APU Philosophy Professor Mark Faller is among contributors to a collection of theoretical essays on metaphysics, a discipline attracting renewed interest among thinkers.
“My work is somewhat edgy,” Faller said. “Three of the other authors included in the anthology are among top metaphysicians in the world. I appreciate the opportunity to be in such fine company.
Published in North America by New Jersey-based Transaction Books, “Metaphysics: Aristotelian, Scholastic and Analytic” explores a field that focuses on explaining fundamentals of the ways we think about the world and our place in it.
Faller’s chapter is “The Optimal and the Necessary in Leibniz’s Mathematical Framing of the Compossible.” The essay stems from a presentation Faller gave at a conference, titled the same as the anthology, in Prague in 2010.
Architecture is an example of mathematical framing used to understand a thing. Faller’s writing focuses in part on attempts to derive harmonic theory from the Second Law of Thermodynamics.
He said renewed interest in metaphysics is a reaction to logical positivists of the mid-20th century, who sought to dismiss metaphysics as superfluous to the work of science.
That posed problems for ethicists, Faller said.
Without conceptual models that metaphysics provides about what exists at various levels of reality, questions about what level of respect to extend to organisms became difficult.
“How does one determine whether to give ethical respect to a mammal or insect without a way of conceiving its level of existence?” Faller said.
A former math teacher, Faller said he’s intrigued by mathematical thinking engaged in by scholars ranging from Plato to Descartes, from Leibniz to Einstein. “I see Leibniz anticipating much of the work done in the last 20 years in chaos and complexity theories,” Faller said.
Leibniz is the 17th century German philosopher, mathematician and inventor credited among other things with developing the first mass-produced mechanical calculator.
Faller says people are attracted to philosophy for at least a couple of reasons: “Some, like me, are there to understand the wonders of life and the world. Others are there to debunk the same.”
He believes philosophy in the digital age is more valuable than ever because it teaches us how to think.
“Google cannot show you how to evaluate whatever it is that a keyword search gives back to you,” he said. “It’s more important today than ever that students appreciate the great differences among information, understanding and knowledge.”
Founded in 1959, APU is Alaska’s only four-year, private baccalaureate liberal arts university offering two-year, four-year, master’s and doctorate level programs. APU is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.