The Unknown as an Engine for Science

An Essay on the Definite and the Indefinite

  • Hans J. Pirner

Part of the The Frontiers Collection book series (FRONTCOLL)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvii
  2. Hans J. Pirner
    Pages 1-8
  3. Hans J. Pirner
    Pages 9-45
  4. Hans J. Pirner
    Pages 47-85
  5. Hans J. Pirner
    Pages 87-117
  6. Hans J. Pirner
    Pages 119-123
  7. Back Matter
    Pages 125-146

About this book


This book explores the limits of our knowledge. The author shows how uncertainty and indefiniteness not only define the borders confining our understanding, but how they feed into the process of discovery and help to push back these borders. Starting with physics the author collects examples from economics, neurophysiology, history, ecology and philosophy.

The first part shows how information helps to reduce indefiniteness. Understanding rests on our ability to find the right context, in which we localize a problem as a point in a network of connections. New elements must be combined with the old parts of the existing complex knowledge system, in order to profit maximally from the information. An attempt is made to quantify the value of information by its ability to reduce indefiniteness.

The second part explains how to handle indefiniteness with methods from fuzzy logic, decision theory, hermeneutics and semiotics. It is not sufficient that the new element appears in an experiment, one also has to find a theoretical reason for its existence. Indefiniteness becomes an engine of science, which gives rise to new ideas.</p>


Complexity in Theory Edge of Science Information and Knowledge Known and Unknown Limits of Scientific Knowledge Philosophy and Physics Uncertainty in Science Vagueness and Language Value of Information

Authors and affiliations

  • Hans J. Pirner
    • 1
  1. 1.Institut für Theoretische PhysikUniversität HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Physics and Astronomy
  • Print ISBN 978-3-319-18508-8
  • Online ISBN 978-3-319-18509-5
  • Series Print ISSN 1612-3018
  • Series Online ISSN 2197-6619
  • Buy this book on publisher's site