The Metaphysics Experiment: modern physics and the politics of nature




Ekeberg, Bjorn

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The Metaphysics Experiment attempts to explicate a theory and history of universalism in modern physics, through an analysis of its conception of nature. Understood as an axiomatic and hegemonic metaphysical premise through four hundred years of scientific and political history, universalism is defined in terms of its general and persistent claim to nature or truth as an ahistorical reality. Thus, I argue that universalism is directly implicated in, not opposed to, the (Christian) monotheistic conception of God. Moreover, universalism constitutes the logic according to which nature is differentiated from history, culture, and politics. It thus constructs both sides of the same ostensible oppositions in the so-called science and culture wars that determine much of today’s politics of nature. The scientific and political dominance of universalism is demonstrated through a history in five acts. Using the current Large Hadron Collider experiment in Geneva as a principal case study in Act 1, and drawing on contemporary philosopher of science, Isabelle Stengers, I consider four pivotal historical moments in the history of physics and metaphysics that determine the universalist claims of this contemporary experiment. In Act 2, the mid-20th century development of Albert Einstein’s General Relativity framework and Big Bang Theory is read against Martin Heidegger’s critique of identity logic. In Act 3, the mid-17th century emergence of the mathematical universe in modern science and philosophy, through Galileo Galilei and René Descartes, is read against Benedict Spinoza’s univocal metaphysics. In Act 4, the late 19th century invention of particle or quantum physics is read against Henri Bergson’s idea of mind-matter dualism. Finally, in Act 5, considering the contemporary use of natural constants in physics, the insights of Michel Serres, Bruno Latour, Peter Sloterdijk, Heidegger, Stengers and Spinoza are drawn together to problematize the modern historical role of physics and its metaphysical constitution of nature. Beyond these historical event-scenes, I also offer a theoretical explication of five logics, demonstrated individually Act by Act, that comprise different dimensions of science in action. Thus, physics is considered historically both as theoretical and experimental practice and as a form of political mobilization.



Philosophy of science, Spinoza, Latour, Univocity, Universality, Logics, Heidegger