Commentary On The New Observer/Observed Relationship


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We equate social status and privilege to the businessman, engineer, and scientist because they deal with the real world, while musicians, poets, and artists, since they do not deal with the real world, acquire status only after achieving monetary success.

Here’s the labeling, by the numbers, of the above diagram. The above diagramed circles represent a different way to understand the observer/observed relationship. My first description of this diagram appeared before my Conversation In Thin Air blogs began. I guess you could say that I’m adding commentary on that first description now. All in all, this blog and the four after this one (four blogs in two weeks) will pretty much sum up my philosophy of life—and my religion. That means, philosophically speaking, everything will repeat (in one way or another) after I post these five blogs.

Layered Sequencing Of Platforms—Reductionist, Life, Mind—That Constitute Self.

1 R—The reductionist, mass/energy, platform.

2 L—The life, biological/reproductive, platform.

3 M—The mind, symbol/meaning, platform.

4 S—Human self—is not an entity, rather, it is intersubjective boundary horizons

5 The reductionist, physical/cultural, self-boundary.

6 The life, biological/emotional, self-boundary.

7 The mind, psychological, sociocultural, self-boundary of human discourse.

8 The connecting bridge that separates and connects the life platform to the mind platform.

9 The connecting bridge that separates and connects the mind platform to the life platform and to the life platform’s limiting condition—the reductionist platform.

Soon, instead of posting philosophy, I will be back on my bicycle, riding across Canada. That’s the good news; the not so good news is that, you guessed it, more of the same. I thought that since my dialogue in “thin air,” just ended, and a lot of what was said gets carried over into my commentary on the observed/observer relationship, that now would be a good time to post that commentary. Last week I introduced the philosophy of F.S. Northrop. I will expand on those ideas, and, next week, I will talk about the two main themes—freedom and language, — which keeps me writing.

We struggle to become educated and, in the process, obtain reasonable beliefs that endure. However, faced with blatant evidence to the contrary our beliefs may change. In the absence of contradictions, though, emotionally satisfying beliefs are what we choose to believe. If you’re like me, you do not like to waste time thinking about unsubstantiated ideas that turn out to be emotionally unfulfilling. So, here’s a summary of the religious implications that follow from my upcoming blogs,–worldview and approved life style are included here (you decide if they are emotionally satisfying): 1) Religion and science are brought into harmony; that is, they may be equally reverenced without conflict. 2) Because human self-awareness, life, and the physical-chemical processes that support life, are all embedded in divine extensive connection, humans are born with the potential to right the wrongs caused by “ignorance based injustices.” 3) The values used to judge right from wrong follow from the extensive connection process; that is, values used to judge right from wrong are life affirming and freedom affirming values. In other words, in terms of a minimum quality of life, within the prevailing economic realities, no person should be denied the basic necessities of life; and further, sufficient freedoms (within the limits of reasonable expectation) should be in place to allow for meaningful self-expression (the first ten amendments of the United States Constitution are a good place to start). As long as these two conditions are satisfied market competition, within prevailing economic realities, should be permitted. Anything less than this—the minimum standard of living for all human beings, — is an “ignorance based injustice.” 4) And finally, in regards to a religious afterlife: death is not the end, but things like virgins, talks with Jesus, and eternal bliss, are spurious and misplaced expectations.

The “self as vessel” is what I want to talk about now, a vessel hollow enough to contain our present conception of the physical universe…hollow enough to be concerned with the Good, the True, and the Beautiful…hollow enough to hold both the meaning and purpose of life and existence…and, hollow enough to feel hurt, love, and divinity. In the diagram above, the expanding three horizons of our emotional life (red), embodied life (pink), and psychological life or mind (yellow) constitute what I call self.

But, before I continue with my description, I need to digress a bit.

The worldview that most of us grew up with, the world view that is still a dominate force in our culture, is getting old. Just as the Greek classical worldview of Aristotle was replaced by the scientific ideas of physicists of the Enlightenment, so to the scientific ideas of physicists of relativity theory and quantum mechanics provide ample justification to seriously question this
out-dated worldview. I am not suggesting here that new science has replaced old science; the laws of motion are still the laws of motion. However, some things have changed; the relativity of space and time for instance, and the reduction of space to
geometrical presuppositions, the ‘ideal meanings’ that get used in the interpretation of phenomena. This list continues with the uncertainty relationships for smallest particles, the behavior of micro-world particles conforming to laws of probability,–and these changes, at best, complicate matters, and, at worst, contradict the worldview principles that followed naturally from the scientific ideas of physicists of the Enlightenment. In the next few paragraphs, I will take a more measured look at this aging and, for the most part, unquestioned Enlightenment worldview.

Certain consequences followed from Aristotle's philosophy. If the nature of man was to think and develop then all human beings had a common source and a common end. It followed necessarily that man was a social animal who participated in government to more fully develop his moral, religious and political nature. Aristotle's worldview was drastically altered when, in the 16th century, Galileo Galilee demonstrated that moving projectiles did not behave in the way prescribed by Aristotelian science. Galileo's investigations pointed out that sense perceptions were not contained in the objects of nature, but rather they were mere sensations projected on to those objects. The objects themselves were tasteless, colorless, odorless, physical objects. Later, Sir Isaac Newton expanded on that distinction by postulating a time as "flowing uniformly without relation to anything external," and a "space which has the same mathematical and geometrical properties always and everywhere throughout the universe." Sensed space and time was not the invariant space and time that Newton used in his description of the universe.

The political theorist John Locke picked up on this debate when he reasoned: "If my sensed impressions are not given by nature, then they must be somehow created by the interaction of Newton's particles with the person who I am." Thus Locke deduced that the product of material atoms acting on a person, which he labeled mental substance, created sensed experience, or, in other words, sensed experience was the secondary product of the interaction of the material world on a mental substance. That product, Locke called appearance. "If there are sensed qualities," he furthered reasoned, "then there must be a consciousness from which these sensed qualities can materialize," and here Locke made the jump from this consciousness to the divine.

Consciousness, because it was the only thing not mechanistically determined, became for Locke, our link with the divine. From that premise Locke concluded: "No person, group or institution can vouchsafe an individual’s salvation" because it was only through one's free and independent introspection that one could know his own mind. From there Locke went on to write his famous treatise on religious toleration. However, his philosophy spawned other consequences that were less positive. The notion of the "social good," for instance, got shortchanged in Locke's philosophy.

Since Locke had shown man to be a completely autonomous individual while the rest of nature was conceived as a machine working out its inevitable consequences, there was no justification for social man in a social order. The role of government had nothing to do with promoting growth and actualizing human potential, as it did with Aristotle; rather, the sole justification for government was to preserve private property. Not everybody agreed with Locke however.

In Locke's philosophy our knowledge of reality came through the senses and their attendent associations, and these sensations were secondary to the real world; therefore, no knowledge of the real world could be had, only knowledge of our impressions of this world. This contradiction was first pointed out by Bishop Berkeley and later expanded on by David Hume. Everything sensed was a consequence of the interaction of material substance on the mental substance and mental substance, was for Locke, tabula rasa—blank slate. Therefore, all sensed impressions were reduced to what is typically considered to be an illusion. The affect of this consequence is that we equate social status and privilege to the businessman, engineer, and scientist because they deal with the real world, while musicians, poets, and artists, since they do not deal with the real world, are patronized only for their monetary success, otherwise they are considered second class citizens or worse, social parasites.

Because color, taste, odor, etc. are not located in material objects, Locke assumed that sensed qualities had to originate in a mental substance. The observer, material substance, and the nature of appearance—a three-term relationship-- followed from that assumption. Berkeley, Hume, and Kant addressed the inadequacy of that three-term relationship. Locke did not have to create a three-term relationship, however. Instead, he could have said that mathematical space and time are used to give an analytical account of the aesthetic continuum (Northrop's terminology). The observers, and what appears to the observer, are both determinations of this aesthetic continuum. He could have said that, but he didn't because it would have been extremely difficult given the deterministic nature of Newton's physics. Twentieth century physics, on the other hand, burst on the scene with incredible insights, not the least of which was the one that left the men of science pondering the question: What concrete facts are these theories actually describing?

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2 Responses to “Commentary On The New Observer/Observed Relationship”

  1. SophiaSeeker Says:

    Enlightening Cause/Effect relationship [sited from above]

    ‘Thus Locke deduced that the product of material atoms acting on a person, which he labeled mental substance, created sensed experience, or, in other words, sensed experience was the secondary product of the interaction of the material world on a mental substance. That product, Locke called appearance.’

  2. dave Says:

    Hi Sophi. I also love the movie Casablanca. Yes, your comment is very important (and Locke would very much agree because he was extremely articulate when it came to seeing the inferential connections that arise between X (the latest scientific conclusions) and what those conclusions tell us about our own experience. Locke was right on, but, unfortunately, he was also dead wrong because science has progressed. We now live within the social conventions that followed from Locke’s philosophy. That philosophy, as you are probably aware, was borrowed when it came time for our founding father’s (particularly Thomas Jefferson) to write down the guiding principles for this country. There is a lot in Locke that is still good, but his inferences drawn from the material world are outdated. Things have changed. People are working hard to reformulate legitimate inferences from the latest scientific evidence. I used to spend a lot of time trying to keep up. This blog is based on what I have learned. That said, (all though I am happy where I am at) I am still open to rethinking everything–when it becomes necessary. Thanks for the comment.

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