07 September, 2016

Is Reason Merely Formal Logic? (Part 3)

Anish Kapoor - Sky Mirror

Qualitative Change & Development
Involving both Analogy, Generality & Objective Content

Even the originators of the previously described scientific methodology were dissatisfied with it, as the sole method of dealing with Reality. It was a profoundly “particular” method! Almost all scientists “knew” that Reality was an inter-related Whole, and required an insight into this side of its qualities, relations and processes. They were dissatisfied with their “bag” of disparate, special-case solutions, and also required to understand over much wider areas of Reality.

The only way they could do this was to attempt, in addition to their usual methods, to also try to understand “WHY?” things were the way they were! And, that needed to integrate the particulars into more general scenarios. They knew that the methodology of experiment and abstraction was simply a very sophisticated way of describing each-and-every particular case. They knew that they would be greatly more empowered by understanding why things were the way that they were, and over much wider areas of phenomena.

So, a parallel approach involved identifying common elements across many particular cases, along with the postulation of processes, which actually caused things to happen. These included the abstracted relations of the normal methods, but extended to seeing whole areas as integrated and explicable systems. And these Theories proved to be both profoundly revealing, yet also perhaps not surprisingly, also inevitably insufficient!

This latter feature was unavoidable because the theory would inevitably always be based on inadequate data and also inadequate previous understanding too.

However, such a flaw was not totally debilitating. It was certainly NOT a case of “Give up now, you’ll never do it!”. The care and intelligence that the best scientists employed, meant that they DID extract significant elements by these methods, which I call Objective Content. The details of the Theory may later turn out to be based on erroneous assumptions and abstractions, but it always had the taste of the actual occurrence in Nature.
You could depend on such Partial Truths for now. Indeed, even when a theory was overthrown by a better one, the old brick which had played a role in the whole edifice, was certainly comparable to the updated replacement, and could not only maintain the structure adequately, but also be very easily replaced by the better brick, without the whole thing collapsing to the ground.

But, this parallel methodology came under a severe threat in the years following the beginning of the 20th century. It happened in the citadel of ALL the Sciences – in Physics – where the previous (so-called “classical”) attempts at integration into wider comprehensive theories were increasingly exposed as inadequate. There arose an ever-widening gulf between the technological/mathematical, equation-producers and the erectors of overall explanatory theories, that attempted to integrate all phenomena into coherent, general schemes.

And, the source of the rift was clear!

It wasn’t the inadequate philosophy of the theorists that caused the problems, but, on the contrary, that which originated with the equation producers.

Plurality was proving to be wholly inadequate in the sub-atomic domain!

Why was this? The answer is - because it required Parts which were “effectively eternal”!

That "permanence", in the past, may have been due to a natural interlude of temporary stability, or due to the necessary imposition of containing conditions (as in literally ALL experiments). But, it proved impossible in this crucial area of Reality.

You may well ask why it was the theorists that were kicked into touch and not the through-and-through pragmatic pluralists of the equation makers! But, the answer is very clear.

The equation makers never made ANY more-general claims for their equations (or so they said). They were quite satisfied to have equations that worked in given circumstances! They were pragmatic to the end. It was the theories that had to bite the dust!

The equation makers could see NO reason why their methodology should in any way be compromised. Their “head-down” severely “local” approach could continue just as before.

With each new phenomenon and its containing situation, they always just reached for the Library of Forms that is Mathematics, in each and every situation, and they usually found something to fit.

The fact that they could not inter-relate their diverse instances and separate equations, was simply dismissed as -

“Not our problem! We can deal with whatever is necessary as we always have. We can control each and every situation in our mammoth array of expensive kit, and produce any situation we think fit. And when one Domain is transcended, we simply move to the next formula as we have always done. The fact that the theorists have run out of analogies, and all their attempts at integration have failed, only reveals their “self kid”. They are redundant!”

So, the flaw in their own methodology, which actually caused the problem, was used to scupper its parallel theoretical accompaniment, and of course, for this rejection to succeed, there also had to be real inadequacies in the position and methodology of the theorists too.

What were they?

Michael Coldwell - Everything Affects Everything (photograph of Liz West's Additive Mix installation)

The Difficulties of a Holist Alternative

The problem was that, though the theorists were less “particular”, and less “blinkered”, than the equation-merchants, they still only played lip-service to the only philosophical alternative to Plurality, which is Holism. And you can see why!

Holism seems to undermine any chance of understanding any given area of Reality, because its relevant mediations are ultimately almost infinite, including not only immediately-local and obvious parts, but also whole hierarchies of aspects - both contributory and produced. In contrast, Plurality effectively “walled around” and “nailed down” its areas of study, to guarantee the revelation of isolated relations, whereas a true holist approach had to address the whole set of possibilities simultaneously.

Even, our theorists could not do that, so they too had attempted the integration using the assumptions of Plurality – they took their cue from the limitations of the pluralists, but whereas the latter had only very narrow, “limited” objectives, they by their requirements needed a wider context. So, their taken-on limitations could be no other than a certain route to disaster.

The most important of their retained pluralist methods was Formal Logic (Reason?), which defined Parts as eternals and attempted to explain things using them alone. It didn’t take these theorists long to realise that this wouldn’t work, so they depended, instead, on the idea of the “Hierarchy of Parts”. In this view, each Part was itself composed of lesser Parts, and the job of Science was to “penetrate through” these layers, one at a time, until they reached the ultimate, basic, fundamental and immutable elements of Reality.

Such a scheme can quickly reach prodigious proportions (an almost infinite regress), but, it allowed concentration on local, deep sub-sets, while promising total comprehensiveness in the end. This handy get out is termed Reductionism, and it seemed to allay problems for theorists attempting to explain a given limited area. Then, clearly, the FULL right-through explanations became the task of scientists as a whole, and individuals could limit their task, while apparently still contributing to the overall purpose of Science.

No single theorist (or even group) could be expected to tackle the whole hierarchy, so they sensibly limited their job to do-able chunks. The term do-able is surely the KEY!

It meant that they limited their theories to areas where Logic could indeed by used. The elements of their explanations were taken as given (as indeed fixed) at some lower Level, and could be used as immutables in the current explanation. So, nevertheless, the mistake of the immutable Parts was assumed here too.

Now, here I am talking about physicist-theoreticians.

Elsewhere, in some so-called “lesser” Sciences, immutability had long been seen as clearly impossible, and had been jettisoned. In both Geology and the study of the Evolution of Life, the only thing on the menu was Qualitative Change, and in these studies equations were useless in dealing with that!

NOTE: In this, any equations that could be derived were, from the outset, mere conveniences, and delivered NOTHING in explaining the creative processes of Change that were the essence of these Sciences.

These Sciences had to address Qualitative Change itself, yet was not, and never could be, a study of such processes occurring now! All the valuable evidence was “of the distant past” and greatly transformed by gigantic forces, or selective processes, taking place over millions of years. They had to study the remnants of the effects in the meagre traces left in the rocks beneath our feet.

Yet, they produced in the last 150 years the most profound theories in Mankind’s history from the Origin of Species to the meaningful history of the Earth itself via the Theory of Tectonic Plates.

Science explanation in these vital areas was not self-kid, and had been achieved under the most difficult of circumstances. So, why had the physicist-theoreticians not been able to find their alternative route?

it was because they had no frozen history of sub atomic Changes to study in order to discover its meanings. They were "now-scientists" (using experiments), and also wedded to the universal failings of pluralist assumptions. Even our geologists and students of Evolution were actually ill-equipped to really tackle Change.

For. there was a profound gap in the methods of dealing with Qualitative Change that had to be addressed.

Naum Gabo

The Hegelian Holistic Method - Dialectics

What was needed was to fulfil the original agenda of Hegel, which he so brilliantly proposed over 200 years ago, when he found it essential to embark upon the construction of a Logic of Change (he called it his Science of Logic). But, there was no doubt that his crucial area was Change itself – and Qualitative Change at that! He got round the problem of absolutely no fossilised evidence, by choosing his own Thought as his area of study. For this, he was roundly condemned by both his co-idealists, and even the opponent materialists, but he could see no alternative.

He did not succeed in his attempt, but that was not because he was wrong. He was ahead of his time and though he had a strong group of disciples (The Young Hegelians) the problem of his idealism just had to be addressed.

The issue was ultimately destructive of the group as Karl Marx “changed horses in mid-stream” and became a sort of Hegelian materialist. He called the new position Dialectical Materialism.

The future of Hegel’s agenda may have seemed assured by these developments, but it wasn’t!

Though the only studies in this direction were those undertaken by Marx and his followers, they were soon embroiled in what they considered to be a much more pressing undertaking – the Social Revolution.

For Marx, in applying Hegel's methods to History, began to understand the sequence of succeeding Economic Systems, and their individual overthrows via Social Revolutions. Clearly, this could not but lead to a study of the then current Economic System, namely Capitalism, so the more basic philosophical tasks though inferred in all his work was, to a significant extent, shelved for a more opportune time, when, of course, sufficient numbers of co-workers would surely be available.

Such circumstances never materialised, however, both during his life, and, even afterwards, for the imperatives of social action tended to dominate the work of his many disciples. And, it must also be admitted that disciples don’t usually entirely grasp the agendas of their mentors, and the study of Change was NOT carried through as was crucially necessary.

Surprisingly though, there are significant records of such Change, and they are available in History.

Not, of course, what is usually called History, where historians concentrate on Kings and Wars, but the detailed, almost moment-by-moment history as produced by historians such as Michelet.

Such historians do NOT take the usual route, nor write on the usual subjects, for the necessary data that is needed for real Change takes place overtly ONLY in Social Revolutions. And, a great deal has been written on the English, the French (Michelet himself), the Paris Commune, and finally the Russian and Chinese Revolutions.

In addition, the history of Reality itself can also be seen as being studded with such “revolutions”, though in those non social areas, they are now more correctly called Emergences.

From the Emergences in the Evolution of the Universe itself, with first its stars and galaxies and then the Origin of Life and its remarkable Evolution, all the way to Social Revolutions. All these display Qualitative Change in remarkable episodic “turnovers”, which also always “multiplied-up” future possibilities.

Indeed, they were THE crucial Events in Significant Change throughout!

And such Emergences, though rare, turned out to have been legion in the vastness of Time.

The study of such Emergences MUST be the key to a holistic alternative to Plurality.

Of course, compared with the immediate pragmatism of pluralist science, and its accelerating number of separate, individual and isolated discoveries, the study of Qualitative Change seems extremely indirect and abstract, but it allows the possibility of both a structuring, and the possibility of the Understanding of Holistic Reality - in Change!!

The trouble with a purely philosophical holism, is that it was self-defeating. In opposing the analytic partitioning used by the pluralists, the arguments of the classical holists, quite rightly, concentrated on the all-encompassing, innumerable inter-connections and mediations between everything and everything else!

With such a position, you might well be able to win arguments, because you were clearly correct, BUT you couldn’t develop any sort of methodology, that is a system, which would deliver Reality in wider and wider “explained” areas.
But, the theoretical position could not be turned into a holistic methodology of study and explanation.

NOTE: When Professor Sykes was recently employed to travel the world studying Meditation by Buddhists, she openly admitted that she was at a loss to carry out any meaningful investigation. She could ONLY conceive of a study in which the vast majority of factors were held fast, and a minimal number of variables investigated to reveal a telling relation. The fact that such controls were impossible, completely disenfranchised her cherished methods. They were, of course, totally pluralist. And her mentors in these holistic techniques could not reveal to her an alternative method of study. She just had to experience the processes “whole”, and communicate what she had experienced. She felt totally inadequate to the task of explaining what was going on, and she is no mug!

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