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The general part of the sciences

Towards the unity of science and a real studium generale

At the Science after Noon on 24 August 2023, after a short introduction the President of the Swiss Academies, Marcel Tanner, the author Luc Saner presented the book and the underlying project. Afterwards, there was an open discussion followed by an aperitif.

I. What it is about

a) The geological age in which we humans live is officially named the Holocene by the International Union of Geological Sciences and its subgroup, the International Commission on Stratigraphy. The Holocene, the post-glacial period, began about 11,700 years ago with the warming of the Earth. However, it has been repeatedly suggested that a new geological age named the Anthropocene, a new age of mankind, should be introduced. This new age is justified by the influence of humans on the biological, geological and climatic conditions on Earth.


Whether and since when we are in the Anthropocene is, however, disputed and not yet officially decided. In any case, globalisation has accelerated since the Second World War and again since the end of the Cold War. Both the global population and global economy have been growing strongly for quite some time, with corresponding consequences for resources, the environment and especially for our planet’s climate. Increasingly, the idea is being advocated that this development could have serious consequences, including our own extinction.


b) It is obvious that we humans have a global responsibility, also in our own interest.


In this situation, however, we lack not only a holistic strategy and an organisation capable of acting globally but also generalists who understand the bigger picture, who can discern the relevant connections and who – thanks to holistic methods – can propose and implement holistic solutions. Without this strategy, without this organisation and without these generalists, our future will increasingly become an odyssey in dense fog with a high probability of collapse.


c) The project “Unity of science and a real studium generale” has, in fact, the not-so-modest aspiration of providing the foundations not only for the strategy and organisation mentioned above but, above all, for the urgently needed generalists.


When building these foundations, we must first of all bear in mind that our world today is increasingly dependent on the sciences (from German: Wissenschaften), if only because of the growing complexity. Secondly, our fundamental problems such as energy, the environment and population growth are transdisciplinary problems in scientific terms. These problems elude the grasp of the individual scientific disciplines – also when they are added together in a more interdisciplinary approach. Rather, we need additional transdisciplinary approaches that can unite the scientific disciplines under superordinate aspects and thereby change them: It is a matter of bringing together the different scientific disciplines, which is tantamount to a second enlightenment. Thirdly, today‘s sciences cannot guarantee this transdisciplinarity because they are led by specialists and lack the necessary generalists.


In order to guarantee this transdisciplinarity, the general part of the sciences is required as a basis in which the individual scientific disciplines can be embedded. This leads to the unity of science. And on this basis, the unity of science, a real studium generale of two semesters‘ duration must be institutionalised at our universities. Such a studium generale is therefore a real studium generale because, in contrast to existing studia generalia, it is holistic. This studium generale could also be called studium fundamentale. The graduates of this real studium generale are the generalists we so urgently need. And these generalists should ultimately be able to assume our responsibilities in the Anthropocene, in cooperation with all of us, especially with regard to strategy and organisation. But by no means do all students have to complete a real studium generale. Just as in the military a few officers are trained to become general staff officers after a strict selection process, it is sufficient if a few but suitable students complete a real studium generale.


II. Unity of science – an academic project

a) The idea of the unity of science has been intensively discussed for quite some time. In his essay “Wissenschaftstheorie im 20. Jahrhundert – Ein Streifzug durch ihre Geschichte”, Rudolf Kötter presented the attempts to create a unified science or at least to point out its elements. Of particular importance was the “Wiener Kreis” around Moritz Schlick from the 1920s onwards. Since the Wiener Kreis consisted of many Jews, it dissolved after Hitler seized power. At the end of the 20th century, various congresses were held in Germany on the idea of the unity of science. Under the scientific direction of Jürgen Mittelstrass and within the framework of the Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin, a three-day international colloquium on the “Einheit der Wissenschaft” was held in Bonn in 1990, on which several research reports were published. In 1992, Herbert Mainusch and Richard Toellner organised a two-day series of lectures including panel discussions on the unity of science in Duisburg. Lectures and authorised minutes of the panel discussions were published by Herbert Mainusch and Richard Toellner under the title “Einheit der Wissenschaft – Wider die Trennung von Natur und Geist, Kunst und Wissenschaft”. Finally, Bernd-Olaf Küppers organised a relevant lecture series in Jena in 1999. Bernd-Olaf Küppers published these lectures under the title “Die Einheit der Wirklichkeit – Zum Wissenschaftsverständnis der Gegenwart”. In his foreword, Bernd-Olaf Küppers writes: “Despite all efforts to systematically focus on the theme of the lecture series, the selection of published contributions still reflects the enormous degrees of freedom that a topic of this generality leaves to philosophical reflection.”


As a result, despite all efforts, it was not possible to even theoretically formulate the required unity of science. Many questions were, indeed, discussed in depth. Nevertheless, a concrete proposal could not be worked out.


b) Now a concrete proposal is available. This proposal is based on the idea of formulating the general part of the sciences in which the individual scientific disciplines can be embedded, which leads to the unity of science.


After decades of work, Luc Saner, supported in particular by numerous personalities from the sciences, has written a book on the general part of the sciences that you can find on this webpage. The next step is to begin embedding the individual scientific disciplines in this general part of the sciences.


III. The general part of the sciences

a) The general part of the sciences should ask those questions that all scientific disciplines more or less specifically ask. Moreover, the general part must answer these questions holistically, so that these answers are also applicable to all of the sciences, exceptions reserved. Thus, the general part can formulate the science behind the scientific disciplines.


b) In the book on the general part of the sciences, the following questions are therefore asked and answered:


First, it asks the question what the current scientific world view is. The basis of this world view in this book is evolution, which can also be used to describe our universe. The main focus is on cosmic, biological and cultural evolution. Evolution is defined in this book as the interplay between change and stability, according to which complex structures tend to form from simple ones, whether these are of a physical or mental, especially intellectual nature. The more complex the structures are, the greater tend to be their abilities to receive, store, process and pass on information. The three evolutional steps affect all sciences to varying degrees, although in many cases this has not been recognized or is even disputed. Comprehensive knowledge of evolution provides an overview and reveals connections. The three evolutionary steps named above are the topics explored in the first part of the book, which also includes further evolutionary steps such as the chemical evolution.


All sciences must be able to account for their epistemology and their theory of truth developed on the basis of epistemology. For this purpose, an epistemology and, above all, a theory of truth have been developed that can be applied to all sciences – without, however, a complete discussion of the current theories of epistemology and truth. These theories are based on evolution and insofar on the natural sciences. Instead of theories, this book often refers to models. Models are described in this book as concepts of reality generated by our brain, and these models can allow us to make predictions. For example, the general theory of relativity can also be considered a gravitational model. This gravitational model developed by Albert Einstein impresses with its predictions, has proven itself in this respect and therefore has an increased truth content. If now the truth of models is made dependent on whether these models enable predictions, this method is only expedient if the world changes according to evolution, i.e. if the status before and after can be distinguished. In this respect, too, my observations have shown that many university graduates have not dealt in depth with theories of epistemology and truth. Equally little reflected is the phenomenon of lies, which should be dealt with together with truth. Truth and lies are the subjects of the second part of the book. This second part sheds more light on these fundamental topics within the sciences.


In an evolution, and thus also in our universe, it is possible to discern an interplay between change and stability. While change is omnipresent in evolution, stability is highly relative. However, the description of stability serves us as an orientation. All of the sciences are confronted with it. As a model for this interplay of change and stability, the sciences use causality, i.e. the relationship between cause and effect. Another important model is determinism, i.e. the sequence of states. In this respect, too, there is a need for clarification, especially on the relationship between causality and determinism. Accordingly, the third part of the book is devoted to change and stability as well as in depth to causality and determinism. In this context, I have proposed a method for making predictions in complex relationships. All this in turn leads to greater clarity. Most importantly, given the weaknesses of the causality model, it demonstrates the paramount importance of goals.


Therefore, every science should be clear about goals in general and about its goals and the paths to these goals. The general part of the sciences helps the individual sciences to optimise their goals, their paths of thoughts and thus their research programmes. For this purpose, in the absence of a known meaning of existence, a current meaning was postulated on the basis of evolution. According to this, the current sense – the meaningful goal of all being – should consist in maintaining, further developing and spreading complex physical and mental, especially intellectual structures. As a decisive further goal of complexity, these structures should be able to optimally receive, store, process and pass on information. To get from the actual to the desired state, an eight-step method was developed. Finally, a holistic plan for humanity is proposed. The fourth and last part of the book is thus devoted to goals.


c) All these topics are closely related. As a result, there is a lot of repetition in this book, as the same considerations are important in a wide variety of contexts.


IV. Embedding the scientific disciplines in the general part of the sciences

a) Embedding the scientific disciplines into the general part of the sciences is guided by a 400-page textbook for each scientific discipline, which should answer the following questions for each discipline:

  • What of the general part of the sciences is significant for the respective scientific discipline?
  • Accordingly, what are the consequences of the general part for the respective scientific discipline?
  • In which points is the general part incorrect from the point of view of the respective scientific discipline?


b) For this purpose, a main author should be designated for each scientific discipline. This person should be able to obtain a global overview of the respective discipline. Other specialists in the discipline should be consulted.


The main authors and the specialists consulted should read the book on the general part of the sciences in its entirety. In addition, they should become familiar with the special parts I and II of the book on economics written by Luc Saner, so that they can see by example how they can embed their disciplines in the general part. Also interesting in this context are the book edited by Luc Saner “Studium generale – Auf dem Weg zu einem allgemeinen Teil der Wissenschaften” and his essay “Einheit der Wissenschaft und echtes Studium generale – Ein Konzept für die Zukunft der Wissenschaften und der Menschheit”. More details on these writings can be found in the literature given at the end of this webpage.


All these people should subsequently participate in a one-week workshop to clarify open questions.


This should take place in 2024.


c) Subsequently, a first draft should be written by the main author. This first draft should again be discussed in a one-week workshop.


This first draft, incorporating input from the discussions during the workshop, should be available in 2025.


d) Finally, a second draft should be written by the main author in 2026 and should be submitted to the specialists for their comments. In 2026, the main author should write the final version, which answers the three questions mentioned above.


e) The following 24 scientific disciplines should be embedded in the general part of the sciences, so that 24 books of about 400 pages each are to be written:

  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Geology
  • Environmental Science
  • Engineering Sciences
  • Computer Sciences
  • Medicine and Pharmacology
  • Agricultural Sciences
  • Psychology
  • Economics
  • Educational Sciences
  • Sociology
  • Law
  • Political Science
  • Geography
  • Communication Sciences
  • History and Archaeology
  • Military and Intelligence Services
  • Linguistics and Literature
  • Philosophy and Philosophy of Science
  • Religious Studies
  • Arts


f) As executive director of the Komitee für die Einheit der Wissenschaft und ein echtes Studium generale, Luc Saner will organise this project together with other interested parties.


V. Call for cooperation

We hereby call on all interested parties to participate in the project in a suitable form. This can be done by

  • commenting on the project in general,
  • writing a review on the general part of the sciences,
  • joining the Komitee für die Einheit der Wissenschaft und ein echtes Studium generale,
  • participating in a kick-off meeting, and
  • participating in the embedding of a scientific discipline in the general part of the sciences as a main author or specialist.


VI. Contact

Communications a+

Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences

Haus der Akademien, Laupenstrasse 7, P.O. Box, 3001 Bern

+41 31 306 92 30


Luc Saner

Beim Goldenen Löwen 13, 4052 Basel

+41 79 775 55 27


VII. References

  • Luc Saner (Herausgeber), Studium generale – Auf dem Weg zu einem allgemeinen Teil der Wissenschaften, Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, Wiesbaden 2014
  • Luc Saner, Einheit der Wissenschaft und echtes Studium generale – Ein Konzept für die Zukunft der Wissenschaften und der Menschheit, in: Rektor der Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg (Herausgeber), Freiburger Universitätsblätter, Heft 215, März 2017, Rombach Verlag KG, Freiburg i. Br., Berlin und Wien, p. 147 ff., including membership form for the Komitee für die Einheit der Wissenschaft und ein echtes Studium generale (also on the homepage of the Basler Gesellschaft Au Bon Sens,, under the heading “Studium generale”)
  • Luc Saner, Wirtschaft – Allgemeiner Teil der Wissenschaften und Ökonomie – Eine Grundlage für ein echtes Studium generale, Basler Gesellschaft Au Bon Sens, Basel 2017 (also on the homepage of the Basler Gesellschaft Au Bon Sens,, under the heading “Schriften / Wirtschaft”)
  • Saner, Luc (2023). Allgemeiner Teil der Wissenschaften. Auf dem Weg zur Einheit der Wissenschaft und zu einem echten Studium generale. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7764971
Communications Service a+

Swiss Academies of Arts and Sciences
House of Academies
Laupenstrasse 7
P.O. Box
3001 Bern

The general part of the sciences. Towards the unity of science and a real studium generale (in German)