the title "Metaphysics" was the treatise by Aristotle that we have come to know by that name. But Aristotle himself did not use that title or even describe his field of study as 'metaphysics'; the name was evidently coined by the first century C.E. editor who assembled the treatise we know as Aristotle's Metaphysics out of various smaller selections of Aristotle's works. The title 'metaphysics' - literally, 'after the Physics' - very likely indicated the place the topics discussed therein were intended to occupy in the philosophical curriculum. They were to be studied after the treatises dealing with nature (ta phusika). 

Source: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-metaphysics

From Newton to Einstein

It was in 1630 Descartes, the originator of mind-body dualism, showed that the behavior of light could be recreated by modelling wave-like disturbances in his universal medium, called plenum.  Christiaan Huygens, born 1629, conducted experiments supporting Descartes views. Isaac Newton, on the other hand, argued that light is composed of particles (corpuscles) and could be refracted when passing into a denser medium.  Duality investigations of light (wave vs particle) ran parallel to the philosophical issues raised in the mind-body problem.

Physicists have resolved the issues of duality as far as physical matter is concerned.  The Copenhagen Interpretation states that duality applies to all material substances, not just light, and that all matter exhibits both wave like and particle like properties simultaneously.  The debate started around the time of Newton but was only resolved at the time of Einstein.  Evidence had been accumulating for around 300 years supporting both the wave and the particle nature of light.  The debate among physicists finally ended at the beginning of the 20th century. Wave-particle duality was accepted when Einstein won a Nobel Prize, not for the theory of relativity, but for the photoelectric effect in which the particle nature of light was demonstrated in 1905.

The debate about dualism and duality continues unabated among meta-physicists. Experimental evidence in medicine, biology, and the social sciences continues to accumulate. There are signs that the duality debate among philosophers is coming to an end, for there appears to be light at the end of the philosophical tunnel!

Newton's contributions to physics, mathematics, and metaphysics are well known. But he warned the discipline:
"O Physics beware of Metaphysics!"

Einstein, probably because of Newton's concern, referred to himself  as a "tamed meta-physicist" in the 1954 book Ideas and Opinions. Physicists entering the philosophical arena was commonplace at the beginning of the 20th century. Einstein's contributions are some of the most memorable and valuable.

The following quote is Einstein's response to the question: "How can it be that mathematics, being after all a product of human thought which is independent of experience, is so admirably appropriate to the objects of reality?"
He said that, "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality."

Einstein made a sharp distinction between empirical facts and logical constructs found in mathematics and gave a contemporary meaning to Newton's admonition.

Einstein, A. (1923). Sidelights on Relativity (Geometry and Experience). P. Dutton., Co.