WHAT IS REALITY? (Part One)

Philosophy and science have always had a profound love of questioning our view of reality, to such an extent that we could affirm that ontological doubt is part of the essence of what philosophy and science are. Any love of knowledge has to be prepared to assume, as Socrates did, that what we think we know is really fundamentally wrong, and it is only when one is capable of making that assertion that any meaningful philosophy and science can take place.

Stephen Hawking talked about our being at the end of knowing because he predicted that very shortly we would know everything about the physical laws of the Universe and that this would bring about the death of philosophy – although what Hawking did not contemplate was that a complete understanding of the mysteries of the Universe would also bring about the death of science.

Philosophy tries to grasp reality through the discipline of reason, and science takes that reason one step further by conducting physical experiments that can prove what the deductions to their theoretical reasonings have been pointing to. Of course, philosophy and science are different disciplines, but, in a Venn diagram display, they are also subsets that overlap, and they are both enclosed in a larger set – the art of questioning.

To tackle specific questions like how does an earthworm procreate, or what is the molecular composition of water, we would turn to science, while the bigger questions such as what is justice or does God exist, lend themselves to the logical deductions of philosophy – or at least, that is how we have traditionally operated when applying the art of questioning to our world and our existence in that world. Nevertheless, with the development of cosmological exploration combined with the pursuit of understanding the quantum mechanics of the Universe, science has started to delve into the once seemingly impossible areas of knowledge that were once considered the metaphysical realm, reserved for the spiritual contemplation of monks and prophets and were the great mystical factories of religious contemplation and thought about God.

Quantum mechanics is one of the most bizarre and challenging fields of questioning that our minds have ever devised as it is full of seemingly illogical conclusions, such as the idea of nonlocality, or the fact that subatomic particles and wave forms exist in different consecutive states until they are observed, and that they possess awareness and memory. Ironically, it is the almost equally bizarre notions of certain philosophical contemplations that can help us fathom the real scope of the quantum scientists’ invasion of the metaphysical field. In order to unfold the mysteries of the quantum it helps to contemplate them through the prism of certain philosophical ideas that these physics of the invisible are related to.

For example, in quantum wave theory the physicist Bohm describes reality as we perceive it as a mere abstraction of the truly chaotic form of authentic reality. In a sense, the reality we perceive is an illusion that is generated by the limited perception of our senses. And this idea is an echo of what Plato affirmed in his famous cave allegory, in which, Plato argued, the reality we perceive is really but a shadow of the true state of the Universe, created by a light that is invisible to us, a light which is, as in Bohm’s statement, modified by our perception of it.

However, there is a major difference between Plato’s allegory and Bohm’s theory: for Plato the authentic reality is an illumination and a truth that we need to look for, through a contemplation that allows us to see beyond the illusion that we call reality, but Bohm’s quantum reality is in itself a chaotic, formless state which would be fairly meaningless even to any god. It is certainly not a state that any human could wish to fully exist in, because all existence in it would be annihilated. It is only the creation of the albeit, illusionary forms, fashioned by our perception that any meaning and purpose can be infused within the Universe, and in this way we actually have a reversal of Platonic idealism. There are no authentic forms implanted in human minds by the gods, the authenticity is chaos, and the forms of reality we have are our creations, configuring the muddled state of reality and subjecting it to the limits of our organs of perception that need to make sense of the chaos in order to allow us to exist in that disorder.

It is also interesting to look at the quantum view of reality through the prism of Berkeley’s form of idealism, which basically stated that nothing exists until it is perceived. The idea that quantum particles exist in a chaotic state until they are perceived could be seen as a scientific affirmation of Berkeley’s logical deduction. According to quantum physics, observation has a manifesting effect on the quantum field. It is the perception and observation of the quantum that makes the quantum manifest in forms. Reality, as we know it, becomes manifest when it can be revealed by conscious, rational minds through conscious, rational perception.

Now, if we switch our point-of-view and instead of looking at quantum science through Idealism we observe Idealism through the filter of quantum mechanics, then we clearly see that without sentient agents to make reality concrete, the real operates in a state of completely purposeless chaos. Making reality concrete or manifest through the structuring that perception gives it is the first step towards making it purposeful.

(TO BE CONTINUED)

ESSE EST PERCIPI

The continuing complacency by world governments to apply the systemic changes needed to combat climate change is making the idea of a mass extinction on this planet in the foreseeable future, more and more feasible, and the predicted year of total climate collapse grows ever nearer. The greatest concern is that this unfolding scenario is still only considered a marginal problem, perhaps because the forecast of the tipping point that situates it some 30 to 60 years from now[i], still seems far away and, probably the major reason for our lethargic reaction, is that there is still a lot of money to be made in fossil fuels for those who have got so, so rich by exploiting them.

For those of us with humanistic sensibilities, however, this steady and persistent procession towards our total extinction is maddening for the madness it is. For a humanist, despite the seemingly mass-suicidal death-wish, humanity is something which is inherently beautiful and profoundly meaningful in the Universe. But what is it that will really be lost if a mass extinction of all biological life forms should occur on this planet, as may very well have taken place on our neighbouring planet Mars?

To get our mind around the tremendous consequences of such a loss, we merely need to contemplate reality in an idealistic fashion as Berkeley did with the concept of esse est percipi (aut percipere), Being is to be perceived (or to perceive).

In this idea, Being and Perception are mutually dependent if we consider existence from a qualitative point of view. A Universe of mostly empty space, with an occasional ball of hot gas or frozen rock, is, qualitatively void of Being because there is no consciousness of it, and it itself is not conscious of its own existence. In short, without any passive or active consciousness of it, a thing does not qualitatively exist. To be, a thing needs to be perceived, and to be perceived, a thing needs to be.

This kind of metaphysical thinking may seem trivial at first, but if we associate all percipi with organisms threatened with extinction (i.e., all life on Earth in the age of the Climate Emergency), then it becomes clear that the extinction of life on Earth could very well mean the extinction of everything. With the end of biological entities capable of consciousness, the entire Universe, in a qualitative way, will cease to exist as well. The result would be a state of absolute non-Being, an absolute void of perception is tantamount to an absolute void, in which there is nothing to perceive anything and because of that nothing can be perceived.

Esse est percipi should now therefore be taken as a moral statement, demanding an ethical response to preserve and develop consciousness, and this demand for consciousness is one that must affect the whole of humanity as the perceived and perceivers par excellence.      


[i] ‘Collapse of Civilisation is the Most Likely Outcome’: Top Climate Scientists – Resilience

On Ice-creams, Van Gogh and (the power of) Aesthetics: Part Two Kant

… CONTINUED FROM PART ONE

1.      KANT’S AESTHETIC JUDGEMENT

Kant’s main work on aesthetics is The Critique of Judgement, which is basically about aesthetics and purposefulness and we think that Nietzsche would have had to have had Kant’s associations somewhere in his mind when using the term in Beyond Good and Evil, after all the bracketed note he makes defining the falsest judgements as that to which synthetic judgements a priori belong, is using purely Kantian terminology.

Kant’s book begins with a Critique of Aesthetic Judgement and an analysis of beauty. Kant argues that it is important to understand that something is beautiful only because we judge it to be so and that it cannot be beautiful until that judgement is made, and this is the basic idea that Nietzsche is leafing through in The Will to Power when he argues that, despite the idea that the world astounds us, we basically ignore the fact that there is nothing awesome at all in the world except that which we ourselves infuse it with. Kant attributed four distinguishing features to aesthetic judgements: subjectivity (that the beauty and ugliness we find in the world is disinterested and therefore its appreciation depends on our subjective interpretations); universality; necessity; and purposiveness.   Now what Nietzsche does in his own critique of religion, is stress the subjectivity without completely falling into the traps of Berkeleyan idealism, as seen when he ironically makes his hero Zarathustra cry out to the sun: “Great star! What would your happiness be, if you had not those for whom you shine![i] The great star, the sun, exists, but its meaning can only come through the meaning granted it by the sapiens observer, and this is what Kant was saying. The sun is only happy because we, or someone, perceives it that way, and, on a larger, metaphysical scale, this means that the Universe is given meaning through being perceived and being analysed judgementally. Or, in other words, the meaningfulness of the Universe is an aesthetic, judgemental construct that we are playing an active role in – and it is this awesome idea, not the idea of God, that needs to inspire humanity if we are ever able to overcome our indifference and incredulity towards human advancement in the world.

(CONTINUED IN PART THREE


[i] Friedrich Nietzsche, THUS SPOKE ZARATHUSTRA, Prologue, Section 1

LABYRINTHS AND THINKERS

The thinker loves to live in the labyrinth, to voluntarily endure the effort of losing him or herself in the maze in order to relish in the sublime struggle to get out again. And the only deliberate way to get out of the labyrinth is to obtain an overall picture of it, but the art of maze-dwelling lies in the fact that that map has to be a mental creation, constructed from the inside. It is certainly a Herculean, seemingly impossible task, but that is the game of the thinker.

The labyrinth isolates the thinker from the rest of society, for who else would want to go in there. Some might dabble in the maze for fun, but ultimately these others are too impatient to stay and risk losing themselves or force themselves to become thinkers. Who else but a thinker, would dare to enter without any guarantee that if they got unbearably lost they would be rescued. But the best labyrinths, the thinkers know, are the ones that give no guarantees at all.

Unbearably lost, yes, because perdition has its degrees. One who is not a thinker can enjoy the titillation of being a little wayward, but that soon turns into desperate anguish once the seriousness of their lack of direction seeps in.

The thinker, on the other hand, is nourished by the labyrinth and uses it to find the fuel to exercise and reinforce their creative intellect. From the gymnasium of the mind-maze comes a mental strength capable of bringing down the very fabric of the system: the matrix that makes up the disorientating, labyrinthine quality of our confused perception of what we mistakenly call reality itself. The maze is a mask of walls that hide authenticity from us all. To leap mentally out of the maze and dive into the authenticity that can be grasped once we get an overview of the matrix, that is the goal of the thinker. Once one is able to see the labyrinthine prison we are all incarcerated within, that is when the thinker feels at his or her healthiest, strongest, and most capable. That is when the thinker knows they have the insight of a prophet, even though, like all prophets, none of their contemporaries are listening to them and no one takes them seriously.        

The World is our World

There are two kinds of universes. Firstly, the kind that is perceived in different ways by each and every perceiving entity (Universe A), and, secondly, the universe that encloses and supports these perceiving entities (Universe B). The latter is that which allows perception to take place and part of it is the World. The World is the space in which conditions allowing for consciousness via a conscious, knowing, sapiens life exist.

This description of reality gives us a basic truth: the World is the part of the Universe made purposeful through Sapiens’ perception of it, and each sapiens entity has his or her own singular universe constructed according to the possibilities granted by its place in space and moment in time. Likewise, these individual realities are enriched by the possibilities engendered by the imagination of each and every sapiens entity BUT enclosed within the physical necessities that make up the form of the all-encompassing Universe that is the prime necessity making Sapiens possible.

The World is our world, open to all our possibilities, but at the same time restricted by the physical laws of the Universe and the fragile equilibrium that makes life on Earth possible. Each sapiens stands at the centre of the Universe (as the creator of his or her universe), but depends on the World and its ability to produce and maintain life (and life’s possibilities) primarily for its purposeful existence and, secondly, for its possibilities within the restrictions of that existence.

 These restrictions are determined by each subjects’ position in time and space. Possibilities are modified by our accumulation (through education and culture and through the other possibilities allowed or disallowed us by societies).

By anchoring ourselves with the metaphysical truth, we are able to find an equally true teleology or final purpose, and through that a general purposiveness for sapiens entities.

The metaphysical truth that there are two kinds of universes, points to an inseparable connection between the multifarious universes coming from Sapiens’ individual perceptions and consciousness and the reality of the all-encompassing Universe itself. Both forms of the Universe need each other, and must never betray each other. So tightly are they linked that any betrayal would mean the annihilation of both universes. The existence of one, therefore, depends on the existence of the other.

The perpetuity of this existence, however, depends on certain laws that must be, firstly, discovered by Sapiens, and secondly, respected.

The general purposiveness (and meaning) in life has to be anchored to the idea of maintaining a perpetual relationship between universe A and universe B, or between Sapiens and the World.

Through perception, Sapiens has the ability to reveal the Universe whilst, through the creative powers of the Sapiens’ imagination, humans are also able to fashion different worlds of our own, each one replete with its own culture and society.  

Sapiens’ creativity is a fundamental feature in the relationship between universe A and universe B. Through universe A, the universe B is not only brought into a purposeful Being (I am known, therefore I am ), it is also enriched and enlarged through the worlds imagined and created from that imagination via the inventive and creative power of Sapiens’ minds and their arts and technologies.

In our relationship with universe B, therefore, we have two purposes that fold over into a singular circular meaning of life: to know that universe and to create within it according to our own imaginations and use of the knowledge we accumulate through contemplating the universe we know.

The first law of purposiveness for Sapiens therefore, which is also a moral imperative, is to be creative and knowledgeable.

But from this conclusion arises another question. If this is an authentic moral imperative for humanity: How can our societies go about fashioning the creative and knowledgeable sapiens entities that are so imperative for a purposeful relationship with the World?

Unconcealment (Part Four): Metaphysics as unconcealment

Continued from Part Three: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/pauladkin.wordpress.com/3386

13.

Returning to the question of Being – Unconcealment is an ontological necessity. Without Unconcealment, Being is impossible. In the ontic field, through an analysis of cosmological fine-tuning, we see that the cosmos has evolved towards Unconcealment by creating conditions for life forms that can be aware. What cosmological fine-tuning suggests is that there is a certain determinism towards Being. In moral terms Being is an absolute good, and anything that threatens Being should be considered an absolute evil.

In the 16th century, the metaphysical thinker, Giordano Bruno, intuited this idea of existential Unconcealment when he talked of universal Providence, to which, he said: “I apprehend three attributes … Mind, Intellect and Love, with which things have first, Being, through the Mind; next ordered and distinct Being, through the Intellect; and third, concord and symmetry, through Love.”

Existential Unconcealment elevates humanity and has moral repercussions in our own lives, especially ecological ones. Without sapiens life on Earth, Being itself is threatened with annihilation. The first priority of homo sapiens must be: not to allow ourselves to become extinct. This is a moral imperative, and our civilisation should adapt itself accordingly. If not, it must forfeit its right to be considered a civilisation. At the moment, we have to admit that we belong to an evil empire that threatens the perpetuity of Being itself.

Let me be quite clear: without Being there is Nothing. “To BE or NOT to BE,” needs to be written like that, with capital letters, emphasising the dramatic nature of this concept. Being is everything, and if unconcealing, sapiens life on Earth is threatened, then everything is threatened. The Apocalypse won’t be brought about through the wrath of God, but it will be caused by the disappearance of that which makes the concept of God possible. Without the Unconcealment of Being, everything is exiled to the ontic purgatory of the un-perceived, concealed, infinity of Non-Being.  

The Idealising of the World

money-art

The idealising process of making-our-own-reality has two forms:

There is A) idealising through ideology, which is a segregating process that atomises humanity and creates social subjectivities; or B) idealising through art, which reinforces the idea of humanity as unified whole in which the individual-expressed is always a microcosm of that whole.

Ideology and Art are therefore antithetical forces, although not seemingly antagonisms. They don’t fight each other – or they don’t seem to. Ideology, especially in its dogmatic form of religion, represses Art constantly through censorship and accusations of treachery or blasphemy. But Ideology does not want to destroy Art, it prefers to enslave it and use it for its own ideological purposes. Hence, a thousand years of European pictorial art saw Art’s enslavement to the dogmatic ideology of the Catholic Church.

In the same way, Art has now become a slave to capitalism, if not directly through a dissemination of consumerist ideas, most definitely in an indirect way, through its active participation in the circulation of capitalism’s most symbolic component – money.

Idealism contra Pragmatism and the Authentic Nature of Philosophy

einstein-tagore

The homo sapiens is essentially an ideal animal. We live in a world of ideas and imaginings capable of envisioning not only the world at hand, but also the possible world that lies beyond us or ahead of us outside of the frame of our experience. As social animals, however, the ideals that must arise from our ability to imagine the future are subject to the pragmatic constraints of collectivity.

Pragmatism, therefore, has to be seen as a regulating agent rather than a driving force. The progressive drive and creativity of humanity comes through our capacity to idealise our world. Nevertheless, Wealth as Power and its great tool the economy, have created an anti-human historical process in which pragmatism seems to be a driving force. In our global-economy world, the economy is no longer an instrument for fashioning ideas, it has become the master that all ideas have to satisfy if they are allowed to become materially manifest, and what the economy demands is pragmatism.

With the Industrial Revolution the ideals of the Enlightenment were defeated by liberal pragmatism. If the revolutions of the 19th century were a triumph for freedom and democracy, they were also a victory for pragmatism and the economy which in turn stifles the progressive and creative human drive of ideas and the formation of the ideal. The material freedom offered by liberal or social-democratic pragmatism, restrains creativity and human spirit.

In Orson Welles’ famous Ferris-wheel monologue in the film of Graham Greene’s The Third Man, he relates the attributes the great artistic achievements of the Renaissance to conflict and suffering, in contrast with the mediocrity produced by peace. But the real analogy should be between the inspiring spirit of ideals in the Renaissance against the insipid pragmatism of a Swiss-style, economic reality. The Swiss didn’t just invent the cuckoo clock, as Welles’ character claimed, they manufactured a marvellous safe-haven for the financial system’s piracies.

Philosophy has been the driving force of European culture. Without European philosophy it is hard to imagine the development of the European arts as it is. Husserl called philosophy the functioning brain of culture; philosophy is necessary for a healthy spirit to exist.[1]

In order to properly understand and appreciate what Husserl is saying, we need to remove the idea of the philosophical from any chronological positioning and interpret it in an ideal a-historical way. What we understand as history is really an anti-human (and therefore anti-historical) process that has a more circular chronology than a linear one. Philosophy, on the other hand, has far more universal pretensions, and philosophical aims point to the whole of humanity, trying to guide it in a forward direction toward the infinite.

Of course, the problem with philosophy is that its philosophers don’t always live up to philosophy’s own pretensions, but Husserl is adamant in his attempt to inspire philosophical greatness: “the philosopher must always have as his purpose to master the true and full sense of philosophy, the totality of its infinite horizons … Only in such a supreme consciousness of self, which itself becomes a branch of the infinite task, can philosophy fulfil its function of putting itself, and therewith a genuine humanity, on the right track … Only on the basis of … constant reflectiveness is a philosophy a universal knowledge.”[2]

Constant reflectiveness is the key to universal knowledge, or in other words, universal knowledge is a never-ending process – a process that is always in the future moving, present-continuous condition of becoming. We are always becoming, we never are.

[1] Edmund Husserl, PHILOSOPHY AND THE CRISIS OF EUROPEAN MAN, 1935, p. 16

[2] Ibid, p. 17

LOVE, THE REAL & THE IDEAL

eros-psyche-02

I

Reality is out there, but first it must be brought into view. But what, or more correctly who, can carry out this viewing, if not some biological form blessed with the gift of perception. And what good is being perceived if that which has the power of perception is incapable of appreciating that reality and understanding it in a meaningful way.

The capacity for appreciating, and a desire for understanding derived from that appreciation, is a kind of energy unique to Sapiens species. It is the result of a creative evolutionary process, an evolution unto the power to know and be known, a process possessing such an energetic vitality that we think it is suitable to describe it as a kind of loving, the love to know things. It may well be the same power of transference that we often use the term ‘love’ for, for all kinds of love are desiring processes of trying to know, and wanting to be known. To know one must understand, and there is nothing more vital in the success of human relationships of any level of complexity, from couples to intricate societies, than that of understanding. However, the connections between love and understanding are often not made at all when the term is expressed, producing the many vague forms that the term is used for at all levels of life.

So, if (A) reality is that which has been perceived and the understandings that have been made from that perception; and (B) the perceiving-understanding element in the Universe is the Sapiens species; and if (C) this process of wanting to know is part of what we call love, then, we can affirm (X) that the Universe without Sapiens is a loveless place, but also (Y) that the Universe with Sapiens is a reality embedded with love.

Love (the desire for understanding), is, partly, a power of transference and partly the capacity to receive information in order to make a deciphering of that information received. Love, therefore, may be felt, and confused, emotionally, but its basis is fundamentally intellectual.

And if love comes basically from transference of information, then this is also the foundation of all physics. From quantum particles to the couple in love, unto the stars and galaxies, there is a constant and necessary transference of information going on.

Love is not only that which is desired, it is also that which is needed for reality to take place at all.

In evolutionary terms, from the microcosm to the macrocosm, the highest form of transference-evolution resides in the middle of the cosmological map – in life. And in the Sapiens entities that have evolved in life.

If appreciation and understanding are evolutionary high-points in the development of transference, then love is a result of becoming that is, we believe, still becoming; still developing.

II

The Sapiens relationship with the Universe, therefore, comes through love, and this is the highest form of relationship that exists in the evolving Universe.

This is not a mystical statement; its metaphysical conclusions have been drawn from our scientific perceptions of the cosmos and from evolutionary principles. Truth is in the real as we, the Sapiens, being that Real, with a capital R, into view. The Universe becomes and will continue to become as we unveil it by perceiving it. All meaningfulness is wrapped up in this process of becoming; all meaningfulness is contained in us. We are the centre of the cosmos. All real positivism is contained in this fact.

III

There is another quality involved in love and, as such, in the Sapiens’ relationship with the reality of the Universe, and that is the desire for preservation which in its ultimate form is a longing for the eternal. In this way we can see love in the form of a triad: APPRECIATION + UNDERSTANDING + PRESERVATION = LOVE.

Love triangle

 

THE WILL TO REPRESENTATION

Porträt des Philosphen Arthur Schopenhauer, 1852

Die Aufnahme wurde vermutlich am 3. Sept. 1852 gemacht. Die Daguerreotypie hat eine Größe von 9,5 x 7,3 cm. Durck auch in: Silber und Salz, S. 61.

The driving will of the Universe is toward its Being, which can only come about via its Representation.

Schopenhauer saw this, but reached a pessimistic conclusion for humanity instead of seeing the tremendous, and joyous, implications behind it. Once Schopenhauer had inserted the conjunction “and” between the concepts to come up with the title of his work as The World as Will AND Representation, he removed himself from finding the positive element applied to universal destiny by inserting the preposition “to” and thus getting The World as Will TO Representation.

Heidegger did see these positive implications. He expressed it as the destiny of humanity for the en-framing of the Universe. Nevertheless, he seemed to be embarrassed by it, lacking any hard scientific data to support the idea.

But now, with new astronomical ideas springing directly from science, through the discovery of Cosmological Fine Tuning, the Universe can be said to be imbued with wilful purpose to Being through Representation.

Idealism becomes purposeful again – and by seeing reality this way, everything becomes purposeful again, with or without God. Cosmological Fine Tuning reveals a plan, a natural plan to create life, and the Universe itself, through fine tuning itself, has created its own conditions for allowing life to come about. The Universe, that is nothing until it can be perceived, and which is everything once it is completely framed, produces Sapiens – the entity that can perceive and learn; that can learn and know; that can make Being a reality, and its true fulfilment can only come through carrying out that duty.