#3: Experience and Turtles

On p. xxxi, Jude says:

“W’s philosophical interests from the beginning were driven by a concern to explain the existence and conceivability of the order that seems to be resident in the course of affairs we know as our universe. In this sense, religion amplifies some of the same themes as science, and thus must conspire with the insights of science…”

It’s important here to point out two things:

1) W. is always trying to explain our given experience of the world, and he uses that experience as a constant touchstone. He’s not drawing circles in the air, or speculating in a vacuum. We have religious experience, and religious intuition, and W. is looking for an explanation. In this sense he’s a radical empiricist in the vein of William James. E.g., we feel, and some people feel strongly, that it’s good to do the right thing (or at least not an evil thing). We feel there is an order in the universe, and we want to get at the gist of that order. And that order is not only out there, in the Big Bang and in the Cosmic Background Radiation. It’s in the very molecules of our bodies, and in the atoms and subatomic entities that make up those molecules. W. wants to look at that order and determine why it’s there.

2) W. is talking about the extreme fundamental structures of the universe. He’s not only talking about religion, but about the laws of science. And not only about scientific law, but about the structures, even if theoretical, that make scientific law possible. Some say he’s too much of a foundationalist because of this. In a discussion about what is perceived by some as too much foundationalism in W., and about “first cause” and other related issues, Dr. Greg Tropea once said to me in jest: “It’s turtles all the way down.” (Wikipedia)


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