I find it necessary for the greatest truth-teller and the greatest deceiver to share a common property, that is, they are both trusted by the masses and one cannot be distinguished from the other.
A continuation from yesterday’s post (Faith: A double edged sword), it has occurred to me that all the disciplines which attempt to understand the nature of the world we live in have a common factor that was not necessarily always present throughout history. It is the assumption that any chosen discipline, of a certain level of academic vigour, has the potential to uncover all that there is to be known in the certain sphere of knowledge that it pursues.
But this is simply not the case, do we really believe that human beings, creatures that have existed for a minuscule amount of time in contrast to everything else, have developed the sufficient cognitive ability to comprehend all that is knowable and put an end to speculation on metaphysical and scientific matters?
This is sheer arrogance and the extent of this arrogance becomes clear when one examines the idea of a conceptual scheme. At the foundation of our ability to reason and conceptualise rests an underlying system which results in the basic formations of logic and grammar. All humans possess the same conceptual scheme (even the speakers of other languages, they are still based on the same, logical foundation) whereas other organisms such as squirrels and rabbits do not possess the correct categories of the brain to be able to conceptualise in such a way. In fact, evidence suggests that the conceptual scheme can be lost if certain parts of the brain are damaged and hence providing strong evidence for such categories being produced by the brain and not being independent of it.
If this is the case then our conceptual scheme (that which we base all our disciplines upon) is nothing more than a product of evolution, hence we cannot even claim that tautologies are correct, they may simply be how we view the world. Our conceptual scheme could have quite easily turned out differently if our evolution had been influenced by other factors. It is even possible that extraterrestrial lifeforms that have developed a conceptual scheme possess one that is a complete deviation from our own. We could never hope to understand any form of language they might possess since their minds would not even be logical in the way ours are.
This raises this idea that there are some things that we simply cannot know, in other words, forbidden knowledge that exists beyond human comprehension. Our ancestors had such ideas of secret knowledge being possessed by the divine, perhaps we could learn a thing or two from their age old beliefs. For it is only when we accept our limitations that we can truly make progress in a discipline.
To claim that Universals, such as Justice, have an independent existence outside of the cognitive is to assume a certain type of connection between the mind and reality which is suggestive of some form of design and purpose of which we are the final end since the gulf must be reconciled between both the cognitive and existential conceptions of universals. Such a claim could only be held as true if the existence of some intelligent deity is postulated, and since we cannot do this seeing as such a proposition is neither a tautology nor empirically verifiable, it must be the case that such statements involving Realism are neither true nor false either. They have no factual significance.
All that is not fundamental is subjective to the beholder. Any man can see that the past experiences we have are responsible for shaping the experiences we have in the now, not through any law of causality as such, but simply due to the impression the world makes upon us as we perceive it. We dig out habitual paths in the foundations of the mind through our everyday actions. By habitual pathways I refer to the everyday routines we imprint in our mind by repeating them reguallly, for example, leaving for work in the morning becomes, for many, a habitual pathway. Throughout the course of our routine we do not usually stop and examine individual objects in detail. If we do so then they become odd and unfamiliar even though we believed ourselves to have knowledge of them. They only appear familiar when associated with other things. Entities are only seen as similar when associated with our habitual pathways, think how different a stove would look on a king’s throne.
The way in which we live determines these habitual pathways. This causes different people to have different perceptions of entities and places due to their different habitual pathways which are influenced by environment. A doctor and sailor both look down a street together. Due to the different habitual pathways they have developed throughout their life they will see the street in very different ways to each other, and yet it is undoubtedly the same street they both perceive. So what is real of the street? If its perception is influenced by habitual pathways then its form, structure and meaning will vary from one person to the next.
But there must be something objectively true about the street else it would not exist. If something is subjective then its nature is ambiguous. This can be true to some extent. But there must be an underlying, objective basis that allows the existence of the entity. Else the entity could not exist, for without a solid foundation it would fall to pieces. A chameleon cannot change the colour (subjective) of its skin unless it has skin (the basis) in the first place to change. Likewise something can only take on different forms if there is a basis that allows this change. Even if the change is simply in the eye of the beholder. That is still change and change enough. Therefore things cannot be subjective without being objective at some level.
Therefore at the very heart of things there must reside some objective foundation which gives rise to the subjectivity and ambiguity present in the world we see before us. But what is this fundamental basis? It must be something that cannot be looked upon. If we can look upon then it has locality. If it has locality then it must be comprised of individual parts which a fundamental entity cannot be since that would undo its very definition. Therefore, if it cannot have locality, it must be more of a concept than a physical being. An immaterial idea in possession of certain characteristics. The fundamental basis is therefore divinely simple. Hence all of its attributes are one and the same. If this is the case then reality is built up of things without localities which are idea in themselves.
This suggests that space does not exist in the way in which we previously imagined and is not some continuous dimension through which we move. This raises issues however, if such fundamentals have no locality then how can space exist at all? But space does exist, the mere notion of fundamental building blocks contradictions the mind being able to perceive space, even if it were not real in the objective sense. Space is undoubtedly a real entity. Therefore these fundamentals must be located somewhere. If they have no locality then perhaps the idea of them is made present over a certain space. The entities themselves have no locality and yet they somehow extend their properties into space. If space is viewed more as a fabric consisting of threads (or some sort of mesh) then the paradox can be resolved when we look closer at the fabric.
Beyond the fabric there is no space, hence these transcendent-like entities could occupy this realm deeper than the fabric of space (excuse the slight fallacy but there is no way to talk about things ‘outside’ of space). Therefore fundamental entities must exist at a level deeper than the fabric of space. It therefore follows that there is a link between these fundamentals and space. Possibly to the point that the fabric of space itself makes the characteristics of the fundamentals present in our subjective reality.*
*(N.B. It is important to realise here that the realm these fundamentals occupy has no space since space must consist of this fabric. Therefore the state these fundamentals occupy goes beyond our comprehension since we lack the necessary perception to behold that which is beyond space.)
It would appear that reason, and for that matter mathematics, is not the abstract and beautifully pure form of knowledge that we might at first deem it to be. This results due to the fact that all human thought processes must be based on sensory experience. Consider how the world around us shapes and models our views, how the dimensions of time and space constrict our vocabulary and hence our thought patterns (we cannot so much as talk of things outside of space and time). All knowledge the human mind possesses is obtained through our sensory experience. Even reason is based upon observation and hence empirical knowledge. Consider a child born deaf, dumb and blind without the capacity to feel the world through touch. Its mind would merely be a blank canvas awaiting influence and impression from the external world. It would have no knowledge of rationality, mathematics or the like. Rationality, then, is merely the purification of the convoluted muddle that is the human thought, filtered down to a precise and clear cut standard for conscious beings to use.
Genuine emotion, however, is also based upon the human thought process, it seems usually to work from a subconscious basis and (from the views of Dawkins and the like) an adaptation developed through natural selection which allows the mind to make decisions based upon a form of herd morality and hence causes the organism to behave in a way which will be beneficial to the entire species (much like morality in fact). This is shown by the fact that we do not choose to have genuine emotional reactions to things in any circumstance, any emotion that we force ourselves to feel is not genuine. Therefore emotion is independent of the conscious thinking mind and is, instead, a process of the subconscious which runs in the background to our everyday though and, to a large extent, shapes and influences it. However, this may sound like irrationality primarily because it is independent of reason in the up front and direct sense that we choose to carry it out. But I might remind the reader of our definition of emotional response and that it is a reaction developed over thousands of years by natural selection to allow the overall prospering of the herd. Emotion, therefore, is a branch of rationality that the human awareness does not actively partake in but feels the results. The example below may help illustrate this:
Firstly, a man decides that, for his own purposes, to disregard what little morality he has (he is therefore in some way mentally incomplete and damaged) and launch a nuclear warhead at a country whose primary ethnicity he hates with a raging passion. It has already been widely publicised that this man has killed thousands of this ethnic race and will not stop until they have all been eradicated. Another man, who is of the utmost good in terms of his morality, now has the chance to kill this genocidal mad man before he can bring about any more deaths. It is most likely that the good man will do what needs to be done to avoid the loss of millions of innocent lives as long as he does not belong to any deontological faith or morality, in other words he is free from the influence of religion and formulated moral arguments in general (even the one who would permit him to carry out the action). The good man can see that the greatest good for the herd would achieved by killing the mad man before he launches the weapon. In other words, his emotional sense of obligation of love for his fellow humans has been formulated by the subconscious mind by rationality into the permitting of an action he might otherwise deem immoral. This good man might even hate the mad man for what he has done, emotion, therefore, is derived form a rational mechanism of the subconscious mind, that emotion we feel for a person can differ to what we feel for them if they do something that goes against the common good of the herd.
Armed with this idea of emotion we straight away notice that such a concept can be linked to the idea of rationality in the sense that it is based upon a method of reason and consideration of facts with the intention of arriving at a conclusion about whether or not a decision made by an organism is beneficial to species. It is a form of rationality in itself used by the subconscious mind. Emotion for individuals rooted in the real world, therefore, must be rational unless there is something fundamentally wrong with the human being in question.
But what of fictitious characters, surely, I hear you say, the same logic is not applicable to them. Well, true reader, but that does not make we cannot take a different approach. The French Philosopher Rene Descartes suggested in his meditations that the only thing one could be sure of was his or her own existence. Cogito ergo sum. I think therefore I am. The idea was that our senses could (and might) have the habit of deceiving us so that we would not know an illusion from reality. Descartes suggested this with his usual philosophical elegance:
“I shall suppose…that some malicious demon of the utmost power and cunning has employed all of his energies in order to deceive me.”
If this is the case then perhaps there is no difference between the real world and the one created by the brain purely through imagination. Another example may help to illustrate this. The American philosopher Hilary Putnam in his book Reason, Truth, and History put forward the brain vat though experiment. He suggested that if there existed a hypothetical brain, removed from its body and placed in a vat with all the necessary nutrients for survival and was wired up to cables which acted as a synthetic nervous system which delivered illusionary sensory information to the mind, the brain would process this information as though it were reality and hence the minds perceptions and experiences would be the same as any other persons. The mind is therefore ultimately what determines all that is accepted as reality and all that is not in a human. Something need not be real so much that it exists in what we would define as the physical universe, all that is needed is something extremely similar to reality that mimics it in all its being.
It therefore is of no consequence to the mind if something is grounded in reality or is some utterly abstract, platonic idea. In terms of emotion all that matters is the believability, or credibility, of a fictional character for us to have genuine feelings or emotions for him, her or it. We are emotional towards a believable character since the brain regards it as a real being in the physical world and hence a subconscious, rational herd morality mechanism is triggered in our minds which accounts for our feelings towards the character despite not existing in reality. To this extent, and with our definition of rationality we can safely say that it is truly rational to have genuine emotions for such a character. This arises because our definition of rationality is one not of pure and mathematical qualities but one based on our own sensory experience and the workings of the brain; it is therefore the case that, because emotional reactions to individuals results from a process of rationality in the subconscious mind that weighs up actions and reactions in relation to the good of the species.
There exists, therefore, a directly proportional link between the credibility of a fictional character and our rational, emotional response which is subjective to the individual situation. Emotion is rooted in rationally and emotion for imaginary characters can trigger the same response in humans as real people. Such a proposition truly suggests that the reality that we see is false and incomplete or overcomplicated in some way and hence truly begs the question of whether or not we are truly aware of the happenings in the physical world around us. What really lies outside of the veil of perception that is the deceitful mind? Perhaps we shall know, or perhaps not. But, if even our reason is imperfect and tainted, who knows what is watching us in the greater reality. Perhaps those fictitious characters that are supposedly products of our mind truly exist and laugh as they watch us fumble about in the darkness and nativity of our primitive minds…
In the ancient clash between science and religion a devious and most absurd technique has arisen on the frontier of the faithful with the intention of reconciling the discoveries of science with the myths of the world’s sacred books. It is none other than the infamous statement:
“Science explains how, religion explains why.”
Its use creates a sort of stale mate in which the hunt for objective knowledge by whatever branch of study ends at some deity or unexplained supernatural force. But is a world in which we do not question postulates of existence such as God one that is good to be a part of? A world where we abandon our hunt for knowledge and truth and instead replace it with wishful thinking and dreams. I for one cannot imagine how a reality of this kind could be meaningful in any way whatsoever. It is, thankfully, a world which does not exist on closer observation of the above statement.
The how and why distinction is in fact wrong to make. Why is but a deeper version of the idea of how. It is a matter for relativity which depends of the observer’s point of interest and understanding of a topic, one person’s why is another person’s how. An example may help to illustrate this:
Imagine that two agents observe a man picking up a cup from a table. One is a physicists and the other is a car salesman who knows little of the discoveries of science. As the salesman observes the man he understands how the cup is picked up (the man used the muscles in his arm to combat gravity and lift the cup by exerting a force on it) this is his how. He then asks why the man chose to pick the cup up (his motives which lead to the act) this is his why. However, the physicists understands how the man made the decision to lift the cup due to the knowledge of electrochemical activity in the man’s brain which is responsible for thought and decision making (in this analogy) this is his how. He then asks what the reason was for the brain existing in the way it does and why the laws exist which have governed its development, this is his why.
So it becomes evident that the idea of why is simply a variation of how which works at a level slightly deeper than the observers level of knowledge. It is a relative concept and tailored to the individual at a specific moment in time. It is most certainly not a means by which religion can be maintained under the scrutiny of scientific enquiry.
A fundamental aspect of theoretical physics is the study of the basic laws that govern our world. However, these laws are often taken to be entities in themselves with an independent existence from matter and energy. I myself find it extremely difficult to subscribe to this view due to the asking of one simple question: Does the existence of the laws of nature allow material objects to arise in the form that we know them, or does the existence of material objects cause these laws to arise?
This obviously stresses the question of what it is that theoretical physics is actually examining. Does our understanding of the laws of nature really give us the knowledge necessary to ask questions about the creation of the universe? If these laws are merely the necessary and observable patterns produced by material objects then they do not put us in a position to uncover our origins.
Consider a common tree, if physical laws cause it to exist it will appear to us as a common tree, if the tree exists for reasons currently (and I stress currently) beyond human comprehension then it will, again, appear to us as an ordinary tree.
We cannot know which answer is correct by simply examining physical laws even more, science can never give us any true understanding of the world. It requires the philosopher to take a step back from the forefront of scientific research and investigation and ask the question: “What are we really investigating? Can these investigations gives us any real knowledge concerning reality?”
Consider a clever ape placed in a room with a light bulb. When the light bulb is turned off the room is in semidarkness and it becomes rather difficult to navigate ones way around, when it is switched on the ape will have no such problems. Given that the room starts off in semidarkness, after enough time has passed it is probable that the ape will find the switch which turns on the light and, by complete chance and with no idea of the possible consequences, press it. It will not take this clever ape long to realise that the pressing of the switch governs the amount of light present in the room, and so, if the light is turned off by someone outside of the room, the ape can use his knowledge of the relationship between the switch and the light to counter this action. Now suppose that another ape is placed into the room (this one being less intelligent than the other), on seeing the first apes ability to control the light levels in the room he will, no doubt, think of him as some genius magician capable of controlling the forces of nature, and, compared to his monkey contemporary he certainly is. However, he has just as much an idea of the internal workings of the light and the connection between the bulb and the light as the other ape-none. The ape understands the fact that the light switch works, but he could not so easily tell you why (for the sake of the analogy we shall imagine that apes are capable of speech). This is the role of scientific enquiry, to manipulate and control nature for the betterment of humanity, it cannot give us a sufficient reason for why things are as they are. Therein lies the role of the philosopher.
Generalisations that we make. Things may look identical but in reality they are not. Two pens that look the same are not, they are entirely different but retain a basic structure on a macroscopic level that we perceive to be identical then. Our counting system therefore is derived from our generalisations. We create archetypical forms of things in nature. Mathematics then, as soon as this is realised, is not the investigation into the world around us in a pure way. It is the investigation into our minds and thought patterns. We all possess, therefore, a structure and basic code in our mind that is universal and to which there is only one correct solution. Perhaps our moral laws can be derived from this. In addition, there are mathematical concepts which appear in nature such as the golden ratio which appear regardless of human observation. This suggests a fundamental link between the mind and reality. Not some link born out of evolution but a link grounded in the very nature and essence of reality itself. The mind and the universe are distinct entities and are connected by a deep, timeless relationship.