29 September, 2018

Theory and Practice

Which one delivers the Path to Truth? A serious attempt at an answer!

Science presents Mankind with an amazingly stimulating promise.

But, are we really aware of exactly what that promise is, and where it resides in our thinking and our actions?

Such questions must be adequately addressed, in order to affect just how much of that promise is fulfilled. And, it is the early history of Homo Sapiens that can remove a few of the more blatant errors, in dealing with such questions, but certainly by no means all of them.

For, the vast majority if Man's existence as a separate species, there was absolutely nothing that could be called Science, but there were developments in how Mankind managed to survive, and even occasionally, to prosper! So, what were these developments, and how did Mankind arrive at them, and then, begin to think about them?

The only real evidence, for the majority of that time, resides in the varying cultures that have been uncovered, concerning the knapping of their flint tools, which can be sequenced by where they occur in layers left in the ground beneath our feet, and so still investigatable now, as sequences in the deposits accumulated in the ground. The other vital evidence, from such deposits, is to how far human beings migrated over time, and how long such wanderings took.

Now, in spite of the evidently incredibly slow rate of development revealed by these deposits, they do reveal a dextrous and intelligent life-form, but not yet equipped with the intellectual wherewithal to transcend that initial hard and limiting lifestyle.

Yet, all of these revealed cases are about exactly-the-same-species as we are now! There have been no significant genetic developments of our species since that time, so any progress absolutely must be due entirely to new social reasons.

Most of our development as a species regarded practice

The vast changes in the tempo of development, over the whole trajectory of our species, seem, initially, to be wholly inexplicable. But, really, it actually demonstrates the colossal differences within such developments, revealing seemingly impossible impasses in mind processes, which along with inappropriate Means of Life, could, and clearly did, lock our species (as with all others) into a literally almost-stationary mode for colossal periods of time, even though as later developments show very clearly, what was needed was actually there for the beginning, but was inaccessible until a particular "vital social point" was surpassed, after which, things took off like a veritable rocket!

Put into modern Dialectical Materialist terminology - an Emergent Episode or Revolution occurred.

The crucial question is then to explain why such an extraordinary Event did finally happen and changed things for good. The Transforming Event was that instead of constant wandering, as small family groups, seeking the means of Life as Hunter/Gatherers, Mankind discovered how to farm-the-land, and domesticate-animals for food, milk, clothing and even transport! They could then stay in one place in significantly larger numbers - and pool what they knew and what they found out. Language then developed at a rapid rate, and instead of a re-cycling of remembered family myths, they daily encountered different ideas and discussed with many more different people.

It was this Neolithic Revolution that vastly accelerated the tempo of developments.

Now, throughout the long Hunter/Gatherer period, developments had been occurring, but at a very slow rate, and they were all essentially concerned with Practice. The development of flint knapping Cultures identify that the developments were mainly centred around the wonderfully dextrous Hands of human beings. Indeed, though my earlier description was limited to Homo sapiens, it had also been true of earlier, non-human hominids, over literally millions of years, significantly ever since Homo Erectus, when our ancestors freed The Hands from being used primarily for locomotion, to be used, instead, in a variety of new ways. And significantly by Homo Habilis, who first began to use tools, significantly out of flint shards.

It is clear that this vast prehistory, prior to human beings, did indeed change the capabilities of the Hominid brain, but not yet to actually Think, as we do now. It was, initially, used in arriving at the best methods of surviving and manipulating our immediate environment, judged solely by Pragmatism- "If it works, it is right!", and thereafter remembering them. And, with a woefully inadequate language, even that was no mean feat.

Indeed, physical rituals were by far the best means of embodying such methods in memory, and, later, also involving chants. But, language was still, for most of this development, wholly inadequate to the task, and do-as-I-do demonstrations were far more effective.

Indeed, to this day, this pragmatist tenet - "If it works, it is right!", still plays a vital role, even in Sub Atomic Physics!

Indeed, intellectual pursuits are comparatively modern, dating only from 500 BC, with the intellectual achievements of the Ancient Greeks. They say, "The Greeks had a word for it!", but, they had to allocate them to the many wholly new intellectual ideas that were beginning to be used and argued about.

And, here's the rub!

They, and everyone ever since, didn't get-it-right. Indeed, how could we, for we aren't all-seeing and omnipotent? Indeed, to use the language of Science, what is called Absolute Truth is NEVER known, nor can it be. For, look who is attempting to describe things - we only invented the first approximations to many things a mere 2,500 years ago!

So, what is it that we name, argue about and use? It is at best a partial reflection or aspect of the Truth, that is termed Objective Content!

But, this attempt isn't pure invention: it often contains enough to be useful, but always in limited contexts. So, as we extend our studies, we will always stray beyond the locality, in which our Objective Content pertains.

Very soon after the inital Greek Intellectual Revolution, Zeno of Elea was able to list a whole set of cases in his Paradoxes, wherein the uses of the concepts Continuity and Descreteness inevitably led to logical contradictions. So, these concepts did NOT exist as everyone used them.

They were OK in certain uses and arguments, but not in others. Significantly Zeno had chosen the very area - Movement, wherein the usual meanings were inadequate and often WRONG! Yet, any sort of general treatment of such Dichotomous Pairs of contradictory concepts, was not re-visited for 2,300 years, when the German idealist philosopher Hegel was able to identify many different cases, over a wide range of circumstances, and also, and profoundly, identify the cause of incorrect use in the inadequacies of Formal Logic, which took NO account, whatsoever, of Qualitative Changes: it dealt only with things that qualitatively remained-the-same.

It is a wholly Pluralist discipline!

He then embarked, as well, upon a study of the premises for such concepts. and was able to prove his case by removing unbridgeable impasses in reasoning by correcting the premises of the involved concepts. But, he also knew that Formal Logic also had to be radically changed to include Qualitative Change - he sought A Science of Logic.

But, of course, that is an impossible aim for an idealist!

To validate the meaning and premises of anything needs a reliable, objective basis for confirming any ideas, and that can never be a mere consistency within a set of man-made ideas and their rules of relation! It can only be within Concrete Reality. For, only there can improvable Objective Content about anything be both tested and improved.

To limit criticism only to the meaning of words omits the Real World as final arbiter - for example, it does not depart from an idealist stance: that is all that Hegel could do in finding a "new way", but it still needed Marx, to insist upon a switch to a materialist basis, for the problems generated to really have any chance of being addressed.

Now, the underlying Pragmatism, which has played such a major role in Thinking throughout Mankind's History, has always emphasised Practice as the most fundamental of the joint integration of Theory and Practice, but that very History proves such a decision to be wholly mistaken.

For most of that time, Practice alone was present, and development was, therefore, doomed to proceed at a snail's pace over enormous periods of time, as the objective was merely to do again what you had successfully done before!

Indeed, it is only in what is termed Theory, that we attempt, not only to describe phenomena, but also to crucially begin to explain them too. And, perhaps surprisingly, such Theory does not have to be 100% correct to enable real progress: it only has to contain more Objective Content than was available previously.

Practice without Theory is embodied in 100,000 years of flint cultures, achieved by Homo sapiens (modern humans): they were NOT pre-human hominids - they were identical to us biologically, but they had not developed any theory.

So the Emergence of Theory was truly revolutionary!

How else can the Neolithic Revolution be understood?

Why should what had been happening all around them throughout that prior period, would then begin to be controlled by Man, and the revealed means spread like a wildfire throughout Mankind.

Theory was a new process, infinitely superior to even perfected-but-unexplained Practice.

And, it did NOT require Absolute Truth to be an adequate engine of Progress. It did, however, require Objective Content - parts or aspects of the Truth, which reached beyond a particular phenomenon to deliver a more general applicability. Indeed, such "truths" would, nevertheless, inevitably lead, in time, to seemingly untraversable impasses - yet they could, and indeed would, be transcended.

For Theory was not only about Concrete Reality itself, but could also be reflexibly applied to itself!

It isn't a mechanistic method: absolutely everything comes within its aegis!

The process is not only one-way.

The greater generality of Theory enables it to extend understanding, and even direct further Practice to proving its applicability in new areas. And its generality presses users of it to ask "Why?", in addition to only "How?"

Theory is never "absolutely correct", but it constitutes the only path to Truth.

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