Niels Bohr Archive
History of Science Seminar
Mon 21 Sept, 14.15
Aud. A, Niels Bohr Institute
Blegdamsvej 17, Copenhagen

Filip Grygar
Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Pardubice, Czech Republic

Bohr's framework of complementarity in the light of
Husserl's and Heidegger's phenomenology

In 2015, Grygar received the Czech Republic's prestigious Josef Hlávka Award for Scientific Literature for his book, Complementary Thinking of Niels Bohr in the Context of Physics, Philosophy and Biology (in Czech), published in December 2014.
His visit to Copenhagen is co-sponsored by the Royal Danish Embassy in Prague.

Author's abstract:

“The aim of this lecture is to introduce a phenomenological interpretation of Niels Bohr's idea of complementarity as a new epistemological framework for scientific and everyday thinking. This framework enables mutually exclusive descriptions to be unified for the purpose of a complex understanding of various subjects of research. An interpretation of Bohr along the lines of Husserl's and Heidegger's phenomenological approaches – contrary to prevalent interpretations of Bohr – reveals new perspectives and highlights the understated features of Bohr's 'Copernican turn.'

First, I will present a historical parallel between, on the one hand, Bohr’s philosophical or epistemological lesson from quantum theory and, on the other, a phenomenological critique of the subject–object distinction and the ideal of the unified scientific interpretation of reality.

On the basis of these viewpoints, I will then introduce, via Edmund Husserl's analysis of intentionality and Martin Heidegger's hermeneutical phenomenology, some possibilities of the phenomenological interpretation of complementarity that are closely related to Bohr's conception of phenomenon and language.

Finally, I will summarize the main points and illustrate them by means of P.A. Heelan's scheme of complementary description. The complex methodological clarification of Bohr's conception, in a period of rapid specialization across scientific branches, may be significant for establishing a new epistemology and for revising ideas of universality and the unity of knowledge.”

Filip Grygar, Ph.D., studied philosophy and graduated from the Faculty of Science at the Department of Philosophy and History of Science at Charles University, Prague. Since 2008 he has been assistant professor at the Department of Philosophy at the University of Pardubice. Grygar specializes in the philosophy and history of science, Niels Bohr's philosophy of science, and Husserl's and Heidegger's phenomenology. He is the author (in Czech) of On the Criticism of Galilean Science in Husserl's “Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology” (2005) and Complementary Thinking of Niels Bohr in the Context of Physics, Philosophy and Biology (2014). In English, he is co-author of Life as Its Own Designer (Springer, 2009).

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