Philosophy for Renewing Reason – 8

Philosophy for Renewing Reason – 7
Philosophy for Renewing Reason – 9

There are signs that the worst of the pandemic may be over, but the economic damage it has already done is huge.  Putting the economy back together again will require a more positive, more rational, imaginative mindstyle… than anything we have seen in recent times. Much wider, more creative, more emancipated, reasoning will be needed. Can we find the wherewithal to create such a surge of constructive reason?  The theme of this Blog is Yes… because, unexpectedly, a profoundly new era dawns, and the outlines of a radically new epistemology are emerging.

The Lockdown has, we know, had a few —a very few— positive unexpected effects. One is that the extra time it has provided has led to a solution to the main problem previously facing the embryonic new 100% abstract, 100% rational, 100% lucid symbolic language, Actimatics. A way has been found during Lockdown to build actimatic objects with 100% internal reliability. This was urgently needed, and it has been found. Actimatics provides a revolutionary new ideal for reasoning. Potentially it can become the recognised main ideal, the one which most satisfyingly embodies our yen for clarity and understanding.

QUESTION: But does Actimatics actually exist? Yes, it certainly exists as an exciting idea, but it is new, and it doesn’t yet exist as a widely accepted concept. Most people out there who are intelligent enough and curious enough  —about physics, the universe, logic and mathematics— to appreciate it… haven’t, at this moment, heard about it. They will, no doubt, hear about it soon, because this idea is dynamite.

A BOOK: A book is currently in preparation A First Handbook of Actimatics. This will provide much more detail about technical issues and the key reasoning underlying this new rigorous, post-mathematical discipline.

IMPLICATIONS:  The advent of Actimatics completely changes the equation involved in the perennial science v. religion debate.  Before the arrival of Actimatics, this was an issue about which was the best worldview to adopt:

one based on cold, objective, not-particularly-appealing, facts versus a worldview based on emotion and sensitivity to human values, but somewhat spoilt by a quasi-feudal acceptance of authority and embarrassing archaisms. The scientific worldview was winning easily (among those who rated evidence and logic) —on intellectual brownie points and rigour. But for just this reason it remained cold, austere, and worryingly lacking in warmth. In effect, science was trying to get itself to the point where it had a coherent description of the universe as it would be if human beings didn’t exist. (The scientific establishment has abandoned —actually it never endorsed—John Wheeler’s Anthropic Principle, that physics must take into consideration the existence of human beings.) For “lack of warmth” read “lack of intense caring”, a new pathological condition which has spread alarmingly in recent years and debilitated previously confident, decisive, essential human institutions. (E.g. education, where the official norm is now “valuefree” or, roughly translated, “couldn’t care less”.)

Indeed, it is gradually becoming clear, belatedly, that intense caring is an essential precondition for the survival and flourishing of any kind of stable civilised society. Religion used to bring such caring along in spades, but unfortunately accompanied by its archaisms and tone-deafness to the priority of truth and the intellectual satisfaction of scientific understanding.

So what went wrong with religion?
With the advantages of hindsight it has become clear that religion suffered a catastrophic collapse in the eyes of youth after WW2. At that time four events of immense (“biblical-like”) significance occurred, out of the blue. (There was not the slightest intimation that they would happen anywhere in the Bible.) They were the discovery of atomic energy, the arrival of the digital computer, the arrival of space exploration and the discovery of DNA. Each of these was a scientific breakthrough of maximum, unheralded, unbelievable force. They were things which had been considered —by wise, impartial judges— to be quite impossible only a few years earlier. They may be called “The four Whammies”.

The four Whammies made, we know, a particularly deep impression on youth, but gradually over the last fifty years their influence has spread to all age groups. They have also had an unforeseen effect. As it has become increasingly dominant, the Scientific worldview has, insensibly, become colder, and too cold for comfort… and too insensitive to human values. Even more worryingly, it appears subliminally to lean towards a retro-totalitarian view of what social arrangements might be. The scientific establishment has succumbed to ‘scientism’, a word which signals an element of unhealthy mesmerism.

So what are the counter-acting trends? Well, the various opposing Belief worldviews have mostly moved further and further away from empiricism, rationality and logic:. In their place consensualism, dogmatism and “fundamentalism” tend now to rule OK. So the classic existential choice: Scientific worldview versus Belief worldview has taken on a peculiarly agonising aspect. Both sides are now palpably unacceptable —to anyone with a sense of cognitive responsibility and an open mind— though for completely different reasons.

Enter, stage left, Actimatics. It brings a revolutionary new way of interpreting science, one which, in the broadest possible sense, implies a deeply human-friendly universe. This kind of view of the cosmos, it now becomes clear, is the essential pre-requisite for a way of life built around, and reliant on, intense caring.  So the stand-off between Science-based and Belief-based worldviews, ceases automatically to signal a divide between intense carers and couldn’t-care-lessers. An Actimatic model of the universe on the science side brings a sophisticated, grounded, rigorous view of the world —but one which can, at last, underpin the serious additional responsibility (intense caring) we need today.

Belief, seen from this perspective,  begins to look less like a Father Fantasy, a Comfort Blanket or the Opium of the People… more like a blurred, intuitive, early insight that… physical reality is not as “objective” as it superficially appears to be.

If we consider the world at the time of Classical Greece, there were probably as many reflective people around per 100,000 of the population as there are today. When they looked up at the night sky, they probably asked themselves “Where does all this celestial structure, plus the familiar earthly structure we take for granted —the stars, the Moon, the heat of the Sun, eclipses, rivers, life cycles, springs, seasons, rain, tides— come from?”.

It could only be an immense mystery. There was only one remotely credible answer: <<It must be the handiwork of an infinite supermind>>. This was the God Hypothesis, and it was a reasonable, credible, hypothesis… given the primitive state of knowledge.  They knew that remarkable structures like the pyramids of Giza, the Mausoleum, the Acropolis, the Temple of Diana… had been created by dominant human beings with imagination and willpower, executed using large slave, paid or religious-zombie workforces. So this was a vivid lesson in how impressive structure could come about. But the whole universe was millions of times more remarkable and larger than these man-made edifices.  So only an infinite supermind (God) could… surely, pull the trick?

This was not, and was not seen at the time as, a naive theory. On the contrary, it looked unanswerable. It had no serious competitors.  It became the consensus view of the most penetrating and reflective thinkers for more than twenty centuries. This awesome consensus remained, incidentally, until 1859 when Charles Darwin managed to explain part of the picture  —a teeming immensity of remarkably sophisticated living things. This was a major culture shock. It is easy to forget that the chief architects of the 17th century revolution in science —Descartes, Newton, Leibniz— were all Believers. Their version of the required infinite supermind was an infinitely ingenious clockwork-designer. And their considered view of things was still the unquestioned, unchallenged wisdom in 1859. After Darwin’s Origin of the Species, though, supposedly “objective”  evolutionary explanations began to gain in credibility, and during the 20th century, they were extended to encompass cosmology.

So what is different today?

Well, we have a much more sober, realistic, down-to-earth view of ‘mind’. We can see that it is the performance of a human brain, a living structure of immense,  baffling, as-yet-not-understood, neurological complexity. It isn’t something, though, which you can seriously posit happening “outside space and time”. It needs a backstory of immensely intricate synaptic structure. This structure needs to come into being organically, holistically over time. It obviously operates in time, indeed transience is of the essence… So a credible infinite supermind would imply an infinite superbrain operating in time, somewhere in distant space. Such a notion has no (i.e. zero) credibility. There is nothing out there remotely like this.

Only other human beings with brains, out of all the things humans have ever met, stumbled-on, studied or interacted-with, in more than a million years, have the capacity to impose sophisticated structure onto chaos.  If so, we must be doing it all the time… in some highly unobvious, hidden, subliminal way. (Bees, beavers and other animals also impose some simple forms of order onto their environment.)

>Everything points, therefore, towards the new actimatic interpretation of science. It can change our lifestyle and discourse for the better, because it removes, at a stroke, a huge sense of overhanging chill and hazard.  It makes possible a gradual return to the levels of social solidarity and responsibility of yesteryear.