Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘philosophers

Part one: Twilight of “Love of Knowledge”

            There is this notion that philosophers are after the “Truth” based on the assumption that they have this urge to go to the tiniest details and exhaustive possibilities of a concept.  I beg to differ. Once a philosopher starts building structures for his line of thinking then it is the system that tows and guides the “Truth”. It takes an insurmountable character of honesty to shake off the inertia erected by a system for a philosopher to restart his independent reflection in search of truth.

            Philosophy from Antiquity to the last century was what is currently called “Ideology of the power to be” of the politico-economic system (the dominant classes of the period). Philosophy was the super-structure or the apologetic social structure of a culture that has been flourishing for decades: philosophy tried to make sense of the mood of the time.

            What is striking is that most philosophical systems refrained to include the economical structure aspect into the equation; at best, the economic structure was indirectly referred to.  For example, slavery was accepted as a qualitative level in human nature: since animals are difficult to communicate with then it is better to leave it as is.  It was if economy was a taboo notion because the class structure could not be altered.

            Every politico-economic dominant class needs a valid interpretation of the statue-quo coupled with a rational for the intelligentsia to take stock of the inevitable status that settled in and come along.  Thus, philosophers’ interpretations always were phased out by several decades of the “has been reality”.

            In periods of alliances between the religious institutions and the monarchy it was required for God to taking center stage: people had to get used to letting God run their destinies. Usually, the philosophical lines of thinking revolved in that guideline; these philosophical trends lasted long because the power was concentrated in the hand of the almighty alliance.  Superstition was king and empirical works led the bold experimenters to the fire to be burned alive as witches.  Knowledge was built around abstract concepts or the realm of religious dogmas. Religious institutions dictated how the universe functioned and detailed the proper mental activities.

            In periods of the rising middle classes (of traders, merchants, and lately the industrial class of entrepreneurs) philosophical systems set man in center stage of the universe. It was important that man regains his place instead of God: The church-monarchy alliance was not to regain political-economic supremacy and control.  Consequently, man was to discover and investigate his “backyard” (earth and universe).  Scientific knowledge, empirical experiments, discovery, and world adventures were the result of opening up new market for exploiting many more people for added values of merchandises.

            Hegel realized the historical interpretation process of philosophical structures as a fundamental aspect of civilization changes; Hegel failed to find the intimate connection with the politico-economic source. The historical dialectic method could make sense of the super structure of “knowledge” development in an a posteriori phase; thus historical dialectics could not forecast the synthesis for the current period since the source of the dialectics (politico-economics) was not within his range of expertise.

            It was Marx who realized the power of historical dialectics when applied to politico-economic realities. It made sense from Marx position to declare that history started when class struggle was identified as the catalyst for change and knowledge development.  It means that if a “hot” culture wants to understand or create a history for its society then it must invest in gathering artifacts and ancient manuscripts that shed light on the class structures through the phases of its history.

Democratic systems are trying hard to diminish civil administration interference with religions in its habit of demanding religious inputs and backing to political activities and programs.  This phenomena is called “separation of religion and civil rules”

Ironing out a few chaotic glitches; (Dec. 5, 2009)

              Philosophers have been babbling for many thousand years whether the universe is chaotic or very structured so that rational and logical thinking can untangle its laws and comprehend nature’s behaviors and phenomena.

              Plato wrote that the world is comprehensible.  The world looked like a structured work of art built on mathematical logical precision. Why? Plato was found of symmetry, geometry, numbers, and he was impressed by the ordered tonality of musical cord instruments.  Leibnitz in the 18th century explained “In what manner God created the universe it must be in the most regular and ordered structure.  Leibnitz claimed that God selected the simplest in hypotheses that generated the richest varieties of phenomena.”  A strong impetus that the universe is comprehensible started with the “positivist philosophers and scientists” of the 20th century who were convinced that the laws of natures can be discovered by rational mind.

            Einstein followed suit and wrote “God does not play dice.  To rationally comprehend a phenomenon we must reduce, by a logical process, the propositions (or axioms) to apparently known evidence that reason cannot touch.” The pronouncement of Einstein “The eternally incomprehensible universe is its comprehensibility” can be interpreted in many ways. The first interpretation is “what is most incomprehensible in the universe is that it can be comprehensible but we must refrain from revoking its sacral complexity and uncertainty”.  The second interpretation is “If we are still thinking that the universe is not comprehensible then may be it is so, as much as we want to think that we may understand it; thus, the universe will remain incomprehensible (and we should not prematurely declare the “end of science”).

            The mathematician Herman Weyl developed the notion: “The assertion that nature is regulated by strict laws is void unless we affirm that it is related by simple mathematical laws.  The more we delve in the reduction process to the bare fundamental propositions the more facts are explained with exactitude.”  It is this philosophy of an ordered and symmetrical world that drove Mendeleyev to classifying the chemical elements; Murry Gell-Mann used “group theory” to predicting the existence of quarks.

            A few scientists went even further; they claimed that the universe evolved in such a way to permit the emergence of the rational thinking man.  Scientists enunciated many principles such as “the principle of least time” that Fermat used to deduce the laws of refraction and reflection of light; Richard Feynman discoursed on the “principle of least actions”; we have the “principle of least energy consumed”, the “principle of computational equivalence”, the “principle of entropy” or the level of uncertainty in a chaotic environment.

            Stephen Hawking popularized the idea of the “Theory of Everything TOE” a theory based on a few simple and non redundant rules that govern the universe.  Stephen Wolfran thinks that the TOE can be found by a thorough systematic computer search: The universe complexity is finite and the most seemingly complex phenomena (for example cognitive functions) emerge from simple rules.

            Before we offer the opposite view that universe is intrinsically chaotic let us define what is a theory.  Gregory Chaitin explained that “a theory is a computer program designed to account for observed facts by computation”.  (Warning to all mathematicians!  If you want your theory to be published by peer reviewers then you might have to attach an “elegant” or the shortest computer program in bits that describes your theory)

            Kurt Gödel and Alain Turing demonstrated what is called “incompletude” in mathematics or the ultimate uncertainty of mathematical foundations.  There are innumerable “true” propositions or conjectures that can never be demonstrated.  For example, it is impossible to account for the results of elementary arithmetic such as addition or multiplication by the deductive processes of its basic axioms.  Thus, many more axioms and unresolved conjectures have to be added in order to explain correctly many mathematical results.  Turing demonstrated mathematically that there is no algorithm that can “know” if a program will ever stop or not.  The consequence in mathematics is this: no set of axioms will ever permit to deduce if a program will ever stop or not. Actually, there exist many numbers that cannot be computed.  There are mathematical facts that are logically irreducible and incomprehensive.

            Quantum mechanics proclaimed that, on the micro level, the universe is chaotic: there is impossibility of simultaneously locating a particle, its direction, and determining its velocity.  We are computing probabilities of occurrences.  John von Neumann wrote: “Theoretical physics does not explain natural phenomena: it classifies phenomena and tries to link or relate the classes.”

            Acquiring knowledge was intuitively understood as a tool to improving human dignity by increasing quality of life; thus, erasing as many dangerous superstitions that bogged down spiritual and moral life of man.  Ironically, the trend captured a negative life of its own in the last century.  The subconscious goal for learning was to frustrate fanatic religiosity that proclaimed that God is the sole creator and controller of our life, its quality, and its destiny.  With our gained power in knowledge we may thus destroy our survival by our own volition; we can commit earth suicide regardless of what God wishes.  So far, we have been extremely successful beyond all expectations.  We can destroy all living creatures and plants by activating a single H-Bomb or whether we act now or desist from finding resolution to the predicaments of climate changes.

            I have impressions.  First, what the mathematicians and scientists are doing is not discovering the truth or the real processes but to condense complexity into simple propositions so that an individual may think that he is able to comprehend the complexities of the world.  Second, nature is complex; man is more complex; social interactions are far more complex.  No mathematical equations or simple laws will ever help an individual to comprehend the thousands of interactions among the thousands of variability.  Third, we need to focus on the rare events; it has been proven that the rare events (for example, occurrences at the tails of probability functions) are the most catastrophic simply because very few are the researchers interested in investigating them; scientists are cozy with those well structured behaviors that answer collective behaviors.

            My fourth impression is that I am a genius without realizing it.  Unfortunately Kurt Gödel is the prime kill joy; he would have mock me on the ground that he mathematically demonstrated that any sentence I write is a lie.  How would I dare write anything?

Testing 3,000 years of babbling

Goethe said “he who cannot draw on 3 thousand years is living from hand to mouth.”  

Philosophers have been arguing how man acquired knowledge, what he did with all that knowledge, and for what purpose.

Plato position was that there is nothing in the natural world that has not first existed in the world of ideas and that “the soul yearns to fly home on the wings of love to world of ideas. It longs to be freed from the chain of the body.”

The Irish bishop, George Berkeley (1685-1753), recaptured Plato concept and ventured even further “our sense perceptions proceed from God” and denied the existence of the material world beyond the human mind.

Aristotle countered Plato and wrote “nothing exist in consciousness that has not first been experienced by the senses; Plato is doubling the number of things.”

David Hume, the contemporary of Berkeley, Voltaire, and Rousseau (the Enlightenment Age in Europe), fine tuned the philosophy of Aristotle in what is called the empirical method for acquiring knowledge and said “no philosophy will ever be able to take us behind the daily experiences or give us rules of conducts that are different from those we get through reflections on everyday life.”

I propose that we test the two seemingly “opposing” hypothesis.

It is theoretically feasible to do the set of experiments, though we might face difficult ethical problems and a few confounding effects.

For example; we may select an experimental group of children, aged less than one year, and confine each child in separate rooms.  The only connection to the real world would be a wide screen showing all kinds of objects, animals, plants, people, sceneries of the environmental and geographic varieties on earth, along with all kinds of functions and relations of “laws of nature”. 

Color and audio sounds may or may not accompany the movies, depending on the experimental designs.

Consequently, the senses of touch, odor, and temperature will be reduced to the bare minimum; the senses of hearing and seeing of real objects will be restricted to the family member or nurse delivering food and health care.

There are several confounding variables that are difficult to control.

First, the child has to be fed and cared for.  A task that will inevitably get the child in contact with many real world “objects” and psychological diversities.

How this experimental group will fair compared to a control group of children in constant and free contact with the real world?

Obviously, the prime test should first focus on brain association processes before venturing in testing other forms of intelligence.

The experiments will vary in the age groups of children, the duration of the experiment, the programs on the screen, the duration of projections and their frequencies per day, the type of human contacts for caring to the well being of the child, and so on.

In any event, these experiments will provide directions to the strength of the theory that says “it is contact with real objects and the real world that is the foundation for acquiring knowledge.” 

They might provide better insight on the most advantageous age for exposing children to real world “objects”.

Second confounding factor that cannot be controlled and which is “Do genes, through a couple of million years of evolution, have any effect in supplying or overcoming deficiencies from lack of contact with the real world?”

If Plato is correct, then a human child, born say on planet Mars and then relocated to earth while still a child, will not be able to build a coherent world more complex than earth born children; simply because his “set of ideas” were confirmed in environments richer and more varied in objects and conditions; the assumption is that the child born in Mars had no time enough to build all the relevant associations in his brain.

I think that each object has many images in our mind or definitions, and depends on our mood, circumstances, and environment.

People who are intelligent in one form or another had brain mechanism of better association capabilities when they were children than do deficient children.

 Ideology: Not such a bad Concept before Ruling (April 2, 2009)

 

I believe that personal reflection is the best alternative for discovering a set of values (most compatible with our passions) to guide our behavior.  However, there are many obstacles for any individual to access his own “ideology” of life.  First, the school system, family upbringing, community customs and traditions are as many diverse implicit ideologies that an individual has to comprehend and sort out. Second, it presupposes that an individual has reached enough maturity to believe that his reflections can affect the course of events.  Third, it presupposes that the governing institutional systems care about individual opinions and demands and are ready to examine them seriously.  Fourth, it presupposes that the individual has enough will, energy, education, and perseverance to discover his own set of values and ideological system.

 

An ideology basically transmits perceived habits and models for interpreting social and political conditions. To a lesser extent, an ideology communicates explanations and teaches to making choices for situations and events. It is my contention that every ideology or political party implicitly exhibits a philosophical line. Since a philosophical construct is fundamentally a process of prioritizing our individual set of passions, that cannot be changed but re-ordered and then focused as a collectivity of like minded association, then it is beneficial for any ideology to debate the philosophy that is most compatible to its priority of passions.

It is up to graduate philosophers to analyze the party line and extract the corresponding philosophy out of hundreds that the human mind has constructed.  An ideology that misses opportunities to seriously debate its underlying philosophy is bound to fail as a gathering of focused passions. I am aware of a case where a fresh graduate in philosophy and a fresh member in a political party attempted to stick his personal philosophy to the ideology instead of objectively analyzing the underlying philosophy and allowing free discussion on the topic; it was an opportunity that was missed to debating a rough philosophy that had potentials to be fine tuned and accepted by the collectivity of members.

 

Most political ideologies loudly claim that the members are the subject matter, that the members are the driving force and the main concern of the ideology.  That line of thinking should be the purpose of syndicates because that is the reason for instituting syndicates and professional associations. Political parties should avoid the technical hypocrisy of proclaiming that their goals are the members’ benefit. 

Members in political ideologies are simple cogs of focused passions. Fresh members in political parties are willing to slave for free and accept all the nonsense, constraints, and abject humiliation on opinion restraints because “they need apprenticeship period” to comprehend and thoroughly learn the mystery behind an ideology, as if it was a cult. Those individual cogs who regurgitate the political lines and memorize them by rot and spew them integrally are the one who accede to the higher echelons and then reap the benefits and advantages; there are no rooms for divergence of opinions on ideological lines, otherwise, a new ideology is in the making. It is worth noting that those who accede to the higher echelons are invariably astute power grabbers but very limited spiritually because they fail to invest energy and time on personal reflections. Those limited minded “leaders” are imposed on society for needed reforms that invariably fail and leave tracks of long miseries and sufferings.

 

  Any ideology is inherently a cult with many super imposed constructs of myths and verbal testimonies of elders that are added as the rank swells; these abstract constructs are meant to increase the obscure notions and make the ideology more fascinating and enduring to the youth, simply because the ideology failed to adhere to an explicit philosophy of rational cohesion. Fundamentally, schisms are implicitly divergences on priorities of passions to focus on which are interpreted as political differences.

Religions follow the same process as ideologies and end up splitting and forming schisms and cults.  The core of religions and political ideologies are of abstract constructs with the same consequences on societies.  The main difference between religions and ideologies is that religions invariably end up adhering to a philosophy as guiding rod and are thus enduring in all levels of life for many centuries.

 

Ideologies as religions are necessary passages for individuals’ spiritual development; they are the building blocs for getting aware and hopefully caring for human miseries and problems.  Ideologies are extensions to our spirit because we need the association of people to develop our soul.

 

Find me an individual who never joined a political ideology or at least cared in his youth to learn the ideologies of his time and I can forecast that this individual will specialize in his professional discipline and be a complete illiterate outside his field of specialty; he will end up a very narrow minded person with no heart or soul to count on for change and social reforms.  I would be uncomfortable dealing with an individual who joined an ideology in youth and never felt the need to re-examine his ideology: I simple cannot believe that a young person can be bright enough and wise enough to knowing his strongest passions before dealing with the real world and people.

 

In many moments in life we asked “what is the meaning and purpose in life?”   How about we start from the obvious?  We are a bunch of jumbled passions that drive our life and we ache to re-order our passions and discover the strongest passions that mean most to us. We want to be discriminated as an individual, not on physical traits but as thinking reflecting persons that have distinct set of passions that we managed to prioritize; we finally think that we know who we are and what drove our life. We want to be at peace with our soul and spirit.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

December 2020
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