In De Caelo 300b, Aristotle introduces the idea of the random emergence of the natural:

"it is possible that with this disorderly motion some of the elements might have unified in those combinations which constitute natural bodies"

and then he dismisses the idea. But notice that this possibility is the defeater of any theory of everything. Say you had the single mathematical framework and non-arbitrary physical constants that explained everything. It would still suffer two weaknesses. First, there could be unseen further facts that are anomalous to the theory. Second, the mathematical framework and physical constants could be a pattern in an enormous transient of a random sequence. Then, all physics is just pareidolia or apophenia, even though it is manifestly empirically supported. Is this skepticism?

  • Dictionary.com has a definition for 'pareidolia', but none for 'apophenia'. What is apophenia? Nov 4, 2018 at 1:31
  • 1
    From Wikipedia, "Apophenia has come to imply a universal human tendency to seek patterns in random information, such as gambling."
    – Pythagorus
    Nov 4, 2018 at 4:59
  • Are you 100% sure he dismisses the idea? Aristotle often juxtaposes several arguments for and against a claim - even several competing hypotheses! - before putting forward a nuanced alternative. —— While there is a strong reason in Aristotelean physics that peri physeiperi tychei and so "natural bodies" are definitionally not the immediate outcome of random processes, I can't be sure that is relevant to De Caelo 300b unless you are certain Aristotle isn't hedging.
    – guest1806
    Nov 5, 2018 at 4:58
  • In 301a, he says "no natural event occurs haphazard." I don't think he is hedging in 300b, I think he is criticizing Timaeus 30a. For Aristotle, random emergence would be an inconsistent consequence of Plato's pre-cosmos.
    – Pythagorus
    Nov 5, 2018 at 10:10

1 Answer 1


Yes, of course. One should keep in mind that physics is thoroughly positivistic but positivism is not a purely logical philosophy. It should be seen a transposition of legal proceedings: evidence is presented and pleas are made, that is facts and theories are used to issue a judgement which is at best 'beyond reasonable doubt' in the light of what is known. 'Everything might be a coincdence' or 'there might be unknown facts' are hypotheses which would not be considered as arguments. Earlier, physicists acted as judges - pondered evidence, read theories and made judgements that were considered to be true; today they act as lawyers who are interested in just winning a case. The key point in legal dealings is who bears the burden of proof. Obviously with the turn from verifiability to fasifiability a major shifting has occurred.

  • I'm not following you. I also don't understand why "everything might be a coincidence" is not an argument; physicists take care to reduce the chance that observations are coincidences to exceedingly small values. "There might be unknown facts" is the case where the best model doesn't seem to be quite accurate. Nov 5, 2018 at 21:35

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .