30 August, 2012

A View from the Bridge

How Mankind Finally Began to Join his Islands of Understanding

One aspect of Man’s long struggle to understand the World that he inhabits has to be the unavoidable abstractions, simplifications, constructions and diversions without which very little could be and initially was, achievable. For that World, though full of Form and the promise of explicability, was, at the very same time, complex, changing and laced with inexplicable crises and changes of direction. And it did not always give up its secrets very easily!

So, after many tens, if not hundreds, of millennia, Man realised that most of his World was currently beyond his ability to make sense of it, and he turned to one area that seemed stable and unchanging – the Heavens. And though he didn’t at that time actually understand the contents of the night sky, he did manage to extract patterns from it and begin to be able to predict heavenly occurrences before they happened. There was Order there!

Now, this was a very small part of what he desired to know and understand, and he finally realised that when he couldn’t find such reliable areas as the Heavens had afforded him, he would have to find ways of both simplifying things in Reality and “holding it still” (keeping it the same) for long enough for its hidden forms to also be revealed and even extracted. And after a very long period in which his gains had been extremely minimal, Man found the means to begin to do this in particularly conducive areas, and the conquest of Reality finally began in earnest and even accelerate.

But, we should be clear that in contrast to the usual conception of the process, the Found Path was not a simple cumulative build-up of truths, whether evident or hidden, into an ever more extensive aggregation of solid gains, which would ultimately cover absolutely everything. Indeed, Mankind did not, and certainly could never, deal in Absolute Truth!

The only available gains were definitely only relative, and beset by simplification and error. And, most important of all, they required an essential partial tailoring of local sections of Reality into conceivable and useable Forms to make any sense at all!

But intelligent and careful observation and even a radical simplification of Reality alone were never sufficient!

Mankind had to farm situations to make them simpler and more easily discerned formally and even more importantly, actually firmly controlled. And the principles, which were generalised from these types of investigations were handle-able categories, into which all phenomena were at first organised and later force-fitted.

Of course, arbitrary self-kid was certainly NOT the intention, and it would be more accurate to say that Reality was extensively and effectively farmed (or modified and controlled) to ensure both easier extractions and fruitful and accurate predictions to desired and planned outcomes: localities of Reality were isolated, simplified and improved to make the task much easier.

In spite of many misconceptions, and inaccurate abstractions, Mankind did indeed advance his knowledge, and made the most of his extractions by always improving his conceptions to maximise their Objective Content – in spite of error, salient points of truth were included!

Now, this particular aspect of the whole process was, without doubt, an absolutely brilliant achievement: for it enabled a Part of Reality, Man himself, with clearly inadequate means at that time, to “pull himself up by his own bootlaces”. And in spite of constant errors, build in enough of this commodity to enable reliable USE of his conceptions to be possible. In effect Man learned to judge his own theories and explanations in terms of their aspects or fragments of the Truth, so that they could be effectively used.

What this meant was that though theories could be incorrect, they were neither completely arbitrary, nor were they pure invention. They involved certain glimpses of the Truth within them: they were artificial receptacles containing germs of Truth. And therefore in carefully arranged situations, they could be made to deliver intended outcomes.

Such achievements are totally breathtaking in what they enabled Man to do.

But, because of this necessary diversion – the pragmatic, rather than the profoundly explaining methodology predominated, and the true nature of Reality was often significantly misunderstood.

It was as if God was a farmer like ourselves, and made the World out of the very extractions that we were also able to achieve.

We called our extracted relations Laws, and conceived of the World as entirely DUE to the playing out of these basic “God-given” rules. Of course, we knew that most of these driving essences were not yet “in our hands”, but we believed that we knew how to achieve them given sufficient time.

A developable conception of the World was thus constructed, but it was actually upside down! Laws were seen as producing Reality, rather than Reality producing the Laws. We conceived of Reality solely in terms of these Natural Laws, which produced absolutely everything. And such a standpoint led to a series of important and mistaken basic principles such as those of Plurality and Reductionism.

NOTE: To say “mistaken” is not the most appropriate description, however, for both of these principles were extremely productive, and certainly led to many major gains. But, they were confined to either natural or artificially constructed situations, and are most accurately described as “Truths of Stability”, when it was naturally available or could be artificially arranged to exist.

And for many centuries there appeared to be no contradiction between Concrete Reality (as conceived of in the above manner) and the idea of God. For where did the many Natural Laws come from? Were they eternal, and had God settled upon them, and set the World into motion entirely governed by these Laws alone?

What Mankind had achieved, was definitely an advance on all prior conceptions in living things, but he too was also an animal, and his competence in dealing with the World, and ensuring his success as a species were essentially pragmatic gains rather than those delivering true understanding.

The perfect lion cannot be said to prosper because it understands its World, but because it has been appropriately selected to prosper within it. And in spite of a colossal step change in Conscious Thought, it didn’t, and indeed couldn’t, emerge in ready-made perfection.

It was entirely new and initially all its advantages were only to be measured relative to all Mankind’s competitors, prey and predators.

It was the “skilled workman’s” intelligence that initially developed, and more philosophical thought arrived very much later in this development. It couldn’t be the other way round!

Perhaps an example will clarify this trajectory.

Plurality was an arrived-at principle, which saw every discernible Whole as analysable into its constituent Parts, and even the properties of the Whole might be explained adequately by those of its Parts.

But, absolutely crucially these components were always seen as entirely separable – that is they could extracted from their context without in any way changing their essential nature: they could be separated without loss. In deed, this principle was so unassailable, that the process allowed a very informative reverse application – the adding of these Parts together to make the original Whole, and this meant that Analysis had also delivered Synthesis as its natural reverse process.

Clearly, if this Principle were totally true, the process of Analysis would be the most perfect Route to Understanding, for every Part could itself also be subjected to the same sort of Analysis, and ultimately it could, at last, terminate on arriving at eternal, immutable and fundamental components of everything that exists at all levels of complexity.

So Plurality begat Reductionism, and legitimised the Farming Technique of simplification and the conversion of Limited Situations to expose and extract these separable Parts. It was surely the best Route to a Full Understanding!

The weaknesses of Plurality were often contrasted with its supposed direct opposite – Holism, which denied absolutely the separability of all discernable Parts, and suggested instead that everything affected, and indeed modified, everything else, so that the Pluralist Methods of restriction and control to “expose” the crucial (and separable) Parts was a misleading myth.

In contrast, it was surely the full and active context that made a Part what it was, and such isolation, restrictions and modifications to any context would necessarily change the given Part into something else, determined by the modified context.

Now exactly how much change was involved was, of course, vital! And to prove the point completely, the pluralist analysis had always to be subsequently used ONLY within the same context from which it was extracted – what we term The Domain of Applicability!

What Mankind had developed was a strategy for holding down limited and modified locations from which reliable extractions could be made, and in which they also had to be used. The crucial thing was the constancy of the Domain: it must not be allowed to vary significantly!

Man imposed his own stability upon a holistic World in order to be able to analyse, extract and predict parts of it, and mine a measure of Objective Content there from. Of course, he was also confirmed in his beliefs in this regard, by the fact that natural stabilities were extremely frequent (if decidedly temporary), so that he felt that “the World was like that”, and hence his methods were entirely legitimate. Indeed, he had no trouble with his necessary regime of restrictions, for he considered that “unfettered Reality” involved a complex mix of these separate-able Parts, and his techniques were merely to expose selected ones, with multiple overlays to confuse the issue.

And it also must be made clear that there was a tendency for Stability to establish itself literally everywhere, while the seemingly natural consequences of its alternative – an entirely holistic World, was seen to lead only to total Chaos – with all contending factors (or Parts) getting absolutely nowhere. This was obviously useless as a conception and was dumped in favour of a pluralist World.

NOTE: Yet such naturally arrived at Stabilities did NOT mean that the contributions involved were entirely separable: it could occur due to the combined effects of modified factors arriving at a state of stability in a self supporting higher system.

Indeed, such a conception was very much more informative than some mechanist idea of stability, for in that real stability, the mutual modifications would arrive at a balance, a self-imposed state, caused by its in built mutual modifications. You can have a natural form of progress – an evolution of Reality. But as with all such directly contradictory dichotomies, neither is ever the truth!

The Clockwork Orange was as incorrect as the chaotic Universe. There were obvious processes of change taking place, and though natural stabilities were clearly self maintaining, and hence could persist for relatively long periods, they were NEVER eternal, and crucial Revolutionary Events did happen in which prior stabilities could be overthrown, and entirely new ones established at a higher level.

Scientists who studied Life could not avoid these imperatives for long, especially when allied to that unanswerable catalogue of evident and significant changes – Geology. The timescale of the lessons in the rocks proved to be in millions of years, and even billions of years, in particular parts of the currently exposed surface of the earth. And even in the citadel of Stability – Physics, problems began to arise in, on the one hand, the world of the extremely small, and on the other, in the world of the colossally large – in the stars which exploded in Supernovae with galaxy-sized emissions of light and energy.

It was becoming clear that changes (sometimes of colossal sizes) did indeed occur, and attempts were made to allow these changes as a normal part of Stability. But they were steadfastly seen as very slow-paced, and the consensus explanation was usually of tiny incremental changes within Stability that “added up” to a significant Qualitative Change. So, the generally agreed approach in Science was not threatened. Change was either slow (but according to determinative laws), or was caused by outside influences, such as collisions by asteroids or comets. The trouble is that such “tidying” did NOT match the evidence when it was carefully uncovered, studied and measured. The most blatant non-conforming evidence was that of the “supposed” Evolution of Life obtained from Geology.

Now great efforts were made to explain these changes incrementally, but in Pagel’s great statistical processing of such available data, he proved that Speciation – the appearance of totally new species, had to be caused by a Single Event: somehow all the significant changes had to happen within a single, revolutionary Event. And, this confirmed the intuitive standpoint of most evolutionary biologists. Qualitative Change was NEVER the result of incremental changes within Stability, which imperceptibly came up to, and then passed, some critical threshold that identified the point of birth of the new species. People were able to hide behind this conceptual frig, because the durations of these transitions were so short, that they were invisible in the fossil record in the rocks. Such changes could only be the result of a major crisis event, in which the stabilities were no longer sustainable, and collapsed entirely. Indeed, the actual cause for change was NEVER the Impulse of the New (as was usually supposed), but the inadequacies of the Old. Speciation is always the result of a crisis and collapse. The New didn’t grow up entirely and unobstructed within the bosom of the Old Stability at all! Indeed, it was totally prohibited from doing so by the defensive/aggressive “policemen-processes” of each and every stability.

An important confirmation of the necessary crisis conception is surely the phenomenon of Adaptive Radiation, wherein a whole diverse bunch of alternative speciations are seen to arise from a single ancestor line. For though this makes sense following a collapse, it doesn’t do so as a successful victory of a whole diverse group of parallel speciations.

They could only begin to construct freely entirely new possible routes in the unfettered Chaos left by the collapse of the Old. These crucial, yet invisible Events became known as Emergences, and all the crucial cases were Events such as the Origin of Life on Earth, and that of Consciousness in Man.

But these were only the large, evident peaks that had to be explained. At very tiny, but higher, Levels such Emergences were always happening. Indeed, the philosopher Hegel, who made major contributions in this area, correctly identified Human Thought as the arena in which Emergences were always happening.

In the brain of the Thinker there can exceptionally be almost Permanent Revolution. Perhaps the most extensive and important contribution to this general area was in the much narrower region of the Social Development of Mankind itself, where Revolutions occurred, which dismantled the Old Regimes entirely, and made possible the entirely New.

Indeed, Hegel’s best and most profoundly–thinking disciple, Karl Marx, turned his investigations into an analysis of Class Society, with its internal Class Conflicts and the inevitability of Social Revolution, though NOT, it should be added, the inevitability of such Revolutions being successful.

Yet generally, such an approach, particularly in Science was very rare indeed. And the vast majority of scientists carried on with their now well-established and successful pluralistic philosophy and methods.

EXCEPT, of course, that even there, it increasingly proved inadequate in what heretofore had been its banker areas – in the search for elementary particles.

The shaky bridges over the tumultuous seas of Turbulence and Change were proving ever more inadequate!

For, the natural consequence of a pluralist standpoint could only lead to increasing specialisation into ever smaller areas of arranged stabilities, which unavoidably became ever more isolated from each other, and, most importantly of all, for the construction of any coherent and comprehensive overall view.

All that could be termed universal was the generally applied pluralist methodology, which was possible because the whole method led away from Reality and into a study of Pure Form alone – and the region so defined – Ideality is indeed universal, but deals only in Pure Form and nothing else.

And, the transitions between these specialised areas became ever more difficult to deal with, and shrank into a set of thresholds with leaps to the new area when these were transgressed. NO trajectory from one to the other was ever delivered: their methods made that sort of “explanation” impossible, so they banned all attempts to do so as illegitimate following the Victory of the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory at Solvay in 1927.

As an Information Technology expert in Higher Educations (In Hong King, Glasgow and London), I allocated to myself the remit of assisting all post graduate investigations by involving computers and tailor-made computer programming. I was daily moving from one area of stable ground to another, and was only successful because I subordinated myself to the objectives of the served discipline and the researchers who sought my help. And, it didn’t take very long to find that I was regularly moving in an unpopulated land.

Most parachuted-in experts did NOT serve the objectives of those they were supposed to be assisting, but, on the contrary, ended up turning the “served” research upon its head, and converting it into a new branch of their own specialism. Such interventions were not only unhelpful, but also clearly both counter-productive and even damaging, and rarely led to anything significant.

But, the strategy, which I had discovered and settled upon, had very different outcomes. In a relatively short period of half a dozen years the I.T. involvement in several disciplines had allowed significant advances to be achieved by the primary researchers, working in their own disciplines and following their own chosen lines of research. And due to these successes, this particular “servant” was ensured of a rapid series of better posts, finally achieving a professorial level at a College of London University. The reasons were in the quality of the service that was given to primary researchers, and the willingness to subordinate himself to their objectives and to learn as much as he could about them.

Slowly, in addition to a richer knowledge in widely separated disciplines, there also arose an alternative overview of all these diverse and currently separated areas.

This scientist found himself in a position to make significant contributions within the served disciplines, and crucially changing his standpoint from deep within a single isolated subject stability, to one consciously positioned upon the bridges between many disciplines.

Indeed a View from the Bridge!

This was the only view that could throw a necessary light upon the defining differences of the individual disciplines, and, most crucially, the never questioned assumptions and principles that were the source of many long standing contradictions and indeed barriers to further developments.

29 August, 2012

Occupations & Motivations

How do you relate to what you do?

By this I mean what do you consider your role to be?

There are, of course, many possible answers, but most of them are to a major extent, self-kid or even jingoism! For, what you do depends largely upon your social and economic position, and this is particularly true for the poor, for they have little or no choice. Without work, such people worldwide would not survive.

So, like it or not, the question posed does not have a wide variety of answers for the vast majority of the population. They must work!

And what they work at will be determined, in the main, by factors over which they have absolutely no control.

The well endowed financially, do, on the contrary, have a measure of choice, but only because they have others providing their resources and freedom-to-choose. That is the Freedom you hear so much about: but it certainly isn’t the freedom from Work for the poor: they know that they have no choice.

It is the freedom to do what you like, which is only conceivable among the privileged, though among the vast numbers of unemployed youth there is a growing myth that they like not having to work everyday for the benefit solely of their “betters”, and instead try to copy the “freedoms of the privileged” even without any disposable income, and fill their lives with what they consider worthwhile. BUT, the Prodigal Son is a feature of a privileged background.

They don’t get such people in the working classes, just as they don’t have fathers to welcome them home and put silks on their backs. Such are definitely a feature of the well endowed, where the expected recipient of inherited largesse, takes his “freedom” literally and indulges his preferences against the wishes of his funders.

But such handy fallback positions are not universally available for the vast majority, while, on the contrary, in a privileged family there would have to be an “eldest son”, whose job was to maintain that situation, and his siblings, who would have more freedom, but less support, could join the “family firm” or strike out on their own to success or failure.

The Working Class, on the other hand, don’t think in terms of Success or Failure. They must work to provide for themselves and their family.

How can you be a “successful” miner, factory worker or bus driver?

Such “options” were never available to the majority, whose main task was to get, and keep, a job, if they were not already earmarked and prepared for one by their betters.

Of course, these templates do not exhaust the full possibilities, but to, in any way, insist that there exists a wide range of possibilities is certainly a myth. The one possible route to escape the enforced possibilities for the poor is, and always has been, Education.

But, such a path is never automatically open to the majority of the poor, or if they do manage to get into it, are they guaranteed to make good their escape?

For though our form of Society needs ever more educated workers, it is intent on them also subscribing to the status quo, and never being allowed to get too big for their boots.

They are therefore selected for both intelligence and a necessary ambition to climb the social ladder, and if they pass these criteria, they are then groomed to serve the status quo, with, of course, a small but noticeable measure of financial gain, and the myth of “perhaps” ultimately joining the governing elite - or even joining in with the freedoms of privileged.

I was intended to take this route!

In Manchester, England, where I come from they even had different types of Grammar Schools to prepare intelligent children for their various roles in current Society. The Top School, Manchester Grammar, was for the wealthy, but also selected by examination a small number of lower class boys to be schooled to be “on the right side” when they went out into the World. While Manchester Central High School for Boys was basically a Grammar School for intelligent working class boys (and, perhaps surprisingly, also for Jewish boys), and prepared the working class incumbents in a very different way to Manchester Grammar.

 The touchstones (in MCHS) were Teaching and Engineering, as all those who went on to University tending to be almost exclusively in one or the other of these categories. Large numbers of technologists, technical experts and teachers were needed, and went off to University aged 18 to be trained in these main areas.

Now, it turned out that significantly better grants could be obtained for the whole duration of their degree courses, if the recipients undertook to work for their funders on graduation. I, and many of my fellow students, was taken down Coal Mines and into Car factories (Rolls Royce and others) to see what sort of jobs they could be guaranteed, if they decided to go for these grants. I didn’t apply, but many certainly did.

Somehow, I had got the idea that Education was a preparation for Life, and not a preparation for Work!

When I passed my Scholarship (the only passport to Grammar Schools for the Working Class), I was the only one in my age group at my particular Elementary School to pass.

To give you some idea, I had started in the Nursery section during the Second World War in 1942 aged 2 and a half, and almost everybody else remained there until they left, aged 15, and went to work in one of the many factories that were within yards of our houses. One wall of Armitage Street Elementary School playground was that of an Engineering factory and it was 60 feet high.

Now, my having passed to a Grammar School was so rare that my teachers insisted that I also sat the entrance exam for Manchester Grammar, but I wasn’t successful!

In retrospect, this was a surprise, because throughout my career at MCHS I was top of the class in the “A” stream, and evidently clever enough for Manchester Grammar, but somehow, and in some way, I evidently just didn’t come up to the required scratch.

At that time, there was another middle strand in education, which they called Central Schools. These were for possible future technicians and foremen, and though another boy from my area had passed years earlier to get into such a school, and did very well there, but he never got the job that he had gained full qualifications for there and in subsequent Further Education at “tech” – a management role in a Cotton Mill.

His name was Eli Vessa, and he was black.

Nevertheless, he was the cleverest boy I ever knew in West Gorton, and he took me under his wing and told me about Astronomy and Science long before I even got to Grammar School. I met him because his mother looked after me after school, while my mother (a sewing machinist) was working making clothes for the Co-op. My sister, though intelligent, had no such mentor, and did not pass her Scholarship, and went to the Third Tier type school – a Secondary Modern, where she did subjects like Domestic Science (Cooking and Cleaning), while Woodwork and Metalwork prepared the boys for factory and foundry work.

Now, clearly, these different institutions were conceived of by politicians to bring the Education System “up to scratch” to serve the needs of the incumbent economic system – Capitalism, and its major motive force – Profit!

Yet, during that system’s initial and inexorable rise, when these were the ONLY drivers, and the prior system of education had been uniformly dire for the Working Class. In spite of evident intelligence, my mother had zero education, my Grandmother could neither read nor write, and my Dad was an unskilled labourer. Clearly, the prior system was nowhere near appropriate for a constantly changing economic system, and was not delivering a suitably trained Working Class for the multiple new roles within businesses and production in the Capitalist System. But, though this was understood by the politicians, they did not necessarily address everything that was necessary for healthy and fully functioning society at all levels.

It was becoming evident (though very slowly) that apart from the production of Surplus Value, there were also unavoidable Social Services, that were necessary to look after the health and welfare of the people at large, and particularly the Working Class poor, who never had any spare finance to spend on Doctors or Sewerage. So, among the Liberal-Humanist wing of the capitalists, there arose a tendency that considered these services to be absolutely essential, both religiously and practically to deliver large sections of the population from penury and ill health... Another Principle emerged, which we call Service.

[Elsewhere, I have written a short Paper with the title Service or Success?, which outlined alternative motivations for what people did with their lives (if, of course, they had any choice) And it was clear that these alternatives did not sit well together in a capitalist system. Indeed, they were frequently in direct opposition to one another- as it was debateable especially in the short term, whether it contributed to increasing Profit]

A political tendency arose within the Middle Classes, which saw Service as a vital component of social life, and social purposes, and this was writ large in their political slogans and policies. And they turned out to be much safer than another rising force led by Marxist revolutionaries, who directly resolved to work towards the total overthrow of Capitalism, and for the hegemony of the Working Class in a subsequent service-defined, Socialist State.

So, this alternative, purely service-oriented, and clearly safe group were allowed to grow to hopefully win the poor to such an agenda, which would improve their lives without revolution. These “liberal” organisations grew out of the existing Whig Party, so it was, from the outset, pro-capitalist (but “increasingly, with a heart”), and they re-labelled themselves as the Liberal Party. But they never managed to satisfy an increasingly organised Working Class, and their ever-growing Trades Unions looked instead to set up a Labour Party of their own, which would be much more closely allied to the Working Classes.

So, now we are well into the 20th century, and the Liberals, in spite of their “good hearts”, were already well on the wane, and yet a clearly inadequate Labour Party was nevertheless gaining a fast growing support almost exclusively among the Working Class, though many Liberals changed horses on seeing the ever more evident demise of their own, usual political vehicle.

The Working Class in their millions were switching to a Party that they believed would serve their interests, and in spite of a major betrayal by Ramsey MacDonald in joining a coalition with the Tories (the Conservative Party), they in 1945, after a Second World War between capitalist states, voted in an immense landslide for Labour.

Things were certainly getting out of hand for the ruling capitalists, and their political representatives – The Conservatives, and there were sufficient numbers within the Labour Party to press for whole sections of society to be transformed directly into Entirely Service Institutions, with NO profit motives involved. Their remit would be to selflessly serve the community at large, but most of all to bring necessary services in as a natural right of the whole Working Class.

Now, the demands, and indeed clamour, for the takeover of the citadels of capitalist society, was rising at an alarming rate among the millions of working class soldiers recently returned from armed conflict in a shooting war, and the leaders of the new Labour Government, who had been members of Churchill’s Coalition Government throughout the war, remembered the Russian and German Revolutions at the end of the First World War, and were as scared as the Tories of the possibilities of this avalanche of support.

So they instead “nationalised” the most important failing industries, which “served” the country, and had been so organised as such for the last six years to “win the war”. They took over the Coal Industry, the whole Railway System nationwide, the production of Electricity and Gas, the Road Transport System (for Goods Traffic), and even the whole canal network as British Waterways, and perhaps most remarkable of all, the whole Nation Health Insurance system, including all doctors, nurses and Hospitals. And they intended to run them as The National Health Service (NHS). But they didn’t touch the Banks or the Stock Exchanges!

Now, this wasn’t a Socialist Revolution: indeed it was a major move from the top, to avert such a possibility, and it worked!

Though driven along by an unstoppable groundswell from below, and the remnants of true socialists within the Party. It was a political move that couldn’t really be avoided.

Yet the Working Class, both as those served, and those involved in doing the serving, had found a new way of being helped along the way, or making a worthwhile living serving the community, and that transformed many attitudes.

Of course, it was entirely from below and the officer positions in all these institutions were still entirely staffed by the old privileged classes, so from the outset, this new attitude was being undermined. So, it certainly wasn’t an ideal world by any means.

Nevertheless, very large numbers of people were involved in occupations that were dedicated to Service, and most of those involved acted accordingly.

In spite of the great austerity after the Second World War, the prevailing attitude within the Working Class was of optimism and mutual service. There was a community spirit and a work ethic of Service that raised the level generally.

But, such motives within that class were not ideal from the point of view of those in charge – the capitalist class. Indeed, taken to the limit, they could only lead to Socialism and the demise of their own lucrative support system. So, what could the economic elite do to defuse that threat?

First, they had to use every power at their disposal to undermine the Labour Government and its Nationalised Industries. They wanted them back!

So, though they were in no position to stop the establishment of these nationalised industries, they could most certainly play a role in sabotaging them, and thereby “proving” that only they were up to the job of owning and running such important pillars of the economic system and its supports.

So, from the doctors demanding profitable rights, without which they would NOT participate in the National Health Service – or by those demanding compensation for their lost enterprises, which they could they invest in even more lucrative enterprises – like Oil, for example. And all this is not to mention the fact that literally ALL newspapers were pro-capitalist, and kept up a daily assault on the endeavours of the Labour Government. Indeed, even the USA demanded pay back for their loans during the War, blackmailed their debtors worldwide into fixing the price of gold on dollars (The Bretton Woods Agreement), and thus severely compromised the possibilities open to this Labour Government, in spite of its vast popular support and parliamentary majority.

And such blackmail continued even with the Labour Governments of the 1960s and 1970s, and only finally subsided with the clear indication that Blair’s New Labour had finally vanquished any residual Socialism within his Party from 1997 onwards, to finally deliver a completely non-socialist and pro-capitalist “alternative” to the Tories.

And with the sell out by Liberal Democrat leader Clegg, in joining a coalition with the Tories in 2010, the biggest assault upon the Service mentality and remaining non-capitalist services accelerated apace, given cover by the World Economic Crisis from 2008, and continuing still in 2012.

Gradually, the Service Ethos in the National Health Service (and other services) has been reduced, so that in some of them, once banker areas have been almost completely extinguished.

Now, you would think that in a capitalist world beset by its own inevitable economic crisis and the domino effect of the Arab Spring Revolutions, that the Socialist Alternative would again arise to terminate this defunct and increasingly damaging system.

It hasn’t happened yet!

But there is absolutely NO other alternative!

Soapstone sculpture of Buddha

Soapstone Buddha by Jim Schofield

23 August, 2012

New Special Issue - Theory

Perhaps this edition is long overdue, for it addresses the crucial topic of Theory, both in the sciences and in other disciplines, where revealing explanations of phenomena is required as both the coherent and comprehensive accounts of all answers to the perennial question, “Why?”

It is not merely a cumulative pile-up of individual contributions, which together “make sense”, but rather a close look at how Theory can make discoveries and extracted equations into something more basically understandable and less abstract.

For no Theory is ever the very last word, and hence we cannot see the stages within it as merely new steps up the obvious and single ladder to Absolute Truth.

Indeed, all theories have their drawbacks as well as their apparent conquests, and the trajectory towards some conceived-of Absolute Truth is always indirect, including many detours, false paths and occaisional dead ends.

Yet, the march of Theory is certainly not arbitary: there can be progress of a very real kind. And perhaps the crucial area is when a well-established banker position is finally overturned and the possibilities of a new path become increasingly evident.

Certain crucial questions needed to be both clarified and then addressed, such as the differences between Description and Explanation, and the diametrically opposed conceptions of Natural Laws as the ‘drivers’ of reality, or conversely as the consequences of reality.

Perhaps the main area where robust criticism is required is in the approach we call Formalism,wherein Form, Shape, Pattern and Relation are seen as the causes of certain phenomena (by mathematicians), and the encapsulation of such patterns and relations into formal equations is frequently seen as the ultimate and even the ‘complete’ definition of why a phenomena is the way that it is.

Finally, there is a very strong emphasis upon the approach described as Emergence, wherein all Laws arise out of the resolution of a major system-wide crisis, always resulting in the wholly new - the most significant example of which being The Origin of Life on Earth.

And such a journey would not be complete without a diversion into the thorny, but sometimes unavoidable, subject of Speculation as a part of the process.


New Archive

We've updated the Shape Journal website so that you can now browse the archive by category as well as seeing all the issues in reverse-chronological order. We hope this helps you find your way around the now pretty sizeable body of papers in the journal. We welcome any suggestions on how this can be improved!

Don't forget you can also search the journal here

15 August, 2012

Website problems

We are currently experiencing some downtime on the Shape Journal due to an error in changing to a new server.

You can still access the entire website using this alternative domain

We hope to have the problem resolved as soon as possible.


09 August, 2012

YOU are paying for THEIR mistakes

On listening to the Press Conference given today (08/08/2012) by the Governor of the Bank of England - though quite a bit could be extracted from his report and forecasts, as well as from his answers to the many questions of his audience - the overall impression of the occasion was that of an officer's conference on the Titanic, as it settled ever lower in the water, with the primary objective of apportioning blame. For no one had any real idea of how things were developing, including the Governor himself, and he admitted as much.

[It may also interest you to know that, at about the same time as this Press Conference, the Prime Minister was entertaining himself watching the Women’s Boxing from a ringside seat at the Olympic Games.]

It was clear that the whole basis for the Governor’s analysis and suggestions was an unswerving acceptance of the prevailing Capitalist Economic System. Absolutely NO alternative was possible! This is the way that it is, and all that could be done to pull us out of the recession had been done, and was still being done, carried out and swapped around, or merely repeated (in hope) when it quite evidently isn’t working!

One single question from the audience was significant both in it actually being asked, and in the answer that it received from the Governor.

He was asked if he could not stop giving money to the Banks, and put impetus into household spending by giving money directly to the people at large.

He almost had a fit!

His answer was unequivocal – You can’t do that!

But exactly why it couldn’t be done was not admitted.

Clearly, someone had to pay for the financial crisis, and this was how they were doing it – in fact there was NO OTHER WAY!

Yet in spite of the gloss that the Governor was insistent that he put on the Economic situation, the basic indicators, which he clearly revealed, could be addressed in a very different way from what was the agreed consensus in this gathering. And these crucial indicators are:

The Rate of Inflation - what we pay out compared with before

The Rate of Wage Increases - what we pay with compared with before

Now, there is one way of dealing with these things entirely from the point of view of the maintenance of the status quo, and another quite different one from the point of view of the relative poverty or wealth of the bulk of the population. The former is typified by how Inflation is both considered and explained.

It is always described as if the Rate of Inflation coming down was making things better for everybody. What utter nonsense that is!

We were told, in a serious straight-faced way, that we should take comfort in that the slippery slope to oblivion was becoming less steep. But of course it was still going DOWN!

Only a negative Rate of Inflation would do that, or a Rate of Wage rises above that of Inflation!

Let us be absolutely clear.

When the Rate of Inflation went up to 5%, it meant that things were costing 5% more than a year ago, and over the period that it remained at that level, the increase in costs was still going up by that rate.

If over a series of months, a year earlier it had being going up at:

3.2% 3.3% 3.6% 3,65%

it was now actually going up by:

5.2% 5.3% 5.6% 5.65%

Yet we were supposed to take comfort in any decline in this rate. But we must not ignore what was also being inflicted upon the Rate of Wage Rises, these were either stopped completely - so that they were 0%, or alternatively kept at a very low figure. We were getting lttle or nothing to match the increases in the costs of everything.

Every wage earner was getting poorer. For when the Rate of Inflation declined from 5% it was still positive, and the restrictions on Wages remained, so it continued, all the time, day-by-day, they were able to buy less and less with their earnings.

But to get back to what the differential from a year ago would be if the Rate of Inflation changed into a negative – cost would have to reduce across the board, and that was certainly not happening.

Now, you might expect (as Cameron insists) that everybody was getting significantly poorer over this interlude, but that was NOT the case. To redress their losses, the Banks started wholesale cheating of their customers with Payment Protection Insurance, the illegal fixing of the LIBOR Rate, and the mis-selling of systems to small businesses supposedly to protect them against interest rate changes. Almighty tricks were necessary to protect their profits and their shareholders dividends.

In fact the gap between the Rich and the Poor is getting ever wider and in many significant cases company Profits are still enormous.

In addition, large numbers of people were being made redundant, and with a continuing range of such sackings still in the pipeline. And these people are therefore MUCH worse off than those still in employment. And as they are not receiving wages, they will not figure in the published Rate of Wage increases, for if they did the result would most certainly be an average Negative Rate – wages over all the working class: it would be GOING DOWN!

The way we are given the so-called indices of the economic State of the Nation is a set of premeditated LIES.

So, what

It can only be that the solution to the crisis can only be to make the Working Class PAY! They will be forced into a poorer state continually – over a period of years. Certainly NOT a one-off loss (as is inferred) at all, but, on the contrary, a rate of getting poorer every day by around 3% over a year. And the unemployed will be poorer at an even greater rate!

So, as the Governor stated, it will take a long time to get enough from the Working Class to “foot the bill” produced by the Banks and the speculators.

And a true graph of purchase-ability by the Working Class will show a long period of getting less and less from the money they have earned.

Can you stomach this theft?

08 August, 2012

Review: A Certain Ambiguity

A Certain Ambiguity
A Mathematical Novel
Gaurav Suri & Hartosh Singh Bal

I am nearing the end of reading A Certain Ambiguity by these two Indian mathematicians, after I had been attracted to it by its advert, where it purported to be about Infinity. As my current researches are philosophical investigations in both Mathematics and Science, I immediately ordered the book.

But, on commencing to read it, I was surprised by the realisation that such a book could only have been written in the USA, and by someone who subscribes to the present day consensus there. Yet, by their names, these authors seemed to be from Sikh heritage, while the book delivers a debate between "American" Christianity and Atheism. Before any content is dealt with, this surprising situation seems to say quite a bit about the motives of the authors.

So, my excitement at finding a source to expand my own work, was immediately undermined by speculation about these motives. For, if they were dealing with the problems and capacities of Mathematics, the inclusion of a dogmatic christian judge (no less) seemed to betray "inclusion" motives... What do you think?

The actual content is contained within two discussions eighty years apart. 

The first details one between a christian judge and an Indian mathematician, after the latter had questioned and disagreed with some christian "speaker" in a public park. In spite of this being supposedly a "forum" for the populace to "air their views", the hostile reaction to Sahni's comments was immediately amplified into a major attack, and Sahni was arrested and charged with blasphemy, under some ancient and forgotten law. 

The second, much later debate, is set in the present day, and contains a long series of discussions between a mathematics lecturer and a small group of his students (one of whom is the grandson of the man Sahni).

The kernel in both these discussions, as the authors see it, is whether there is any certainty in this world, or, to be more accurate, in the vastly different sub-worlds defined by the judge's christianity and the Indian's view of mathematics. 

The judge sees everything as based on his belief in God, while the mathematician sees everything as based on his favoured axiomatic method, as used in mathematical proofs. Sahni keeps to the example of Euclid's Elements, which established this methodology in Alexandria 2000 years ago, where the subject was greek Geometry. Euclid managed to integrate ALL known geometrical ideas of his time into a self-consistent system based on a handful of axioms. Our mathematician considered that this was the most powerful method known to man, and could see that it could be extended in use to the world at large.

As a mathematician myself, I must say that I was somewhat surprised at the childishness of BOTH their positions. Did they really live in the 20th Century?

I had personally dumped religion at the age of 13, as it offered NO understanding of anything. Indeed, quite the reverse, it was clearly an alternative to any attempt to understand how the world works. And though I too fell in love with Euclid at about the same age, and could prove all the theorems without any trouble, I could not see how such an artificial system could ever be used generally to deal with everything in the world.

My respect for theorems soon matured into a respect for the 'included' logic. But even then it was clear what this method was all about. Logic was able to generate a whole panoply of consequences from a given set of assumptions and assertions. It could amplify a set of such things into an extensive penumbra of dependent, though not immediately evident extensions.

But, to reduce this general method to the axiomatic version contained in Euclid, was, even then, obviously juvenile, as logic was the basis of discussions about everything in the world. Axiomatic structures are only a special, limited, subset of this 'universality'. The idea of a complete, logical system of Absolute Truth was, to say the least, "a bit much". From the outset, it was clear that the assumptions on which Geometry was based were merely simplifications of what actually existed in reality. For in the real world there are no dimensionless points, no lines of zero thickness, and no infinite planes. These were clearly invented to serve as a basis for a model of the forms of reality. And, it must be emphasized that, by the time you reached the end of Elements, you did not know reality, you only knew the model, and, in addition, you perhaps grasped some idea of the power of Formal Logic. As a pupil in school, I soon moved my allegiance from Mathematics to Science, because the latter did at least attempt to tackle more of reality than Mathematics ever did or could!

I hoped for understanding via Science. 

But I was an able mathematician, and have used this remarkable tool all my life. My attitude to it was always pragmatic, rather than for revealing the truth of reality. I solved real world problems with it.

What A Certain Ambiguity never even mentioned were the uses of mathematics. All of its discussions were clearly limited to Pure Mathematics, Applied Mathematics didn't even deserve a mention, which when you think about it, is remarkable! But, I am clear that the reason it wasn't mentioned is that Applied Mathematics is not an isolated pure system. It is involved, everyday, in the attempted application of pure, abstract forms back into reality - and when you attempt to do this, all that purity and elegance vanishes. Multiple 'frigs', approximations, fittings and downright invented models are found to be essential. The abstractions, isolated, extracted and perfected by Pure Mathematics simply do not fit with real world situations as they stand. They have lost too much in that processing to have the necessary content for a perfect fit. Obviously, discussions about Essence and Eternal Truth do not gel very well with such things, and so Applied Mathematics is dumped for being ugly, as if it didn't exist at all!

Much later in life, I was able to categorize the situations of the role of Mathematics much more soundly, when I embarked upon a period of research into the Processes and Productions of Abstraction, which quickly grew into a major area of study. These studies have since extended into a much wider area, which at present occupies all of my time, so that it has now inflated to be accurately termed Philosophy.

 The Processes and Productions of Abstraction

A short film explaining these ideas

Mathematics, as it is discussed in this book, is quite clearly the study of Pure Form in isolation from Reality. Yet, its centre is its universality and generality - things that can only be established in Reality. These properties arise from the fact that its abstract equations can be used in many different areas. How else could it be termed "general" and "universal"? 

Now, all these questions are much too important to be tidily confined into limited areas in order to make the arguments easier. At the present time in modern sub-atomic physics, the majority of scientists would have us believe that the Essence of their subject is Mathematics. They have abandoned Science as it has been developed over many centuries to replace it by formulae alone. Now, to move to such a position does also abandon Reality as the supreme arbiter, and instead moves into a non-scientific position which is clearly a branch of Idealism. 

The book, surprisingly applauded by many world famous academics, is, as I hope that I have been able to demonstrate, decidedly infantile in its dealing with the important Big Questions, that are clearly untreatable by the limited disciplines employed. It is also surprisingly old-fashioned! The Religion/Science debate has been stone dead for many years. Why on earth is it now resuscitated in this book? It can only be because these old, answered questions have not yet been resolved in the States. Modern Christian Fundamentalism is clearly alive and well in that country, and even, we are told, in the Oval Office. The debate in this book reflects the bigger debate in American society at this point in history, but, as is usual in such things, it does not reflect the real issues or address the crucial questions. It is closer to what close advisers to the White House put into their president's mouth, when untenable things are proposed as the Truth.

Mathematics is neither the opposite of Religion, nor can they ever be reconciled. What utter nonsense. 

Indeed, my researches show that Mathematics is actually extremely Idealist, and the degeneration of Modern Physics is characterized by its abandonment of Science for the thin gruel of Mathematics as Essence. Such trends get more like Religion every day.

Why should such an easy target as Mathematics be chosen as the "enemy" in these discussions? I think the answer is transparently clear! It was chosen because it is an easy target. Mathematics is no general philosophical method. It is essentially Formal Logic, but in such a limited way that I have characterized its area of application as being only in Ideality - the world of pure form alone. It is easy meat.

I know because I have spent time doing a very different task - the criticism of Mathematics compared with Science - the weaknesses of description as compared to explanation - the whole trajectory of Mankind's methods in attempting to understand Reality. So, the easier target was purposely chosen in order to allow the "correct" general conclusions at the end of the book.

I had wondered whether I ought to write a full conspectus of this book, but not for long! It is simply not worth the effort. Dawkins might feel that he has a job combating American Fundamentalism, but not me! I have better things to do with my time.

I am sure that a such a book as this will become very popular in the Mid-West of the USA, and much discussion (as in this book) will ensue among privileged college students. But such a level of treatment only reveals inadequacies and scarcely requires a full treatment. 

After all, I dumped these ideas and questions before I was 14 years old, and when you become a man, you put away childish things...

Jim Schofield 
September 2007

Issue 27 of SHAPE

It is perhaps an unusual offering, for it concerns itself with how purely technological advances can reveal aspects of Reality that increasingly question our most basic assumptions, so that if we heed the hidden messages contained therein, they can lead to new philosophical insights of tremendous importance.

A particular example of this is how the very basic objectives of NASA, and its purely technological advances to simply supply us with ever more facts, have instead opened a veritable Pandora’s Box of the breathtakingly New, where we previously thought we would just confirm our previous assumptions and merely increase the known details.

But, extremely detailed still images and even movies delivered by spacecraft sent into close encounters with Jupiter and Saturn are perfect examples of such crucial revelations.

For these pictures present important questions, which if both addressed and, of course, answered, must transform the way we consider Change and Development wherever it occurs.

For though not dealt with in the papers presented here, recent relations have been revealed between Earth’s atmospheric Jet Streams and the North Atlantic Gulf Stream with atmospheric systems on both Jupiter and Saturn, which have been put down to so-called Rossby Waves, and also raised important questions of both Turbulence and Persistence in such systems.

We must take advantage of these surprising ‘mirrors’ on our own world to begin to address how Emergences actually occur in all developments, in whatever circumstances they arise. These three papers do not deliver full and comprehensive conclusions on these topics, but they do treat the revealed images as the beginnings of an alternative and relatively ‘alien’ source of relevant information that cannot be as easily tidied away as can most more local evidence.