04 November, 2016

Obvious and Hidden Truths

"An Additive Mix" by Liz West. Photograph by Michael Coldwell

Both in Science and in Art

It has always puzzled me how clearly receptive literally-all artists and writers were, and still are, to the major Copenhagen retreat in Sub Atomic Physics. Approving articles appear regularly, seemingly glad to see that Physics has finally been rescued from dull, "mechanical materialism", and into the pure-light of Reason, and the beauties of Pure Form.

For, you would expect that whether you were a scientist or an artist, your clear objective would usually be to reveal that "Hidden Truth", which was, and always is, never immediately evident!

Why should this not be the case? Well, there are reasons!

Most Science is both pedestrian and pragmatic: so, the conception of it, among non-specialists in that field, is invariably closer to a technological conception, than one of "Natural Philosophy" - the original title and description for Science.

Indeed, since the heyday of the inventors, who successfully exploited any and all scientific discoveries in sellable devices, such as those by Marconi, Tesla, Bell and Edison, the ever-present demand, "What's it for?" has majorly replaced the original "Why is it so?", as the main requirement to be answered. And Understanding, as Science's major purpose, has been extensively replaced by Usability as the main aim and director of scientific investigations.

Indeed, this inversion of the usual order, in scientific investigations, has demoted Theory from being the major purpose, ground and, indeed, director of new discoveries, into becoming merely a "placeholder-explanation" of what is "already perfectly well known, and, already, most effectively used" - indeed, an afterthought!

A major principle on which current Science has been built, literally since its inception, such as Plurality, allows analysis of "extracted laws", which are then often seen as "directly-causative", as well as being, necessarily, relatively simple. And, in addition, such a stance sees what has been extracted in many different experiments, as delivering purely additive contributions: so that phenomena are conceived of with literally NO recursive effects where results actually qualitatively-change-their-causes!

Perhaps, even more restrictive than that, was the apparent basis for Copenhagen - the insisted-upon, Predominance of Form, as embodied in Formal Equations, which again arose, initially, to enhance and improve various modes of Production, based upon scientific discoveries.

So, how could its then further embodiment as "sole cause", possibly be instituted from such a beginning?

The key argument, against such "reasoning", has to be that it could never be so, when used entirely-alone. For, Form is descriptive, not explanatory: it is caused and not causing, and would always lead to contradictions and dichotomies if pushed beyond its always context-limited predictive scope! 

Anthea Hamilton, Vulcano Table (2014). Photo: Michael Coldwell

Now, such methods were relatively new to Science, though always attractive to creative artists of all kinds. For they were exclusively concerned with reflecting back to viewers, by their creations, the often unconscious, human conceptions and thinking, as directly as possible.

But, the real basis of all formulae is always Idealism - it makes the formal equations into the actual causes, and hence involves the abandonment of the materialist stance at-a-stroke.

Let us attempt to be crystal-clear!

All acquired equations from experiments, are to a significant extent, "man-made", which is both due to the necessary simplifying process of farming of the contexts of investigation, and also, thereafter, to the following essential idealisation of the products of that extraction, by the careful fitting-up of pure formulae from Mathematics to match such results, which, given an exact repeat of the same context as in extraction, enables predictable and successful use.

Such formulae do NOT exist, as such, in totally unfettered Reality: they are most carefully arranged-for by Man, and hence are man-devised reflections of only particular controlled areas of Reality. For it is this, as such, that makes them appear as eternal Natural Laws, and is, quite definitely, an idealist deformation, making the farmed-for-form the "natural cause"!

But, of course, Idealism is, certainly, not merely about the quantitative measurements alone, it is, of course, vastly wider than that.

And, it was those aspects, connected with human volition, that were the concern of artists, and made the New Physics seem so attractive to that creative group, who, in their own work, were really portraying what they considered to be the essences driving Humanity.

In addressing Humanity, artists of all kinds knew better than to be strictly analytic in delivering their subjects, because what they were really addressing was too rich and complex to be dealt with in that way. They were delighted with the move towards Idealism in basic Science. They also knew that their "means" - whatever they were portraying, were much more than what Science usually delivered.

Put as simply as possible, artists correctly see the world through Mankind's eyes-and-volitions, which they attempt to reveal to their fellow humans, whereas real scientists attempt to find the intrinsic causality of whatever they are investigating, and attempt to deliver that.

To cap it all the new physicists began to speculate in an idealist way to fill the evident cracks in the Copenhagen Interpretation.

Many idealist concepts transferred from Pure Mathematics, such as what became known as Singularities, began to move to central positions - with Big Bang Origins and Black Hole Demises for everything in the Universe, not to mention multiple Dimensions, above the natural three of the Real World, which appeared in order to "explain" the stances in many anomalous phenomena.

But, I would not equate the artists' stance totally with that of the new physicists.

The former were attempting to be true to a human experience of reality, and in that they are more true to an important part of it than the new physicists ever could be, but their common stance of Idealism, would not, alone, deliver what either group were really seeking - Truth!

"Reciprocal Spaces" by Shelley James and Scott McLaughlin. Photo: Michael Coldwell


Perhaps much earlier, in this account, I should have explained Postmodernism. For this is the contemporary philosophical excuse for Pragmatism - and the regular switching between contradictory alternatives apparent in all logical impasses in reasoning. Artists loved this because that "kind of Truth" was better than just one or the other of the contradictory alternative being solely correct.

And, you cannot do that without discovering the reasons for the generation of such a dichotomy.

Instead, they considered, keeping all options was better, and this is borne out by the success of such pragmatic switching - you certainly didn't understand why, but nevertheless, "picking the right one", by chance or trial-and-error, in a given situation, did indeed work!

Artistic ambiguity played a similar role, but also, in the hands of a great artist, could indicate something of true, but not completely known, circumstances.

That is why truly great art always includes such profoundly directed and revealing ambiguity.

It is nothing like the crude methods of the new physicists, which actually do the opposite, and not only hide the real causes, but actually BAN all attempts to uncover them.

To this degenerate group "The World simply obeys statistical probabilities" - which is simply not true!

The artists' generally were aghast at the prior Mechanical Materialism, which to them was like dissecting dead Life, it lacked the impulse for Change evident in the Real World, so they mistakenly gave unwarranted support for these new idealist physicists...

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