For purposes of convenient references in this presentation, the term metaphysical will be applied to the region outside space and time. This word has acquired a wide diversity of meanings since its original application to one of Aristotles works, but as the Encyclopedia Britannica puts it, Whatever may be the historical origins of the term, metaphysics has always connoted some antithesis between physical and non-physical inquiries, and this is the significance that is being given to this term in the present work. The previous volumes dealt with the physical universe; this one extends the inquiry to the non-physical. A few additional physical subjects are given some consideration, particularly in the biological field, but these are only developed to the extent that is necessary in order to prepare the way for the metaphysical discussion.
The entire new development--that presented in this volume--is based on the premise that the conclusions reached in the previous physical study are correct. Without any assurance that the new concept of the nature of space and time developed in that study is valid, the present findings would be nothing more than an interesting new philosophical point of view to be added to the many already existing--a more logical and consistent system of thought than has heretofore been available--but otherwise not essentially different from previous philosophical works. Since the theoretical system presented in my previous books is still in the early stages of consideration by the scientific community, and is a long way from general acceptance, there will no doubt be those who contend that extending the scope of the work into the metaphysical field is premature, and that a more prolonged scrutiny of the original findings should precede any such extension. However, the results of the present extension of the investigation are, in a sense, an urgent message, in that they have an immediate and crucial application to all human life. In view of their extraordinary importance, it is scarcely appropriate to insist that their consideration be deferred until after the leisurely processes of the scientific community have had time to operate.
I have accompanied the development of the new system of physical theory by a proof that it gives a picture of the actual physical universe that is (or can be) correct in every detail. Ultimately, therefore, the validity of this new system will have to be conceded, however painful the necessary adjustments in thinking may be. In the meantime, there is no good reason why those individuals who are already fully or partially convinced of the authenticity of the new development, or those who have no intention of trying to pass judgment upon it, should have to wait for the slow-moving verification mechanisms of the scientific community to arrive at firm conclusions. Those who are interested in the subject matter are entitled to see what further information can be developed from an extension of the same lines of thought, if they so desire, even though such a departure from conventional patterns of thinking does not yet have the approval of the scientific Establishment.
Furthermore, even though non-scientists ordinarily accept the verdict of scientists on scientific questions, and scientists-in-general usually accept the verdict of the specialists in the particular field involved, there is no adequate reason why they must do so. Of course, if the subject matter is complex and highly technical, so that a thorough knowledge of the field is a prerequisite for an understanding, the layman is effectively ruled out in most instances, but this is not the case here. The essence of my new physical system, the Reciprocal System of physical theory, as I call it, is simple enough to be within the comprehension of anyone who has a reasonably good understanding of high school physics. Indeed, a worker in an allied field--chemistry or engineering, for instance--has some advantage over the professional physicist, as he is less committed to orthodox lines of thought. The individual who finds the results of this metaphysical investigation rational and reasonable is therefore in a position to exercise his own judgment as to the validity of the claims that I have made with respect to the underlying physical theory, or to accept the judgment of the small, but growing, minority of physicists who agree with my conclusions.
Some comments about the wide field of coverage of the work may be in order in view of the prevailing parochial attitude that only the philosopher is qualified to talk about philosophy, only the biologist is qualified to talk about biology, and so on. Of course, it must be conceded that the vast amount of detailed knowledge that is now available makes some degree of specialization on the part of anyone who attempts to push back the frontiers of that knowledge absolutely essential. It does not necessarily follow, however, that the slice out of the body of knowledge which constitutes the field of specialization must be taken vertically in this usual manner, beginning with the fundamentals of a particular subject and following it down into more and more detail. It is equally logical, even though much less common, to take the slice horizontally, dealing only with fundamentals, but with the fundamentals of many subjects. This is what I have done. My previous publications dealt with the basic aspects of physics, chemistry, astronomy, economics, and the philosophy of science. This volume extends the consideration to the fundamentals of biology, religion, and philosophy in general. As the text shows very clearly, the relations between the fundamentals of these different disciplines are just as close, in their own way, as the relations between the various phenomena included in the vertical slices that constitute the usual fields of specialization.
It is not uncommon to find two or more sets of specialists studying the same accumulation of facts from different viewpoints. For example, the chemist explores the area along the borderline between chemistry and physics and publishes his results in the Journal of Physical Chemistry. The physicist works in the same area and publishes his results in the Journal of Chemical Physics. The same kind of a situation exists here. I am examining some of the fundamentals of biology, for instance, not as a specialist in biology but as a specialist in fundamentals; a fundamentalist, we might appropriately say, even though the term has been preempted for use in a different connotation. All of the conclusions that I have reached are the conclusions of a specialist in a distinct, well-defined field, notwithstanding the fact that the area included within this field has been carved out of the general realm of knowledge in a somewhat unusual manner.
It should be understood that this work is not a treatise on metaphysics in general; it is simply a report of a pioneer expedition into this hitherto scientifically uncharted region. Subjects that are not covered herein simply represent territory that was not explored. Perhaps some of this unexplored territory will remain permanently inaccessible to science. Other areas may be penetrated by future explorations. In any event, there is no special significance in the absence of any particular subject from these pages.
It is in fact obvious that science should be pressed to say all it can about any problem which is at all susceptible to scientific treatment.1 (Henry Margenau)