06 April, 2013

Figure and Ground

The Dangers of Simplification
This seemingly interminable series of papers on Fields is a product of the way we always attempt to deal with such phenomena.

We have learned that the most productive approach is to avoid confusing complexity, and, instead, work to simplify situations as far as we possibly can. So, we select & isolate situations, attempting to leave only what we are seeking: we simplify first conceptually, and then concretely until we have both a revealing and amenable Domain - ideally conducive to our further studies.

By now, we are, without doubt, the masters of such isolating and constraining of phenomena in such a way as to “completely reveal” their supposedly “Key Relations”.

It has, indeed, become the fundamental approach for all our experimental set-ups, and, therefore, produces not what we think we have revealed – Fundamental and Universal Laws, but, on the contrary, specific and limited relations locked fast into the specially arranged, conducive situations we have erected.

Thus, our “Truths” are always fragments – particulars. And so, though we crave overarching and universal laws, we never actually get them.

We get a multiplicity of particular laws-plus-their-contexts.

So, with such a complex area as Fields, and indeed ALL actions-at-a-distance, this fragmentation is multiplied even more.

Yet, before this revelation gets too depressing, it has to be emphasized that we certainly know how to use what we currently extract. Our methods have been very successful, for we know precisely where to apply our “partial truths” – in the appropriately constrained situations! As long as these correct contexts are accurately constructed, we do indeed have places where our laws work: we can predict, and hence also produce!

Our methods equip us for production, but also inevitably disarm our ability to explain why things are the way that they are, and behave in the way that they do, when left to themselves!

We are very adept technologists, but not adept scientists (though we think that we are), and, most certainly, are nowhere near being even competent philosophers.

Now, the pragmatists will dismiss any such criticisms of both their method and standpoint, because their purposes are in no way compromised by the inadequacies of their approach.

Continuing “Progress” still appears to be continuously assured. But, of course, without the essential development of understanding as well as straightforward use, what we get can only be an aberrant growth.

It is really a maximal exploitation of a partial truth, rather than a step on the path to an ever wider and deeper understanding of our world. [Like the young man who built me a working Amplifier, but could not tell me why it worked, or what the various components were actually doing: neither could he use what he had to design something new].
Indeed, if the stream of scientific explanations ceased forthwith, technology (as with my young electrical constructor) would etiolate and die, like a pea shoot without sustenance.

Science is the source and lifeblood of technological progress, and even more important, it can also be the means to actually understand the world.

Now, returning to our problems with Fields, the difficulty is that our isolating and simplifying also walls us off from what we are trying to understand. For such things are not appropriate to such methods: for Fields are certainly NOT isolatable phenomena! Why can I say this?

It is because the “Figure” and the “Ground” in such situations are not only inseparable, but also actually mutually defining and determining! We simply cannot separate them without destroying what they are.

For example, is a Field actually erected by its “causing” charge, or is it actually a response of the Background to the presence of that charge?

For we usually assume that our Grounds are always totally inert – mere formal references, whereas the holist suggestions outlined above change all of that!

The two always have a reciprocal relationship, and perhaps an evolutionary one too.

Now, rather than halting the conclusions here, and arguing whether these assertions fit all cases or not, let us first concede something called Dominance.

Though the philosophical basis for the ideas being explained here constitute Holism, they are NOT the same as that early version espoused by The Buddha, though it is still much closer to his position, than it is to the sub atomic physicists of today.

It does, in contrast, admit that things are not all of equal weight, and in many situations, particular relations can dominate to such a major extent that they can be fairly easily isolated, extracted an then used in the pluralist sense described above as the usual scientific experimental practice.

But, “Exceptions always make Bad Law”, and Dominance is not triumphant either everywhere, or permanently.

It is a surface effect, upon a holistic World, where literally everything does indeed affect everything else, and in many crucial areas we have to deal with not only Systems of Processes, but also hierarchies of such Systems too.

A great deal is always going on simultaneously, and our Simplifying, Isolating and Constraining in order to extract any usable order does indeed change the overall situations that we are trying to understand.

The classic example is, of course, the Weather, but there are many cases where such situations also defy Analysis by our usual pluralistic means.

My favourite is Miller’s Experiment, wherein he attempted to make an emulation of the conditions upon the primitive Earth – before Life had emerged, in the hope that he could reveal something of the developments leading to that revolutionary Origin of Life.

Sealing “everything necessary” in a glass containing-system, and adding heat and electrical discharges (as lightning), he set the system in motion, which was as near as he could get to the actual primaeval Weather System, in order to see what might occur.

As we all know, after only one week, the water in his system had already turned a deep reddy-brown, and on dismantling of the system, he was able to show that amino acids had somehow been synthesized.

But as to how this had happened, there was no way that he could confirm the processes involved.

The absolutely essential isolation from any present-day contributions, also prohibited any time-based Analysis, and most certainly, many strands of changes must have been happening throughout that momentous week, both as parallel simultaneous processes, and as parts of crucial ongoing and changing sequences. So, without any possibility of intervention, NO further explanations were possible.

This is, and always gas been, the classic dilemma of investigating a Holist World using the only available methods - pluralist science could get nowhere in such investigations. They seemed to be Unknowable. And in spite of the undoubted success of Miller’s Experiment, it was also the “end-of-the-line” in most scientists’ eyes. Pluralist science offered a great deal more and it was there that ALL the research was concentrated.

So, these inevitable cul de sacs in attempts to develop a Holist Science did dissuade anyone else from embarking on such a seemingly doomed-to-failure route.

Yet, it would be wrong to consign this approach to the dustbin just yet. Darwin’s Origin of Species was a masterpiece of Holist Science, and other major holist contributions have also been made. But, the philosophical ground, and necessary methodology for a general holistic, yet scientific approach has still not yet been defined. It still awaits a generally applicable methodology!

Now, this author has attempted to apply such a method to the infamous Double Slit Experiments, beloved of the currently dominant Copenhagen School in Sub Atomic Physics, and he was finally able to explain all the anomalies involved, without any recourse to Wave/Particle Duality or the probabilistic formulae of the Copenhagenists.

So, with this demonstration the Copenhagen View was proved to be NOT the only possible approach, and he has since embarked upon a particular area of Physics, which has long annoyed him.

It is, of course, Action-at-a-Distance, the propagation of electromagnetic radiation through totally Empty Space, and, of course, the “daddy-of-them-all” FIELDS!

So, let us assume the very worst!

Let us say that our “Figure” is really composed of multifarious and mutually determining processes, while our “Ground” is not only very similar in its diverse content, but also both determines the behaviours of the contents of our supposed “Figure”, and is, in turn, modified by them.

Now, here is surely a suitably messy situation to attempt to make sense of.

How might we do it?

Well, we do have a vast set of pluralist techniques, that though compromised conceptually, do give us “something”; and what we get is never merely pure invention, it always contains some aspects or fragments of the Truth. So, as long as we don’t wander off down the usual road, we can use these gains in a different way.

Though all gains made by such methods are always predicated upon restricted and maintained Domains, they do include an important measure of what is called Objective Content.

So, rather than careering off down the pragmatic sweet, downhill road to Production, we should gather as many closely related sets of pluralist Results as possible, and attempt to make some sort of conceptual integration out of them instead.

And, with such a change of philosophy and of methodology things can change profoundly.

We now consider all the skewed, pluralistic evidence, knowing that it has been extensively processed, and hence treating much of what we have with a measure of scepticism, and instead, attempting to formulate a common explanation, that would, in each biased pluralist set up, produce what has been extracted, but would integrate all cases into a single explanation.

Now, at this point we must address the universally applied frig that is the traditional answer to their “sets of pluralistic results”

That frig is the belief that each pluralistically obtained relation (a Law) is in fact the actual Truth for those factors, and if we simply add all such obtained Truths together, totally unmodified, we will get True Reality.

It replaces the true inter-relating integrations with crude Complication. The various Laws are summed to reconstruct what really happens.

NO THEY DON’T! What has to be done is to attempt to merge the individual isolations into a functional and integrated whole. That is much more difficult, but is essential!

NOTE: The alternative to the Copenhagen explanations of the Double Slit Experiments that was my own holist alternatives were amazing different in every possible way. And though the Copenhagenists could immediately motor off with their probability equations, they also brought understanding to a dead halt. Whereas, the holistic explanation have opened up theoretical prospects not only in these areas, but generally!

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