Why has intellectual confidence fallen onto the floor?
Why is the outlook for humankind so unremittingly bleak?
Whatever has gone so hopelessly wrong?
Why are the numbers of people who seem to care so low?
These questions hang heavily over the lives of many thoughtful people, but it seems that there is little stomach for doing anything about the austere bleakness of the resulting outlook.
In France they have a term, ‘problematique’, for inter-connected problems which bafflingly extend over a wide area of obscure situations. Our general condition today obviously exemplifies a state of ‘total problematique’.
This is not the ‘norm’ for the outlook of the human race. The golden age of Greece was a period which, astonishingingly, produced a wealth of vivid, wise philosophic insights. There were also, of course, the sophists, but they can be regarded as a spin-off, and a kind of bowdlerisation of the lucid, penetrative thinking which was abroard at the time.
That we are in a state of acute, atypical, philosophic decline today is unquestionable. In France, previous Presidents of the Republic such as M. Mitterrand turned instinctively to the country’s group of leading philosophers when profoundly puzzling dilemmas of policy arose. But there are few charismatic philosophers around now, so the practice seems to have been discontinued.
There were no philosophers on the Times (2021-2022) Commission on Education. But where are the big beasts of philosophy who might have been on it? There are no obvious candidates for the role.
It seems that philosophy has been slowly dessicated into near-extinction by two alternative, relentless, formidable, modes of “understanding” associated with science and IT. Actually the writing here has been on the wall for a long time. Ludwig Wittgenstein and Frank Ramsey agreed in the late 1920s that ‘philosophy’ could not be expected to explain the universe… that, they thought, was the job of the scientists. (IT had not yet appeared.) All that could be expected from philosophy —they thought— was linguistic clarification… getting clear about the meaning of key words.
This is all very well, but it ignores the fact that science has been committed to a piecemeal, bit-by-bit illumination of physical reality since the renaissance, and, also incidentally, to working with mathematical modelling, which also operates on a de facto piecemeal basis. So science as we know it, is never going to deliver a luminous holistic way of understanding the universe. Mathematics can only explain the meaning of things relative to “given” assumptions (axioms), so mathematical modelling, too, can’t deliver a global kind of understanding.
We know the answer, thanks to earlier issues of this blog (and the author’s twelve recent essays in the New English Review): it is the arrival of anti-mathematics. Anti-mathematics is the totally unheralded, unexpected, amazing new 100% abstract logos. The only assumption it rests on is that pure randomness exists. Anti-mathematics builds meaning using only strings of random tally-jumps. These are the ‘bricks’ from which elaborate structures (models of physical reality) can, in principle, be built. [They are essentially transient models, for ever throwing up unexpected variations.] It is we who create this meaning —just as we tacitly create meaning in mathematics— by imposing human willpower onto the random substratum. (It was previously blithely assumed that this was impossible, but it isn’t. All kinds of long, transient structures have now been conceptualised based on randomness.) By doing this we can get active systems of various particles with long half-lives which are uncannily like what is needed to understand the particles of fundamental physics. Looking ahead, the cybernetic experience of the last sixty years (1960-2020) suggests that complex structures of this kind can almost certainly lead eventually to brainpower. (An anti-maths kind of computer.) So what we get is an amazing new vision, of the universe —as the system of necessary by-products which attach to the task of bringing humanlike creativity and willpower into existence.
This is an immense simplification compared with current vagueness —a grand synthesis of the kind which scientists used to dream about, but about which they have latterly, totally given up hope.
So the message is clear: the giant intellectual crises which blew up around 1900 have at last been solved.
(The relativity crisis in physics is solved by anti-mathematic modelling, because space itself —and its three dimensionality— can now be explained: its essential relativity is built-in. The crisis in maths was solved in 1993 with the publication of the author’s monograph Some Varieties of Superparadox, which can be read on the internet. It introduces the concept of ‘dynamic contradiction’ in contrast with the long-standing, static, traditional variety. The discovery of a large field of wholly unexpected super-paradoxes arising from dynamic contradiction plainly indicates that this is it.)
So we need to draw breath and begin the long road back towards measured optimism, progress in understanding things, and the many long-lost levels of human solidarity which can flow from this.
CHRISTOPHER ORMELL 1st September 2023