The chthonic universe (the physical universe) is first and foremost a philosophical view of the universe which emerges from the development of exact sciences. Some philosophical considerations carried on within modern philosophy of nature aim at disclosing the ontological structure of the world contained in natural sciences. Our goal is to use contemporary results in science to reach conclusions about philosophy. The current research incorporates itself in the research programme of philosophy of nature which is not only philosophical reflection on natural sciences, but also a search for structure of the world.


The key issue treated here monographically is an attempt to present the development of physicalism, which belongs to the class of monist ontology, on the basis of episodes from the history of philosophy of nature, physics and astronomy. The present study has been structured so as to analyse in subsequent parts more and more sophisticated versions of the concept of the chthonic universe. Peripherally to the main arguments there appear some methodological issues, but the core of our inquiries is to reconstruct the process of developing the concept of the chthonic universe. In our study more attention was given to some issues from the scope of methodology of the natural sciences, e.g. the theory-ladenness of observation among others. We believe the questions under discussion may considerably enhance the philosophical dispute focused upon the idea of the theory-dependence of facts.


We refer to the tradition of examining the nature of science through cases studies. A detailed reconstruction of processes leading to radical changes of sustained views is very instructive and allows to give insight into science, which due to its complexity is difficult to interpret. We assume that philosophical theories of the development of the scientific method which should express the phenomenon of science in all its complexity require verification. Such procedure is possible in case of interpreting selected episodes from the history of science in the light of contemporary theory of scientific knowledge. Such selection, however, cannot be random. Particular episodes should be interrelated but it need not be genetic relationship. We believe that the cases analysed in this study are interrelated because they are representative of the concept of the chthonic universe. Others can be found, of course, but the ones we have chosen from the history of astronomy meet also additional criteria. These episodes are instructive for exploring relationships which linked physics and astronomy.


The study has been divided into five chapters. Chapter One entitled Meteorites in the Natural Philosophy and in the Modern Science presents the genesis of the monist concept of the universe. In a sense we can even talk about a preconception of the chthonic universe because the fully developed concept can be found only in contemporary science. Prefiguration of the monist concept of the universe is associated with Anaxagoras’ prophecy concerning the fall of a meteorite at Aegos Potami. His astronomical knowledge enabled Anaxagoras to do this prophecy. Prefigurations of this idea can also be seen in Criticism of the Aristotelian Meteorology in the Cartesian Natural Philosophy, which Rene Descartes carried out in his philosophy of nature and in Chladni’s hypothesis, according to which meteorites come from the outer space, but are made up of the same substances as terrestrial bodies. A Credit for Chladni hypothesis in the Modern Science closes the discussion in this part of the study and opens up a new one on nebulium and coronium hypotheses.


The title of Chapter 2 is Nebulium and Coronium in the light of spectroscopic investigations. This chapter is central in our study. The rejection of nebulium and coronium hypotheses in the early 20th century astronomy was in our opinion the most fundamental stage in developing the monist concept of the universe. The driving force behind these changes were new theoretical concepts developed in quantum mechanics, which were used to explain not only phenomena studied in laboratories, but also data gathered from astronomical observations. Another factor in these changes were technical improvements resulting in enhanced observational possibilities. Atomic structure and spectral lines – Arnold Sommerfeld’s most influential publication best illustrates what happened then. In early twenties of the 20th century the fusion of quantum mechanics and spectroscopic astronomy occurred which resulted in adopting the theoretical basis common for physics and astronomy, which was a new theory of matter.


Another stage in developing the concept of the chthonic universe were famous inventions of radar astronomy and radio astronomy, which were basically carried out in the second half of the 20th century. These issues are discussed in Chapter 3 entitled The Solar System in the Radio Astronomy and Radar Astronomy. In this chapter a particular attention was given to the search for radio waves from the sun, but also to physics of the ionosphere and the programmes of radar investigations of the Moon, and radar echoes from the planets and refined value for the astronomical parameters. Research of this kind allowed not only to popularize the picture of planets as bodies analogous to the shell of the Earth, but also to reinforce the belief that celestial bodies can not only be watched but also “touched”. The research also enabled a better understanding of the Solar System and made it possible to be explored by space probes.

In Chapter 4 entitled Unique objects in the universe and the idea of a nomological unity of chemical elements we present the process of discovering unique objects in the universe, that is Wolf-Rayet Stars, Seyfert Galaxies, quasars, BL Lac objects, but we also present models of these exotic objects. Particular attention was given to the discovery of the neutron stars. The existence of such objects shows that even the most exotic states of matter can be explained by means of laws which govern the matter studied in laboratories. The models of quasars or pulsars show a nomological unity of the universe and consolidate the concept of the chthonic universe. Another aspect of unity is proving the identity of objects available in various frequency ranges of electromagnetic spectrum. Space objects discovered by radio telescopes or X-ray detectors and gamma ray detectors are identified with objects known from optical observations. Thus the monist concept of the universe (chthonic universe) is reinforced.

Eventually, Chapter 5 was titled Green Bank Formula and the SETI program. It talks about the so-called Drake’s equation and philosophical problems resulting from the search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. The concept of the chthonic universe is presented here in its strongest version as a picture of the universe filled with intelligence which takes the form of extraterrestrial civilization, most often represented as similar to the earthly civilization. Such interpretation, however, is contemporarily very controversial and is in crisis. This leads, in our opinion, to limitations in the picture of the chthonic universe. Another limitation to this concept is an attempt to revise the scope of operation of the laws of physics in remote regions of the universe, known as MOND (MOdified Newtonian Dynamics) and a postulate of existence of exotic states of matter (dark matter) consisting of still unknown elementary particles. These changes might postulate a picture of the universe that is different from the one that we get from our earthly perspective, but it would not be a radical dissimilarity.


In Appendix we discuss those aspects which allow to better grasp the issues presented in the study, but are not centred around the development of the monist concept of the universe. In particular we discussed there the following problems: 1) Theory and observations in modern and contemporary astronomy, 2) Exemplifications of the thesis of theory laden observations, 3) Selected features of scientific realism, 4) Detection of radio emission from interstellar neutral hydrogen and 5) Discovery of synchrotron radiation. These new kinds of radiation discovered in earthly laboratories were also registered as coming from known space objects. Observations using synchrotron radiation in the radio range allowed to notice the identity of objects known from the research conducted by means of optical telescopes.



Z. Roskal, The Chthonic Universe. A Study of the Historical Development of the Monistic Interpretation of the Universe, Lublin: Wydawnictwo KUL 2012, pp. 307.