Complementarity And Pragmatism, Reconciling Western Civ.’s Continental Divide
Tallinn University of Technology
The theory of complementarity became prominent during the last century (primarily as a result of the ideas of Niels Bohr and quantum physics). It gradually developed into a dominant paradigm underlying research into the nature of existence. Bohr’s exposition of the principle also emphasized its epistemological value for providing more accurate information regarding what seem to be paradoxical aspects of reality. The principle of complementarity has proven to have far reaching philosophical implications concerning such basic notions as subject and object, space-time and causality, chance and necessity, and more. However, scholars also acknowledge that it contributes to resolving the problem of the discontinuity between underlying reality and the human ability to conceptualize the ontological nature of existence. It has grown in popularity because it seems to offer a means of addressing dichotomies in other sciences and in philosophy. When analysts scrutinize the factors that influenced Bohr’s understanding of the principle of complementarity they find that one source clearly stems from the influence of American Pragmatism. Although the Pragmatist influence is traced primarily to William James there is at the roots of the philosophy of Pragmatism reference made to concepts that reflect the principle of complementarity explicating how to gain reliable knowledge concerning the nature of existence. From the very inception of American Pragmatism there was the recognition that Western philosophy faced a problem connected with the dilemma of knowing or the dilemma of knowledge. This dilemma culminated in Kant’s infamous claim of a schism between what is conceivable and what is unfathomable. American Pragmatists addressed this problem by introducing an approach to philosophy that would mediate the schism in the Western philosophical tradition. This article traces the principle of complementarity back to its American Pragmatist roots and explains how Pragmatism plays a role in the development of the concept.