It has always been a mystery to me how men can feel themselves honoured by the humiliation of their fellow human beings: M. K. Gandhi / People all seek to know what they do not know yet; They ought rather seek to know what they know already-Zhuang Zhou / If a person ain't careful; they can make a profession out of revenge: Godless, TV serial
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Raymond Tallis - Philosophy isn't dead yet
Far from having replaced metaphysics, science is in a mess and needs help. Einstein saw it coming ‘The attempt to fit consciousness into the material world, usually by identifying it with activity in the brain, has failed dismally.'
In 2010 Stephen Hawking, in The Grand Design, announced that philosophy was "dead" because it had "not kept up with modern developments in science, particularly physics". He was not referring to ethics, political theory or aesthetics. He meant metaphysics, the branch of philosophy that aspires to the most general understanding of nature – of space and time, the fundamental stuff of the world. If philosophers really wanted to make progress, they should abandon their armchairs and their subtle arguments, wise up to maths and listen to the physicists.
This view has significant support among philosophers in the English-speaking world. Bristol philosopher James Ladyman, who argues that metaphysics should be naturalised, and who describes the accusation of "scientism" as "badge of honour", is by no means an isolated case.
But there could not be a worse time for philosophers to surrender the baton of metaphysical inquiry to physicists. Fundamental physics is in a metaphysical mess and needs help. The attempt to reconcile its two big theories, general relativity and quantum mechanics, has stalled for nearly 40 years. Endeavours to unite them, such as string theory, are mathematically ingenious but incomprehensible even to many who work with them. This is well known. A better-kept secret is that at the heart ofquantum mechanics is a disturbing paradox – the so-called measurement problem, arising ultimately out of the Uncertainty Principle – which apparently demonstrates that the very measurements that have established and confirmed quantum theory should be impossible. Oxford philosopher of physics David Wallace has argued that this threatens to make quantum mechanics incoherent which can be remedied only by vastly multiplying worlds.
Beyond these domestic problems there is the failure of physics to accommodate conscious beings. The attempt to fit consciousness into the material world, usually by identifying it with activity in the brain, has failed dismally, if only because there is no way of accounting for the fact that certain nerve impulses are supposed to be conscious (of themselves or of the world) while the overwhelming majority (physically essentially the same) are not. In short, physics does not allow for the strange fact that matter reveals itself to material objects (such as physicists).
And then there is the mishandling of time. The physicist Lee Smolin's recent book, Time Reborn, links the crisis in physics with its failure to acknowledge the fundamental reality of time. Physics is predisposed to lose time because its mathematical gaze freezes change. Tensed time, the difference between a remembered or regretted past and an anticipated or feared future, is particularly elusive. This worried Einstein: in a famous conversation, he mourned the fact that the present tense, "now", lay "just outside of the realm of science".
Recent attempts to explain how the universe came out of nothing, which rely on questionable notions such as spontaneous fluctuations in a quantum vacuum, the notion of gravity as negative energy, and the inexplicable free gift of the laws of nature waiting in the wings for the moment of creation, reveal conceptual confusion beneath mathematical sophistication. They demonstrate the urgent need for a radical re-examination of the invisible frameworks within which scientific investigations are conducted. We need to step back from the mathematics to see how we got to where we are now. In short, to un-take much that is taken for granted.
Perhaps even more important, we should reflect on how a scientific image of the world that relies on up to 10 dimensions of space and rests on ideas, such as fundamental particles, that have neither identity nor location, connects with our everyday experience. This should open up larger questions, such as the extent to which mathematical portraits capture the reality of our world – and what we mean by "reality". The dismissive "Just shut up and calculate!" to those who are dissatisfied with the incomprehensibility of the physicists' picture of the universe is simply inadequate. "It is time" physicist Neil Turok has said, "to connect our science to our humanity, and in doing so to raise the sights of both". This sounds like a job for a philosophy not yet dead.
that are unanswerable by scientists may nevertheless be significant for human
life and well being. Metaphysical speculation does not concern only ridiculous
propositions, but important issues of concern for human action and social existence.
These include questions such as :
the essence of truth mathematical? Is the idea of truth exhausted by science,
leaving no space whatever for speculative intelligence?
science and reason ethically vacuous?
there be irrefutable knowledge of the consequences of our actions?
a speculative future lighten or remove the burden of present action?
we in a condition of confrontation with a hostile universe?
the meaning of life an invention or a discovery?
think discussing these (and similar) matters; as well as issues of public
morality is a
necessary exercise - it is reasonable, whilst not being 'scientific'.
Metaphysics in this sense is another name for philosophical questioning, and as
such has immense significance for a healthy society - Dilip some related passages from a philosopher
connection between reason and the good is established by the structure of human
experience as choosing between better and worse. It is a false description of
human nature and therefore bad science, to say that we make these choices on a
narrowly utilitarian basis; and it is simply unintelligible to be told that we
are not making these choices at all but that they are being made for us by our
blood sugar level or the firing of cells in our brains.There is no ghost in
the machine, not merely because there are no ghosts, but because we are not
machines.." "Of course humans disagree about which things in
particular are good and which bad. But the disagreement would be impossible if
they did not agree that there is a difference between good and bad.."
"To say that reason is good for life, is of course, not the same as saying
that life is good. My point, however, is not that reason is an instrument for
something else but that it is a direct expression of goodness." (From the
essay 'Sad Reason', by Stanley Rosen in 'Metaphysics in ordinary language'.
‘It is time to state
that philosophy is neither analytic nor synthetic, but both, and more.
Philosophy is the dream of the whole. This dream is known in the textbooks as
metaphysics.. What is required is the capacity to see outside the limits of
analysis, and this means to see, indeed, to dream, the context of analysis. In
so doing we must not reject analytical thinking. The turn to the pre-scientific
is not a turn away from science but an act of obedience to the original
intention of science, of which contemporary analytical philosophies of science
are fantasms' - Stanley Rosen, in 'The Limits of Analysis'
Extract from a criticism of a typical example of rationalist nihilism:
It is, as I hope we agree now, no accident that
Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the existentialists, in attributing nihilism to the
consequences of rationalism, accept without quarrel the rationalistic definition of reason. That definition was doomed from
the outset on two main counts. First, the reduction of reason to ratio in the
sense of counting, ordering, intuiting geometrical shape, and drawing
inferences made it impossible to describe the activity of reason in reasonable
terms. Second, the activity of reason, regardless of the divine powers
initially attributed to it, was rooted in man's imagination, will, and
passions. The application of ratio to the passions of the soul did not give a
basis for pride but melancholia. Since the values attributed to human passions
are but facts, and the pattern of the facts is a matter of chance, man has been
revanquished by fortune. Contrary to Machiavelli's advice, fortune, even though
put to the torture, has triumphed in the midst of her defeat.
Not all modern rationalists have succumbed to
melancholia. This, however, may be a sign of their thoughtlessness rather than
of their strength of soul. Is the currently fashionable "scientific humanism,"
for example, anything more than an uncritical vulgarization of Nietzsche's
interpretation of science as a free creation of spirit, and so as an expression
of the will to power? Even an admirer of science might be forgiven for
preferring Cartesian pride or Nietzschean creativity to the spectacle of positivism wedded to romanticism. However this may be,
the net philosophical result of modern rationalist epistemology is to have
created a situation which cannot be distinguished from Nietzsche's teaching, so
far as the reasonableness of reason is concerned. Let us close this section of
our study with a brief analysis of the crucial contemporary example of
rationalist nihilism. Suppose we believe, as do so many scientific humanists today,
that all psychic or mental phenomena may be reduced to biochemical processes and thereby to mathematically
computable energy distributions. What is the status of this belief itself, and
finally of the self who believes it? (emphasis added - DS)
To begin with, if the belief is true, it is itself an
instance of a biochemical process, an electrical excitation of the physical organ
known as the brain, and so a pattern of extension, matter, or energy. As such,
it has no "value" in any sense other than the numerical. Thus, the
mere fact of its truth (supposing it to be true) carries with it no rational or
scientific recommendation, not to say obligation, that it be believed or, if
believed, that it be regarded as a reasonable belief. If the reasonable is
the useful, it is almost certainly unreasonable, because harmful, to accept a doctrine
that obliterates the difference in dignity between man and dirt. On the other
hand, if "reasonable" means "true," and the doctrine in
question is true, then we accept it in tacit or explicit deference to the
principle, "one ought to accept what is true." Now what status has
this principle? If it is true that one ought to accept the truth, then it
cannot be true that truth is always at bottom a mathematical description of
energy patterns, since such patterns, if taken to be the final stratum of
reality, into which all superficial or illusory strata are to be reduced, provide
no basis for the reconstruction of moral or psychological imperatives. If it is not
true that one ought to accept the truth (because of the assumption that
"true" and "ought" are incompatible), but merely that we
sometimes have a propensity to do so, then truth, and so reason, must be
distinguishable from motives determining what we accept or believe. In other words, there is no reason, no reasonable reason, for believing the true rather than the false. The mere fact
that proposition X is true is insufficient to command the allegiance of a
reasonable man to that proposition, especially if it certifies that, qua man, or
conscious being who is deliberating whether to accept X, he is an illusion and
so does not exist in those terms which alone make rational the debate
concerning the acceptance or repudiation of proposition X.
On this alternative, then, the fact that proposition X is true is paradoxically
transformed into a value, namely,
something which we may believe or not as we see fit, or depending upon whether
we regard it as worthwhile to believe it. And the transformation is paradoxical
because X in effect asserts the radical distinction between facts and values.
This self-transformation of the assertion of the principle of contemporary
rationalism into a value is equivalent to the transformation of philosophy into poetry by Nietzsche and others. In the first case, a
distinction is made between facts and values which renders values unreasonable.
In the second case, facts are redefined as a special kind of values, which
means that facts are rendered unreasonable. The contemporary nihilist situation
is a synthesis of these two (basically equivalent) processes: the total effect
is to make both facts and values
unreasonable and valueless. And so there is no real difference, in this
context, between scientists and humanists. If it is fatuous to assume that
nihilism will be overcome by knowledge of the second law of thermodynamics, it
is equally fatuous to assume that it will surrender to an appreciation of poetic
style. What then are we to say of the view that man's salvation lies in the
union of such knowledge and such appreciation? - Stanley Rosen, Nihilism: a philosophical essay - Yale Univ P, 1969; pp 69-71
The People’s Union for Democratic Rights on Tuesday alleged that third degree torture methods were used by the Gurgaon Criminal Investigation Agency while interrogating workers of Maruti Suzuki India Limited’s Manesar plant who are accused of involvement in the killing of an HR manager and the violent attack at the plant on July 18. The PUDR alleged that the Gurgaon CIA investigation “did not seem” to be directed at solving the crime or probing the involvement of the arrested workers in the incidents and crimes recorded in the FIR but instead was based on their involvement in trade union activities. Grave doubts “The use of third degree torture in police custody, and the securing of arrestees’ signatures on blank papers by the police, gives rise to grave doubts regarding the ability of such an investigation in effectively identifying or arresting those guilty. The police and the State seem keener to reassure Maruti Suzuki Ltd. and ensure that production continues,” the PUDR stat
According to Murakami, “1Q84” is just an amplification of one of his most popular short stories, which (in its English version) is five pages long. “Basically, it’s the same,” he told me. “A boy meets a girl. They have separated and are looking for each other. It’s a simple story. I just made it long.” One beautiful April morning, on a narrow side street in Tokyo's fashionable Harujuku neighborhood, I walked past the 100% perfect girl. Tell you the truth, she's not that good-looking. She doesn't stand out in any way. Her clothes are nothing special. The back of her hair is still bent out of shape from sleep. She isn't young, either - must be near thirty, not even close to a "girl," properly speaking. But still, I know from fifty yards away: She's the 100% perfect girl for me. The moment I see her, there's a rumbling in my chest, and my mouth is as dry as a desert..." read the story: http://www.youmightfindyourself.com/post/22131227
'Do you know', Napoleon once said to Fontanes, 'what astounds me most about the world? The impotence of force to establish anything. There are only two powers in the world: the sword and the mind. In the end, the sword is always conquered by the mind' Conquerors, you see, are sometimes melancholy. They have to pay some price for so much vainglory. But what a hundred years ago was true of the sword is no longer true today of the tank. Conquerors have made progress, and the dismal silence of places without intelligence has been established for years at a time in a lacerated Europe. At the time of the hideous wars of Flanders, Dutch painters could still perhaps paint the cockerels in their farmyards. The Hundred Years War has likewise been forgotten, and yet the prayers of Silesian mystics still linger in some hearts. But today, things have changed; the painter and the monk have been drafted - we are one with the world. The mind has lost that regal certainty which a c
NB: This is the text of my address to the Eighth East-West Inter-cultural Relations Conference held at Ramjas College, the University of Delhi, on March 17. The details of the conference may be read here . A pdf file of the address is downloadable here - DS Satyagraha - An answer to modern nihilism Dilip Simeon Keynote address to the Eighth East-West Inter-cultural Relations Conference Ramjas College, March 17-18 2016 Zilu stopped for the night at Stone Gate. The gatekeeper said, Where are you from? Zilu said, From the household of Confucius. The gatekeeper said, The one who knows there’s nothing that can be done but keeps on trying? - from the Analects of Confucius (14:40) What is truth? asked jesting Pilate, and would not stay for an answer – Francis Bacon In fact it is more correct to say Truth is God than to say God is Truth – Mohandas Gandhi Introduction: The human being is the speaking animal, the discerner of good and evil. This featur
Mother of Cities to me, For I was born in her gate, Between the palms and the sea, Where the world-end steamers wait Rudyard Kipling , To the City of Bombay "Few people who have criticized England from the inside have said bitterer things about her than this gutter patriot" : George Orwell IT WAS a pity that Mr. Eliot should be so much on the defensive in the long essay with which he prefaces this selection of Kipling's poetry, but it was not to be avoided, because before one can even speak about Kipling one has to clear away a legend that has been created by two sets of people who have not read his works. Kipling is in the peculiar position of having been a byword for fifty years. During five literary generations every enlightened person has despised him, and at the end of that time nine-tenths of those enlightened persons are forgotten and Kipling is in some sense still there. Mr. Eliot never satisfactorily explains this fact, because in answering the shal
In Asia Minor or in Alexandria, in the second century of our faith (when Basilides was announcing that the cosmos was a rash and malevolent improvisation engineered by defective angels), Nils Runeberg might have directed, with a singular intellectual passion, one of the Gnostic monasteries. Dante would have destined him, perhaps, for a fiery sepulcher; his name might have augmented the catalogues of heresiarchs, between Satornibus and Carpocrates; some fragment of his preaching, embellished with invective, might have been preserved in the apocryphal Liber adversus omnes haereses or might have perished when the firing of a monastic library consumed the last example of the Syntagma . Instead, God assigned him to the twentieth century, and to the university city of Lund. There, in 1904, he published the first edition of Kristus och Judas ; there, in 1909, his masterpiece Dem hemlige Frälsaren appeared. (Of this last mentioned work there exists a German version, Der heimliche Heilan
NB: An interesting obituary to a great intellectual. My knowledge of the situation is limited, but as regards this article, I'm uncomfortable with the argument that there should be no objection to the participation of communal parties in a democratic alliance. My views on this are conditioned by the history of religion-based mobilisations in India, where the communist movement has from time to time allied with communal groups of all colours, with disastrous consequences. Some material on this theme may be read here . Nor can I agree that Islamists, Hindutva groups or Khalistanis etc. can be described as 'religious parties'. I do not mean to justify alliances with 'secular' tyrants, but to remind anyone who cares to listen, that communalism is also an expression of tyranny. Communalists proceed on the assumption that membership of a religious community automatically produces a political interest, and strive to create that interest. They enter democratic move