10 January, 2015

Science & Thinking

The latest Special Issue of SHAPE Journal (30) is about Abstraction and the primary area in today’s world for such conceptions occurs in Science – a materialist approach to Reality. Nevertheless, what is so carefully arranged for, and then abstracted from, Reality, immediately becomes an object in Human Thought, and hence can very easily elicit an idealist approach, and thus both approaches co-exist within Science, and unavoidably lead to profound contradictions. The following paper gives some idea of what will be addressed in the Special.

What exactly is a supposed Natural Law – indeed, it can very easily be seen as an “eternal and basic element” in the Universe as a whole? Well, if the usual conceptions of the Development of Reality are correct, such things cannot be that, and can only be aspects of a currently established and maintained Stability, and therefore, definitely not eternal.

NOTE: There is a line of thought, that Development is merely increasing complexity, with absolutely nothing lost in the process, but to make Life a mere complication of fundamental particles and their laws is clearly a major and incorrect oversimplification.

And, if that version is correct, the attempt to analyse everything down to such primitives is, in fact, an unachievable myth, and it will lead to the ultimate “chicken-and-egg” conundrum!

Indeed, any such analysis will really be a study of why Stability occurs, and how its consequent “seemingly eternal” laws get established. Yet, using the usual laws taken from such stabilities as a means of explaining their (the stability’s) occurrences will surely be impossible? Such attempts in Philosophy will be like attempting to explain Reality solely via Technology, rather than via Science! Any results will be limited to the stability involved, and not to Reality in general.

Also, significantly, Emergences like those which produced Life, Consciousness and Civilisation will be totally impossible to explain. Indeed, they seem to be “impossible” to actually even occur via the “eternal laws” merely in some highly-complex concert!

Mankind’s reliance upon such views was, of course, historically unavoidable, and his found means of Abstraction – involving both simplification and idealisation of Reality, was bound to carry him into the study of Stability, rather than the infinitely more difficult problem of Development and Emergence.

The crucial revolutions would be inevitably turned into mere rare mixes of eternal laws mechanistically producing a hierarchy of the very same causes and results in increasingly complex situations.

Now, if all this is true, what must Mankind do to break out of this straightjacket, and begin to tackle the currently inexplicable Emergences of the wholly new? Clearly, the initial construction of a new stability must be addressed, and immediately the question must be, “From what?”

Fragmentary studies of different stabilities have shown that you can never get one stability directly from another. The only way a new system of stability can occur is out of something resembling “total chaos”! The transition between consecutive stabilities, therefore, always involves an intervening major crisis; followed by an almighty collapse into chaos, before there can be any chance of a new stability arising.

For, most stabilities have vastly longer durations than the lifetimes of individuals, so they appear to such observers as eternal. That is why you cannot address these questions adequately, unless History is seriously studied, for only then are the necessary questions, and the trajectory of development revealed.

But, this is, in fact, one Level of stability in Reality, going through just such a transition, can, indeed, be experienced, and it is these sorts of cases that have begun to allow Mankind to effectively address such questions. They are, of course, the phenomena of Social Revolution, and also, but at a very different Level, in the Thinking of human beings, for similar transitions take place in attempts at Understanding.

And it was in this area that Frederick Hegel began the study of Qualitative Changes in Thinking, as the first systematic study of any kind of Emergences some 200 years ago. For, once again, in Thinking, such revolutions can, and indeed do, take place, even within the thoughts of single individuals.

So, that is how such considerations first began in earnest to step beyond Formal Logic, into a very different kind of reasoning. Hegel made as his ultimate objective the establishment of a Logic of Change, and made absolutely crucial contributions to the gains and flaws in how we think about things, and even how we generate our own-produced dead ends, and hence deliver seemingly irresolvable impasses.

But, of course, being an idealist, Hegel was bound, in spite of his brilliant discoveries, to be severely limited by the ground on which he was studying these processes. They were all about the Mind!

He did indeed produce the most profound studies of Human Thought, but because of this ground, could do no other than end up with the quintessence of Idealism – his Absolute Idea (effectively, the equivalent in Thinking to Absolute Truth in Science. Both were unachievable myths!

From an idealist standpoint Hegel’s discoveries could not be generalised beyond the confines of Human Thought. But, his most avid disciples were the first to realise this, and the best of them, Karl Marx, realised that Hegel’s discoveries of the methods, processes and ideas involved in the developments in Thinking, could also throw light upon the actual concrete Development of Reality itself.

Both Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace, at about the same time, were realising something very similar in explaining both the Origin of Species and the subsequent Evolution of Life.

So, Marx carried over all Hegel’s gains into a fully materialist stance, which became the basis for a means of dealing with all Creative Developments in Reality, which he termed Dialectical Materialism. Yet, Marx too was a philosopher, and though his contributions were clearly both generally applicable and even epoch-making, the area of study that then had to be addressed was the then dominant disciplines of Science, Technology and Mathematics.

Now, relating discoveries in the trajectories in Human Thinking to developments in concrete Reality is no trivial undertaking, and Marx considered that the most important area was in establishing a dialectical view of Mankind’s Social Development in History, and its significance for that time’s Politics.

Effectively, though he and his colleague Engels did make various significant contributions in the sciences, they were unable to establish the general validity of their methods in Science. The main assault was not carried through to any sort of conclusion.

Now, in one sense, Hegel’s contributions were totally objective. For Man’s handling of all aspects of Reality for they could only be via his Thinking, and Hegel’s discoveries were certainly entirely relevant, even when Man was thinking about Science and concrete Reality in general. Now, as soon as we consider Science, we are, perhaps surprisingly, pulled back from a more general and basic addressing of totally unfettered, concrete Reality itself. For, that is NOT what Science addresses!

Science has a special way of dealing with Reality, for, to make any progress, it first establishes stable contexts to investigate. Indeed, the most significant initial achievement of Science was that it limited all investigations to natural or man-made stable situations only. The first and continuing stage of Science was limited to situations within a Stability! And, the second aspect of the methods involved was that they selectively sought simplifications and idealisations, which were most carefully arranged for, in order to extract them only from such stable contexts. And crucially, it is precisely such versions of Reality that Man then thought about in the usual way (as revealed by Hegel).

Our primitives, upon which we construct causal systems, are things like Charge and Mass – and though we, immediately and unquestioningly accept such as our bases, the warnings of Hegel also resonate here too.

For, he insisted that our assumptions, and even our revealed principles, though clearly useful-within-limits, would inevitably, when pushed beyond their required stabilities, invariably deliver pairs of totally contradictory concepts, which were signals that our arrived-at bases were incorrect.

Let us be clear, what he meant was that the very same bases, would lead to contradictory conclusions, both of which could NOT be true! Yet, without a major transcendence to a wholly new level, we would not be able to proceed, Such Dichotomous Pairs would define the limit to our understanding. And, without the necessary breakthrough, these would cause an unavoidable bifurcation in our explanations. We would simply keep the both! And use, whichever one of the pair delivered some sort of explanation in each and every relevant circumstance. We would pragmatically learn to live with the contradiction unresolved.

And such opposite pairs litter our explanatory narratives, and even lead to the budding-off of subsidiary “sciences” via the more dramatic contradictions.

Even the subject of Physics is now composed of Experimentalists, Theorists and Technologists, who don’t even speak the same languages, and have to be content with the pragmatic offerings of their colleagues without actually agreeing with how they go about their version of the same Science.

So, guess what! Charge comes as positive and negative, while Mass as matter and antimatter. Could these be signals that our very intractable bases are a pragmatic compromise?

And, lo and behold, the whole panoply of sub atomic physics has descended into similar pairings of literally everything in so-called Super Symmetry. So-called impossible to physically explain “properties” also come in pairs, for example so-called “quantum spin”.

We are increasingly presented with the possibility that Science, itself, and most clearly, its assumed basic – Physics, is founded upon flawed conceptions. The one-way, uninterrupted and bottom-up causality, with these as bases, could well be wrong!

And, of course, this diagnosis is daily confirmed by the total abandonment of Explanation at the sub atomic level, and its replacement by form-only equations, let alone an increasingly idealist philosophical standpoint, which all clearly point in the same direction.

NOTE: Indeed Charge and Magnetism seem to be currently developing into a chicken-and-egg situation, and, indeed, stabilities based upon both resonances and recursion (Yves Couder’s work) throw yet another spanner into this mangled mix of “theories”. For, Couder seems to have constructed what appear to be stable entities, entirely out of complexes and interactions of physical oscillations.

It is a significant problem to try to explain Couder’s achievements by the usual means. For, he actually constructs unique stabilities that seem to also have profound significance at the Sub Atomic Level, though achieved entirely within his purely macro-level experiments. The crucial achievement was that of quantized orbits of his “Walkers”, with absolutely NO possibility of an explanation via the ubiquitous Quantum.

So, perhaps surprisingly, materialist Science cannot any longer ignore the gains made by Idealist Philosophy, and especially as the materialists via Dialectical Materialism have long turned their back upon the flaws in the usual scientific approach. So, any demurring of these criticisms by complaining of the mistakes of Idealism, with respect to Prime Movers, cannot be used to dismiss this criticism.

Of course, what it amounts to is realising the unavoidable mis-match between what we reveal, and that we then have no choice in how we deal with it. Answers don’t come “ready-made” within our carefully organised-for simplifications and idealisations. For we had to arrange what Objective Content we could extract into meaningful and increasingly general explanations. It is actually the front-line in changing ourselves!

So, it is not unlike conceiving topology of newly discovered lands. Our initial conceptions will never be wholly correct, and indeed our basic assumptions and even principles will regularly lead us astray, and must be dialectically transcended to re-ground them to allow any further progress.

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