09 January, 2016

The Technological Revolution

What is to be Done: V
The essential tasks for the Marxists of today

For several hundreds of years, Science has been flowering and equipping Mankind to investigate Reality, and bend sections of it to his own purposes. The modern world is the proof of this progress. But we must see why the tremendous series of advances have taken place. What was it in the Scientific Methodology that opened up the gates for such technological development?

Ask a scientist, and he will correctly tell you that the starting point was the turn to Experiment that vastly increased our Knowledge of Reality. So instead of mere discussion and Logic being the ONLY route to Truth, scientists insisted on carefully designed experiments to extract vast amounts of quantitative data, which could then be fitted up with pure mathematical forms for the purposes of reliable and useable predictions.

Measured Data as Primary Source

We must look much more closely at this process, for it is based on very ancient and well established premises, BUT applied for the first time with the possibility of control.

This ancient idea is termed Plurality, and involves seeing everything in the world as composed of Parts – indeed Plurality can be defined as “The Whole and the Part”. In spite of innumerable connections, mediations and determinations of all things with everything else, it is usually the first step in studying something to conceptually isolate it as an easily identified Part.

We Name it, and observe it with great care, to then move the same process on to identify its component Parts in turn.

Such a process historically usually didn’t get very far, because so many things were simultaneously involved. You couldn’t see the wood for the trees! Indeed, many crucial and causative factors were well hidden, and sometimes totally invisible, so such an undertaking frequently collapsed under the weight of multiple competing and hard to assess factors.

The Scientific Experimental Method and Use

But, Science finally appeared when sufficient was known to allow the absolutely essential control of a situation to maintain well defined and limited situations amenable to detailed study. The investigators “held down” as many variable factors as possible in any given situation to reveal ONLY a couple of variables free to change and openly display their mutual relation. Only when this sort of experiment could be carried out was the possibility of a Plurality inspired Science possible. This was the break through!

But, we must be very clear, an experiment is NOT a mere hands free observation of Reality. Quite the reverse! It first involves the process of isolation of the identified Part to be studied – both conceptually AND physically.

Now what was being achieved is that the scientists were artificially revealing a hidden (or at least obscured) relation within Reality for detailed and easy study. For the first time such relations were “made available” AND subsequently “matched” to Pure Relational Forms – mathematical formulae, which had over many years been extracted from Reality in a piecemeal way. But, they were ALWAYS definitely purified forms. Their “independence” was never established as such. for they never occurred alone in nature. 

Now, with the possibility of such experiments and extractions, accurate prediction was for the first time possible! And this led very quickly to purposive production. As long as the required and comprehensive Control was maintained, the derived “pure” formulae proved to be most definitely useable.

This whole extraction process can be most accurately encapsulated in the phrase isolate, extract and abstract.

The Fly in the Ointment

But, we must NOT assume that Mankind had discovered the golden, solve-everything methodology. He hadn’t! Experiment was a prodigious step-forward, but it both delivered and determined a particular direction of subsequent development. And, it cemented into our consciousness the erroneous Principle of Plurality. This leads to the conclusion that everything is composed of Parts, which can be be successively investigated, from sub-Part to sub-Part, all the way down to fundamental particles (or whatever were to be the irreducible minimal units of construction of Reality).

Reality was thus seen of as composed of a multiplicity of Parts. ALL phenomena were seen as a mere complication of successively more basic elements.

The full content of the World could be revealed by this magnificent Method! Thus, the Laplacian Concept of the nature of Reality was born! If we knew the positions and speeds of all the particles in the Universe, then the whole future could be accurately predicted in full detail and with certainty.

THAT, of course, is the flaw in this Methodology. And we must explain why that is the case!

Reality is not Pluralist: it is Holistic

Such a conception is an error because Reality is NOT so mechanist! For Reality includes Life, Consciousness and Evolution. To limit it to mere mechanist complication alone is a farce! Indeed, contrasting diametrically with this conception [Plurality] is the totally mutually interconnected and mediated alternative [Holism].

There are many version of this approach; the most famous is certainly that ascribed to the Buddha, 2500 years ago, but frequently revived by many thinkers throughout history. These people all see Reality as a much more self-referenced system. Rather than mere mechanist complication, this approach sees, from the very outset, constant Changes and development, generated by the myriads of possibilities inherent in the totally interconnected and mutually mediated elements in ways that in the end defy ANY mechanist analysis. 

Reality via this view becomes an unanalysible Whole. All analyses that we attempt to make are totally compromised, because we cannot encapsulate the limitless content involved.

Now, though there is profound Truth in such a view, it is hardly USEABLE to control and direct aspects of Reality to our chosen ends (except by an all-powerful God, of course!) It results in an essentially passive, contemplative approach favoured by hermits and holy men, BECAUSE it can only be an infinite process. The focus cannot be objective in any way, but only subjective – that is based on the individual.

Thus in these alternative approaches, we have the classic quandary! How do we intervene, understand and use aspects of Reality, while maintaining a truer holistic conception of its Nature?

Let us see, as clearly as possible, what it is that we are doing in our process of Scientific Experiment! The reason for the success of Experiment is that it modifies a part of Reality in such a way that the modified part is amenable to study.

Instead of hoping to hunt a totally wild animal for food, Mankind turned to controlling the herds via animal husbandry. THAT is the essence of the new slant - change reality in order to control it.

In the same way Mankind slowly got the wherewithall and the power to corral pieces of Reality, and thereafter study them in detail WITHIN the his erected confinement! The process certainly changed the studied Part as compared with the naturally embedded position within Reality, BUT he conceptually both excused and applauded this by conceiving of Reality in a new non-holistic way. Reality became a multiplicity of man-made corrals, rather than an integrated Whole. He had purposely changed Reality to FIT a version of Plurality. Mankind had learned how to deal with Reality so that it conformed to the Pluralist Principle – It COULD be conceived of as a summation of separate Parts. 

Edward Burtynsky

The Pluralist Solution – Farming Reality

By his isolation, extraction and finally abstraction of individual relations, he conceived of what he was doing as eliciting the Essences of Reality. He now had a method of investigation AND an overarching theoretical framework, which “together” would enable him to conquer the World (part-by-part of course).

And effectively, this WAS sort of true!

He did control, conquer and use broader and broader tracts of Reality, to the extent of having a powerful effect even on such enormous systems as the Global Climate of our planet.!

This post is the fifth in a new blog series entitled "What is to be done?" on the crises in both Marxism and Science, and how a revolution is necessary in both. This body of work is AVAILABLE NOW as a Special Issue. Read it all here!

No comments:

Post a Comment