22 January, 2018

Ideality: The Promised Land

...or the World where modern Cosmology dwells

Surveying current Cosmology takes us by a well trodden route into a strangely unreal world!

But, it isn’t new to most physicists, either now, or in the past, because they always very easily slipped-sideways out of Reality, and into the much more conducive Parallel World of Pure Form, in their sincere attempts to formulate eternal, Natural Laws of Reality.

It was an alluring and thrilling move, for, on the very first step inside the portal to the new World, everything which had taken them there reappeared, but here with a veritably scintillating beauty! And, it appeared both understandable, yet also literally infinite: It was truly the Promised Land.

And, the reason for this was the settled-upon-ground that clearly promised answers to all the innumerable questions about The Nature of Reality. This assumed ground was that Everything-in-Reality was due entirely to a set of fixed Natural Laws, which added together in various amounts to deliver absolutely everything possible. This was initially just assumed, but later was encapsulted into The Principle of Plurality.

It hadn’t been found immediately, historically, for studying Reality-as-is had long proved both perplexing and difficult, but things gradually changed with Man’s ever increasing control over investigative situations, until finally the state was reached when Reality’s variabilities were finally under such control that the studied situations suddenly focussed remarkably into extractable relations, and this was the Key!

Beyond this door spread the whole world of Pure Form alone - Ideality, and our explorers crossed the threshold into the World of their dreams! Remarkably, this world had been glimpsed long before that point was reached: for it had occurred in Ancient Greece, when simple shapes were idealised, via drawing them, into perfect forms, which, thereafter, proved to be much more amenable to further study, yet close enough to the real versions to be very useful! Indeed Mathematics, as it came to be called, was the first intellectual discipline for Mankind, and set things up for the much later breakthrough into Experimental Science.

So, when the time came, to peer-through that open door, they already knew what they could do there, and didn’t hesitate to enter.

Yet Reality and Ideality are not the same thing at all!

Indeed, the forms that occur in Reality are caused by real physical and other properties and effects: they are consequences of real concrete causes. And to make things even more difficult, many such causes are always acting simultaneously, and holistically - everything can affect everything else, things can evolve - you cannot assume eternal Natural Laws at all.

So, in Reality, causes must be primary, and Form secondary - a symptom.

Also, each Form can be caused by various different confluxes of many possible causes - so finding-a-Form can never explain a phenomenon, it can only describe its observed ‘Shape’! And, crucially, Forms in Reality are variable: it is a holistic realm. While, all the Forms in Ideality are fixed: it is a pluralistic realm. Things in Reality are real, while those in Ideality are Pure Forms and nothing else.

Purely Formal models, such as Equations, do not reliably pertain in Reality: they are distorted simplistically, idealistically and pluralistically, and each one can relate to many different situations. Forms may be universal, but they are never causal.

So, their use in the real world is limited to stable situations and modified, rigidly-maintained artificial domains (technology): while their use in further theory is doomed to eventually deliver multiple impasses.

In watching a lecture at Oxford University by Nima Arkani Hamed upon “Why the Universe is so Big?”, where he seamlessly slipped from considering Sub Atomic Particles to the Universe as a whole, it was clear that he considered that he was using a basis common to that entire range, despite its unfathomable vastness.

And as he went on to discuss the sizes of major constants in his equations, it was clear that to him, they were not arbitrary fixers to bring purely formal equations into line with a tailored part of Reality, but were Universal Constants of Reality itself.

He is, of course a mathematician, and very much an idealist, rather than a pragmatic one. And, his profound reasoning was NOT about Reality, but a deep, deep journey into Ideality as an uncoordinated whole.

And sadly, there is no reason why Ideality should deliver a consistant-and-comprehensive pattern for everything within it. For, as a competant mathematician myself, I am well aware of its formal extensions - into negative numbers, graphical representations, operators, complex numbers and even Quantum Loop Gravity, String Theory and the Multiverse!

So, whilever the investigator can continue to pick out of his bottomless bag of formulae, the right one for a given situation, the lack of unity in the scheme as a whole can be ignored, But, it clearly isn’t, as inferred, the sole basis of everything. How can it be: it is only abstracted Form?

So, Cosmology is not what it purports to be: based upon formal Mathematics, it deals only in concretely- unsubstantiated Form, and cannot be corrected by experiment. And, with a steadfast Pluralist Stance, and fixed-for-ever Natural Laws, it can never address the true holistic richness of Reality.

Indeed, the whole approach is totally ill-equipped to ever address Qualitative Change and Creative Development: it worships Stability, for that is all it can possibly see - the rest falls outside its domains of applicability. As all truly significant developments only occur in relatively brief Emergent Interludes, the engines of change are completely unobservable within each and every prevailing Stability.

Stability is taken as the only reliable situation we can study - things must be still, or we must hold them still. The approach views Reality via a series of ‘stills’, like photographs, any variation is via purely quantitative change only, and delivering no hint of anything other than a mere continuation of the same.

It is locked into a pre-Hegelian, idealistic mode, philosophically, and convinces itself of innovation due to its sophisticated, ever-developing Mathematics and increasingly complex technological applications.

But, from an explanatory view, it is as dead as a duck! We are at a dead end scientifically.

This paper has just been published in the latest Special Issue of SHAPE Journal on The Philosophy of Physics:

Special Issue 56

New Special Issue: The Philosophy of Physics

Lee Smolin and the Philosophy of Physics
Special Issue 56 - The Philosophy of Physics

I’ll get the first controversial statement out of the way: There is no Philosophy of Physics!

At least, not any longer.

Having committed myself to the study of Physics some 60 years ago, I chose it as my specialism at University entirely because, historically, the discipline had always tried to both understand and fully explain reality - I was then presented with a worldwide major retreat from such essential objectives, established mainly by the triumph of Bohr and Heisenberg at Solvay some years before, and the gradual acceptance of their Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory, literally everywhere.

It was, of course inevitable, though I couldn’t see it at the time.

The seeds had been set long ago, with our generally pragmatic approach to investigating the physical world, which was only further complicated by the inclusion of Idealism from Mathematics, and of a Plurality underlying all attempts at explaining phenomena.

From its very outset Physics was actually a strange amalgam of Materialism, Idealism and Pragmatism, a distorted reflection of the world which could only prosper while its discoveries could be profitably used. And, the methods of carefully cultivating experimental situations (to make them easier to study), and idealistically mapping pure ideal forms onto studied situations, began to wrest the subject from its explanatory role, from ‘Natural Philosophy’, and into that of mere technological implementation.

In the end, the old explanations began to fail, and were abandoned for the seeking of equations. Attempts to truly understand reality were jettisoned, and what had been Physics greatest asset was lost.

I am convinced that quantum mechanics is not a final theory. I believe this because I have never encountered an interpretation of the present formulation of quantum mechanics that makes sense to me. I have studied most of them in depth and thought hard about them, and in the end I still can’t make real sense of quantum theory as it stands

Lee Smolin, 2005

19 January, 2018

Time Reborn by Lee Smolin

A very interesting look at the crisis in physics by Smolin

I've been reading a great book by Lee Smolin entitled Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe. In it Smolin seems to reject the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Theory, and contemporary physics generally, for very similar philosophical reasons to myself.

This quote from a book review by The Guardian seems to sum his position up rather neatly:

the reason physicists have come to reject the reality of time is that they have been bewitched by the beauty and success of the mathematical models they use into mistaking those models for reality. For timelessness, though not really a feature of our world, is a feature of mathematics...

To think like this, Smolin claims, is to forget, or to deny, that the objects of mathematics – numbers, curves etc – do not exist, whereas physics concerns itself with what does exist, and, in reality, in the domain of things that do exist, time is inescapable.

Very interesting stuff. More to follow on this soon...

03 January, 2018

2018! Where Next?

What must be next?

Where are the Revolutionaries?

So, within the British Labour Party there has been a major swing to the Left, energised by the Youth, and led by committed Socialists. Good - it was essential!

But, this has happened before. I know because I was part of it in the 1960s, we also appealed to the Youth. We played a major role in getting a Labour victory in 1964. But, within months we, who led that surge, were all expelled!


It was because we were revolutionaries, and we wanted the End of Capitalism! The old Left did not demur: they didn't want to be expelled too. And other left groups did the very same. But what will the present influx do after a Labour Victory? It mustn't be allowed to happen again...

Watered down slogans on marches are wrong! The Revolutionary Left has to say what has to be done.

Look at what these tories are doing. Do you really think that a Labour Government, without touching the Wealth and Power of the Capitalist Class will suffice? IT WON'T! It never has.

The heroic Labour Government of 1945 Nationalised the Heights of the Economy, but left the Wealth and Power STILL in the enemy's hands: and even paid many millions in compensation to the ex-owners. BUT that was not only insufficient, it actually equipped the enemy to respond. It took only a handful of years for the Tories to win again.

Not a Penny in Compensation!

No State Capitalism! 

The real Revolutionaries must make their Essential Programme clear. Hand-in-Hand we will strive as comrades with all Left tendencies. BUT NOT at the cost of watering down what we know to be necessary!

Those who insist that we must dilute what we demand, are not for the necessary Revolution, but for a version of the status quo - inequality and exploitation! It is true that the People, getting only the lies of the Media and the Tories will not immediately agree with what we say is necessary. But, they will!

Time, a continuing fight, and the best Transitional Demands will do it!

Forward to the End of Capitalism in a Socialist Revolution!

Left Out: David Harvey