Philosophy for Renewing Reason – 56

Philosophy for Renewing Reason – 55
02/04/2024

In the last few blogs I have pointed out the astonishingly simplifying effect of anti-maths when applied to scientific modelling. Suddenly a thousand unsatisfactory, hopeless questions disappear.

Jumping up and down is in order… This is not just great news —it is the kind of great news we have been wholly starved-of since the 1900s. We now have an outline picture of why there is a universe at all: something which virtually all serious theorists in living memory were absolutely sure was beyond our grasp.

We now have a 100% abstract, rational logos which can replace the fundamental methods (status quo) of advanced science: taking it away from the unnaturally perfect medium of mathematic modelling, and switching it over to a much more believable, ragged, realistic anti-math modelling.The building blocks are jumping random sequences of” “shadows” objects with the mimimal material presence.

When Descartes and Newton put mathematical modelling on the map in the 17th century it was, of course, a wonderful advance on what had gone before, an eye-opener. It triggered the “enlightenment” and the industrial revolution.  But it also came with heavy baggage, namely that its modelling objects were frozen in a kind of “timeless being”, quite different from the feeling we get when we encounter reality. How to explain the ground-rules (axioms)?  How to explain action at a distance? How to explain the existence of space and time?  How to know whether space is continuous or grainy?  How to leave room for human freewill, feelings and creativity?

The “objectivity” in the picture Descartes and Newton drew had a huge credibility, because they showed how to accurately  predict the orbits of the planets, eclipses, tides and the performance of actual and proposed machines of an endless variety of different kinds. All of which tended to blind commentators to the basic fact that Descartes and Newton had created this picture. They conceptualised it, thought-it-through and brought it into the public realm.  Mathematics is a humanly constructed artefact. The timelessness it flaunts isn’t “out there”. It is imposed, in effect, by the mathematicians who are prepared to consider and explore new constructions ad lib. If there were no mathematicians, no one would have ever heard of “timelessness”.

Pure mathematics was, in the ancient Greek world, the bluest of blue chip, elegant, admired, knowledge.  The philosophers were dazzled by it. Virtually all serious thinkers for 2000+ years swallowed Plato’s gnomic mantra that <<Only the timeless is real>>. They were genuflecting to the elegance, precision and apparently unquestionable superiority of mathematics.

 This was, of course, nonsense. But many centuries passed before Moore and Wittgenstein turned up and showed us how to buck the Platonic mindset, and to insist that much of what we experience as being “real” is transient.  Of course it is. Our consciousness is transient. Our pleasures and ordeals are transient. Our lives are transient. Granite looks awe-inspiringly permanent, and so do the orbits of the planets. But today we know that granite was laid down millions of years ago and formed by the action of intense geological pressures, and that the orbits of the planets are changing slightly all the time.

Mathematics was the first easy, obvious way to think abstractly, by replacing complex things —like a mud brick, a fish or a day— by a nominal unit —a tally— which would eventually graduate into the numeral 1. The Romans replaced 1+1+1+1+1 by V and 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1 by C.

It was so easy to use —in so many ways— that virtually no one recognised that its greatest function (purpose) was to illuminate hypotheses and projects —aspirations which had been incubated by reflective people and which could shape the future in massive ways. Doing the maths told you what the main (predictable) implications of a project would be.  We had to wait till Charles Peirce recognised this obvious truth in the late 19th century.  Even then its obviousness escaped the attention of most commentators.  The mindsets of the leading mathematicians — Hilbert, Poincare and Russell, etc.— were too ossified to see the light.

Today we find ourselves standing on a perilous high rocky knife-edge: either we ”raise” our mindset and turn sensibly to using a modelling system which ticks all the boxes for logic, realism and believability (anti-maths modelling)… or we lose confidence and faith in Advanced Civilisation, fall off the precipice… and end up with the endless chaos, pain and misery which that will bring. This new, optimised rationality must take over from the easy, hoary, millennia-old, intuitively accepted, mathematic rationality of the past.  It has been disconcertingly wearing the new clothes of digital IT for sixty years… but these “new clothes” only amount to an automation of the same old hoary mantras. Don’t be fooled by these new clothes: those who are wearing them are overdoing the regimentation… on a scale which takes the joy out of living. They are turning a blind eye to the contradictions inherent in such a rigidly structured world. Its CEOs are being driven —not by any kind of vision of a more humane, fair, personable, intelligent, balanced world to come, but by the promise of their chance of hoovering up quick money, which can grow from a thousand dollars to billions in a few weeks.  They are disgracefully disarming criticism of their operations by energising misinformation and letting it grow on such a massive scale that it will infantilise the human race.

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CHRISTOPHER ORMELL 1st May 2024