Posts Tagged ‘physics’

The Hard Problem Of Consciousness

August 29, 2010


The Hard Problem Of Consciousness

“The famous philosopher of mind, John Searle, said, “Not only do we have no idea what consciousness is, we have no idea of what it would be like to have an idea of what consciousness is.”

Saint Augustine had an idea: Consciousness is our Soul, and exists by direct connection to the Mind of God. The Catholic Church is willing to accept evolution of the human body, but not the conscious mind or soul. Descartes just posited mind, Res Cogitans in his famous dualism of Res Extensa — i.e. matter and machines including the human body, and Res Cogitans, the conscious mind.

Modern Connectionists often equate consciousness as another emergent property of sufficiently complex computational systems. I worry, since water buckets by the millions pouring water into one another above and below a bucket level threshold for 1 or 0 could be a complex computer. I just have a hard time believing they would be conscious…..” (by Stuart Kauffman, NPR blog entitled The Hard Problem: Consciousness)

These days I spend my computer time looking for appropriate subjects (blogs) to comment on. Typically, after a bit of introduction, my comments take the form of cut and pastes from my blog. I am about to enter the changing life experience of retirement, so maybe I’ll find the time to blog again—I can’t say for sure. Anyway, yesterday I posted a comment on Reijo’s blog (see below) and today I googled “consciousness blog ontology” and came across the NPR blog noted above. When I started to leave my comment on the NPR blog I discovered “comments closed.” So here I am with no place to go except my own blog. I found the comments under the NPR blog interesting, especially the one’s that protested the use of “quantum fuzziness” to suggest the consciousness/physics connection. Here’s an example:

“This discussion reminds me of the early 20th century search for the “ether” through which electromagnetic waves propagate. There was compelling reason for the search for ether, as radiation behaves much like matter waves (which propagate through matter). However there should be no reason to search for any ontological possibilities through which quantum waves “wave” as they are complex and thus have no physical meaning. Schroedinger’s equation and its solutions are only tools by which to understand physical phenomenon.

In short, I think the logic is fuzzy.”—Colin Clement

What the above comment suggests to me is that QM is describing a physical universe, albeit one different from the classical one we live in, but nevertheless one that we discover as opposed to the one that some people believe identities the consciousness/physical reality interdependent connection. But then, a few pages over in the NPR blog you find this comment by Pankaj Seth:

“We have theories about a lifeless, insentient early universe, early earth but they have been established due to inference, and obviously not direct perception… these theories rely upon the assumption of a fundamental duality between matter and mind. When we try to isolate matter apart from consciousness, we can do it from the POV of the I-self witnessing the classical world, but when we dig deeper as in QM, we cannot establish such a duality between the perceived matter and the perceiving consciousness. There is a duality at the sensory, I-self level (and hence the evolution of the early universe and life… . Similarly, it is found in Buddhist and Yogic meditation practice that at the depth of self-experience, there is a non-duality between perceiver and perceived… “Nothing perceived is independent of perception.”

What I am suggesting below is a structured universe which, at the appropriate structural level, acquires the ability to focus in on the different layers of the structured universe’s contents. In this respect, think of this ability (self-consciousness) as the lens that accounts for knowing consciousness, a consciousness that informs on the different levels of the universe, i.e., informs on the quantum, biological, and psychological levels of the universe. In this way, we come to the experience and understanding of a universe of content, a universe of structure, a universe that preserves the integrity of the Affirmative Ideal, and a universe that answers Heidegger’s question: “Why are there beings at all instead of nothing.”

So now we come to the comment that inspired this blog. Below is my response to Reijo’s comment concerning my comment on nothingness– Nothingness by calthai

Thanks for the interesting comment. Parmenides was right, “what is not, is not,” but that is definitively not the end of it.

It certainly is true that (not not) interesting implies the word interesting, but, similarly, I would like to suggest that “being what is not while not being what is” implies something akin to Parmenides’ plenitude/being. While reading Sartre’s Being And Nothingness, I wrote the following:

“Being-in-itself (Sartre’s concept of being) cannot be defined because language is ‘definition dependent,’ while Being just is (is free of dependence). I wonder if Sartre, in this respect, was influenced by Parmenides’ poem. In Parmenides’ ‘way of truth’ being was beyond description. Time, plurality and motion, all aspects of duality, were not compatible with Being. Although I don’t understand why, knowledge was considered an extension of Being in Parmenides philosophy. For Sartre, if you strip away all determinate characteristics and all those meanings which are due to human interpretation, you are left with being-in-itself.”

In today’s world, we do not give much thought to concepts that cannot be defined. That said, the notion of “wholeness” has found its way into the lexicon of scientific theories. When solving relativistic space-time problems, the geometry of the space-time continuum supersedes all notions of the physical nature of space and time. Likewise, at the quantum level of applied physics, the uncertainty relationships (Heisenberg), particle probabilities (the decoherence problem) and the non-local universe (Bell/Aspect results), when taken into account, suggest the existence of a universe-wide connectiveness. Given this turn of events, I will describe in next few paragraphs not only the “wholeness aspect of Being” that is consistent with Sartre’s philosophy (its ontological aspect), Parmenides’ Being, and the universe of connectiveness, but also how this “wholeness aspect of Being” expresses itself in the unique relationship that is up-right walking, language speaking, analytical thinking, empathy feeling, imaginative, curious, and goes by the name–human being. Thanks for the opportunity to post. (Sorry for the length, I only post when inspired—thanks for that too).

I want to begin my discussion of structured existence by revealing its shape. It looks like the letter v. The first thing to notice about the V is its openness. This openness moves the content of existence forward; in fact, one is tempted to say that “to be free” is why existence exists. Science does a good job explaining the content of existence, but it is severely challenged when it comes to explaining the “otherness of existence,” or the liberating process that structures existence. As existence and liberation move up the V, freedom expands. Freedom expands diachronically at each level of structure (think evolution here), but, over time, lower level structure becomes “content” for higher level structure (Piaget). At each “step up” freedom yields a new synchronic (frozen in time) structure, one that, although different from the lower structure, still preserves the integrity of the lower structure while structuring a whole new dimension of freedom. This process continues until it reaches the level of freedom (content) that occurs among symbol generating, language speaking life forms. Yes, that be “us.” So let’s take a look at this process that moves existence forward and expands freedom in a little more detail.

Let the V image represent the liberation of the “otherness of existence.” Let one side of the V represent the empirical world (aesthetic continuum) and the other freedom. Identify the vertex, the bottom of V, as ~~b (not, not-being is the structure of existence, not the content). The “double negative” characterizes the entire V, and implies that which exists outside the V– the Affirmative Ideal (Piaget), or, more to the point, an affirmation of the Affirmative Ideal. In other words, the V and all that it represents/manifests, via the “double negative,” connects/embeds everything to everything else, first through the empirical world and second through the Affirmative Ideal. In terms of quantum strangeness this state of affairs is revealing. But, this is only the first structural level; the second level occurs somewhere above the V vertex.

On the liberation side of the V, let the letter b represent the more liberated form of the “otherness of existence” (life is the content) and ~b, (~b on the empirical side of the V,–~bb is the structure of life), represent the conservation of the integrity of the Affirmative Ideal vis-à-vis the space that separates, embeds, and connects. The word most often used to describe this condition, however, is death. Albeit, life, now firmly established, moves freedom forward until an even more liberated form of the “otherness of existence” emerges.

Let b~b~bb represent this highly evolved form of structured existence. We are familiar with this structure because it represents the participatory moment of a conscious being where b~b (on the empirical side of the V) represents the existence of embodied self-conscious and ~bb (on the freedom side of the V represents the participatory moment of “time of mind”—the conscious content of a thinking human being). With the advent of self-consciousness, freedom moves forward and the V grows larger and wider as the story of civilization unfolds (unfortunately, sometimes the story of civilization takes two or three steps backward before forward momentum is restored).

In summation, the b~b~bb structure liberates the interplay of self-consciousness and environment. Embedded in the physical environment (b~b), human self-consciousness (~bb) creatively reaches out for the accouterments and the necessities of life while at the same time generating new (and sometimes logically precise) meanings that give content and “color” to all perceptions–a percept is product. This creativity, in our cosmopolitan world, gets identified with technological advances, beauty (art) and ethics—all of which can be measured against the significance of b~b~bb—the most potentially expressive product of freedom’s dialectic. Someday, perhaps, the day will come when people will thirst for cooperation, education and shared resources in the same way that today they thirst for power, wealth, and fame.

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Looking Ahead To A Hopeful Future

February 14, 2010

For a description of the above diagram see my The Voice Of The We Of Divinity Post 1 and 2. Here’s a description sample:[In other words, in the psychological mind quadrant, we are constantly being stimulated, inspired, (and disgusted) by the hermeneutic circle of communication that comprises this quadrant. The independence, integrity, and freedom of the individual,–the groups, organizations, and institutions that the individual participates in, are encountered in this quadrant. Language, politics, morality, and religion originate here. Justice gets done here. Worldviews are created here. “Approved life styles” are affirmed here. Hamlet gets read, discussed, and criticized here. When our purple self horizon expands, it moves us further into this quadrant, into that place where the scope of human discourse burgeons. To quote Lett, (speaking in a different context) this is the quadrant “where people will assign meanings to their activities and experiences and will invest considerable intellectual and emotional currency in the development, expression, and preservation of those meanings.” (James Lett, The Human Enterprise, p.97) But, even though our mind is, so to speak, set free in the purple quadrant, our body remains in the blue quadrant. So, where do we go when the blue-self horizon expands?

Well, if you’re me and you live in a place where snow covers the ground six months of the year, you dream about wintering in Florida.]

By the way, in terms of my posts on God’s footprint– that which separates/connects the observer to predicable (physical) events is the purple quadrant, i.e., the crust that defines the pie piece shape of the footprint.

Occasionally, I get flashes of insight. I had one the other day, so I will now add it to my blog. It goes here because my insight was/is a very good summation of the 555 typewritten pages that is bwinwnbwi’s blog:

L…Does God exist?

O…It is probably better to ask what is God as opposed to does God exist.

L…Okay, What is God?

O…God is logic.

L…Oh really, then what is logic?

O…As the premier liberator, logic is what liberates the “otherness of existence.”

L…And existence, what is that?

O…Existence is what embeds and restricts the liberation of the “otherness of existence.”

L…So existence and God are different then?

O…Not quite, the triune of existence, logic and otherness forms the single Godhead of the Trinity.

V…Excuse me for butting in, but upon hearing my name I feel compelled to add to the conversation. After all, it is my form that comes closest to describing the Godhead of the Trinity.

O…Welcome. I bid you go for it; help all of us better understand the triune of existence, logic and otherness.

V…Okay. Let the V image represent the liberation of the “otherness of existence.” Let one side of the V represent the empirical world (aesthetic continuum) and the other freedom. Identify the vertex, the bottom of V, as ~~b (the purist form of unity). Somewhere above the V vertex, on the liberation side of the V, let the letter b represent a higher form of the “otherness of existence” (life) and ~b represent existence (~b on the empirical side). Life moves freedom forward and in this case upward too. Further up the V, let ~bb represent an even higher form of the “otherness of existence,”– the participatory moment of a conscious self, and let b~b represent (on the empirical side of the V) the existence of the physical event of a self-conscious being. With the advent of self-consciousness, freedom again moves forward. The V grows larger (and wider) as the story of civilization unfolds.

L…And this is God?

V…Yes. God is the logic of existence, the logic that affirms the unity of existence, life, self-conscious beings, and the “otherness of existence”, or the ground out of which all things arise and return.

L…Why would anybody buy into this abstract mumbo jumbo? Where’s the “jack”, the benefit, the reward?

V…I’m only the form of the Godhead, I’m not the experience. However, for those “in the know,” the otherness of existence—freedom-liberation is reward enough. But there is more. The experience of all there is waits for those who are capable and aspire to have this experience. In this experience there is the felt form of the affirmation of all there is, there is…..

E…My apologies for this interruption, but upon hearing of the Godhead experience; I just couldn’t keep silent any longer! Let me introduce myself, many names haunt me, but only one can be experienced—LOVE. [That you need Love more than anything, you know at all times in your heart. But don’t you know also that Love needs you–in the fullness of eternity, you? You need Love in order to be, and Love needs you for that which is the meaning of your life.] (Paraphrased from a Martin Buber quote in his book, I And Thou, p. 130. I substituted the word love for the word God here).

Our freedom is not meant to deny the emotionally moving, immediately experienced aspect of ourselves; quite the contrary, it is in this emotionally moving, immediately experienced aspect of ourselves where the divine comes to be a truly shared experience.
Here’s a new post, well, not quite! I stopped posting because, basically, I don’t have anything more to say, but, in WordPress (my Yahoo 360 escape vehicle), I noticed I was not getting any reads on my structuralism paper’s most significant Foucault post (a paper not posted at Booksie). The problem, I believe, was/is that this post is separated from the other Foucault posts by other posts explaining my dialectic theory of freedom. The Foucault post in question, however, introduces the spiritual significance of my freedom theory, and this brings me to the reason for this post—it is the Foucault post and the post of spiritual significance combined—a post well worth reading. For the record, I want to thank WordPress and Booksie for providing the space and the opportunity for me to express my thoughts, hopes, and beliefs. Thanks!

THE PHYSICS OF A NEW EPISTEME-A NEW RELATIONSHIP WITH NATURE

In so far as liberation occurs, power arrangements occur. And, in so far as power arrangements occur, they begin to dictate the terms of the liberation process. According to Foucault, these power arrangements become the defining force in the environment. As has already been pointed out, the liberation movement of freedom eventually liberated the “implied knowledge of the environment.” From that point on, knowledge became the most encapsulating vehicle of freedom and freedom became manifest in power relationships.

Social organization and social structure are born out of the power arrangements which best reflect the prevailing episteme. According to Foucault, man (as a conceptual entity) and scientific knowledge are also born out of these power arrangements. Blanchot describes the theme that surfaces “above the analysis” in Foucault’s books:

“Thus, already in The Archaeology of Knowledge, where we seem to indulge in the illusion of an autonomous discourse (an illusion with which literature and art perhaps bewitch themselves), there are announced the multiple connections between knowledge and power, and the obligation to recognize the political effects that are produced, at any given moment in history, by the ancient desire to disentangle the true from the false. Knowledge, power, truth? Reason, exclusion, repression?” [Foucault, Blanchot, 1987, p. 80]

These power/knowledge relationships, when considered in the context of the liberation process, become just another obstacle that stands in the way of liberation. These “pockets of power,” in the form of social structure and social organization, may be thought of as static elements in the liberation process; that is, from the point of view of the people who tend to benefit from these “pockets of power” they are static, but, from the point of view of the people who are “locked out” of these “pockets of power” they are oppressive. In other words, although power/knowledge relationships dictate the options available in terms of accessing one’s environment, ultimately, there is no preferred state of privilege and control; it all becomes an obstacle in the liberation process.

Of course, in the real world, I realize I have just described the stratification of the “haves” and “have-nots;” and, I suppose, Foucault would be content to leave it at that. One cannot deny that built into the power structure of social organization is the secured status and privilege of the groups that possess the most power. And further, this security, more often than not, becomes secured by denying power (access to the environment) to an “underprivileged” class of people. That said, it should also be noted that the power/knowledge consequence of the liberation process, as it becomes manifest in the highly differentiated attributes of society (Durkheim) contributes positively to the individuals well being, health, growth, and freedom–the freedom that satisfies needs, permits access, provides security, encourages aesthetic appreciation, provides moral examples, and, promotes justice,–attests to this fact. At the very least, in so far as change is inherent in the liberation process, this change may be for the better. In order to understand how this change for the better can come about, a whole new way of thinking must incorporate itself into the social fabric. A new episteme, in Foucault’s language, must arise. This episteme has already taken root, I believe, in the logical implications generated by the new physics.

The new physics speaks of strange and exciting phenomena. Where this physics will take us is presently unclear but, what is becoming clearer is that it is incorrect to think of our relationship to nature in terms of the three-term relationship of Locke’s mental substance, appearance and material particles. Berkeley, Hume and Kant addressed the inadequacy of this three-term relationship. In brief, John Locke did not have to choose this three-term relationship to explain Newton’s particles. He could have said that mathematical space and time is the vehicle which allows for an analytical account of the aesthetic continuum and that the observer and what appears for the observer are determinations of this aesthetic continuum.

[Footnote. This and the next couple of paragraphs are meant to be a very brief summary of a theme developed in F.S. Northrop’s book, The Meeting of East and West, see chapter entitled The Solution of the Basic Problem, p.436]

He could have said this but he did not because it would have been extremely difficult, given the interpretation of Newtonian physics at the time.
Now we know that it is more accurate if we describe our relationship to nature in the form of a two-term relationship. The first term of the two-term relationship is the theoretically postulated, hypothetically designated, component of experience while the second term is the immediately sensed determinate portion of the aesthetic continuum. This aesthetic component of experience is relative to every individual while the theoretic component occurs in a public space characterized by repeatable experiences. Confirmation of the theoretical component of our experience becomes the key word here and this confirmation may be formal, as in a scientific result, or it may be informal, as in the best that pragmatism has to offer – if it works, use it.

In The Eye Of You And Me We See The Eye Of God

What We Have Here Is A Spinoza Monism With A Mobius Twist- God Existing Inside Out

In the process of writing this paper I have deliberately refrained from using spiritual connotations to describe freedom’s synchronic axis. And, indeed, I suppose one of the beauties of this idea is that one is not forced into making the “leap” to a more spiritual interpretation of freedom (the humanism of James or Dewey will do just fine here). But, the fact remains that my description of freedom is based in two logical primitives, one being found in the logic that something has to first “be” before it can be negated i.e., the principle behind Descartes Cogito, and the other, the affirmation that follows from the negation of a negation. In self-consciousness (discontinuity occurring in continuity) we see the affect of the first logical primitive and in not, not being we see the logic of an affirmed wholeness, affirmed God. It is also in self-consciousness where Piaget’s functional center emerges, where the constructive process begins, and where identities are created/discovered, and all of this is based upon the structural transformations of not, not being as it evolves into the self-consciousness of human consciousness (or the answer to the questions–“Who participates?” and “What is participated in?”).

This implied wholeness is outside of experience, but it only requires a small “leap of faith” to conclude that God exists in this affirmed indeterminate wholeness, exists in this “ground of being,” exists in the “affirmative ideal” that is at the center of structuralism and logic, which, in turn, permits the freedom to ask the question: Does God Exit?

And, operationally speaking, the answer to that question is that in the liberation of self-consciousness, given the logical relations implicit in self-consciousness (God and freedom are One), God not only exists, but God is also all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present.  What we have here, ultimately, is a Spinoza monism with a Mobius twist, a God simultaneously existing inside out.

In what follows I will not evade the spiritual content that the synchronic axis of freedom generates. In this Mobius twist we find the final answer to the questions, “Who participates?” and “What is participated in?”

In the immediately grasped indeterminate, all-embracing oneness of God’s freedom lies the source of the knower and consequently the knower’s freedom. F. S. Northrop tells us how wondrously close we are to God when he says:

“Now it is precisely this ineffable, emotional, moving quale that constitutes what is meant by spirit and the spiritual. Thus in order to do justice to the spiritual nature of human beings and of all things it is not necessary to have recourse to idle speculations, by means of which one tries to pierce through the glass beyond which we now see darkly, to supposedly unaesthetic material substances behind, or into some unreachable and unknowable realm where mental substances are supposed to be. On the contrary, the spiritual, the ineffable, the emotionally moving, the aesthetically vivid — the stuff that dreams and sunsets and the fragrance of flowers are made of — is the immediate, purely factual portion of human nature and the nature of all things. This is the portion of human knowledge that can be known without recourse to inference and speculative hypotheses and deductive logic, and epistemic correlations and rigorously controlled experiments. This we have and are in ourselves and in all things, prior to all theory, before all speculation, with immediacy and hence with absolute certainty.” [F.S.. C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West, p.462]

All intuitive sensitivity and religiously felt compassion flows from the all embracing oneness common to man’s nature and nature’s creatures, up through the many levels and transformations of freedom until it finally becomes manifest in the self-realized aspect of human freedom as love, caring, happiness and reverence. The telling factor behind this whole process comes with the knowledge that the “I” of God and the “I” of you and me are one in the same. Here I am reminded of the penetrating words of the Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart who is reported to have said, “The eye in which I see God and the eye in which God sees me are one and the same.”

In other words, the liberation of God’s non-being becomes God’s immanence in the here and now while, at the same time, there exists an implied transcendent God (the ground of everything, the source of all becoming). Divine immanence, however, is particularly important to all living creatures because it encapsulates all the “reality” that can be experienced and known.

God Cares End Of Life Story Redemption Chapter 3

January 1, 2010

This post continues with a brief conversation between the devil and myself, and then switches over to an earlier conversation which is itself a continuation of the God’s Footprint–Determinism conversation of several posts back. That dialogue was set high in the Canadian Rockies where Stan, the English professor, Noel, the Philosophy professor, and Tony, the Physics professor, were trying to figure out the significance, if any, of the conceptual differences underlying the physics of the macro world, Relativity, and the micro world, quantum mechanics; however, in this post the dialogue moves away from physics and picks up with Stan’s interpretation of Whitehead’s process philosophy.

With The Courage To Face The Mystery The Possibility Of Communion Arises

Future Time Nine Continued

“You do realize,” said MV, “that growing closer to God is kind of a ‘coming of age journey’ and the first step in that journey is the one where you leave behind your parent’s home.”

“Tell me more,” I replied.

“Think of your parent’s house as whatever makes you comfortable,” responded MV, “upon leaving home, all preconceived notions about the world, — security and expectations, — all must go. And, as you have already pointed out, with the arrival of quantum physics, even some physicists have found themselves ‘coming of age,’ so to speak; when the concepts of causality and localization no longer apply, when the ordered world of space and time turns into a topology puzzle, there’s no going home again. Leaving solid ground behind is a scary thought, don’t you agree?”

“Yes, it’s scary, but it’s also an opportunity.”

“That’s my boy,” responded MV. “You had a good teacher eh! When an observer’s reference frame determines the veracity of measurement, and the ground under foot dissolves, that’s when the opportunity for a new kind of communion and comfort zone arises, albeit one that requires the courage to face the mystery head on and imagine new possibilities.”

“What you are saying won’t make sense to a person tucked away in their self-made protective cocoon,” I responded. “You’d be wasting your breath there! It’s too bad it took me so long to learn that lesson. I could have avoided a lot of grief if I had been just a little bit smarter.”

“Yes, you were slow,” replied MV, “but don’t be too hard on yourself. Life’s an investment you know, and everybody wants their monies worth. Even if all the evidence is against you, it’s very difficult to cast your fate to the wind and start over. It’s impossible for some people to give up their cocoon. That’s why leaving solid ground is such a scary thought—and it should be! But, getting back to the point; after a struggle, you succeeded in making sense out of those freedom and consciousness issues. It’s just too bad you couldn’t communicate that success to others. But, look on the bright side, you’ve still got me! And since I’m the ‘enabler’ here, you don’t need anybody else. Enjoy your success, and besides, it’s only a matter of time before others figure it out. Actually, your work is not that hard to comprehend. Your two term approach to reality, as opposed to Locke’s three term approach, certainly was a good start.”

“Yes, that was the beginning for me,” I replied. “When I gave that presentation back in 1981 I knew I was onto something, but I didn’t know where those ideas would eventually take me. Maybe that’s par for the course, though; after all, here I am asking the Devil to tell me about God.”

“You might say I’m helping you to remember your own work,” responded MV, “it’s a good thing too because you need all the help you can get. And, as far as giving credit where credits due is concerned, I’m the best one for the job!”

“Your reputation for humility precedes you,” I replied. “I’ll just ignore that last comment if you don’t mind. Anyway, let’s review Whitehead’s process reality; not only did Whitehead create a philosophy around the freedom-consciousness connection, he also articulated a unique understanding of divinity.

“As you wish,” replied MV.

Whitehead’s Occasions Imparted A Kind Of Sentience To Nature

Alfred Lifted The “Process” Out Of The Philosopher (Kant) And Put It Squarely Back Into Nature Where It Belonged

Consciousness All The Way Down

As I was saying in a previous post, my theory of knowledge, or the consciousness/aesthetic continuum theory of knowledge, replaces Locke’s consciousness/appearance/material world theory of knowledge. Immanuel Kant was, however, the first to eliminate the necessity of Locke’s appearance concept from knowledge. Sense experience, for Kant, was filtered through twelve categories of understanding, categories that mentally “structured” our experience of the so-called material world. In other worlds, Kant’s categories permitted knowledge of our “experienced world.” For both Kant and Locke, however, consciousness and knowledge were considered a unique human experience. Whitehead’s process philosophy changed all that.

The role of consciousness in Whitehead’s philosophy was not restricted to human awareness. For Whitehead, consciousness was not a secondary attribute of the world; rather, it became the primary attribute. His process philosophy was developed after Kant, Einstein, and the revolutionary advances of quantum physics had totally deconstructed the worldview of the 18th and 19th centuries. What follows is a three-way conversation set in the Canadian Rockies between university professors; a rendering of an actual event which took place back when Peter (my backpacking partner) and I met up with these three professors while backcountry hiking in Jasper National Park. The conversation below, however, is fictionalized. The dialogue represents my efforts to come to terms with my reading of Whitehead’s philosophy.

The Conversation Continued

“Wouldn’t you know it,” said Stan, “I’ve lost my train of thought. But I do have a few more observations, albeit a little off topic.”

“Go for it,” said Noel, “it’s time to move on anyway.”

“Well, it’s not totally new,” Stan replied, “it’s just that when I was listening to your bantering, I felt like I had heard it all before. In my youth I studied Alfred North Whitehead. In fact, he inspired my desire to attend Harvard. He ended his career teaching there. Did you read him Tony?”

“No, I shy away from metaphysics,” responded Tony. “But I know about
him. You can’t go to Harvard without becoming familiar with prestigious alumnae.”

“Whitehead spent the first half of his academic career as a Professor of Mathematics,” Stan continued, ” he and Bertrand Russell attempted to prove that the axioms of number theory could be deduced from the premises of formal logic. Their book on that subject, Principia Mathematica, is quite famous. Whitehead also published another book on mathematics in which he formalized a set of rules and theorems, from which the theorems of Euclidean geometry are derivable. All this was done, for the most part, before Einstein published his famous theories. Whitehead, not surprisingly, took a keen interest in Einstein’s published works. And, like Cassirer, he
wrote a book on relativity theory; only in his book he disagreed with Einstein. As I recall he didn’t like the elevation of the velocity of light to a law of nature and he was critical of the flexible nature of space. Whitehead’s formalism was based on the premise of uniform space, or more precisely on the ‘non-contingent uniformity in spatial relations.’ As might be expected, in the scientific community, his ideas fell out of favor, but they played a
major role in the metaphysics that he developed latter in life. In that metaphysics, Whitehead lifted the ’process’ out of the philosopher (Kant) and put it squarely back into nature where he felt it belonged. Man, the symbol-generating animal, became instead, the product of process reality.”

“I guess this is as good a time as any to bid you fine fellows ado,” interrupted Peter, “It’s past my bedtime. But thanks for making my sleeping bag look so delicious. See you in the morning.”

“Sleep tight,” Stan replied, and then throwing another log on the campfire, he continued, “what you were saying about ‘organic unities of time’ constituting our inner sense of being really made me think about Whitehead. He too believed that ‘whole movements’ or ‘epochs’ constituted individual unities of experience. He called those unities of experience occasions and then he went on to base his metaphysics on those occasions. For him, occasions came all at once or not at all and ultimately provided nature with a kind of sentience. What’s interesting is that, at their most elementary level, where occasions are overlapping events, they still possessed a kind of sentience. Is anybody familiar with what I am talking about?”

“Yeah, it’s called animism,” replied Noel, “Eh, I’m only joking.”

Whitehead Understood Occasions To Be Processes Of Self-Development, Self-Creation

Elementary Events Overlap And Become Part Of The Actual World, Develop Into A Biosphere Full Of Sentient Qualities, Which In Turn, Develop Into The Very Words We Are Speaking Now

Conversation Continued

“Sure I’ve heard of Whitehead’s metaphysics,” said Noel, “but I haven’t studied it in any depth. As I recall he turned nature into a kind of sentient being, and thus sidestepped all the epistemological problems that arise in subject-object opposition and in the self-world dichotomy. But, in his philosophy, didn’t he understand occasions as processes of self-development, or even self-creation?”

“Yes, that’s exactly right,” Stan responded. “The idea was that an
occasion was a ‘prehending entity’ in active interaction with its whole environment. Whitehead thought of these ‘prehending entities’ as processes of self-formation with ‘subjective aim.’ They began as simple overlapping events, evolved, and, as they say, the rest is history. Right?”

“Of course,” said Noel, “I wouldn’t have it any other way. But, you
are aware that teleological explanations of the world are not just history, they’re ancient history! Isn’t that why we call it meta-physics, eh Stan?”

“Don’t forget about the problematic areas of science,” Stan responded. “Whitehead’s metaphysics speaks directly to those issues, especially the ones at the quantum level. Just hear me out.”

“I’m all ears,” replied Noel.

“Just as in quantum theory,” Stan continued, “where physical reality is at best, quasi-continuous, where successive leaps or vibrations of energy fuse together to form physical objects perceived by us as continuous, so too in Whitehead’s occasions we see physical experience taking place in leaps of becoming. His ‘process reality’ moves from becoming to being. For him, potentiality is rendered specific with the becoming of each event. What this all means is that the whole system that we take to be space and time literally
grows out of the way that events are systematically related to one another in nature.

“Again, in quantum mechanics, where the discontinuous existence of
fundamental particles forms the continuous existence of larger physical bodies, in Whitehead’s occasions there is a parallel state of affairs going on. First, elementary events overlap and become part of the actual world. Then these enduring occasions develop into a biosphere full of sentient qualities, which, in turn, develops into this–our present state of affairs, specifically, into the words we are speaking right now. But that is not the end of it. In fact, it doesn’t end. The ‘subjective aim’ of the occasion presses in upon the environing realities of all physical, biological, and psychological phenomena, and in combination with these realities, continues to create a more fully developed reality. Species evolve, and so it goes, one occasion after another, unfolding, pushing this ‘now’ into the past while receiving ‘what is’ and ‘will be,’ again and again. Novelty arises as new forms of self-expression and new vistas of self-fulfillment unfold. Ultimately, what is going on in Whitehead’s metaphysics—in addition to eliminating the subjective /objective split that occurs in the philosophies of Descartes, Locke, and Kant, is a ‘bootstrapping’ of self-development, a bringing into existence a more self-fulfilling, self- expressive, sentient nature.”

“This is getting too ethereal for me,” said Tony. “What’s next,
God?”

“Well, yes, that’s exactly right,” responded Stan, “But apart from the God thing, I believe Whitehead’s thought speaks directly to the concerns brought up in this conversation.”

“If you say so, “Noel replied,” but what about God? How did
Whitehead perceive God, anyway?”

If The Call Is For Retributive Justice The First Mirror Will Pinpoint The Guilty

In So Far As Self-Aim Conforms To Its Immediate Past, There Is Determinism, But In So Far As Any Entity Modifies Its Response Through The Subjective Element Of Feeling, There Is Freedom

Some Freedom Is Not Divine—God Cares

“If you say so, “Noel replied,” but what about God? How did Whitehead perceive God, anyway?”

“Same o, same o,” replied Tony, “as a redeeming father figure.”

“That’s not true,” said Stan, “Well, maybe it’s a little true, but it’s more complicated than that. Whitehead would be the first to admit that if religion didn’t exist, it would have to be invented. From a sociological point of view, it does too many things for too many people for it not to exist. Religion is necessary for another reason, though. It deals with permanence amid change, and for Whitehead that meant connecting the idea of permanence up with the idea of ‘extensive connection’, or the general ordering that takes place in process reality. In other words, God is co-continuous with all the ‘happenings’ of the world.”

“Go tell that to Dostoyevsky,” replied Tony, “As far as he was concerned God was a mass murderer of innocent children.”

“Okay, Tony, for the sake of Dostoyevsky, lets hold God accountable for all the world’s sins,” responded Stan, “but first lets look to see on whose behalf God exists. Remember, occasions are environing events with a self-aim; they represent the creation of novelty and change—and, as such, the entire physical universe is processing its way back to God–the conceptual, eternal, side of God. God is ‘eternal presence’ and bears witness to all past and present occasions. The future, however, is like an unused role of film. Being exposed, it is always in the process of being developed. The untimely deaths of innocents are part of that process, part of the internal constitution of God, as God works through the transition from the eternal to the actual, and from the actual back to the eternal. God is the reason for all becoming, and nothing exists that is separate from God. All ‘passing’ is absorbed back into the eternal witness of God.”

“That’s not good enough,” Tony replied, “whose pain or whose suffering is not the issue. The fact that there is way too much pain and suffering is the issue. With all the pain, cruelty, and injustice in the world, we just can’t let God off the hook, even if, as Whitehead believes, God shares in all of it. Believe me, God would be convicted by a jury of his peers.”

“Tony’s right,” Noel replied, “God has to go.”

“I’m not finished yet,” Stan responded, “there’s more than just witnessing what’s going on here. In fact, there’s a dynamic that shouts out for change; if indeed a retributive justice is called for here, then one has to look no farther then the first mirror to pinpoint the guilty.”

“Hold on! Who’s getting huffy now,” replied Tony, “I didn’t start this. I didn’t ask to be born. I’m just here, doing what I can to stay alive. How the hell can I be held responsible for God’s handiwork?”

“Do you feel sad when you see dying children,” said Stan.

“What’s that supposed to mean; of course I feel sad,” shot back
Tony, “but I can’t change it. I block it out of my mind.”

“Well that’s what brands you as guilty,” Stan replied. “It’s the playing out of those self-expressive, self-fulfilling feelings that you can’t avoid that gets you into trouble. Insofar as occasions conform to their environment, insofar as the ‘self-aim’ conforms to its immediate past, there is determinism, but insofar as any entity modifies its response through the subjective element of feeling, there is freedom. Feeling and freedom are codependent for Whitehead, and God is in touch with all feelings. He is there, inside agonizing screams, and He is there in all suffering, especially suffering caused by injustice. He is also there, however, in all hopes, joy, and happiness, in addition to fears, regrets, and sorrows. Good feelings move the world forward to a better place. It is feeling that gives subjective aim to occasions. We encounter, in good feelings, the ‘allure of realization.’ It is possible to create a more humane, peaceful, and loving world. Whitehead said as much, and Gandhi taught us how to proceed, ‘You must be the change you want to see in the world’—both in life and love.”

“I must say, that’s an interesting brand of pantheism,” responded
Tony.

“It’s not pantheism,” replied Stan, “it’s a divinely anchored
process reality.”

“You can call it anything you like,” said Tony, “its still
pantheism.”

“Not according to Whitehead,” replied Stan, “The future is empty, and in that emptiness resides the freedom to create a better world– the freedom to replace emptiness with ‘goodness.'”

“Or the freedom to create a worse one,” interrupted Noel, “if change
is pervasive, it doesn’t have to be good.”

”True enough,” replied Stan, “accept the same God who is there inside another’s suffering and pain will not be there in the masochistic and sadistic cravings of those individuals who pleasure themselves by inflicting pain and suffering upon others. Nor will God be found in the laws of a society that refuse to recognize the destitute, oppressed, and persecuted—God’s children.”

“Do tell,” exclaimed Noel, “How can God be in touch with all feelings—your words not mine, yet be inside some feelings and not inside other feelings?”

“Feelings that preserve, perpetuate, and expand consciousness,” replied Stan, “always trump feelings that dehumanize, degrade, and destroy consciousness; the former is a product of divinity, the latter a product of neglect. Don’t misunderstand, I’m not proposing the impossible here; that is, the elimination of all negative feelings, but striving for that goal is divine. Everything else is just plain human.”

“I don’t know,’ said Noel, “Whitehead’s got himself a hard sell there. The God thing aside, nobody has ever been successful in merging feelings with reason, if indeed that’s what he’s trying to do. I’m afraid I just don’t buy it. It’s not doable. Go ask Plato if you don’t believe me.”

“Not doable because you don’t buy it,” said Stan, “or not doable
because it can’t be done?”

“Both,” replied Noel.

“That’s ditto from the scientific point of view,” chimed in
Tony.

God’s Footprint–The Quasi-Physical Event Aspect Chapter Two

December 2, 2009

God’s footprint, grounded as it is in the Logos of Existence, is shaped like a piece of pie, the edges of which meet where the observer’s edge of the pie and the opposite edge of the pie (the physical event edge) come together. The pie crust separates the observer from macro level physical events. In other words, without macro level physical events human intelligence would cease to exist (no piecrust, — no pie piece, no determinism, — no human intelligence). The comprehensibility of a micro level event is different from the comprehensibility of a macro level event because, in the same universe, the physical duality that constitutes micro level comprehensibility is different from the physical duality that constitutes macro level comprehensibility. Events on the macro level of the universe are more deterministic than events at the micro level of the universe because the entire universe is comprehensible by people who can comprehend—you, me, and the scientist. In quantum mechanics the loss of space time localization coupled with the realities of wave/particle phenomena have forced some physicists to abandon the concept of a deterministic universe. However, when viewed from the perspective of God’s footprint, one does not give up anything. Just like in the physics of relativity where yardstick lengths and rates of ticking clocks are tied to the observer’s frame of reference, so to, in God’s footprint, the comprehensibility of universe is tied to the frame of reference of different dualities— e.g., ~~b (wave/particle duality), ~bb (accommodation/assimilation of living creatures duality), and, b~b~bb (the physical event/human intelligence duality).

As I was saying in the beginning chapter of God’s Footprint, the physical event/quantum side of the pie piece is embedded in the aesthetic continuum, — or the feeling/sensing side of experience as opposed to the cerebral experience where we encounter the “ideal meanings” that get used in the interpretation of the phenomena that we ascribe to nature according to law. How this translates into the physical event/quantum side of the pie piece is contained in the ongoing story of what can loosely be called “the strange behavior of quantum phenomena.” In order to get a better idea of what is entailed in the quantum event, I’ll let another dialogue (written a while back) speak to this issue. In this half-imagined conversation, three strangers meet at a California state campground. In this conversation, Don, the skeptical university student, Jade, the newly graduated science teacher, and me, the vagabond bicycler, are discussing Fritz Capra’s book, Tao of Physics.

“What are you guys talking about anyway,” said Don, “Catch up to what? How can a scientist catch up to science?”
“Catch up to the universe,” I said. “Science–the scientist– has to catch up to what’s happening in the universe. There’s no going back to Kansas anymore. That’s what Capra was telling us in his book. We just don’t live in a world divided up into the squeaky clean categories of mass and energy anymore, not to mention cause and effect.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Don. “It sounds like you guys, Capra included, have been smoking too much of that hookah weed stuff.”
“Not really,” Jade replied, “Capra is a well respected physicist who just happens to be on the cutting edge of new age thinking. He really knows what he’s talking about.”

Jade’s right,” I said, “The new physics has turned waves into particles and particles into waves. Hell, we don’t even know for sure if the world exists separate from the way we look at it. According to Capra, at the quantum level, the universe looks and behaves differently from the way we typically perceive it. At the level of the very small, we loose track of independently existing things. Physical phenomena appears, at that level, to show signs of being interconnected, which means that we are interconnected with everything else, which means that the sages of the East were right all along. Ultimately, we are all part of some mystical ‘Oneness,’ but we just don’t know it. In reality, we’re just one big happy family.”

“Quantum physics says all that,” replied Don, “I don’t mean to be a party pooper fellows, but didn’t anybody ever tell you that the splitting up of that “small stuff” is what resulted in the ‘now you see ‘em, now you don’t’ cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. I mean the family that bombs together doesn’t necessarily stay together, let alone live in bliss!”
“Well, yeah,” Jade replied, “I guess it doesn’t hurt to keep a perspective on things. I think what is being said here is that the world that gave us a better bomb, on a fundamental level, just doesn’t exist anymore. It exists locally, yeah, but even so, we still can’t go back to Kansas. Everything has changed.”
“Like what exactly,” replied Don.

“Like we can’t think of the universe as just a collection of objects anymore,” Jade responded. “Rather, it’s more like a complicated web of relations. Some physicists even go as far as to say that it is a complicated web of relations between the various parts of a unified whole. And that is what Dave meant when he said that Eastern mystics were there first. In fact, Capra is saying the same thing. According to him, even the language used by physicists and the language used by mystics is starting to sound the same. Nagarjuna, a second century Buddhist, preached that things were nothing in themselves; instead, they derived their being from a mutual dependence with other things. A particle physicist might use those very same words to describe the results of a cloud chamber experiment that records the trajectories of colliding particles. Under certain conditions, an elementary particle is no more than a set of relationships that reach outward to other things. The world, on that level, is no more than a complicated tissue of events that determines the texture of the whole.”

“Big deal,” snapped Don. “So what the hell is all that supposed to mean? Physicists still do physics don’t they? They still make weapons that kill don’t they, weapons that when sold produce mega bucks for the seller. Who cares where destruction comes from; it’s still destruction, right!”

“Wait a minute.” I interrupted. “We need to start over, I know what you’re getting at Don, and I totally agree. And I know Jade does too. That’s why I said that it takes time, lots of it, for the implications of new concepts to be fully digested. Maybe a hundred years for all I know, but digested they will be, and when it happens the world will be better off. That’s all I’m trying to say. What’s happening in physics today is a far cry from what happened in the past, and its telling us new and exciting things about the universe, and maybe even about ourselves! This new vision does not exclude, it includes, and therein lies the hope. When humanity is brought into the mix with everything else, a whole new ballgame arises. The center of balance shifts, and overtime, possibilities open, even if in the short run, the rules remain the same. If you ask me, humanity will be in for immense benefits if this new vision catches on. Think about it. What’s happening in science today is the rediscovery of our lost identity, and that can’t be all bad.”

“How many beers are left?” said Don.
“What?”
“If we’re gunna start over,” Don replied, “and if you’re gunna get metaphysical on me, I need to know just how patient I want to be. So how many beers patient will I be?”
“Well,” said Jade, after checking the twelve pack, and handing everyone another beer, “I’d say about two or three, depending of course on how patient you want to be!”
“That sounds about right,” Don said. “Educate me. I’m ready now.”
“Jade, you’re the science teacher. You start,” I said.
“You don’t need me,” Jade shot back, “you need Neil’s Bohr or Warner Heisenberg.”
“That sounds good,” I said. “Start with those guys. Think of it as practice. After all, in the classroom you won’t have such a patient audience. We won’t heckle. Go for it.”

“All right already, enough,” Jade said. “As best I can remember, it all started with Max Planck’s black body radiation experiments at the turn of the century. He discovered that radiation or light propagates in discrete packets. Those packets are called the quantum of action. The energy in a quantum of action varies, but its discreteness doesn’t. That discreteness is known as Planck’s constant. Particles in classical physics evolve in a continuous manner, and in three dimensions of space, but in atomic physics that just doesn’t seem to be the case. With the discovery of the quantum of action, there was a merging of the dynamic state of the elements under study with their localization. The particles’ independence dissolved, as it became impossible to simultaneously determine position and momentum, an impossibility for which the uncertainty relations of Heisenberg became the precise expression. After the uncertainty principle, Cartesian space and time co-ordinates ceased to be applicable, and physicists were forced into learning new rules for a new game. In fact, all the conjugate variables of analytical mechanics–energy, time, momentum, position, had to be dealt with as approximations; they had to be dealt with in terms of statistical analysis. Ultimately, with the loss of space and time localization, physicists were forced to abandon their concept of a deterministic physical universe.”

“Oh yeah, and what about Einstein,” Don said. “Did he abandon the concept of determinism? What happened to his space and time?”
“Well, not exactly,” Jade replied. “His space and time are still there, only it’s not just his space-time any longer, it’s everybody’s.”
“I’ve always wanted to know about relativity. Fill me in why don’t you.” Don said.

“I’d really like to except it’s all a little fuzzy for me, too,” replied Jade. “I really don’t understand much about it. That’s a whole different physics, one that doesn’t fit in well with quantum mechanics. That was the problem that haunted Einstein his entire life. He never stopped trying to solve it. And if he couldn’t do it, don’t expect help from me. You’re right, though; Einstein never did give up his belief in a deterministic universe. In his physics, determinism was preserved, while everything else fell apart.”
“So tell me about it,” Don said. “If a ball is still a ball and we can calculate its velocity and position in Einstein’s universe, then what do you mean ‘everything fell apart?’”

“Basically,” replied Jade, “relativity doesn’t come into significant play until you’re working with velocities at close to the speed of light. When those speeds are approached, compared to say, the speed of a bullet, space and time measurements become radically different when measured relative to each other. In Einstein’s Special Theory Of Relativity the space and time measurements of the system under study are tied to the frame of reference of the observer. A yardstick and a clock traveling at close to the speed of light will measure thirty-six inches and identify twelve o’clock to an observer in that reference frame, but when the same yardstick and clock are measured against other frames of reference, say like here on earth, earth clocks will run slow and yardsticks will measure less than thirty-six inches. Sir Isaac Newton’s absolute space and time collapsed under the weight of Einstein.”

“Oh yeah, now I understand,” replied Don. “Bullets are small compared to the sun, so their length is measured with a short yardstick while sun spots are large compared to bullets, so they’re measured with long yardsticks, right!”
“That’s not exactly what I said, Don. Measuring rods traveling at close to the speed of light,” said Jade, “when compared to measuring rods here on earth measure short, and the same goes for clocks, they run slow. And, vice versa, when earth clocks are compared to clocks traveling at close to the speed of light, then those clocks run slow. I don’t know why. I’m not an Einstein. I guess it has something to do with the constancy of the velocity of light, but other than that it’s a mystery to me, just like it must be a mystery to you. Look, I can see we’re not getting anywhere here, especially since I’ve already admitted I don’t know much about Einstein’s theories. Let’s just say that by using Einstein’s equations, a person can figure out how to measure both the length and speed of an earth bullet and the length and speed of a bullet traveling at close to the speed of light and then communicate that knowledge to an alpha centurion—provided that the alien understands the equations. Once again, I don’t now how that can be done, but I do know it has something to do with Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, which further develops the concept of the space-time interval. A space-time interval, when measured relative to different reference frames, does not vary, but don’t ask me to explain that because I can’t.”

“Fair enough,” Don replied. “Don’t explain.”
“Now that I think of it, though,” said Jade, “I need to put just a little perspective into what I just said.”
“Do you really?” said Don.
“Have another drink, Don,” Jade replied.
“Determining the change of change in different reference systems,” Jade continued, “is no small accomplishment, but there is something even more amazing going on here. Einstein’s equations let us in on an astounding universe, a universe absolutely different from the one that Euclid mapped out for us a couple millenniums ago. The universe discovered by Einstein even astounded Einstein, but it wasn’t the oddness of it all that astounded him, it was the simple fact that it could be discovered in the first place! He said, ‘The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible.’ If you ask me, that statement says it all.”

“If that’s true,” Don interrupted, “then Einstein must have died a pretty frustrated man because based on what you’re telling me here, nobody is even close to comprehending a universe that is free of contradictory laws. What’s comprehensible about that?”

“We don’t know everything, Don,” Jade replied, “but we do know a hell of a lot more than we used to. We are beginning to understand ‘who and what we are’ in a whole different light. It’s true that our knowledge is limited by statistical analysis at the quantum level, but it works, and it works well. That, according to Bohr and Heisenberg, was pretty important all by itself. According to the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics, the model attributed to Bohr and Heisenberg, it doesn’t matter what’s going on at the quantum level, what matters is that in all possible experimental situations we can, within certain limits, predict the outcomes. Understanding reality, according to the Copenhagen Interpretation, lies beyond the capabilities of rational thought. The laws governing individual events are, at the quantum level, completely discarded. Only mathematical laws governing aggregations apply. According to quantum mechanics, it is not possible, even in principle, to know enough about the present to make a complete prediction about the future. Even with the best possible measuring devices, it is still not possible.”

“You talk as if Bohr and Heisenberg are gods,” said Don. “To me they’re just two more scientists, two among many, doing their job! I’m sure there are different opinions out there. Einstein certainly didn’t agree. One day another Einstein will come along and see through it all, and on that day the Copenhagen Interpretation, or whatever you call it, will be no more. What are you suggesting anyway, that all progress stops because you want it to? I don’t think so, and I’m glad.”

“You could be right,” Jade responded, “but overcoming all the history that’s still building in quantum mechanics is a daunting task for anyone. Einstein wasn’t the only physicist who disliked the theory. Many have tried to dislodge the Copenhagen interpretation. In every instance, however, the physical world has intervened and said, ‘Your questions are meaningless.’ No physicist likes being told that. When a wave behaves like a particle and a particle behaves like a wave, the concepts that used to define the physical world no longer apply. Nature now requires a marriage of ideas that in the past were designed to live apart. Neil’s Bohr just got tired of fighting the inevitable. That’s when he started seeing things in a complimentary light.”

“Complimentary what?” said Don.
“That was Bohr’s big contribution to quantum mechanics,” replied Jade. “He basically said that there are no waves out there. There are no particles running around, either. That strange animal that interacts with the experiments, the quantum of action, is all there is. Because Bohr believed that, he introduced the idea of complementarity. He considered the particle picture and the wave picture as two complementary descriptions of the same reality, each description being only partly correct and having a limited range of application. For Bohr, the entity ‘electron,’–just like the other elementary entities of physics—had two irreconcilable aspects, which must be invoked in order to explain, in turn, the properties of the entity. To give a full description of atomic reality, each picture is needed, and both descriptions are to be applied within the limitations given by the uncertainty principle. In fact, when the queen of England knighted Bohr for his work in physics, he was forced to pick a family coat of arms, and so he picked the Chinese symbol of Tai-chi. Because he believed that reality had to be visualized in both its complimentary and contradictory aspects, but not at the same time, he felt that, at least at the level of the quantum of action, the basic idea of Eastern mysticism’s yin/yang reality had been confirmed.”

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” I said, “I remember reading somewhere, maybe in Capra, that in the Buddhist relationship between form and emptiness, cooperation exists. That relationship cannot be conceived as a state of mutually exclusive opposites because it represents two aspects of the same reality. From one perspective it appears to be contradictory, but from another perspective it becomes the unifying aspect of that very same reality. Just like at the quantum level, where an event, in order to be wholly an event, exhibits both contradictory and complimentary aspects, so too in Buddhism, the void and the forms that are created from it, exist in a dynamic unity. But, there’s something that still bothers me. What about that observer-generated reality stuff that Capra talked about in his book? How does that fit in with the quantum of action? What’s that all about, anyway?”

“That’s just another aspect of how phenomena manifests at the quantum level,” responded Jade. “The classical notions of space, time, causality–objective reality, break down at the quantum level. Remember there are no waves propagating. According to most physicists, the wave function is not quite a thing, it is more like an idea that occupies a strange middle ground between idea and reality, where all things are possible but none are actual. An electron is not a particle either, it is more like a process, always forming, always dissolving. It can’t be detected until it interacts with a measuring device and even if it does interact we don’t know if it interacts with the device per se, or if it interacts with the last link in the chain of events that define the experiment—the consciousness of the human observer. The physicist, Erwin Schrödinger, devised a thought experiment to illustrate that point.

“You put a cat in a box with some poison gas. When the gas is released, the cat dies. The release of the gas is triggered by radiation decay. The decay is totally arbitrary. In classical physics, the cat dies at the time of the decay, but in quantum mechanics the cat dies when the observation is made, when the last link in the chain of events that defines the experiment occurs. At the time of observation when the box is opened the wave function collapses and possibility becomes actuality. Of course, common sense tells us that can’t be true, but that’s precisely the point, common sense breaks down at the quantum level, things are ‘different’ at that level. So the question remains, ‘Is it, or when is it, necessary to include human consciousness in our descriptions of the world?’ Or, put another way, ‘what role does measurement play in an experiment?’ Does it provide a description of the world under study or does it actually create that world?’ Quantum Mechanics has a hard time answering questions like that.”

“Maybe one day that situation will be better understood,” I said. “But until that day comes, talk about ‘objectivity’ is probably best left to the Buddhists. They don’t have a problem with ‘independent reality’ because there isn’t any; for them, everything is interdependent. My subjective world and the objective world are, for an enlightened Buddhist, just words referring to mutually conditioned relations woven into one fabric; subject and object are not just inseparable, they are indistinguishable.”

“Funny you should point that out,” responded Jade, “I mean, that words interfere with reality, because many physicists believe the same thing. Many physicists believe that the wave function is not an accurate representation of what’s really going on ‘out there.’ Rather, they believe the wave function is an abstract creation whose manipulation somehow yields the probabilities of real events that happen in space and time. But that’s only part of the story, and perhaps a small part, too. In fact, the mathematician von Neumann, the same guy who developed a mathematical proof rejecting the notion of hidden variables in quantum mechanics, believed the problems surrounding quantum phenomena had nothing to do with nature, but, rather, they had everything to do with language. We impose, with our symbolic thought processes, the categories of ‘either-or.’ Language does not allow a mixture of A and not A. The boundaries of discourse, rather, are set by discriminating A from not A. Outside that boundary nonsense rules; where ‘separate parts’ are not applicable, language cannot go. Classical physics discriminates between A and not A, therefore, moving particles and waves can be analyzed. A pictorial description of nature is never a problem there. At the atomic level, however, it is not possible to visualize or describe waves because they are not there—they are purely mathematical constructs. Where things are not things, quantifiers like inside, outside, before, after, between, or connected are not applicable. Where language and logic do not apply, nothing more can be said.”

“It seems that physicists,” I replied, “at the quantum level at least, find the same road block that the Eastern sages discovered long ago; at that point, the language of neti neti, the language of not this not that–is all that’s left. At that level all investigations end, and we are left with mere words that say nothing.”

“Well, I wouldn’t put it quite so negatively,” Jade responded, “after all, at that level, something else comes into play; that is, if you are a sage—isn’t that where infinite wisdom and infinite creativity begins?”

“Okay, then maybe we’ve come full circle,” I said. “We’re back to the endless transformation of energy that the yin, yang symbol represents.”
“For sure, Neil’s Bohr would agree with that,” Jade replied, “but I think a little poetry is more appropriate here. After all, who better to entrust a description of the indescribable then the poet! If my memory holds, in some Upanishad it says, ‘He on whom the sky, the earth, and the atmosphere are woven, and the wind, together with all life-breaths, Him alone know as the one Soul.’”

“Yo! Fellows,” Don interjected, “We’re out of beer. No more beer, no more poetry, pleeease. Thanks for the beer, though. Don’t take offense, but somehow listening to you guys made me feel like I was waiting for Godet. If you ask me, it ain’t going to happen. Goodnight, see you in the morning!”

The Footprint–Determinism

November 26, 2009

Yes, God has a physical footprint and it’s grounded in the Logos of existence as it is described in the “the new model of the observer/observed relationship.” Accordingly, we live in a universe that, on one level, is deterministic, while, on another level, is less deterministic. However, the entire universe is comprehensible by people who can comprehend—you, me, and the scientist. Also, according to this Logos, death is not “the end;” rather, death is like the off ramp of one highway merging on to another highway—all energy far from equilibrium, eventually, must take this “off ramp.” However, information generated on the highway of life moves full speed ahead (by reproduction and natural selection, on the one hand, and by culture—language, books, libraries, etc., on the other hand). And, finally, we live in a universe where comprehensibility begins and ends in duality. Initially, this duality begins with the wave/particle duality of conjugate variables, and later, this duality is defined by human intelligence embedded in the physical events. The boundaries that shape God’s footprint then are defined by the duality that constitutes the comprehensibility of the universe, e.g., ~~b (wave/particle duality), ~bb (accommodation/assimilation of living creatures duality), and, b~b~bb (the duality of physical event/human intelligence).

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Godzilla was when Matthew Broderick found himself in a huge hole searching for Godzilla’s footprint. The craterlike hole and the footprint were one, but Godzilla’s footprint was off the scale of any footprint Matthew had ever encountered so it remained hidden from him until a military officer pointed out that he was standing in the middle it. In a like manner, we are standing in the middle of God’s footprint, the breath of which begins in the quasi-material world described by quantum physics, extends up into Einstein’s space-time continuum and is as deep as what is humanly possible to imagine. Since we know the parameters of the footprint, we can extrapolate a shape that is much more manageable. The footprint is shaped like a piece of pie! The space-time continuum exists in the mind’s eye of the physicist, but the rest of us know this continuum only through its effect on (some) physical events, so let the physical event represent one end of the piecrust and at the other end of the crust sits the observer. Both the physical event edge of the pie and the observer edge of the pie comes together at the narrow slivered end of the pie piece. Let the slivered part of the pie represent the quasi-material world of quantum phenomena.

The physical event, or that which we see, smell, taste, touch, and hear, occurs along the physical event edge of the pie piece while the comprehensibility aspect of the universe occurs along the pie piece’s observer’s edge. In other words, the physical event side represents what I (and Northrop) call the aesthetic continuum while the observer’s edge of the pie— or that which, in one form or another, senses an environment, — represents “liberation from the aesthetic continuum.” As always, from the human observer’s point of view, the aesthetic continuum is subject to an analytical account, or the hypothetical deductive method which postulates the public side of the continuum, and of course, there is the more personal, relative, experiential aspect of that continuum, one’s own individual, relative experience of it. The public side of the continuum, though, thanks to the advances of Relativity and quantum physics has changed the meaning and significance of the physical event, and that change woke me from my drunken slumber (my drunken slumber comment is a very loose paraphrase of Kant’s comment on Hume’s critique of Locke’s theory of knowledge). Of course, the implications of Relativity theory and quantum mechanics are still being debated (after ninety years and counting) and I, like so many more, am eagerly waiting to see how it turns out. Fortunately, I’m not holding my breath,—which brings me to a brief description of my upcoming posts.

While trying to comprehend the meaning of the “new physics” awhile back, I wrote some dialogue. The dialogue below deals mostly with Relativity theory. Next week’s post wanders in and out of Relativity theory and quantum mechanics. After that, well, I’m only sure of a post on the observer, or the connecting link that shapes God’s footprint. After that maybe a post on temporality etc. etc., time will tell.

Our old Professor friends, — the philosopher, Noel, the physicist, Tony, and the English Professor, Stan, — have been discussing this situation (the significance of the physical event), so perhaps they can make this idea more clear?

“Maybe Noel,” interrupted Tony, “you’re referring to a different Einstein. The one that I thought we were talking about is the one who eliminated the confusion concerning space and time. We have known for a long time that people in other cultures experience space and time differently. But that’s the beauty of Einstein’s work; now we can all agree that space-time intervals are the same for everybody, even for space aliens traveling at close to the speed of light. We now know that the length of a space-time interval between any two events is the same for everybody.”
“Okay, Tony, if you want to jump into the thick of it, than lets do it,” replied Noel. “The space-time interval, what’s it based on?”
“The speed of light, or rather the constancy of the velocity of light,” Tony responded. “You and I share the same space-time, but my space and your space, and my time and your time, are the same only when we are at rest relative to each other. We live in our own private worlds of space and time, but in the new public domain of space-time, space and time are the same for everybody. In fact, the intrinsic structure of space-time accounts for the constancy of the velocity of light for all observers.”

“Do you know why?” said Noel.
“Sure,” responded Tony, “it has to do with the implications of relativity theory. In the mathematics of space-time, Minkowski, Einstein’s mathematics professor, showed that even though the Pythagorean theorem does not work in space-time, something like the Pythagorean theorem is still at work. In Euclid’s geometry the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of its two sides. In the geometry of space-time, the distance between two events, like in the Pythagorean theorem, is equal to the time interval squared minus the space interval squared, however, that minus is the reverse of what takes place in the geometry of Euclid. Subtracting, instead of adding the two intervals, produces four-dimensional space-time. In space-time the distance between two events connected by a light ray becomes zero. Light rays coming at us from outer space take time to reach us, but in space-time no distance is traveled. That’s one of the incredible results that follow from Einstein’s theory. And that is also why the speed of light is constant for all observers. In space-time light is just there, everywhere.”

“I’m just a little confused,” said Noel, “If light doesn’t go anywhere, how can we know that the length of a space-time interval between any two events is the same for everybody?”
“Because of the constancy of light’s velocity,” Tony replied.
“So what you’re saying is that time doesn’t change, just space?” said Noel. “Is that the answer? Don’t answer that. There’s ‘no’ time to answer, right? Anyway, Einstein’s field equations dictate the space of space-time, and, as you have all ready pointed out Tony, we can agree upon the measured value of space-time. Is that about right?”
“Well, a stab in time will get you nine,” Tony muttered. “You know damn well what I’m talking about Noel. It’s just that you don’t like it. You won’t accept that in the cosmic scheme of things, you and I, and everybody else, are just world lines. That past, present, and future may, or may not, possess meaning scares the hell out of you. You hate the idea that your private frame of reference might be limited and meaningful only to you. Einstein’s universe attacks your sense of freedom, your dignity. Well I’ve got news for you. Nobody was more concerned about dignity than the old man. He didn’t bemoan the fact that he wasn’t God. It was enough for him to peer into the heart of nature, or the mind of God if you prefer to call it that, and understand what was really going on. It was enough for him to know that all human beings had this gift, but how it was used was a person’s own business. Denying it, however, was not dignified. It was just plain stupid; and anyway, what about the effects, the predictable consequences of Einstein’s theory? If they don’t occur in reality then where do they occur?”

“Right where they are predicted to occur,” Noel replied, “in the surrounding manifold of our sensual experience. Nature, or the name that we give to that manifold, takes in everything we can see, hear, feel, taste, smell, and explain. Space, as an ontological entity, in the theory of general relativity, doesn’t exist. The being of space has been replaced with purely methodological considerations. What space ‘is,’ or whether any definite character can be attributed to it, is no longer a concern. Rather, we must be concerned with the geometrical presuppositions, the ‘ideal meanings’ that get used in the interpretation of the phenomena that we ascribe to nature according to law.”
“I’m getting tired of this,” said Tony. “Science gets done and benefits follow, which, really, is all we have to worry about, right Stan? How come you’re so quiet, anyway? That’s not like you. Are you sick or something?”
“I’m fine. You know me, quiet as a mouse, but sharp as a tack,” said Stan. There’s a time for talking and time for listening. I’ve been enjoying the latter. Let me try to simplify this conversation, eh fellows; that is, after I throw another log on the fire.”
“Always the educator, eh Stan,” said Tony, “but that’s why we love ya.”

“Take nature for instance,” responded Stan, “for you Tony, its independent of the observer. It’s a bit complicated, but knowable, and it exists before one begins to experiment on it. That’s not the case for Noel. For him, nature does not exist independent from the observer. In fact, questions asked concerning nature, for Noel at least, actually brings nature into existence. And, he looks to quantum mechanics to substantiate that claim. On that level, the physical world seems to emerge from observations made on it. Any argument there fellows?”

“You’ve got the stage,” replied Noel, “go for it.”
“Now for the hard part,” said Stan, “On the one hand we have Einstein’s theory of general relativity, and on the other hand we have quantum theory. Both theories are proven successes, but when taken together they are out of joint. The equations that describe the gravitational field are completely different from the one’s that describe subatomic interactions. Moreover, space and time are intimately related in relativity theory. They are dependent on the state of motion of the observer. In quantum theory space and time are not tied to existence at all. As far as a person’s limited reason is concerned, there is no quantum world, just an abstract quantum physical description. Given this confusing state of affairs, it would be doctrinaire and dogmatic to say that one theory is better than the other, or that one is talking sense and the other is lacking in it. Right fellows?”
“Who’s patronizing now,” said Tony.
“Guilty as charged,” responded Stan, “I guess nobody’s perfect. For you Tony, the mind’s ability to discover reality’s true nature is a religious belief, just like it was for Einstein. If Einstein had a religious belief, it was that the world is comprehensible and objective.”
“I’d probably go to church, if I could sit next to Einstein,” Tony replied.

“As I was saying,” said Stan, “under the rule of cause and effect everything has its place and time, but that is not what works for you Noel. Knowledge, for Noel, constitutes what we take to be the physical world, and new knowledge may substantially alter that world. In other words, over time, both knowledge and the perceived field that we find ourselves in changes. Both Cassirer and Kant agreed on this. The function of the mind’s capacity to connect meaning to sensual contents goes beyond sensual contents and establishes an order among the connections between them. The necessary elements of every assertion—being and non-being, similarity and dissimilarity, unity and plurality, identity and opposition—cannot be represented by any content of perception, but through them ‘ideal meanings’ get created, and when applied to the perceptual field those elements fill our perceptions with meaning. That process, over time, alters both the meaning and the content of our perceptual field. But, what it comes down to in the end is testing the deductive consequences of those ‘ideal meanings’ against the sensual contents in the field of our perceptions. That was the way it worked for Einstein and, in any universe that will not change.”

Based on the above dialogue, for me at least, the physical event seems a little less obvious! But it’s still there; the foundational attribute of our knowledge of the objective world is still there. It’s just that it seems a little more open to interpretation at this point. Anyway, the physical event is only one aspect of God’s footprint. To get a better perspective on the footprint, (and I’m sure Matthew Broderick would agree here), we need to climb out of the hole in order to see the whole pie piece—errrr footprint!

The Voice Of The We Of Divinity Concluded

November 21, 2009

This is a continuation of lasts week’s post, but I have more to say in this one. There is some explanation for why I believe the We Voice of Divinity exists, but, there is more description than explanation; that said, I’ve decided to stay with this theme in future posts, at least for a while. Because of the lack of explanation, for the next couple of weeks, I will be describing some of the considerations that brought me to affirm the We Voice of Divinity. I will talk about God’s footprint. Yes, a lot of why I say what I say is because the length of God’s footprint extends up out of the strange behavior of quantum phenomena and into the heavy determinism of the physics of relativity—big footprint. The depth of the footprint extends as deep as the observer/observed relationship described below, which, in turn, is based on the experience/existence of the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self, or the ~bb of b~b~bb also described below.Here’s a quick sense of what I’m getting at (by chance I discovered this as I was shutting down my computer, I wrote it but I don’t remember when): God is a recursive loop of increasing complexity that liberates consciousness. Initially, this content/form relationship produced very little consciousness, but, upon increased complexity, the content of consciousness became human, while the form of this relationship remains imbedded in its source, i.e., God.Horizons Of Self: Mind, Emotions, And Body

Language, politics, morality, and religion originate here. Justice gets done here. Worldviews are created here—the purple quadrant.

This new physics, to be sure, is still in the midst of growing pains, but whatever the outcome, John Locke’s concrete material substance is history. We do not exist a three-term relationship (mental substance, material object, appearance) we exist a two-term relationship with the second term being our theoretically postulated, hypothetically designated component of experience while the first term of experience is the immediately sensed determinate portion of the aesthetic continuum,– which is part of our very being. The immediately sensed component is relative to each individual while the theoretic component is public, exists within our understanding, and therefore is accessible to everybody, everywhere.

We experience our three horizons–emotional life (red), embodied life (pink), and psychological life (yellow)–in their aesthetic immediacy, within which differentiations come and go. In this way, change and understanding change, is pervasive. Theories follow from questions, and correct theories follow from confirmation of experimental results. In other words, the scientific method is one way to expand our horizons, but that method works best when dealing with physical phenomena, the embodied state (pink horizon). The scientific method is less effective when it comes to expanding our psychological and emotional horizons. However, with education, all three horizons expand. Understanding, whether it comes from the hypothetically conceived, experimentally verified component of our experience, or whether it comes from the “school of hard knocks,” so to speak, still educates.

Here’s how F. S. C. Northrop describes the two-term relationship of a fully known thing: “Both components are equally real and primary, and hence good, the one being the complement of the other… (He states) “To be any complete thing is to be not merely an immediately experienced, aesthetically and emotionally felt thing, but also to be what hypothetically conceived and experimentally verified theory designates.” (The Meeting Of East And West, p. 450) So, we may ask, into what do our self-horizons expand when they expand? In other words, I now want to talk about the blue, green, and purple quadrants in the above diagram. By way of introduction, and to keep the topic focused, here is another person’s take on why the three-term relationship is no longer needed; the physicist Henry Margenau, like Northrop before him, described human experience in terms of a two-term relationship.

In his book, The Nature of Physical Reality, Margenau elaborates on what the theoretic component of our experience entails when he says, “…that we come to knowledge of our experience in two ways—through the mental states of prepositional attitudes and sensation.” He then lumps these attitudes and sensation together in what he calls our P-plane experience—a combination of immediate experience with its significance (sensed qualia embedded in a knowledge matrix). In this way we come to “know” the same thing in two different ways, through sensed qualia and through the significance that we attach to this sensed qualia. For Margenau, there are four levels of P-plane significance. Language, with its lexical, syntactical, and contextual designations represents the first level. The second level, science, raises P-plane significance by connecting P-plane experience with the propositional aspects of our cognitive experience via what Margenau calls rules of correspondence—the sensed aspect of what may be inferred or deduced from theoretical postulates. On the third and fourth level of P-plane experience, significance deals with ethical behavior and existential meaning. Here the cognitive connection to P-plane experience does not entail the rigor of analysis that describes the scientific method. But, according to Margenau, this lack of rigor does not impose a lesser degree of significance.

Connecting understanding up with ethical behavior and existential meaning moves P-plane experience out of the blue quadrant—or the science of how our body works, and into the purple quadrant,–why we make our body do the things that it does. Here, in the psychological mind quadrant, we are constantly being stimulated, inspired, (and disgusted) by the hermeneutic circle of communication that comprises this quadrant. The independence, integrity, and freedom of the individual,–the groups, organizations, and institutions that the individual participates in, all are encountered in this quadrant. Language, politics, morality, and religion originate here. Justice gets done here. Worldviews are created here. “Approved life styles” are affirmed here. Hamlet gets read, discussed, and criticized here. When our yellow horizon expands, it moves us further into this quadrant, into that place where the scope of human discourse burgeons. In brief, to quote Lett, (speaking in a different context) this is the quadrant “where people will assign meanings to their activities and experiences and will invest considerable intellectual and emotional currency in the development, expression, and preservation of those meanings.” (James Lett, The Human Enterprise, p.97) But, even though our mind is, so to speak, set free in the purple quadrant (yellow self-horizon), our body remains in the blue quadrant. So, where do we go when our pink horizon (blue quadrant) expands?

If we’re lucky, and say, for instance, that we’re in the middle of a Michigan winter, we pack our bags and go to Florida. For those of us who can’t quite swing a Florida vacation, however, we continue to punch the cloak, put in our 40 hours per week, and all for the purpose of keeping food on the table, rents and mortgages paid, and a little spending money in our pockets. The blue quadrant is the brick and mortar world we live in. It is also where scientific predictions are confirmed, and, on a more solemn note, where justice and injustice are experienced. Take me, for instance, I’m sitting in front of my computer screen and when I look up, I immediately see sand and cement laden material used in the construction of, oh well, you name it. In order to get into my room, I had to shove against an atmosphere pressing against my body with a force of fourteen pounds per square inch, a body constituted by a physical-chemical system, e.g., bone, nervous system, and cortex-brain. This physical body lives approximately 70 years, dies, and breaks down into constituent parts—rots. While I’m alive I am presented with voluminous products for the purpose of consumption, and, if I were able to invent a product that everybody desires, I would be able to follow the sun to my heart’s content. But, enough said about the blue quadrant; it’s depressing to note that many intelligent people never get beyond the blue quadrant, i.e., see everything as a by-product of the blue quadrant.

The New Model Of The Observer/Observed Relationship Continued

The source of everything, including Northrop’s two-term relationship, lies embedded in the indeterminate aesthetic continuum.

As was pointed out above, considerable emotional currency goes into preserving the meanings that give us comfort. In an odd sort of way then, you might say the more invested we are in production and consumption (blue quadrant) the more we expand our red emotional horizon. However, a passionate desire for wealth and power has little in common with the empowering emotion that calls us to love, beauty and truth. The gorgeous sunset that sometimes swells our eyes to tears is not just a product of the spinning earth; it is also part of the spontaneous, pulsating, emotion that flows from the whole of the aesthetic continuum. The material of the poet, painter, and musician is not the product of Locke’s mental substance; rather, it is the empowering emotion that inspires life, imagination, and awe. The mental substance, which Locke presupposed as necessary in order to explain the existence of appearance, is no longer necessary because appearance is not just appearance, it is the real stuff of the universe. It is too bad the syntactically designated, indirectly and experimentally verified, theoretic component of knowledge treats the reality of the aesthetic component as a mere sign. The immediately grasped, emotionally moving ground out of which all things arise,–the aesthetic component of our experience–beckons us to seek the impossible, express the unspeakable, and imagine the inconceivable.

Emotions, therefore, are not, as Locke believed, and many of the religiously informed persons who followed him also believed, the product of bestial urges that must be subdued. It is also unfortunate that Plato, although recognizing emotions to be an inseparable part of the human psyche, identified them with evil. For Plato, reason was the great charioteer, forever reining in the unruly emotions. It is to the credit of Northrop’s two-term relationship of the aesthetic-theoretic experience that emotion gets valued on par with reason. Indeed, reason becomes sterile without emotion and emotion without reason becomes misery–more often than not. The poet William Blake said it best when he said: “It is good when you are in a passion, but not when a passion is in you.” All emotion is meaningful, but that meaning is unjustifiably limited by Locke’s use of the three-term relationship of appearance, material object, and observer. We do not exist a three-term relationship, we exist a two-term relationship with the second term being our theoretically postulated, hypothetically designated component of experience while the first term of experience is the immediately sensed determinate portion of the aesthetic continuum. The continuity of emotion/reason follows naturally from this two term relationship, as does the psychological freedom that, if actualized, leads to reverence for all that is true, good, and beautiful in life.

Without psychological freedom we would be condemned to blue-quadrant existence—a life hardly worth living. Not to worry, though, the allure of freedom has, throughout history, inspired “greatness in thought, word, and deed,” and, when practiced in environments of some spiritual disciplines, this freedom is said to produce incredible “experiences of emancipation,” e.g., Patanjellie’s eight steps of yoga, the Buddha’s eight fold path to enlightenment, and, the more recent schools of transpersonal psychologies which, I believe began with Maslow’s self-actualization psychology, but now these schools are researching such things as meditation, higher levels of consciousness, and even Para psychological phenomena. Encouraging awareness, understanding, and the appreciation for this kind of in depth freedom is what my up dated description of the observer/observed relationship is supposed to be about. Ultimately, though, to fully comprehend the meaning of this freedom we must rethink what it means to be alive and belong to this universe of ours, and, in the process, we must get beyond the worldview that has outlived its usefulness and now inhibits.

To recap, the #8 bridge binds and separates life and death while the #9 bridge binds and separates the implicative affirmative of the not-me-self and the physical event, (or the emotionally felt immediate experience that at any given time may be hypothetically conceived and experimentally verified via its predictable consequences). The bridge that is not depicted in the diagram above is the bridge in which the universe lies suspended. Logically, this bridge is structured along the lines of a double negative (the logic of neither this nor that). The universe then hangs suspended in a Logos that is the equivalent of God’s non-being, but, via the Logos, God’s non-being implies transcendence. This is, obviously, a lot of information to take in. Hopefully, however, by incorporating a V structure and logical design in the paragraph below, I will have summed up (and simplified) the Divinity that simultaneously exists inside of Nature and outside of Nature. In this sense, Divinity is somewhat like the one sided surface of a Mobius strip; Divinity existing both outside and inside the loop.

Let the V image represent God’s freedom. Let one side of the V represent the empirical world (aesthetic continuum) and the other freedom. Identify the vertex, the bottom of V, as ~~b (the purist form of unity and the ground of the Logos that structures all existence). Somewhere above the V vertex, on the freedom side of the V, let the letter b represent life and ~b represent the negative space of life (~b on the empirical side). Life moves freedom forward and in this case upward too. Further up the V, let ~bb (discontinuity occurring in continuity) represent the next stage of freedom—the participatory moment of a conscious self, and let b~b (continuity occurring in discontinuity) represent (on the empirical side of the V) the physical event of a conscious self. With the advent of self-consciousness, freedom again moves forward. The V grows larger (and wider) as the story of civilization unfolds.

Freedom here defines God as immanent (the phenomenal world) and transcendent (the God of all religions). All we can know about transcendent God is that God exists. The space of logical implication tells us that much. On the other hand, we can know a great deal about God’s immanence because, on a day-to-day basis, that’s what “we call reality.”

We struggle to become educated and, in the process, obtain reasonable beliefs that endure. However, when faced with blatant evidence to the contrary our beliefs may change (ought/need to change). In the absence of contradictions, though, we choose to believe emotionally fulfilling beliefs. If you’ve read this far, you probably have found something I’ve said interesting. Thanks for that. In conclusion (and without embellishment), here is a list of reasons why I find my worldview emotionally satisfying. Oh, and by the way, this is also my reasoning for why some values are not culturally relative:

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.

For many of us, saying “yes to God” is easy, but getting to know the meaning of the relationships behind that affirmation is the all-important, and difficult, next step. At the end of the first part of this essay (last week’s post) I let Martin Buber have the last words, and likewise, he gets the last words here. Martin Buber understood that affirming the existence of God is no more difficult than affirming the ground out of which duality arises. In his book, I And Thou, he alludes to the spiritual significance of this affirmation when he says:

“Dimly we apprehend this double movement –that turning away from the primal ground by virtue of which the universe preserves itself in its becoming, and that turning toward the primal ground by virtue of which the universe redeems itself in being –as the metacosmic primal form of duality that inheres in the world as a whole in its relation to that which is not world, and whose human form is the duality of attitudes, of basic words, and of the two aspects of the world. Both movements are unfolded fatefully in time and enclosed, as by grace, in the timeless creation that, incomprehensibly, is at once release and preservation, at once bond and liberation. Our knowledge of duality is reduced to silence by the paradox of the primal mystery” (1970, p. 149).

“That you need God more than anything, you know at all times in your heart. But don’t you know also that God needs you–in the fullness of his eternity, you? How would man exist if God did not need him, and how would you exist? You need God in order to be, and God needs you for that which is the meaning of your life.” (1970, p. 130)

Newsflash Extra Extra Proof Of Gods Existence

October 9, 2009

Here’s something different. Think of this post as being consistent with my thesis/story, but not part of it. My thesis, unbeknownst to my Professors at the time, succeeded on two levels. First, it satisfied a degree requirement, and second, it enhanced my argument for the existence of God, an argument that predated my studies in Sociology. In so far as the Not-Me-Self is a value assessment mechanism that critiques the inner deliberations [or] silent arguments conducted within a single self, it does so by using a voice based in self/other interdependence. In my argument below, this voice not only establishes God’s existence, it also establishes the right of the “Other’s otherness,” as it binds a person’s “self” to “others,” to society, and to the Universe at large. For me, the possibility of “right thinking” and “good behavior” necessarily follows from God/Divinity. On a more personal level, however, what also follows from Divinity (but not necessarily) are my inner deliberations that identify “right and wrong.”

[Mead’s I-self, in the God argument below, is symbolically indicated by ~bb, while Mead’s Me-self is indicated by b~b. Being What Is Not While Not Being What Is, when understood in this light, describes “the participatory moment of a conscious self in the physical event of a self-conscious being.” With this interpretation of Mead’s I-Me couplet, and by using survey research to link certain kinds of private self-conscious activity to a tolerance of ambiguity and, thus, a low level of prejudice, I was able to accumulate empirical data (scientific evidence) that not only gives the concept of the Implicative Affirmative of the Not-Me-Self credibility, it also adds indirect evidence that supports my claim that God exists.]

Lift A Stone And God Is There; Ask A Question And God Is There — My Argument For Why God Exists

In The Beginning was the paradox: How does unity coexist with multiplicity? How does oneness make room for otherness? How does the all-perfect source of everything become something less than itself? God, being up for this challenge, solved this dilemma, and She (gender is optional here, in fact, it’s probably best to think of God in terms of process, in terms of “processing divinity”) did it by liberating Her own non-being. This event had to be performed in such a way as to both be and not be God in the same phenomenon. Her solution is doable, even logically doable, in the form of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is. In this double negation, God becomes free in the phenomenon of not, not being God, (~~b) while affirming (by implication) the God that is free to not be God. In other words, the liberation of God’s non-being becomes God’s immanence while, at the same time, there exists an implied transcendent God. God’s immanence is particularly important to humans because it is what we call “reality.”

[Footnote: The idea that God is free to not be God is unusual but not unique. In the journal, Deconstruction and Theology (1982, p. 89-90), Robert P. Scharlemann, in the article The Being of God When God is Not Being God, adds some documentation to this idea when he says: “The thesis I should like to propound here is that, in the theological tradition of this picture (the concept of finite being as ens creatum) is that the world is itself a moment in the being of God; what cannot be thought is that the world is the being of God when God is not being deity, or the being of God in the time of not being.”

It follows from this view that an infinite amount of diversity is both permitted and discovered in God’s freedom to not be, a diversity that, ultimately, is at one with God. What makes this possible (and logically consistent) is the peculiar state of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is, for, in addition to characterizing God’s freedom, this divine state of being also characterizes the liberation process that evolves God’s freedom (God becomes more free as freedom evolves) and this freedom, ultimately, characterizes physical events, biological events, and psychological events, (or the divine self-consciousness of “now”).]

Pure change, or that which is both release and preservation, bond and liberation, is what’s happening within the polarity of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is,–the defining poles of God’s immanence. Unqualified change is simply change, but this change, over time, evolves into more complex forms of change, eventually creating the conditions that support life. But even here change is ongoing, life in its environment continues to change and evolve, bringing forth more evolved, complex forms of life. And, as life acquires more consciousness, freedom expands.

Evolution, in addition to evolving content, evolves “form.” A change in form is not necessarily a change in meaning however, e.g., two means 2, 1+1 means 2, 4-2 means 2. In the same way that the meaning of the number 2 is conserved in the subtraction of 120 from 122, so to is the meaning of being-what-is-not-while-not-being-what-is, conserved in the decay/death cycle of life. This birth/death cycle is God’s way of conserving non-being in feeling-sensing life forms that evolve from simple to more complex life forms.

Some evolved life forms become sentient, sentient to the point of answering to a more highly evolved “form.” One might be tempted to imagine that I am suggesting the existence of an alien creature here, one that walks among us yet is not one of us. True, aliens do exist, but we walk among them because we are them. Life forms that answer to a “more evolved form” are the symbol producing, problem solving, psychologically complex life forms that go by the name Homo sapiens. Being born into this select population, being alive in the species that “answers to this more evolved form,” brings with it not just self-awareness in a physical environment (the participatory moment of a conscious self in the physical event of a self-conscious being), but also the immense potential to expand one’s freedom and horizons. What I am trying to communicate here is unfamiliar, so what follows is my attempt to simplify the language with a picture, a picture of the “forms” that, ultimately, culminates in the species that “answers to a higher “form” of God’s freedom:

Let the V image represent God’s freedom. Let the left side of the V represent the empirical world (the world of our senses) and the right side of the V represent the liberating aspect of freedom. Identify the vertex, the bottom of V, as ~~b (the purist form of unity). Somewhere above the V vertex, on the freedom side of the V, let the letter b represent life and ~b represent the negative space of life (~b on the empirical side). Life moves freedom forward and in this case upward too. Further up the V, let ~bb (discontinuity occurring in continuity) represent the next transformation state of freedom—the participatory moment of a conscious self, and let b~b (continuity occurring in discontinuity) represent, on the empirical side of the V, the physical event of self-consciousness. With the advent of self-consciousness, freedom again moves forward. The V grows larger (and wider) as the story of the history of human civilization unfolds.

What the above transformational states of God’s freedom are defining is God in the phenomenal world as immanence while simultaneously implying a transcendent Divinity (the God of all religions). All we can know about transcendent God is that God exists. The space of logical implication tells us that much. On the other hand, we can know a great deal about God’s immanence because, as the ancient Greeks have told us, in Mythos and Logos is where the world lies. We, as self-conscious beings, embedded in sensual experience, participate in inquiry, analysis, conscience, and imagination. Now, let’s take a closer look at what the form of ~bb, (of b~b~bb) entails, i.e., the freedom to think thoughts.

Discontinuity occurring in continuity (~bb) is like a chisel splitting wood, the wood (conscious wood in this example) experiences a gap, hole, or emptiness in itself. Likewise, in human consciousness, the gap, hole, or emptiness experienced is the result of discontinuity occurring in the continuity of consciousness. This experience (some call it psychological time), when deconstructed, has produced a litany of accomplishments. Descartes turned this experience into doubt and then proceeded to doubt everything, thus concluding that doubting implied a doubter, thus Descartes established the validity of his own existence. The psychologist and structuralist, Piaget, identified this experience as the center of functional activity, or the locus of the “constructionist self.” The philosopher, Sartre, labeled this experience the pre-reflective Cogito, thus recognizing that human consciousness is based in this experience. Of the three examples cited, only Sartre put the horse in front of the cart as opposed to (as they say) putting the cart before the horse. Non-being is the antecedent of understanding. Non-being is the antecedent of any stand alone “mental given.”

“Mental givens” are experienced front and center in consciousness (the unreflective consciousness) while not being the object of consciousness permits conscious reflection on the content (the “mental given”) of consciousness. Functionally, ~bb, or the cognitive experience of discontinuity occurring in continuity, not only identifies the source of conceptual representation (symbolic meaning), it also explains why our thoughts should be able to represent the world outside our mind (especially when it comes to the application of mathematics to theories of physical phenomena). It should come as no surprise that since both the world and our ideas are coupled to the logical form of God, that, on many occasions, a necessary correspondence arises between logical form (deductive reasoning) and the physical events predicted by that form. In other words, the laws of nature correspond to the laws of mathematics reflected in our minds because both are based on a more fundamental law–the logical form of God becoming freer in the phenomenal world. Applying this supposition to the variances that crop up in comparisons of the physics of the macro world to the physics of the micro world produces some revealing insights. (Disclaimer here, I read books “about physics,” I am not physicist. The supposition I am defending, however, is that both the universe and our ideas are coupled to the logical form of God, thus the physics of the universe, on one level at least, must be describing the same phenomenon).

Determinism, locality and continuity allow for the reductionist methods of science to work only until science penetrates deep into that area where the integrity of the physical universe breaks down, where the deterministic motions of mass points no longer exist. At the depths of the material world there exists a fuzzy world that exhibits statistical behavior, behavior that only becomes determinate when we observe it. At this ground level, we find a physical reality with no uniquely determinable location, a physical reality that exists in several states at the same time, a physical reality structured by a mathematical equation. In God’s non-being, or, in this context I guess I should say, in the theory of freedom’s structural form, two “forms” stand out as a way to better understand the contradictory concepts which remain at odds with one another in the theory of relativity and quantum physics.

The same attributes (discontinuity, indeterminism and non-locality) that characterize self-consciousness, characterize also the “double negation” that serves as the ground of freedom. Both of these “forms” generate implication. At the “ground of freedom” implication remains open (until observed), while in self-consciousness, implication opens up the human world-historical-process. In other words, the negation that lies at the center of self-consciousness, the negation that permits our capacity to solve mathematical equations, lies also at the “ground that serves as the ground of freedom.” Because observation takes place in the space of continuity, determinism and locality (self-consciousness’s negative space) there is an unavoidable clash of worlds—the world of continuity, determinism and locality (relativity) clashes with the world of discontinuity, indeterminism, and non-locality (quantum physics). Bottom line here is that the theory of relativity accurately describes natural phenomena. Einstein’s equations, when applied to the world of physical events, provide accurate information concerning our status as participating agents in the physical universe. Likewise, quantum mechanics accurately describes natural phenomena. Only the phenomena being described are “fuzzy” because, as it is throughout freedom’s dialectic, the space that separates also embeds and connects. On the quantum level, self-consciousness confronts its own ground state in the form of the phenomenal strangeness of quantum physics.

Ultimately, from the most holistic perspective, the connection that connects logical form, world, and freedom tells us: Were it not for the negative space of determinism, continuity, and locality, the discontinuity, non-locality, and indeterminism of human consciousness (opposites are necessary to conserve wholeness) would not be free in a world of our own experience (by degrees, experience of our own choosing), seeking truth, justice, and religious meaning!

To sum up my spiritual worldview as it relates to modern science (the three physicists I paraphrase and quote here are described in Ken Wilber’s book: Quantum Questions, Mystical Writings of the World’s Greatest Physicists): My worldview is very close to what Wolfgang Pauli believed. A Nobel Prize winner in Physics, Pauli, earned a reputation for being a ruthless critic of ideas during the time when physics was birthing the principles governing sub atomic particles. His contributions were numerous, including the famous “exclusion principle” and the prediction of the existence of the neutrino. At the center of Pauli’s philosophical outlook was his “wish for a unitary understanding of the world, a unity incorporating the tension of opposites,” and he hailed the interpretation of quantum theory as a major development toward this end. (p. 173)

My worldview is also very sympathetic to the profound reverence Einstein held for rationality. Einstein believed that scientific knowledge ennobles true religion—not the religion that inspires fear in God, but rather a religion “capable of cultivating the Good, the True, and the Beautiful in humanity itself.” For Einstein, “the grandeur of reason incarnate in existence” was the highest religious attitude. (p.113)

But, even more than with Pauli and Einstein, my worldview resonates with what Arthur Eddington believed. He was possibly the first person to fully comprehend Einstein’s relativity theory. He also headed up the famous expedition that photographed the solar eclipse which offered proof of relativity theory. Eddington believed that if you want to fill a vessel you must first make it hollow. He also said, “our present conception of the physical world is hollow enough to hold almost anything,” hollow enough to hold “that which asks the question,” hollow enough to hold “the scheme of symbols connected by mathematical equations that describes the basis of all phenomena.” He also said, however, “If ever the physicist solves the problem of the living body, he should no longer be tempted to point to his result and say ‘That’s you.’ He should say rather ‘That is the aggregation of symbols which stands for you in my description and explanation of those of your properties which I can observe and measure. If you claim a deeper insight into your own nature by which you can interpret these symbols—a more intimate knowledge of the reality which I can only deal with by symbolism—you can rest assured that I have no rival interpretation to propose. The skeleton is the contribution of physics to the solution of the Problem of Experience; from the clothing of the skeleton it (physics) stands aloof.” (p. 194)

In my God argument above, without the Not-Me-Self, science, books, ethics, all that gets called civilization would not exist. The Not-Me-Self has an even greater significance, though, for in it resides the potential to liberate Divinity. The Implicative Affirmative of the Not-Me-Self is, in fact, the Logos image of God made whole in woman/man/humanity.

I want to conclude this post with a brief account of the social implications that follow from the Not-Me-Self (the “~bb” of b~b~bb). In addition to liberating human cognition, the Not-Me-Self also liberates good and bad feelings. The “or else,” that typically follows a command, is written in the blood of the rise and fall of civilizations. The civilizing process, to be sure, is not just a product of war mongering, influence peddling, and greed. Benevolence, generosity and good will move the civilizing process forward. I believe that, under the best of conditions, humans will choose kindness and consideration over uncaring and selfish behavior. In fact, for me, altruism, compassion, the “golden rule” (in all its forms) defines the Omega point of Divine liberation. This is not just wishful thinking; it is the only voice that calls forth from the Not-Me-Self. Because this voice is based in self/other interdependence, whose only claim to authority is a claim to contingency, this voice grounds individual freedoms and the emancipatory right of Others. This contingency, at the center of the Not-Me-Self, establishes the right of the Other to his/her otherness while it also establishes the basis of legitimacy from which to construct, express, and defend my own rights. Because this voice is universal, it also provides an ideal basis from which to critique the legitimatization of social and political power structures, as it also provides the ideal basis from which to evaluate justice, equality, and individual and collective freedoms.

Following from the right to my own contingency, and following from the right of the Other to her/his contingency, arises the politics of emancipation. This politics entails 1) the freeing of social life from the fixities of tradition and custom, 2) the reduction (or elimination) of exploitation, inequality and oppression (which includes the right to a living wage, universal health care, and protection from wrongful harms), and 3) the liberation of Divinity—the perpetuation of a more egalitarian social order, a social order that is based on insuring the availability of a standard of living (quality of life) sufficient for the actualization of individual freedoms. In other words, in the language of “how one ought to behave,” one should behave in a way that is consistent with Divinity’s liberation, consistent with self/other interdependence, consistent with life enhancement—righting the wrongs that perpetuate unnecessary suffering and pain.