28 June 2012

Totalizing, megalomanic modern science

Response to an inquirer: 

In a word, what's wrong with modern science is its totalizing character. Blinded by its own success in establishing power over movement and change of all kinds, and convinced of its scientific method as the sole path to truth, it becomes dangerous. The very essence of truth itself becomes effectiveness, which is another way of saying that it totalizes efficient causality in linear time. Hence unresolved problems in science must be pronounced to be 'merely' a matter of our 'not yet' being able to deal with the high complexity of efficient causal interactions. This scientific attitude reveals also its megalomania -- ultimately, we'll nail it -- control Alzheimer's, beat cancer, for instance.

I agree that experience of the world is the basis of physics, of science -- and also of philosophy. But there is never any innocent, naive access to 'naked' experience, not even 'naked' sense data, because all experience wears the garb of how it shows itself AS such-and-such. For instance, something shows itself AS something. Where does this category of something come from? Or you assume without further ado that it is a subject who experiences the world within its consciousness. Where does this preconception come from?

Solipsism is another word for the encapsulated subject of consciousness. Hence the problem for all subjectivist metaphysics from Descartes to Kant to modern science is How to get out there in the world?´or, what is the same thing, How does the world out there get inside consciousness? For Descartes there is representatio, for Kant there is Vorstellung, for Einstein's relativity (who skips the problem constituting the object AS object and hence indulges in a naive empiricism), there are the electromagnetic signals sensuously received by the observer-subject (including by means of its experimental equipment set up to capture physical data that are then sensualized in some way for human use -- thus numbers, graphs, oscilloscopes, brain scan images, etc. etc.). 

All these versions of subjectivist metaphysics overlook that we are always already out there in the world and, if we were not -- we would never get out there. Hence Descartes resorts to the guarantee of a God to dispense with the problem of an evil genius (or man-in-the-middle) deceiving the subject in its sensuous communication with the objects out there, or Leibniz resorts to a God-given pre-established harmony to guarantee that the monad, who has no windows, is nonetheless fed with true representations in consciousness. And modern science doesn't bother itself with the problem, but takes the objects out there for granted, pointing to sense-data in the present as specious 'proof' of the world existing outside encapsulated consciousness. It does not ask about the objects' objectivity nor about the meaning of 'to exist'.

So the question arises as to whether there is a more adequate way to receive the phenomena AS they show themselves of themselves. Modern science is great for being effective in the world, but its totalizing nature is megalomanic. If we stepped outside the will to power, how could the world disclose itself AS a world?.

In any case, if modern science relinquishes its totalizing claim to be THE true mode of access to the world (through its scientific method, which itself is ungrounded), then something is gained, With the "step back" (Heidegger), the presupposition of modern science, which is metaphysically subjectivist through and through, can be seen, namely, the 3D temporal clearing, that must be given first of all and thus eventuate groundlessly. Hence Heidegger speaks of the Ereignis which simply eventuates abyssally, i.e, grants, gives: Es gibt. This eventuation enpropriates the presencing/absencing of presents/absents and human being (Da-presence) to each other. This alternative way of thinking doesn't aim at getting rid of science, but of putting it in its place.

22 June 2012

Potentiality and Actuality

Responses to an inquirer:

1) Already with two entities there is the question as to interaction or interplay, the former between things, the latter between human players who are the origins of their own free movements. Therefore I distinguish between interaction and interplay to allow for the spontaneous nothingness of Dasein.

2) Very interesting that you distance yourself from predictability and calculability, a hallmark of all modern science, for this would be a major point of agreement between us. All modern physics is at core a mathematical calculus for the linear causality of movement/change (including many-body interactions). Hence Newtonian, Lagrangian, Hamiltonian classical mechanics, Schrödinger quantum mechanics and also quantum electrodynamics. Physicists absolutely strive for equations of time evolution for the dynamic system. All operate with linear, real time t, basically with partial differential equations. Otherwise they would not be modern physiciists and hence fall out of this historical epoch, i.e. lose their identity in this world, this time..

3) In Aristotle's ontology of movement, the actualitas (_entelecheia_) of a potential (_dynamis_) is movement (_energia_) itself, since the _dynamis_ is then 'at work' (_en ergoi_). The pro-ductive (forward-leading) movement, however, only comes to its end in the perfected presence of the finished product -- hence _en-tel-ech_eia_ = literally 'having-(itself)-in-its-end-ness'. Insofar I agree that there's a certain one-sidedness in Aristotle's ontology of movement, which accounts only for pro-ductive movement from an origin (_archae_). This ontology captures quite a few phenomena, however, e.g. chemical reactions. What is worked upon in a productive movement is the material, which suffers itself (and has the passive power to suffer) to be transformed by the active power/potential/potency at work on it.

4) Of course, even with Aristotelean ontology of movement, you can have chains of productive movements in which the outcome of one movement is the starting-point for the next. Insofar, the finished presence of the product is AS starting-point the absence of a further product. Is this what you mean? In the case of a conversation, however, even between two interlocutors, there is an interplay between them, since each is a starting-point for a movement, namely, to say something. If I am out to persuade you of something, and I manage to achieve this, then this is, in Aristotelean terms, a rhetorical movement that 'produces' your change of viewpoint. In fact, this is how Aristotle attempted to conceive rhetoric itself, namely, productively which, in my view, doesn't hold water. Rather, a dialogue is open-ended, never achieving a final, perfected presence, even when points of agreement along the way may be reached. All dialogue is subject to re-vision, i.e. the matter at hand can be re-seen in another way, from another angle.

So, in that sense, there is always something lacking in movements of all kinds, which Aristotle captures with the term _steraesis_ -- a full presence is lacking because something or other is lacking, wanting. As Aristotle saw, anything physical at rest is also a kind of movement because anything physical is, by definition, capable of movement/change, and hence is potentially something else which is still absent. Hence everything physical, including ourselves, is marked by both presence and absence, and the absence itself is present as a lack! Absence comprises both what was and what could be. Hence it is impossible to conceive the phenomenon of movement/change properly without a well-worked-out conception of three-dimensional time. This is still missing in Aristotle who, fatefully, takes time to be a counting number (_arithmos_) lifted off movement. Thus the 3-D temporal clearing remains hidden in metaphysics, and time is confused with clock-time, which is merely derivative.

Further reading: Commutative and distributive justice.