Professor Leo Apostel (1925-1995) was a teacher of Logic and Philosophy both in the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and Universiteit Gent. The main theme of his life work was tackling with the deep issues of modern exact sciences and humanities. Vrije University has a Center Leo Apostel for Interdisciplinary Studies. (apostle is in Dutch apostel)
Is it possible to bridge the huge gap that has developed between the two? Humanity races towards the future with more and more scientific knowledge and technical abilities but seems to remain in a rather backward state in moral and ethical sense. Often the first application of scientific breakthroughs is made in military technologies and only later to make life better to the citizens of earth.
Rudolph Carnap (1891-1970) who had studied Physics in Berlin University 1917-18 where Albert Einstein was a newly appointed professor. Must have been some teacher! Carnap went to study Philosophy in Jena and wrote there his axiomatic theory of space and time.
Rudolph Carnap was a leading member of the Wienna Kreis that promoted logical positivism. In the sense of what can be known the school follows the rejection of metaphysics in line with what Auguste Comte (1798-1857) had called positivism: we have been given an EX reality that can be EXperienced and EXperimentally EXplored. The preferred way to analyze these experiences is logic. Wienna Kreis developed symbolic logic to make such an analysis mathematically accurate.
Leo Apostel adopted the idea of unified vision of science from the Wienna Kreis:
The final goal pursued by the Vienna Circle was unified science, that is the construction of a "constitutive system" in which every legitimate statement is reduced to the concepts of lower level which refer directly to the given experience. "The endeavour is to link and harmonise the achievements of individual investigators in their various fields of science" (VC p. 328). From this aim follows the search for clarity, neatness, and for a symbolic language that eliminates the problems arising from the ambiguity of natural language. The Vienna Circle published a collection, called Einheitswissenschaft (Unified science), edit by Rudolf Carnap, Philipp Frank, Hans Hahn, Otto Neurath, Joergen Joergensen (after Hahn's death) and Charles W. Morris (from 1938), whose aim was to present an unified vision of science (quote).
Also Carl Gustav "Peter" Hempel (1905 - 1997) was influential in Apostel's personal development as a philosopher. Hempel also belongs to the school of Logical Positivism as an EM person - hEMpel EMphasized EMpiricism. What you can see, touch, play with, experiment with is what is given and this given world is best analyzed logically using mathematical and logico-linguistic constructs.
The genius of Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (1889-1951) can be seen in the background of the rise of logical positivism and empirism.
These gentlemen are all interested in the ultimate validity of scientific language, mathematical accuracy of iron logic and view of the world that is based on facts and facts only. They did not find many of the huge questions of religion and philosophy amusing, nothing but blappering and confusion of words and obscure metaphysics and lack of rationality - a hazy world that has no place in modern scientific and technological word.
Does this sound familiar to you?
These fellows are definitely not alone.
However, Leo Apostel is in an important sense different from these philosophers. Not only was he well versed in general theory of relativity and modern mathematics and logics but he only had a human side to his character - he had studied under the famous Jean Piaget (1896-1980) at the Centre International d'Epistémologie Génétique in Geneva, Switzerland. Piaget was deeply interested in the psychological and social development of children and succesfully combined his theory of cognitive development and epistemology with practical education. Truly a man of high education.
So those were some of the main ingredients (missing one - see below) in Apostel's background and his interest in interdisciplinary study. He tried to accomplish the unified vision of the world dreamed by Vienna Cycle and to gap the bridge that has developed between exact science and humanities. In short, he wanted to let Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jean Piaget communicate in the same lecture hall.
In trying this Leo Apostel did something very daring. Instead of going the standard way of logical positivism, denying the validity of metaphysical (which is a metaphysical claim in itself!), he wanted to respect the need of religion so characteristic to the human race. He accepted that this side of human personality is important and wanted to define atheistic spirituality, a religion without supernatural.
This is the crowning achievement of Apostel. He uses religion as the great unifier that brings together both science and humanism.
First in his book Atheïstische spiritualiteit (1998) and then in Oorsprong (2000) published posthumously he gives scientific metaphysics and describes the origin of the world, the beginning of life and the origin of man. Everything is argued on the basis of modern science as reasonably and truthfully as possible. Without God.
Leo Apostel wrote these books that all develop the same basic theme of unity
- Matière et Forme
- Communication et Action,
- Logique et Dialectique,
- The Problem of African Philosophy,
- Afbraak en Opbouw,
- De Gebroken Orde,
- Waarde en Zin van de Cultuurwetenschappen in de 20e eeuw.
- Freemasonry: A Philosophical Essay
- Atheïstische spiritualiteit
And they that conducted Paul brought him unto Athens: and receiving a commandment unto Silas and Timotheus for to come to him with all speed, they departed.
Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.
Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him.
Then certain philosophers of the Epicureans, and of the Stoicks, encountered him. And some said, What will this babbler say? other some, He seemeth to be a setter forth of strange gods: because he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection.Acts 18:15-18 KJVA
And indeed, the message that Apostle Paul was proclaiming to the wisdom searching Greeks was absolutely ridiculous, nonsense and utterly against all that was known and accepted by rational men, friends of Sophia, i.e. philosophers.
Paul was seriously talking about a Jewish guy from distant Jerusalem who had been crucified by the Roman authorities as a rebel like a common criminal and buried in a rock-cut tomb. And he dared to tell them that not only this man lives but that all children of Adam and Eve will one day be resurrected from the dead and face judgment for what they have done and not done.
How on earth could a dead man wake up? What is this funny looking tent maker and preacher with very worn sandals trying to market here in Areiopag, where all kind of new things were of great intellectual interest and curiosity?
Yes. A babbler he was in the eyes of world famous thinkers, the Greek philosophers.
Leo Apostel, a professor from Belgium, has mapped atheistic religion that does not need any faith in God. In fact, it denies the existence of God.
This natural philosophy is not just different from the message of Apostle Paul. It is in total conflict with it because what Paul is preaching is not that the man from Galilee revived, became alive again after dying and joining the family and friends like Lazarus in the Gospel of John had done.
Paul is saying that this man of Galilee came out from the tomb into a new life that is the future God of Israel, the Creator of the Universe and the Father of Jesus Christ is preparing for the humanity.
Apostle is talking about a totally new reality of God that is beyond the grave and beyond the apocalyptic end of this world of ours, a new creation.
There are no logical, mathematical, experimental, empirical, deductive, inductive techniques to reach to the reality that Apostle Paul was preaching to the doubting thinkers in Athens.
Leo Apostel is trying to help humanity to grasp things better and to see everything from the point of human gods on the throne of our religious being.
This attempt is completely bankrupt as it ignores the most important reality, the One That Is.
And what was the missing ingredient in the list above that constitutes to Leo Apostel's important work in our modern society.
He was a Freemason.
For with all our rationality we still seem to miss even just an itsy bitsy tiny piece of mysticism to the harsh realities of this world, ritual, worship and awe of the Eternal.
And please, do not try to tell me that being a Freemason is not significant for our understanding of the central thinking of Leo Apostel or that this is not meaningful to our life in the exciting times of president Barack Obama
To seal our interest on the subject here is the Seal of the United States of America. I guess we all have seen that pyramid with an eye somewhere... now, where was it??