Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In The Final Analysis

To get it straight, this gets it straight; what happens to the thought processes when you begin to clear away the wreckage of sentiment and nostalgia and the inanities of common, everyday concerns. If nothing else occurs, the grasp of essential terms and their employment in the place of old entrenched ones (the default settings of well-nigh autonomic responses close enough to the knee jerk to be organic processes) forces a confrontation with the unadorned reality of a situation, rather than one colored by experience.

At its core, the original argument remains firmly in place: Evolution. As much as Einstein based his theories on observations of Light, Darwin based his on observations of Life. Neither of their positions is open to argument, on the evidence, although everything is open to interpretation. But the evidence is clear on this: the organism's development via natural selection, adaptation and mutation, explains just about everything on how it got to be the way it is. The progression of a species, depending upon the rate and speed of reproduction and the complexity of the individual organism, can be affected by anything from dramatic climate shifts to the slightest solar radiation. While the latter may seem infinitesmal to a primate, to an amoeba it's like gamma rays to The Hulk. In either case, all it takes is a few broken chromosomes and the resultant genetic material will produce new chains of DNA sequences. Adaptation means these changes have become stable, but it also means the cycle can start all over again, as well.

The most salient point of philosophers (at least the one's we can understand without straining, like Wittgenstein and Bergson...and Kant, with a bit of heavy lifting) may be that they insist on keeping essential terms as close as possible to attributes/metaphors/examples representing human traits/aspects. In this, they are not that different from most legal systems: all testimony in courtrooms is limited to eye-witness accounts of experiences in the realm of the five senses, plus what those sensations meant to the testifier. What this means is that one universal truth which can be regarded as a Law, regardless of belief system or nationality, is that we call those things “real” (or at the very least “honest”) which hold up to some kind of empirical proof with the five senses.

One of the good things about Bergson was his reminder that whenever possible, use only primary references. And when I said I found two fuckups, he only violated this rule once, to my liking. He wasn't alone in citing Ernest Haeckel's “law”--“Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny”. (I bring up embryological parallelism, or biogenetic law, one last time as it appears to have the same appeal I seem to be making. It would be comforting if, as the theory goes, “the growth and development of an individual organism is the same as the evolutionary history of the species.” But it doesn't happen enough to be considered outside of various phylum. And, anyways, my thesis only runs on the same track; the race is quite different.) Bergson was taken in like every other scientist-philosopher of the time, making the same error and compounding it by never getting verification (one of his absolute bugaboos). It was actually Steven Jay Gould, who brought this point home to me, among the other examples in the intro to “The Lying Stones of Marrakech”. The reason why I bring it up here is that it has survived long enough for SJG to cite it means it endures as a time-honored lesson. It is this sort of “truthiness”-in which “facts” get mistaken for rigorous scientific proof—that has become a major tool of Creationists by bringing in specious studies without proper provenance.

What put Bergson in the back numbers wasn't that, however. It was his insistence on the “elan vital”--as close to Intuition as it gets. It was alright for Kierkegaard to take a Leap of Faith; he was only outlining a condition necessary for belief in God. It is just that unknown factor being such a core issue of his, the only one not directly predictable in evolution (except for animal instinct) and without a direct line to the five senses... unless Intuition may be our Instinct. Certainly, there is no question about trying to shoehorn this into Darwin in the traditional fashion. Natural selection? We'd have to go far afield to see anything “natural” in something that has no 5-sense/testimonial origin. Species adaptation to changes forced by environment? Possibly—but to what environment? Not the earth's climatary regions; utterly nonsensical as people now live in all zones of the planet and our present method of adaptation has nothing to do with evolution...unless you count dressing in layers. But suppose this is a new development? Now there’s something to work with. Some might say Henri believes we developed a “divine spark”…except—HE DOESN’T MENTION GOD! So then, it is that Homo Sapiens, somehow, went beyond the design parameters? Moreover, that this is exactly what they were “designed” to do?

This begs the question: Who? Designed what? The answer might then be something like “Intelligent Design but without a governing intelligence”, which means: it works perfectly because it works perfectly…for the moment. Then, isn't this getting perilously close to Creationism? Ok. No problem going there, as long as you admit it is the design of a “creator” who has no interest in what happens to these creations. (Really. Take a look at the last century first, please.) Don't try to sell me an interventionist god; Dawkins' blind watchmaker is much more plausible. No, the “designed” verb refers to the mechanism inherent within the structure; how it works, its operation, and “intelligence” is like the verb/noun in CIA, our perceptions of that “design” (kinda like Heisenberg’s thang about how the observer is part of the equation), its observable functions and purposes.

This isn't tricky at all. Life, of any kind, must always create more life. That's easy. When you get into ecological niches, however, there is also a symbiosis that occurs, a balancing act wherein one species overproduces as a food source for another with a slower breeding and/or gestation cycle, wherein one species' waste products serves as the breeding medium/food source for another, etc. (Think Galapagos...another of Darwin's hot spots.) These are not “directed” purposes as much as “evident” functions—what some Chaos Theory physicists have observed coming out of decaying turbulence streams: vortices of self-organizing systems. Some might say that this is not a “design”. Look up “pattern”, ok? Try “symmetry”. And if all else fails, use your imagination!

Life “designs” itself by natural selection.

The previous was neither a color exhortation or a rhetorical device to make a transition from essential terms and primary sources to The Next Bit. The Next Bit IS both of those bits AND the “design” element.

The other sticking point with Bergson came from his singular dismissal of Darwin in this one statement. “Let us take care not to confound evolution and development... The truth is that adaptation explains the windings of the movement of evolution, but not the general directions of the movement, still less the movement itself. The road which leads to the town is certainly obliged to climb the hills and go down the slopes; it adapts itself to the accidents of the ground; but the accidents of the ground are not the cause of the road, any more than they have imparted its direction." ("Creative Evolution", pages 111-112.) He got the right metaphor, but grabbed it at the wrong end of the scale. Don't start with the finished product; start with the path through the forest. Obviously, at some point, a homind of one sort or another sighted through the trees, or across a plain, and saw the easiest route, the path of least resistance. It showed less objects or obstacles to the depth of field offered by binocular vision, possibly, as well, representing trails blazed by large-bodied, four-footed mammals who had crossed the terrain previously. What Bergson appears to have missed is that roads—unless they are grids imposed by civic planning—are usually, by and large, products of old footpads over vegetation. These were made and laid for a reason...just not one immediately available to those who see only the paved surface that came later.

This has a more sound intellectual basis when all are considered in sequence.
1. Bergson diverges from irrefutable argument (or sound reasoning) when he makes the claim that “the truth is that adaptation explains the windings of the movement of evolution, but not the general direction of the movement.”
2. “The path through the forest” is a very good metaphor. Animals go through by their nose, foraging for food, eating brush, tender shoots, berries or fronds. Perhaps a hunter follows by spoor as well. In either case, as some twigs or saplings are bent, so goes the tree, bush, etc. and the hooves of ungulates dig further gouges in the earth. Their feces accumulate along the line of travel, fertilizing the soil, creating better, nutrient-rich surface for more growth along those lines of just the plants which attracted them in the first place.
3. Humans with binocular vision detect the subtle gradations of the ground to their goal. Over time, the succession of feet on the same ground wears a more well-defined path. It is this path which becomes a traffic pattern, creating the basis for a road, the surrounding forest becoming less dense in the bargain. A crossroads becomes a settlement, q.e.d. This is the evolution of a city, echoing all human development.
4. This refutes #1 as I understand it.

This may come under the heading of a “social” evolution, a “behavioral” evolution, but it still follows Darwin's theory to the letter. We have come to accept the “Gaia” hypothesis as the planet as a living, integrated organism, as the environment. It isn't any big jump to follow the “windings of the movement” as well as the “general director of the movement” to the same source. This is where the 5 senses of the living organism determine the development of patterns, along with other biological processes and imperatives, and that follows a course and speed set by the SELECTION OF THE ORGANISM (Darwin).

And, again, this is not a convenient metaphor or incidental cite: this is the core. The reason all the philosophers and scientists and even a theologian or two got their propers is that they are all, to a man (sorry, gals), THE PATH THROUGH THE FOREST. This is how I got here: thinking and reasoning as they do (to the best of my ability), testing hypothesis and questioning statements and propositions, etc. It was when all my questions began to merge, at the same junctions, the territory looking mighty familiar, and where all the terms started to describe the same properties and conditions, and when the forest stopped looking like a dark and tangled thicket and more a privet garden in the sunshine.

Ok. No more teases.

However, as the last philosopher cited previously was McLuhan, it is necessary to let him carry the ball through the uprights, but he's game. More or less, it is his position that all Media are extensions of the human organism and that every new media is an advance on the previous one, but not immediately recognized as so because, at it's inception, it pretty much duplicates (in combinations) the functions of previous media, until it finds its own purpose.
• Language=audio representation in specific messages between individuals; this is the mouth. At first it was for hunting and gathering, but later would evolve into the level of sophistication that could communicate our thoughts, our minds.
• Printing=extension of messages into symbols for general distribution. This is for our eyes, and/or most assuredly for our minds/brains, however you wish. What may have begun in simple iconography or even religious ritual, would become the most important human device ever, recording the past, ordering the present, and even describing the future.
• Telegraph=extension of messages into symbols in long-distance audio representation in code between individuals, but also for general distribution. This is where the body enters, allowing manipulation of things and events far beyond the reach of what would be our arms.
• Telephone=telegraphic audio messages without code between individuals. Again, the body, and the obvious ones of the mouth and ears.
• Radio=audio messages for general distribution. All the attributes of the telegraph and telephone but further, a theatrical element which once more engages the mind as does printing, creating, at times, an artificial realm for the eyes.
• TV=audio and pictorial messages for general distribution. This is radio without the artifice of mental images.
• The Internet=all of the above...and more.

So, inasmuch as Evolution is a progression based upon the demands of the organism’s basic survival, and the employment of the Five Senses to aid that end, so also is the History of Humankind’s development through Media. Then, to put in a little bit of substitution, just for a giggle, let’s say: MEDIA MANIFESTS THE SAME PROPERTIES AS AN ORGANISM, AND DISPLAYS THE SAME OBEDIENCE TO THE LAWS OF EVOLUTION: RESPONDING TO CHANGES IN THE COMMUNICATIONS ENVIRONMENT VIA NATURAL SELECTION, ADAPTING TO THE NEW MEANS OF MESSAGE TRANSMISSION AND TECHNOLOGY, AND GIVING BIRTH TO A NEW GENERATION OF ADAPTED MEDIA. Too over-arching? Perhaps. Yet, there is nothing in that statement which is incorrect…if only as a metaphor. So if we’re going to explore some fanciful constructions, let’s try another, like: IF ALL CHANGES IN THE ORGANISM ARE AT THE SERVICE OF ITS EVOLUTIONARY DEVELOPMENT, THEN ALL CHANGES IN ITS MEDIA ARE AS WELL. Again, if you place Media in the same category as the Five Senses (of which they are most certainly extensions), it is not unreasonable to say they must be doing some sort of labor at the behest of the organism, even if only selling commercial air time. Now let’s take one more step into speculative fiction: THE DEVELOPMENT OF MEDIA IS PART OF THE EVOLUTIONARY PROCESS OF LIFE. Here may be where the rest of the camp-followers depart: metaphor is ok; declarative statements are…well, kinda hard to hedge, actually, folks.

But why should it be? Remember: all developments must be at the service of the organism’s survival? Then why else did our brains/minds, which are, after all, developments of the Evolutionary process, even need to come up with Consciousness? A Creationist will tell you it was so we could have knowledge of God and worship Him. Like I said: open to interpretation. My boy Teilhard believed in God, but he understood Science was 100% Reality, or as much as could be said to be Real. And yet, this hard-headed pragmatic, anthropologist could still come up with something like an Omega Point of Noosis for a Christogenesis? It isn’t hard to accept that somebody who goes so far off the beaten path, and who’s shown a fair amount of horse sense in his time, must be seeing a different track through the shrubs.

So let’s talk some real hard-headed pragmatism. It’s no coincidence Marx came along with the Industrial Revolution; it was the first time Labor, to a certain extent, was liberated from Russell’s “brute existence” – and, incidentally, the invention of Leisure as something for other than the power elite. However flawed Capitalism would become, at that juncture in history it represented a mind-blowingly unique change in human consciousness. By and large, in our search for hallelujahs and hosannas, we came to this plateau on the road to our mansions in the sky via the route through God as an answer to all our non-subsistence-level-oriented questions here on earth. Now, there appeared an off-ramp at some little joint called happiness that looked pretty good.

So what does this have to do with the substitution game above? Suppose that Media was some kind of weird substitution-thing itself, wherein the Consciousness wanted to grow more, say, develop a sixth sense. Perhaps something like telepathy? Remember: consciousness must be at service of the organism, AND all media are extensions of Man. Well, if you think e-mail is fast, and Twitter faster, then you have no idea how fast a thought might be, even though they are trying their best to duplicate that instantaneous communication. Yes, we might have evolved into it, except we had God already there.

Why do I want to bring back Heisenberg now? Possibly because it is that same thing, tantamount to religion freezing Man at either Anthropoid or Ascendant Angel and MISSING THE BIG PICTURE! Remember: Behavior is an Emergent Property too! At quantum level, the analogy works just as well for Consciousness. The flux of particle/wave suggested the proof of the Uncertainty Principle, that fixity only comes in with an observer arresting one or another STATE OF BEING. But suppose that the "subject" is also the "observer"?

The Matrix has the same exact conclusion about the species as you, as a virus. However, when you add God into the mix, you get ideas like “unlimited growth potential” and “god-given rights” and “Manifest Destiny” and “entitlements” and such. The idea that God permits anything He does not stop and that, if anything goes wrong, God has underwritten the title policy against all acts of God, that God will fix it, abrogating responsibility of the individual or society to the rest of the individuals or society, the group/whole/racial identity, etc. (as long as they are not going to the same worship service as you) without any need for a social balancing act.

It also negates any need for personal growth. A stunted mind is one that will never find any environment inhospitable...unless it is asked to adapt and evolve, and is actually against the Laws of Evolution & GOD, if such a conception (in any form of awareness we could comprehend) does exist.

THESIS BEING: Humans have a limitless potential to develop, and would, even faster, without God to fill in the blanks. If we could develop a sixth sense, that might even be the one to know God with, instead of some belief in an ideal of various hotly-disputed interpretations. So—

Follow this one:

What we know of the Macrocosmic comes from our instrumentality , observation and proofs in physics. The same goes, and to a much lesser degree, for the microscopic and below to the subatomic and Quantum levels. But, add the two ends together and we have fairly good, logical reasons for believing in a 10-D universe. We live in three of them and part of 4 &/or 5 depending upon how you break down Space/Time, if you bother. As for the other 5 or 6, speculation has it that they were either “stillborn” or “undeveloped” (Note: foetus terms in embryology, metaphors – sure, but why not? After all, if you’re going to get philosophical, you gotta stick to human physicality…) or existing in some configuration “parallel” to ours (as much as anything can be described in term of Euclidean space), inaccessible but nonetheless absolutely essential to make our dimensions, the ones with Life in them, operate. (CARBON-BASED BIOPHYSICS? WHO’D A THUNK IT?)

So? What? Could be that they are in the same state of development as homo sapiens? Of course, this is rank speculation as there are no workable/useful definitions for “the Universe,” except GOD. (c/o St. Anselm of Canterbury?) However, if we can use GAIA to represent The Living Planet, we can use COSMOS (Why not – Carl Sagan?) for the WHOLE OF EXISTENCE.

In the final analysis, I will grant that it looks pretty cold; that anybody who participates in organized religion is part of the backsliding of the species from its fulfillment, the flowering of the organism into Brahma’s Lotus, or something—but it’s not, really. The reason I use a Buddha metaphor at the end was one of the best bits in the researches, about the meditation state of Tibetan monks. It seems that MRI scans of their brains lit up as the most serene when their contemplative zones went deep into the subject of Compassion and Mother’s Love – two of the highest character traits of human development. This proves that, EVEN WITHOUT GOD, we have a chance of achieving harmony and contentment, sorta like Woodstock in the mud, but without the mudslinging. interlude...

The idea of a public diary is as much the things we would like to talk about with our perfect Significant Other as a sounding board for the thoughts we enjoy thinking and doubly-enjoy in writing. It imparts form to the formless. And if this blog is about anything at all, it must be this. Therefore, it does me no harm and much good to spend a few moments as if I were an actual reader of myself. So if this entry sounds a little schizophrenic, it may be because I am of two minds meself... (Yeh, I know. Let's get ultra-primitive here and go all the way back to the dawn of psychoanalysis for a term and say, instead: This is more a case of a split personality.)

It having been months since my last visit, I decided to re-read all the entries for content, context, etc., including logic flaws, before preparing the previous edition. What I found was a helluva lotta repetition and some errors in basic proofreading. As is my wont to sit in chinese restaurants and correct their menus, this was a habit I needed to suppress here. Yes, I admit I am very redundant and the last one, at the very least, came close to boring pedantry. (Maybe is. I was a little like “get on with it” at the end.) However, there comes at point at which further refinement is a waste of energy.

What I found is pretty much what I remembered writing and still supports my researches. But, as a casual perusal, it seemed that I never fully answered my own question about Syntax, and just what that figures into the whole mix as. The reason for this is that I took some time off to actually read Steven Pinker's book “The Stuff of Thought”. At just about the time I was finishing up, I heard there was going to be an actual discussion of this very subject between Pinker and Tom Wolfe at the Rubin Center here in New York. So whatever independent ideas I had, of that which could be gleaned from the book up to that point in time, were put on further hold until I could attend that gathering of eagles. Perhaps I will go into the substance of their exchange (or at least what I can make sense of it from my notes), but that will have to wait.

As I said, the re-examination of the argument thus far has made me pretty satisfied, yet just as aware of the metamorphic nature of our times, how things change so fast, as mercurial as the glides up and down the gradations in the glass outside the window. Which is, in itself, an archaic reference: no manufacturer of thermometers uses any precious metal to tell the temperature anymore. Also, further edits only aid the logorithmic progression of Time means that the closer I get to my goal, the tinier the divisions become as halfs-proceed-halfs ahead of me into the infinite. And here I have the image of a slide rule in my mind, another relic of the past. I was in error attributing the coinage of “meme” to William Gibson or Bruce Sterling: it was Richard Dawkins they both copped it from, and rightly so—you can't have science fiction without starting with some really great science. (But I can't go into Dawkins here as that would take another entire blog on its own.) And I was even more outdated in quoting Gil Scott-Heron's “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” in the same breath (almost) where I mention McLuhan. Observing the events in Iran, even as I write, the parallels with Paris in 1968 cannot be dismissed. That was when the theorists, the Situationists, ended up becoming activists by becoming message couriers between factory workers and the transit unions and the student rebels to organize the most effective counter-demonstrations and to paralyze the nation. And what are the Iranians doing? Utilizing “social networking sites” to do EXACTLY THE SAME THING! The most innocuous of self-vanity/celebrity-worshipping whimsies becomes a tool of the popular democratic uprising. What was I thinking? “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”...but that doesn't say anything about twittered... Marshall would be ashamed of me.

Overall, it is obvious that while the enthusiasm expressed at the beginning was the same you get from Youth and the elation of embarcation on a journey, Shakespeare's “Seven Ages of Man” pretty much proved out the rest, leaving this one, I might gather, to be mewling and puking in the crib, sans sight, sans taste, sans wit. Truth is, probably, when it got down to the scut-work of actually using the philosophers I had some knowledge of, I kept switching from vernacular to doctoral thesis as if such informal/formal constructions could substitute for lucidity and directness, it became turgid and stiff. Even as it pumped up the vigor with the familiar, trying to get some life into the old girl, it got bogged down in jargon and, consequently, even the author got tired of not reaching the conclusion.

Yet he was so close.

So (some weighty preposition, totally without any relation to a bound morpheme—just try to figure out what it means: I DARE YOU...)
Well (and yet another stupid cupid to shoot an arrow into the void...)
The (at least you get the definite article, right?...)
And (...almost as bad as “But” to kick off any sentence...)

Here's the deal. (Oh my! Aren't we going to get all Wall Street on your ass?) Notes exist that finish this. No more deviations, no more proofs. They are no longer needed. I realized that if I was even partially right in all that came before, and had no reason to find much more fault than that cited heretofore, then it stands to reason that whatever followed it will most likely stand or fall on the same logic and if enough wasn't said to convince YOU, it surely did and does ME. (Yes. Ok. Functional “split personality” is alright too.) It may have something to do with reading Roberto Bolano's epic novel “2666”. Having gotten the second part of the trilogy first, I started reading at page 365 or so and realized that, yeah, this was possible, do-able. I don't have to know anything more to make all the connections I want and, in fact, will make them regardless of whether they are 100% accurate of not. That's the nature of the beast, folks.

What follows is, as much as necessary, the end. And that is why it is called...

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Part 6 (a work in progress, really)

The last one was all over the map, but it kind of had to be. You can’t get there from here, and the rap rep has, inevitably, lead to this hominem to my homie Emineminem: Mr. Marshall McLuhan. Going over all the Wiki articles and their links refreshed my memory of why this guy always looked more like a Nostradamus than a Norte Dame Emeritus (actually, McGill D., in Toronto, but I’m into hardcore phonography—what can I say?) and I barely scratched the surface.

So, the gems only: The Mechanical Bride: Folklore of Industrial Man (1951) used a work by Marcel Duchamp as its title (and with such a subtitle!), and was written as a short number of essays to be read in any order, and was as much a visual presentation (such as newspaper clippings and magazine adverts, like a Mad Ave campaign) as proper thesis paper…and looks more like a web page than anything else. The Gutenberg Galaxy: the Making of Typographic Man (1962) probably felt like science fiction-philosophy when it first came out (as I gather from materials referencing it). The term "global village" was coined here, but not in the "bringing-all-of-mankind-together" sense later popularized. MM's was much more dystopian. (And now to unregenerently Wiki once more…) Check it out:

"In the early 1960s, McLuhan wrote that the visual, individualistic print culture would soon be brought to an end by what he called ‘electronic interdependence’: when electronic media replace visual culture with aural/oral culture. In this new age, humankind will move from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity, with a ‘tribal base’.

"Instead of tending towards a vast Alexandrian library the world has become a computer, an electronic brain, exactly as an infantile piece of science fiction. And as our senses have gone outside us, Big Brother goes inside. So, unless aware of this dynamic, we shall at once move into a phase of panic terrors, exactly befitting a small world of tribal drums, total interdependence, and superimposed co-existence. [ ... ] Terror is the normal state of any oral society, for in it everything affects everything all the time. [ ... ] In our long striving to recover for the Western world a unity of sensibility and of thought and feeling we have no more been prepared to accept the tribal consequences of such unity than we were ready for the fragmentation of the human psyche by print culture." (-MM)

Ok. If this sounds like I am simply parroting MM (and Wikipedia), there's no reason it shouldn't. It is just that he arrived at his conclusions close to fifty years before Prezboy declared a “War on Terror”, and the Internet—which turned everyone into a blogger and as well into a camp “follower” (even as I have none, or one)—was even a glimmer in daddy's big fat diode.

So as we are entering Moderngrammarstan, let's pose it in a more concrete, and contemporaneous, analogy: you can't have a computer without an operating system. In this view, the "hard problem" is a "hardware vs. software" problem; which isn't really a problem as you can't do anything with either without the other. And seeing as how (outside of Sportstalk USA) this the abiding, binding metaphor of our era, the Information Age, I feel confident to suggest that it might just pass muster as the likely paradigm of the time. Our concrete reality has become an electronic one.

Perhaps, if he were still around, MM might agree that the Gutenberg Galaxy has become the Digital Universe. Exactly what impact that may have on our existence, that’s up for grabs—literally. If, as he suggests in “an infantile piece of science fiction…our senses have gone outside us”, then, just looking at web traffic (and e-mail, Facebook alerts/Twitter, etc.) we can see the most instantaneous process of our “thoughts”, our brain’s messages, have become extended to the point of visibility. This process of externalization is a major thesis of McLuhan’s, that all Media are extensions of man’s physical self into the communications realm. That he later titled his 1967 book “The Medium is the Massage” (not misspelling, not a misprint) seems to create an inherent implication of a physical contact.

But how far could he go with this? And more: how far do we want to carry it?

Back to premise #2, at least. We CAN do things in the "real" world: build pyramids, cure diseases, land men on the moon, split the atom, etc. We know why these things work, and they work over and over again. That all comes from premise # 1. This is where we get to apply premise #3 to the barely-“previously-owned” premise #4. Premise #4 is the red-headed stepchild of "reality"; it doesn't belong in the "family" but it is there nonetheless. Assuming that our affect/effect on the "real" world is as evident as our senses report (right down to the recent development of actually causing climate change by our presence, and that of our constructions/extensions of our beings), the question becomes; Does anything we do affect Quanta? And/or vice versa?

It is not so far a stretch, considering how little we know of that little level. Consider: we know that a lot mental disease comes from imbalances in neurotransmitters. By advanced pharmacology, we have made tremendous strides to the point where we can make tiny, micro-adjustments to certain individuals' blood chemistry wherein they might lead semi-"normal" lives. However, when you think of how miniscule these changes are, on a biological level, we are much closer to the molecular (well, cellular, but close enough) than we are to the corporeal.

Chaos Theory gives us this statement: a butterfly flaps its wings in China and produces hurricanes in the Caribbean. If this domino effect can also be given grounding in Quantum Mechanics (which is, I suspect, some of its origin), that's when things get strange. In classical physics, actions have consequences that we understand. There is no reason to think the same won't apply in Quanta, right? It’s just the “that we understand” part which is tricky.

So, if we can’t “understand” Quanta, then at the very least we should consider the views of someone who is open to both the “hard science” and more “speculative” side. Roger Penrose is one of the king-hell, Alpha-dog mathematicians and physicists of our day. You may have heard of Penrose Tiles at some time or other, possibly as a reference to a toy sold in advanced-state New Age trinket shops. This is no mere paperweight for your yoga teacher’s desk, however. If you Wiki, you will find a rather extensive write-up, including an animation which shows some of its variants, which are, to these eyes, like nothing so much as CGI kaleidoscope pictures or Moorish scrollwork, and very hypnotic and beautiful.

Now, is this, in any way, significant? As a matter of issue, it is. In 1974, Penrose published a paper entitled “The Role of Aesthetics in pure and applied research.” You see, even though it is considered monumentally influential and great import, and even though the ostensible point of the essay, it was actually only one fifth of the whole. Penrose, like many another major thinker, is of the opinion that for anything to work well, at the level of fundamental principles, it should not just “add up, but should also be “elegant”. This is a word you wouldn’t normally associate with gnarly quadrilateral equations and such, but math profs use it all the time. If it were “all Greek to me” then I might actually know what all those ancient Hellenic symbols were doing in there. As it is, I have to accept that when a model is used by topologists and molecular chemists and other physicists to fabricate solutions to puzzles in describing spaces that could never be solved by traditional geometry, then there must be something huge behind it. And, as well, this underscores the philosopher’s dictum of never getting to far from human references, in something like, ‘if you can see symmetry and balance, there is something working’. A lot of people wonder how scientists can come up with a 10-dimensional universe with only a few thin shreds of evidence to back up their claim. The way you do that is you devise a formula that looks beautiful, except for a big gaping hole where some number should be. Then you start looking for that number.

But getting back to Penrose, in regards the Big Picture, he has made the observation that since "fundamental levels of reality are more informational than material (viz; quantum physics), then consciousness may be the interface between quantum and 'classical' physics of our existence." That is one of the ones I started chewing on at the very beginning of my researches, and it still stuns me. And he even goes one further. "How do we understand mathematics if understanding is not just following a rule (as a computer does) but requires understanding the meaning (my italics) of mathematical concepts?" The interaction between quantum mechanics and the general theory of relativity is poorly understood. Fundamental questions about time and causality seem to depend on how that interaction gets worked out.

This is heavy stuff, but Penrose even steals a march from the fantastic cosmology of Teilhard when he proposes this: the brain exploits some large-scale quantum coherence to achieve consciousness, an infinitesimal collapse of quantum information into classical information that takes place in the cytoskeletons of neurons. And this gets an add-on from his student/collaborator Stuart Hameroff with respect to a biological analog to quantum computation involving microtubules, which became the foundation for Penrose’s subsequent book, “Shadows of the Mind: A Search for the Missing Science of Consciousness”. The proposition? That the site of this collapse might be at microscopic level of the microtubule, a computer-like protein structure inside the dendrons of every neuron and cell.

We are now leaving the SciFi Zone for Comicbookland. This ventures into the area of superpowers, like X-Men or something. Or Nietzsche?

Of course, nothing’s proven yet, but still… Consider the discussion of “values” in the long slog through Part 3. Even with an equal or greater number of detractors of Penrose’s theory (especially in the AI community, who swing in another direction entirely on Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem and the Turing Test on how to tell whether you’re playing chess with a human or Big Blue), Consciousness is actually deemed worth its weight in worry by people who do equations.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Part 5

As we ended with the teaser about the major revelation, I should explain the one that came to me while prepping this.

Most revelation in popular usage, comes from religion (i.e.: “that which is revealed unto me/us by holy spirits, etc.”), and not just X-tian. The reason the philosophers took over the last entry is that they are the only other people from whom we will accept revelation (a/k/a: “matters/thoughts revealed by reasoning upon investigation,” usually in a discovery process) besides old dead guys in robes: old dead white guys in ties (ODWGIT) As I look at where this is heading, I realize why it came about in the first place. There is a certain character of argument which is inexpressibly smug and self-satisfied for no good reason. That it usually involves Conservative think-tank talking points or Born-Again Evangelicals is immaterial to my point. They do not offer complete reasons for their positions, or dismiss the one’s I find important as insignificant and unworthy of examination. And that irks me. I have not been kicking around this sphere for as long as I have in order to simply offer my hind-quarters for an Alpha-simian to symbolically mount without some heavy petting, at the very least. As I do not dismiss your best X-tian thinkers nor the entire Republican agenda summarily, why do they refuse to engage?

Well, they don’t. They simply will not come to terms with me. (Or people with similar views to mine—let’s not get personal here.) And this is how revelation becomes (frequently, but not exclusively) Definition.

The best part of reading ODWGIT is that they spent so much time arguing in the past (and well-documented too) most of their propositions still have a clearly-defined edge, are sharp enough to cut through the dross of everyday existence to the core of what troubles us. We used to have 'prophets' coming through to preach the Good Word, then balance them with the wandering minstrels and troubadors who would bring the court gossip, and the town criers would fill in the metro section. Then we'd make up our own minds (as if that ever filled a plate). Today, however, nobody is that interested in thinking for themselves; one, because Who Has The Time?—and two, because they are afraid of being wrong. The latter is the most telling because it stifles the very thing which makes Evolution work: "God's Plan" not working out right. Facetious, perhaps; but not really. Being wrong today is the same as being a "loser", the American crime more heinous than child molestation.

But this is getting ahead of ourselves.

Premise #1 established the use of the Scientific Method. This is really nothing more than a procedure, you understand? Math’s is even simpler: Postulate, Proof, Theory. The hardest part to explain is what you are supposed to do when things don’t work out exactly as planned, according to this system. This is called Unanticipated Results. This is not the same thing as “The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.” (For an analysis of what is semantically dead-wrongwrongwrong with that statement, I suggest you try Steven Pinker’s The Stuff of Thought, of which more may yet be mentioned.) When you get Unanticipated Results (or even questionable ones) you are supposed to try to find out why, and then adjust the Theory to fit the Proofs, rather than the facts to fit the press release.

When we last left our hero, he was about to describe his BLINDING-FLASH-REVELATION (a/k/a "BFR"). As far as I can figure, they come about mostly when there is a tremendous amount of information in the brain, a general question (kinda like something you'd ask of a Ouija Board), and no particular ax to grind on the subject. For a long time, they happened mostly in the swimming pool. When you have a routine lasting 30-45 minutes (on a good day), you are going to go through the stages of First Splash (COLDCOLDCOLD), Grunt & Groan (into the initial laps), tapping any rhythm you can from the last bit of music heard on the iPod, the inevitable checking out of the girls (well?), and then...something…starts to slip. All you have to do is breathe and stretch and meditate (like yoga), or maybe ruminate might be closer, but there’s also something about the suspension, possibly a similar state to those of the Dervishes of the Far East. Whatever it is, the focus is unlike any other and in a liquid medium as well. I'm not saying that suspension in a gravity under 1G is necessary, but who knows?

And there’s another thing: the streeeeeeetch. It is often said that the brain is a muscle; it requires constant exercise to maintain elasticity. You don’t have to, like, get all pilates on your ass, so that your grey matter looks good in Speedos or Spandex; but a bit more than Sudoku is necessary. So fitting Bergson in my brain required that I frequently repeat the text and even rewrite bits of it so that I could recognize (nice word choice: “re-cognition-ize”, see?) recurring concepts and properly locate and categorize them when they popped up in different phrasings and contexts. It got so that I was arguing with him on finer points of the text, even word choice. Then it hit me: he’d written this at the turn of the century before last. And in French. Whoever translated this did so at or around the same time. Then there was no point in getting snippy over a few questionable noun or verb choices; if I understood his arguments well enough, I could correct the inconsistencies myself. Moreover, I was invited to reinterpret the conclusions in my own words, for my own language, in my own century (what there is of it).

At any rate, Bergson was talking about the value of Evolution but saying that "the truth is that adaptation explains the windings of the movement of evolution, but not the general direction of the movement. (my italics)" This was through a third or fourth reading, having put enough of his essential arguments and terminology in my cortex to have some idea of the processes he must be using to arrive at that conclusion. There was no question of this being another random word-choice error; it was a stand-alone argument and, considering Bergson’s position on the word “movement” as being rock-solid, I took issue with this very strongly.

Bold talk, I know. So, as promised, below is my reinterpretation of Bergson’s major points—adapted for our times! The stuff in bold is mine, the rest is pure Henri,more or less.

the inadequacy of the system (language) to transmit ideas across platforms
• we are forced to express ourselves in words, and we think, most often, in space
action & motion=bodies through space, while thought (concept & idea)=no evidence at all or insubstantial evidence (with respect to the above, this is how we can come up with the fallacious statement: “I’m trying to put two thoughts together.”)
the most important part of communication is having an information packet/range in a “form” that is agreeable to both ends of the argument, or transmitter/receiver array
• in common sense is contained, at any rate virtually and in embryo, all that can ever be attained of reality, for reality is verification, not construction
in order to transmit a thought, we must cease thinking, stop all motion/progression of intellect, then formulate some word objects
What else do you got? Symbols? Music? Postures and gestures? = 3 for the eye, 1 for the ear, and unless you count either exuding ammonia (fear) or pheremones (sexual attractant) you are out of options
• “Life is the acceptance from objects of nothing but the useful impression… Language has been formed in view of practical life, not pure knowledge.” For “useful” and “practical” the term “utilitarian” would be much better.
• “Concepts translate relations resulting from comparisons by which each object is finally expressed as a function of what it is not.” …which is another way of saying, “the expression of an event is so slow as to find that by the time you get it out, all references to it are expired links”
• If concepts actually express what is common, general, unspecific, does not their ground, their utility, and their interest exactly consist in sparing us this labour? …They are building-material, ready-hewn-blocks. They are the atoms, simple elements, equivalent to setting up the concept as a symbol of an abstract class, expressed by a list of general frames into its approximate class, our pigeon-holes all ready-made; the preconstructed frames.” …which is another way of saying SYNTAX! Or, as we can also view it, today, a serial-linked progression of frames into which you can put semantic information…LIKE AN HTML DOCUMENT?!?!

Ok. So, NOW who cares about another ODWGIT? I’m sure you could say that he’s been superseded by lotsa rilly kool new thinkers w/a lot more bells and whistles, 4shure. And you’d be right (if incredibly illiterate).

Henri Bergson is but a point of departure for what follows.

You may have noticed that of the above sling of slang sounds like your webdesigner trying to up their fee. It is not as if I am a geek or such; like anybody else, I use what is available. The French used to call it une idee un l'aire, "an idea in the air"; something floating about in the age, circulating amongst groups and individuals of like minds. Germans called it zeitgeist. There's probably one like it in every language. The popularity of the reference, either a word or a phrase, simply means something is shared in the way of intelligence and comprehension, but with an ineffable quality which is often called "spirit." A lot of us call it a binding metaphor. New Agers have noted its presence when enough people begin to change their way of appreciating something from one central definition to another, and they call it a paradigm shift. As for artists? William Gibson, the author who is generally credited as founding the Cyberpunk Sci-Fi “movement” (though Bruce Sterling is given as the more specific source) didn’t exactly coin the term meme, but is, again credited. Exactly how a meme is defined by Gibson (if I recall correctly, more or less) is that it is some idea similar to both of the above, but more along the lines of an internet “packet” (sound familiar?) which floats about the web as a unit of “digital information which wants to be free.”

Yes, “wants to be free”. Understand, this could be a figure of speech but should nonetheless be at the very least considered as literal. You probably want to ask the same question as I do: Are you talking about free as in “free at no cost” or as “free will”? And wants? How could a piece of “digital information” have a desire, for either end?

It would appear, then, that I’m going to have to seek out another ODWGIT before going on.

The reason the above is phrased/framed by techspeak is that I looked at everything Bergson said and came to the conclusion that he was operating on the same assumptions (ok—word choice? Could be “premises”? “Historical record”? “Sequence of learning”? “Scholarly discipline”? Feel free to fill in a better one…) as the only communications theorist/philosopher worth mentioning, by my lights: Marshall McLuhan. His 1964 book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man is so shockingly relevant to today, it is a small wonder we don't have entire curricula devoted to teaching it. Or maybe I know why already: if we were informed of the ways we were being manipulated by our adverts and entertainments, even to the point of confusing them with our work, participation in civic duties, information absorbtion for decision-making in the common weal of society... There was a reason Gil Scott-Heron wrote his classic song of the '60s, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

With respect to the aforementioned une idee un l'aire/zeitgeist/paradigm shift/meme, McLuhan came out and about with his major thesis back when, but formulated it in the ‘50s, and really out of the basis of his beliefs and opinions, established in smaller works dating back to his 1942 Cambridge University doctoral dissertation. So, context? Einstein, Heisenberg, Godel, but also Marcel Duchamp, Jackson Pollack, John Cage and Merce Cunningham—and there are many more. The post-WWII period was also the start of the Atom Age as well. Significant? Just wait a minute or two.

A few points of CV and pertinent obsv., lifted from Wiki (as usual).
• Early speciality is the history of the verbal arts (grammar, dialectic and logic, and rhetoric -- collectively known as the trivium) from the time of Cicero down to the time of Thomas Nashe.
• Modern life is characterized by the reemergence of grammar as its most salient feature -- a trend McLuhan felt was exemplified by the New Criticism.
• In The Mechanical Bride, McLuhan turned his attention to analyzing and commenting on numerous examples of persuasion in contemporary popular culture. At this point his focus shifted dramatically, turning inward to study the influence of communication media independent of their content.
• Had some interest in the Critical Realism of Bernard Lonergan, re: whilst empiricism, and positivism more generally, locate causal relationships at the level of events, Critical Realism locates them at the level of the generative mechanism and so--
• Critical Realism refers to any position that maintains that there exists an objectively knowable, mind-independent reality, whilst acknowledging the roles of perception and cognition
• His famous slogan, "the medium is the message" calls attention to this intrinsic effect of communications media, but, at the empirical level of consciousness, whereas at the intelligent and rational levels of consciousness, the content is the message.

Now, the reason to traverse that much of the map without any guideposts is the same as going through the thickets of Husserl’s phenomenology: you just have to eat this stuff whole if you are going to digest any of it. (Feel free to extend this metaphor to its logical conclusion, if it makes you happy.) The point here? We are beginning to round the turn into where this all began, how the exact arguments for the “hard problem/soft science” advocates were…framed. (Didn’t think we’d ever get back to that, did you?)

If you are getting bored by now, imagine my surprise. So here’s where it goes from here on out: 1) the new paradigm/binding metaphor for the Brain/Mind is the Internet, and 2) a belief in God is actually stunting the evolutionary process AND were it actually part of “God’s Plan,” it is as well an impediment to the logically-desired results of The Creator.

Meet you at the next page…

Friday, February 27, 2009

Part 4

The “easy problem/hard Science” has taken us just about as far as it can, to this point, and we’ll come back to them once more before the close. But the whole exercise in the last one—all that heavy lifting of Context and Syntax and carpet tacks—was just so it could get back into the real discussion of lots of philosophers who tackled the same material. Don’t expect any massive justification for taking one guy’s terms and definitions over another’s as well; on this point all I can say is, when I ran across someone who made sense, I went along with him until he stopped making sense. And if that is the only lesson I got from Bergson, it was a good one.

To roundup a posse for this round, we’ll put off introductions until they become pertinent. Meanwhile, let’s restate the case: all we wanted to capture was The Brain, The Mind, The Soul and The Consciousness. Not too ambitious is it? Looking back on the whole, it comes to me the worst of it is sentences that make Faulkner sound like Hemingway. It’s just that, when you start with The Big Questions, the answers always seem to get longer, not better. And then there’s the jargon, filled with discipline-specific terms and references enough to make the average person blanch at the prospect of entering into the dialogue. The awful truth is that's the way it has to be: there are no tow ropes to the top of Everest. For the last time, the point is Language, as a tool, is simply inadequate as we know it. So? That just means we have to know more.

This requires an epic scope to regard the “Big Picture,” even looking at things outside the science frame. This is where philosophers help ... and painters, poets, playwrights, songs, and artists of every stripe. This is how I began investigating the emininence grises and ended up on the wild side. It wasn't Husserl and Phenomenology per se, or that Bergson thinks “intuition” as valuable as the Lever, the Fulcrum or the Inclined Plane or Whitehead et al. hitting on the same conclusions as the present researchers of the "hard" problem, using almost the same terminology. Sure, it's just as likely that they've read the same material as you or had teachers who did, but just as likely that this is the course of thinking which leads to these conclusions. From such august authorities, you’d expect the same sobriety as the mechanics of the Church and State, and Newton too... but among these ephemeral ratiocinationists you find a craziness more often associated with deranged dope fiends or acid heads on a trip into the astral plane, even entering into the extremes of the Nietzschean Superman, and, possibly that of the Siegel and Schuster one as well.

And how do you get there? Logic. Impossible! -- right? Nope. My favorite logician isn't Kant or Wittgenstein or Liebnitz or even Plato -- it's Sherlock Holmes. While some may think of the master of deduction as little more than a pretty fiction, there is still nothing to fault the methods by which he applied his talents to crime in his Gaslight Era world, instead of hanging out at the Diogenes Club like his brother, Mycroft, plotting secret agent schemes for Queen Victoria. What compelled us to his reasoning when we were kids is even more significant in this venue; in answering the questions, the riddle of plots and counterplots and sub-plots out of what, to other eyes, are insignificant bits of junk, ephemera, irrelevant issues, etc., he arrived at his operative maxim, "Eliminate the impossible and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the solution." Under this maxim, the attitude from here on out will be to stick to the essential terms, take every divergence and test it for Truth or Fallacy, eliminate the weakest argument, and move forward with the attitude that the clearest path through the forest is the right one. (More on this later.)

So, if we're going to use Darwin, then let's use ALL of Darwin, pull back the curtain – so to speak – because every conclusion from now on will rest on these limbs. This is the "tripod", the three legs which have stood the test of time so well, of evolutionary theory: 1) Natural Selection is not "survival of the fittest" but the process by which the species, as a whole, progresses and adapts over time with the following two mechanisms; 2) organisms also make selections; and 3) the environment assists in making these selections. (The organism is US, you and I; let's get that out of the way right away.) But take note, as well, of how similar this reasoning is to the Hegelian Dialectic: species (thesis), change in environment compelling physical alteration of organism (dynamic effect on lifeform – as opposed to static existence – or anti-thesis) and new phylum (synthesis).

It is in this same way, of looking at The Parts and The Whole, then adding in personal perspective, that every creator sees things from a slightly different perspective than the commons, and that in their process – choice of media, cultural references, emotional evocations, etc. – they might overcome prejudices and opinions set in stone and force a fresh confrontation with the aforementioned enigmas. Artists try to describe things that defy rational description, in terms or images that may, or may not, exist. Much to the same end, Philosophers are frequently forced to come up with neologisms to kinda mash-it-up to the point where disparate sides may come together.

Case in point: Teilhard de Chardin was a French Jesuit priest, trained as a paleontologist who was at the discovery of “Peking Man”, who “met the Absolute” while on his way to being decorated for service as a stretcher –bearer during WWI. So much of his thought was considered heresy and censored during his life, his best works were only circulated among progressive clerics similar to samizdats among old Soviet dissidents. In his posthumously published “The Phenomenon of Man,” he tried his damnedest (and, according to the monitum of the Holy Office of 1962, anybody who listened to him would be in danger of a similar fate) to reconcile Christianity and Evolution.

The rock-bottom dogma of Catholic faith is Mankind was redeemed by a single act of divine intercession and that ONLY. (The Passion of the Cross, etc.) Forget the "Monkey Trial" appellation, this is why Scopes v. State, 152 Tenn. 424, 278 S.W. 57 (Tenn. 1925) , remains the watershed reactionary moment of 'Ugly American' values. The evidence the Plaintiff offered (or attempted to offer), his justification, was as much an alternative interpretation as today's “intelligent design,” with the progression of life from cellular slime to homo sapiens constituting "God's Plan.” (Not that Clarence Darrow ever put it in those terms. exactly. But, as Spencer Tracy did, we'll accept it as a factoid.) This would imply humanity was, if not perfectable, certainly improvable in incremental steps and that the Process Itself could be Divine Ordinance as much as the Ten Commandments or the New Testament, and by which progress to Climax Species (“the great reward” or “getting’ up day”, depending upon your profession of faith) would be achieved when human intelligence/soul/consciousness united with all creation/The Creator to become one with the Cosmos (aka: “Heaven” +/-).

The above teleological view of Evolution is actually adapted from Teilhard's, having been formed at just about the same time as the trial. And check it out closely: this is a true synthesis; an attempt to reconcile his Faith with his understanding of Reality. Diverging only slightly from Darwin, he ascribed a human agency to species progress, which, in his view, was an increasingly optional process, as societal isolation and marginalization were seen as becoming huge inhibitors to that culmination, actually making a sideswipe at the possibility that Man, as a species, might have some measure of control over his destiny. That this is straight-up 100% Christian dogma on Free Will, the thing that separates us from the angels – minimum – wasn't his heresy, however. It was the way his work framed the basic messages of Jesus as an all-embracing compassion ("Love Your Enemies" being a more basic tenet than Papal Sees) in the unification of consciousness, which he proposed as an “Omega Point” in the “Noosphere” which would represent the “Christogenesis.”

Too Buddistic?...or too Sci Fi? (I’m not making this up here.)

To recap the recap: Evolution is at the core of everything with respect to living processes; everything else is junk. In the camp of “easy problem/ hard Science” advocates, it can be summed up in the maxim “Form Follows Function”. However, when you bring in an amorphous concept like “consciousness,” exactly how do you measure its contributions to the form of homo sapiens? How much “weight” (mass?) do you give to the Neutrinos of Intellect and Personality? While the word “quale” may be another invention, not so different from Teilhard's, the verifiable data on behavior says that something at least like it does exist, so how does that get factored in?

In the opposing camp—the “hard problem/no easy answers” crowd—you find this dilemma addressed from two positions. On one end, you have the metaphysical implications, interpreting the “deep structure” of the above maxim as "Shape/Configuration Determined By Usage", which leads us back into the linguistics again, and no help there. We know how a physical description works; what we want is the non-physical usage of “Form”; how “thoughts” fit into the organism’s description.

On the other end, you’ve got those who believe thoughts are special communications with God, which negates any other view on the face of it. Their “scientific” angle on "form" is propped up by those few true believers who make a living out of teaching (usually chemistry or biology) at university, and a business of finding textual corollaries in prophesy and scripture to their particular field of expertise (usually funded by "research institutes” closely affiliated with fundamentalist church groups). A perfect example of their grounds for discussion are the "complexity” of the Eye and proteins. According to their view, such mechanisms are so dense with dependent systems immutably intertwined and, as well, impossible to reverse engineer (as if that were a qualification for anything but graduation from a Chinese University with a degree in chop-shop chop-socky), this must be proof of “intelligent design,” that the only way to solve such knotty issues would be to put “God” into them as the Universal Equation Solver. As "equations" go, this one seems more like jumping to conclusions rather than the slow walk to enlightenment. You want a Leap of Faith? Try Kierkegaard. Otherwise, time for a stroll...

This begs the question: Suppose we put Darwin (meaning: his entire body of work and all succeeding generations of discoveries, including the complete fossil record, right up to the summations and popularizations of the whole by Stephen Jay Gould) there instead, does that necessarily negate “God”? Einstein would go for the broader implications, (as he always would) saying something like, Darwin has merely solved one of God’s lesser riddles. This may be an argument that some “intelligent design” spokespersons might accept, but try telling it to a staunch Creationist. They have drawn a line in the sands of Time (or Eden) and say: We shall not cross over. They may think it is Styx with Dis and the Vale of Woe on the other shore. However, their stance is not that different from Moses at the River Jordan, saying ‘I cannot cross into the Promised Land because the voices in my head say: God Said No.’

In those days, he was the Liberator, the Leader of the Tribes. Today we’d say: Dude, get some therapy, ok? So? Who’s right and who’s wrong? Or when's right and how wrong?

This is where some of us might get our ire up. The point is, if the above equation has any validity -- which seems to be that systems so complex could not have evolved naturally and must perforce have been "gifted" by some higher agency -- then try substituting something else equally complex. Like Language. We know about alphabets; we have Sumerian accountant's tablets, like the IRS of the Tigris and Euphrates delta, to decipher. As for speech (the former Babylonian parable aside), we can trace the grunts and gestures, gasps and clicks that were the the precursor to our sesquipedallian feats of oral terpsichore. Naturally. If God made it, why would we have so many petty misunderstandings, let alone armed conflicts? Nope. There is no challenge to what one may “believe” in the above proposition. It is more of a case of asking one how they may ‘think” about something, only to treat it as a verb (an action) and not as a request for a noun (“what are your feelings on the subject”; an opinion). This is about Process, not end product.

“Thinking” is so much more than mere informational processing with emotional responses and physical sensations to create individual perspectives that code into neurotransmitters which become stored in quales to resolve into an integrated experience. We need to put “awareness” in there as well; the amorphous quality of having something which the brain contains but with no specific reference to what it is…much like “Consciousness”. Put them together with “Thinking” and you’d assume it would make us all Captains of our Ships, Masters of our Destinies, right? According to the Church, we are given Free Will to choose God over the Devil (Temptations of the Flesh? – rather odd to see how apropos such a construction is – see * below), and can be just as easily interpreted in Teilhard’s textural points as well. So that would mean we also have the Free Will to change His plan then, don’t we? Does knowledge of a state mean one has control of it? In the case of Anger or Hunger, we can curb our temper or appetite, but Love or Fear? How often have we been made powerless over such issues, despite our knowing full well our utter infatuation is without hope of reciprocity, nor does our dread from some childhood trauma guard our adult selves from its unmerciful attack. In short: feelings aren’t facts. Nope. Anybody who’s ever had to overcome chronic phobias or join a 12-Step program will tell you: just because I may know what’s right doesn’t mean I’m going to do what’s right.

So try to convince your “Form Follows Function” advocates that “Biology is Destiny*”, huh? The latter is the same justification used for the superiority of the Aryan Race, the oppression of women and chattel slavery. Shows to go you how you must be very careful when simplifying stuff for public distribution. Nope. At some point, which is now, you have to cast off from the safe harbors of Darwin's perfectly rational description of organisms, AND that of the certainty of a personal Jesus and admit just how difficult it is to nail down what goes on upstairs. It may not be the work of God the Architect, but if you believe it is all just autonomous processes combined with varying degrees of intellectual influence, you’re not only barking up the wrong tree, you can’t even see the tree bark.

You've got to look for something new, and the best thing we can say, for certain, about the subject, is: the best thing that “thinking” does is creating.

A good example of why I brought up philosophers is that they are, more than anything else, Scientists of the Word, or even Concept, which is already the "spirit" of the "Word" as much as the motivating principle of the "form-er" is the "spirit" of the Law, as opposed to "the letter of the Law", something close to, yet beyond, definition.

This is how Edmund Husserl could publish his first paper on the Psychology of Arithmetic in 1891 (like many another philosopher, he originally wanted to be a mathematician) and go on from there to found the incredibly formula-laden, jargon-heavy school of thought called Phenomenology. (I gloss over Hegel's own dialectical phenomenology as we've already said enough about him, and Husserl was, as well, a transcendentalist. This helps a lot when talking with anti-communists and pro-lifers who want to toss out Hegel because Marx and Engels liked him.) Now this may be dismissed as being too arcane, obtuse and without any application to human existence, but there are other considerations. It is the nature of philosophy to present new ideas in thinking (call them pathways in logic, if you want, through the forest of confusion) that allows/permits/encourages those interested in pursuing fresh approaches to old problems by offering models/devices/formulas which enhance their ability to handle/grasp/visualize (even) the issue at hand.

You will note here that the “slashed” items are there to actually add alternative verbs and nouns, as if to present the same material issues as being raised in the sentence itself. You will also note that the last set refers to very physical actions. This is another trait of philosophers: attempting to concretize abstractions so that lofty examples may have at least some semblance of the reality of everyday life. This is also how they come to their solutions as well, following the scientific methods of classification into Species, Classes, Genres, Phylum, Types, etc., but, instead of using animal/vegetable/mineral substances, they use parts of speech/language/grammars.

And this is how it can work. It was in the early 1900s when Husserl promoted his new outlook of “transcendental phenomenology”. In this, he focuses on “the study of propositional systems in their linguistic manifestations and utterances,” which, in common speak is: the things we want to (intend to) say and the things we do say (how it comes out of our mouth, per se). Pretty ugly huh? Try: Many a slip twixt the cup and the lip! Now doesn’t that sound simple? Well, you have to get through a lot more, including “acts” and “meanings” as propositions (stuff which we "propose" to make happen) and nominal (stuff we "nominate," sort of vote for among candidates, as possible acts) cases, but then you come to ‘sense=meaning’ (read: ‘semantic’) and ‘nonsense=pure grammar’ (read: ‘syntax’) and you end up in a place that starts to look very much like modern research.

Remember this one? “The brain is a semantic engine mimicking a syntactical engine.” But wait, there’s more.

When Husserl starts talking about “logically consistent meaning” in a “an act of continuous perception or intuitive imagination” it seems another opaque bit of blather. Then he mentions “indexical experiences” -- like the statement: “I am here now” -- because they have no subtext or “non-propositional” referent (like alternative or hidden meaning, see?) which could be mistaken as anything other than what they are. (And it is this which became a direct paraphrase to entitle the '60s Flower Child guru Baba Ram Dass' incredibly influential book -- which could be subtitled "The Tao for Dummies" -- Be Here Now.) This messes with Husserl's whole theory as “some meanings are inconsistent for formal-logical reasons, as all analytically false propositions belong to this category…as they conflict with some general material a priori truth, also called ‘essential law’, and this proposition is expressed by the sentence ‘There are perceptual objects whose surface is both (visibly) completely green and completely red at the same time’.” And that's a direct quote, OK? Gobbledeygook? Yes. Don't try to figure it out, just take this away: it echoes something previously discussed.

Remember: “The Liar’s Paradox”? “Any formal system complicated enough to have such axioms will also have some statement which is not provable, nor would its contradiction as well.”

Yup. They both take us all the way back to (for the purposes of this treatise) or forward (in real time) to Dennett (the former) and Godel (the latter) in Part 2! Husserl even takes the aforementioned indexical experience and underscores the problem as one of it being so context-sensitive that a fundamental characteristic of it is “singularity” (“sui generis”)—another neo-physics term, made famous by Steven Hawking. Husserl to Godel to Dennett to Hawking means that there is something being built here, if not in series then certainly IN PARALLEL. See premise #3.

We have a scientist taking a philosopher (or a scientist-philosopher taking a philosopher-scientist) to express a physical (physics) property in the language of speculation and anyone is obliged to say: Well, what evidence do you have they had the same subjects in mind when they chose those words? The one thing you must remember is that when you get your doctorate in science, it ain't called a PhD for nothing. A "doctor of philosophy" means you understand the ideas behind your particular discipline and are very particular about how you choose to discuss it in open forum. Essential terms are going to be repeated for the simplest of reasons: YOU CAN'T TALK ABOUT THE REAL STUFF WITHOUT THEM. (It’s kinda like painting without primary colors, see?)

Now, just because these terms get used by a few different people over the years shouldn’t be called earth-shattering. It is only when you begin to trace the lines of enquiry and thought, realizing that Husserl was a direct influence on Teilhard and probably Godel, and either, both or maybe all on Dennett, you start to see how the invention of these otherwise impenetrable theories could spur on these polymaths and puzzlers to solve their own riddles, using bits of that logic and this science to find out how to describe the indescribable. THEY ARE USING THE SAME "FORMS" (and/or the best available data for their times).

Or, you could just as easily take Husserl ‘s further march that outlines singularity and the “intent horizon” of the indexical experience, being a full 360-degree surroundsound view of “possible worlds” linked together by “a sense of identity through time.” A poet might say an “intent horizon” was merely “the best laid plans”, but the fellow on the corner, primpin’ his ‘fro with a pick, might just say: “What it is, what it was and what it shall be.”

See? If you can break a conjugation down to a streetcorner catchphrase, it can’t be all that wrong. Like what philosophers call Common Sense. And that's not so far from what Henri Bergson would call his elan vital -- Intuition.

At the turn of the last century, Bergson was, for a time, the most influential philosopher of his day. Time and Free Will: An essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness (1889), Creative Evolution (1907), Mind Energy (1919) Duration and Simultaneity: A proposal on the Theories of Einstein (1921) were only a few of his groundbreaking books wherein he tired to absorb the best science of the day and figure out what it meant to the subject at hand. Some of his conclusions, are still quite relevant today, the basic ones being: "We are forced to express ourselves in words and we think, most often, in space," and "We are made as much and more, for action than for thought", and "existence consists in change, change in ripening, ripening in endless self-creation." The latter quote will show how much Bergson was influenced by the Hegelian dialectic of Thesis/Antithesis/Synthesis, which is just about the same thing as the Theory of Evolution. So we aren't really that far from where we started.

"The true inner reality... contains nothing quantitative; the intensity of a psychological state is not a magnitude, nor can it be measured. ... Our inner states form a qualitative continuity; they are prolonged and blended into one another; they are grouped in harmonies, each note of which contains an echo of the whole; they are encircled by an innumerable degradation of halos, which gradually colour the total content of consciousness; they live each in the bosom of his fellow." Now doesn't that sound as close to anything in cognitive research a hundred years later? Or how about a taste of one of Husserl's students, Alfred North Whitehead's process philosophy, that "reality is always in the process of becoming."

Emergent property, right?

And sure -- all old dead white guys in ties. Big deal. Yeah, well being that Bergson was the source for Teilhard, and Husserl, who was the basis for Heidegger who was the basis for Sartre who spawned the Existentialists, which led us Americans to the Beat Generation, et al., ad infinitum... Yeah, it is a big deal. How often have YOU wondered where you got your ideas from? And it is not as if Bergson was the be-all-&-end-all of my aspirations. He's not aged well and had quite a few holes in his progression of arguments, two that spring to mind in particular. The first was based on false reportage (but as this goes against his main premise of direct experience of information, he can be forgiven) and became one of the most often-cited hoaxes in the scientific community next to Piltdown Man. (Gould uses it in almost every book.) The second on incomplete reasoning (a more serious crime). Yet it was in digging out why the latter point didn't work that I got my major revelation.

Which is going to take a little more time...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Part 3


It is time to consider exactly what it was you were trying to answer, and IN CONTEXT. In “Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy” series, the penultimate tome was entitled Life, The Universe and Everything... which is pretty close to where these studies have gone. At the beginning, it was just ‘how does the brain function and what does that mean for the mind?' It was this dual ambition that rode the teeter-totter between the "easy problem/hard science" and "hard problem/soft science, philosophical speculation", which sort of slid off into the aforementioned Douglas Adams title question, and, as well as the greater implications.

Like God.

But before going any further, we’ve got to establish some ground rules, some basic premises.

1. The scientific method is employed at all times. (And if you got to have that defined, you really need to go back to page one...or enroll at courses in at Bob Jones University or something.)

2. Equations usually mean balancing substances/properties until some understanding of what measures up against what, the simplest being something like algebra and the most complex along the lines of, say, John Nash's Bargaining problem or such. (You know, "A Beautiful Mind"?) This little bit was copped off a philosophy website and I offer it here unattributed simply to get the juices flowing. "The rules of replacement that we employ here include: De Morgan's Theorems,
Commutation, Association, Distribution, Double Negation, Transposition, Implication, Equivalence, Exportation, and Tautology. These, taken together with the nine rules of inference, adequately secure the completeness of the propositional calculus." See? It ain't all about the numbers.

3. Sort of a take on Premise #2, the thesis here covers the concepts of Parallelism as well as Symmetry. We see how it works in math (fractals and the Mandelbrot series most prominent among many), but this premise is herewith given to establish its constant presence in Nature as a scientific fact (despite some history of fraud; see the notorious case of Ernest Haeckl and his "Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny" scam) in both organic and inorganic matter. We will assume this premise on the basis that it has enough evidence to raise it to the level of a Law for living organisms (such as the Symmetry of DNA and Parallel states of embryonic development), and then, with that support, to note enough observations of the microcosm/macrocosm effect (such as the spherical Symmetry of atoms and planets, star systems and galactic clusters, etc. and the same Parallelism) that we can say a certain degree of similar manifestations will occur at different ends of the scales...with one specific proviso: IN CLASSICAL PHYSICS.

4. NOW, when premise #3 does NOT apply – CLASSICAL VS. QUANTUM – it is not only possible but necessary to describe the Universe (and all subsequent principles and subjects) in terms of both.

It is STRONGLY advised you make note of these because they are going to be constantly referred to by the shorthand of “#(with numeral)”. And often. And in combinations. (Don’t say you weren’t warned.)

Proceeding from premise #3, we begin with The Universe and the Big Bang. To put it semi-biblically, in the beginning, there was a “plasma,” infinitely dense and infinitely hot, but totally without form in the void, as we understand it: neither matter nor energy. So, so far, the King James version, for want of a better word (“logos” actually, but why go there now?), ain’t too far off the mark.

“And God said: 'Let there be Light!'”

Or, as we said: “B-bang!”

So now what?

Energy is what is the first out of the box, E=MC2. It is recorded as also the beginning of TIME & SPACE. (Aside posit: of course, Time & Space – the former is our measurement to the expanding edge of the Universe, the latter is what came in behind the edge… So then, in a 10-D universe, the other 9 or 8 were “unfolding” (or not) in a parallel manner, even, maybe, because Time & Space developed faster, they didn’t. No particular reason to think why not. Michio Kaku (see prev.) has noted that a few of the models of the “other” dimensions – on “branes,” short for membranes – could actually be “nested” within ours on undeveloped-yet-parallels, sort of like the buds on a tree that didn’t bloom. This is, however, all just conjecture...and simile . But more on THAT later as well.)

So, energy reached some “point” of expansion to where it slowed down from the speed of light and became matter. (Remember: E=MC2 also means, if it ain’t going at 186,000 miles per second, it ain’t light, and when you cycle down from ultraviolet to infra-red, eventually you are going to get matter.) You see, matter is what takes up, SPACE, naturally… Perhaps Gravity came into being as the first energy that wasn’t light. Without the intervention of a physicist to say otherwise, it stands to reason that this is the one core property of energy manifest in Matter that we a) know the least about, b) have no identified particle as the carrier of its force, and c) can manipulate the least. And the best reason to believe “gravity as a force” came first is that it is the sole force connected to Mass (E=MC2).

Then, regardless of the other dimensions, this one established the observable phenomena that makes up our understanding of Classical Physics, a/k/a “the Standard Model”. We call it that because it is the one that has stood the premise #1 test since premise #1 has been in use, right up through and including Newton. Then came Einstein, Planck, Heisenberg, Godel, Hawking, et al. At this juncture Quantum Mechanics, Relativity, Incompleteness, Uncertainty, all began to enter into the search for elementary particles. And seeing as how this is premise #4, we should stop here and recap.

There’s only been two theories of the cosmos with any premise #1 basis: The Steady State Theory and the Big Bang Theory. The SS claims that all matter and energy that ever was is still here today. However, while that MAY have some support from The First Law of Thermodynamics (a/k/a the Law of Conservation of Mass & Energy, saying, basically, E can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed), The Second Law of Thermodynamics (a/k/a Entropy) says that any closed system will inevitably decay into its lowest energy state. So, if all the Matter & Energy that ever was is still here, when it gets transformed into radiant energy in a star, say, there has to be an accumulation of inert material, exhausted matter, which, occasionally will collapse into white dwarfs or black holes or neutron stars, WHICH ARE ALL VERIFIABLE ENTITIES -- they have been proven to exist. Then, at the very least, the SS is highly improbable just from observable data employed in premise #1.

Now, unless we are going to dispense with the Laws of Intertia – that describe energy as much as bodies at rest or in motion will remain in those states until acted upon by an outside force -- we are compelled to accept that dead matter ain’t going to spontaneously generate MORE energy unless hammered by MORE energy than it contains…which exhausts yet another bit of matter… Unless you believe that a Pertpetual Motion Machine is going to solve our dependency on foreign oil (in which case, I have a patent I would like to show you…), then you’d better reject the Steady State Theory. Everything comes to an end. Period.

So, then the Classical/Standard Model with the Big Bang is the way our “reality” works. Nothing falls up. No one “youngens” like Merlin in “Camelot.” AND THE HEAT-DEATH OF THE UNIVERSE IS INEVITABLE.

But there’s no need to get depressed about it. The fun part is that, in Quanta, you can have particles without mass, faster than the speed of light, can be two places at the same time, etc. If they were brick, we could build some crazy houses…but they aren’t. And that they are all mixed up in a soup of forces BEYOND gravity pretty much means they can do whatever they want in a subatomicverse of superstrings and dark matter and dark energy and Higgs Bosons…

Our existence is governed by a classical model of matter, but only touching upon the classical model of energy when we encounter a doorknob after shuffling across a fiber carpet in the middle of a dry Winter day, try to go into the paint for a layup, or get caught in an A-bomb blast or Chernyobl. These are all cute ways of saying, we don’t really know anything about them at all until it physically affects us. At the Quantum level, we know of the Weak Force, Electromagnetic Force, and Nuclear Force – at least, those are the ones we have identified. That’s why Particle Physicists are betting the farm on the Higgs Boson as the theoretical carrier of Mass – a/k/a, Gravity. Put those two ideas together and consider: what we know about what the impact of Classical/Standard Model physics is on our lives and existences, it stands to reason (again!) that what we DON’T know is what could be doing stuff we couldn’t even conceive of.

Bad sentence, but it should sound clumsy: it is attempting to describe the indescribable, a convoluted way of saying what we don’t know could hurt/help us…but we don’t know…ESPECIALLY WHEN IT COMES DOWN TO CONSCIOUSNESS!

Why I go to Philosophers like Henri Bergson, for instance, is that he is strict about keeping all philosophy in touch (literally) with the physical world, especially in the construction of concepts in simile and metaphor. Philosophers can do one thing better than scientists: they can parse words/concepts down to the elements of meaning, and that's the only way we are going to be able to talk about anything so greasy and amorphous as the present subject. You see, the brain/mind manipulates/creates thoughts/concepts. What are we doing when we do things in our heads, really? Even the choice of the underlined verbs must be questioned (let alone the use of an italicized concrete noun in a place where only thoughts are supposed to be) for, if talk is cheap, then thoughts are worthless, right?

Hold that Question Mark.

In the “real” world, everyone agrees on Ghandi and MLK, Jr., Democracy and Freedom -- these are expressions of thoughts, beliefs, which are of value and power, but only if enough people get behind them. However, these are examples of a social phenomenon and the psychology of mass movements; an idea shared, an “ideal” idea, and not to be confused with Thought. To capitalize the noun as Thought, then is what we'll do to give it an identity, ok? So then, Thought...does what? Thorny, ain't it? This is why we must to return to philosophers and feed them the toughest nuts, like WHAT DOES “DOES WHAT” mean?

Beyond the obvious fact that there are wide variances, gulfs even, between what I mean when I say something and what you mean using the exact same sentence (phrasing, stress, accent, plus personal associations or colorations of and with the words themselves), Philosophers treat the expression of Thought with the precision of a diamond cutter. So, come down on the “hard problem” and the “soft science” again, of "What is Consciousness?" or “What is Consciousness For?” but describe it as an algebraic statement: VALUE OF "THOUGHT" +/- FUNCTION OF PRODUCT OF "THOUGHT" TO SUM/PRODUCTION – RESOLVE. Pretty clunky, admittedly, but this is something Bergson would take a little time with as he started out as a mathematician, and simply because the end of it asks for variables to be calculated and the middle inquires of the use of some addition/multiplication/division /subtraction – a “function” – operator. In phrasing it this way, as a formula, you can then plug in alternative definitions -- using “value” as “spirituality” or “worth” or “moral” and “function” as “facility” or “usage” or “purpose” and “product” as “thing manifest in reality” or “affect upon reality”– to test the validity of each solution. Yet words do more than numbers, so, when asking, one needs CONTEXT. On these pages, the obvious one is of essential terms of logic, completely dissociated from the societal framework, but insofar as we maintain the right to have the use the definitions of the English Language at our disposal. So let’s just to hold onto one term from the common definition of “value”, and that is “worth”. We can immediately reference stock exchangespeak of “net worth” and “dollars & cents” and “trading”, etc., which is, by & large, the most important “worth” of today: “Wealth.”

Then, when you ask, “are thoughts worthless”, you are putting it in the context of “dreamer”, “wastrel”, “idler”, and other epithets for those who are “lost in thought”, which, in-&-of-itself, is also a prejorative phrase. (And now that I think about it, this could be an apt description of myself. And even, perhaps, the whole reason for this essay as just an attempt to justify my seemingly pointless existence. Valid criticism? Nope. It doesn’t lessen the lesson.)

Now, substitute the term “valueless” for “worthless,” give "valueless" the definition found in premise #1, and apply premise #1 in the context of #2, #3, and #4, and you start to get the uneasy feeling that, maybe, the answer is another question: Electrical, Weak, Nuclear? WHAT FUNCTION? WHICH VALUE? If they can be measured (and they can – as activity in various parts of the cortex responding to stimuli or activity requests by the anatomy, recorded by EEG’s and MRI’s and the like, make meters flicker, you know – that sort of thing), then the answer is: No, not valueless.

Before you dismiss the latter as an exercise in rhetoric, please consider all the previous. Context & Syntax: the former is the placement of ANY THING/noun IN SOME SEQUENCE OF OCCURRENCE. The latter applies solely to LANGUAGE and its transmission. “That remark was taken out of context,” is the wounded cry of the politico caught with his pants down in a men’s room in Wisconsin or somesuch. But you never hear “You got the wrong syntax!" unless you are:

1. a philosopher
2. a professional grammarian or linguist
3. Wm. F. Buckley or that guy in the Times magazine
4. Strunk & White
5. Robert M. Pirsig

…who wrote “Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and spent several years following down an essential remark of Plato’s only to find that, in an expert seminar on the subject itself, even the professor dismissed a minor interpretation of syntax, leaving him wondering why it was so important in the first place, and that is what most people call “a worthless thought,” as the rest of the book became a chronicle of his descent into madness after this apocalypse.

When I was in college, one semester I took a course in Transformational Grammar. Big mistake, but, while much of it was beyond me, the bit about "deep structure" stayed. It was examining exactly how we formed sentences, trying to fix the sequence in which information was assembled to understand at what point, before speech/transmission, the grammar was employed/deployed to determine such things as "subject/object," choice of pronoun over noun, passive or active construction -- all things which the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein attempted to deal with in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

“In rough order, the first half of the book sets forth the following theses:

• The world consists of independent atomic facts — existing states of affairs — out of which larger facts are built.
• Language consists of atomic, and then larger-scale propositions that correspond to these facts by sharing the same "logical form".
• Thought, expressed in language, "pictures" these facts.
• We can analyse our thoughts and sentences to express ("express" as in show, not say) their true logical form.
• Those we cannot so analyze, cannot be meaningfully discussed.
• Philosophy consists of no more than this form of analysis: "Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muß man schweigen" ("Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent").”
(The above copied from Wikipedia article, verbaitum.)

But what truly stuck with me were his incredibly beautiful and telling summations of his "picture theory" of propositions: "The world is all that the case is," and "If you can't talk about it, point to it" among others. In the class entitled Transformational Grammar, these were the most valuable lessons, seeing into the very heart of his philosophy in aphoristic and axiomatic messages. As for exactly what Syntax is, I'm not sure we ever got that established to my satisfaction. I remember Noam Chomsky coming to lecture one time. All he wanted to talk about was the Vietnam War; I never got a straight answer about that is all I recall about the Q&A.

Nonetheless, Syntax, then, is not so impenetrable a subject as long as you continue to challenge your preconceived notions that you know what you are saying when all you really know is what you mean. Then, for the purpose of this exposition, we shall, in light of Herr Wittgenstein's previous assignment of "facts" to the "atomic" level, as well assign "syntax" to the Quantum level under this proviso: It is a "force" about which we know very little, but have every reason to believe exists in some as-yet-unidentifiable form.

So, when you are going to use words in unfamiliar settings, you are going to have situations where they might have two meanings. This is why we note that metaphor and simile must be employed only with absolute precision: if you don’t see a “like” or an “as” in there, don’t read something else. This is why you must never confuse the subject/object placement and always accept the fact that if you have any confidence in the Other’s, the author’s, voice, you are going to have to follow it until it leads you astray.

Ok, remember “worthless”? Carry this on one step further. There are processes going on “up there” from recipes for salsa to differential calculus to pick-up lines to carpentry to ____________. “Before I open a file, I want a retainer,” is some attorney’s first reaction to a client’s request. You have billable hours, you don’t waste time on something that doesn’t pay. It is, as Herr W. might typify it, a "case", which is also a framework, which also means that is worthless, in that context. Still, you do need a design before you build anything; even a writer needs an outline sometimes. That is ORGANIZING YOUR THOUGHTS.

However, there is another context, another kind of "organization", one that is not as easily penetrated; it is spontaneous, personal, eccentric and even whimsical When you hear music, the well-tempered scale, harmonic series, drums in rhythms, the pleasure in it comes from your ability to organize noise into major chord resolves, extensions and durations, tonal colors, codas. When you look at a painting, or any architecture of a specific character, you appreciate it in much the same manner. This is a language without syntax; it is emotional, phatic, yet nonetheless COMMUNICATES. In pentecostal churches, there is yet another version of this called glossolia, or "speaking in tongues". What this all refers to, specifically, is "non-sense", but it IS SENSUAL. We might call it "anti-syntax” and get away with it, so how about "anti-context"? No, because WE appreciate, assign values in relationships, when we "place" them alongside each other in Time, in sequence; the habit we cannot kick. What is it that makes Mozart the most art? Structure, organization. So what is it that this has in common with fundamentalist religious praise service, from mantra, chant, witchcraft spells, voodoo & “magical thinking”, prayer & meditation right up to Dr. Creflo S. Dollar's “Gospel of Prosperity”? All the former appeal to the higher functions of the Conscious Mind; all the latter are brain activities best associated with superstition. A prima facie case for contradiction? -- nope, because BOTH offer the same definition of Inspiration!

However, there is yet another context for the latter: Parapsychology, metaphysics, ESP… And, at the same time, because we brought in premise #4, let's also bring in the other variables we don’t have definitions for, a party without more crazy name tags: dark matter, dark energy, Superstrings, Higgs Bosons, 10-dimensional structures, branes…&?

Don’t freak out yet.

Back in the 1960’s, there was the sort of interest in this field which came along with all the other “free thinking” of the time, the zeitgeist, if you will. To investigate the phenomena of ESP, clairvoyance, telekinesis, as well as ghosts, UFO’s, instances of super-normal powers or that ill-defined category of “luck,” there was enough serious consideration given to studies trying to discover patterns of frequency and the most favorable conditions (both physical and behavioral) and personality types – anything to create a STATISTICAL MODEL. The reason for this was that the scientific establishment (based solely in premise #1) would not even consider a study/essay/paper/speculation (whatever) which did not come with some kind of proof. Given that Zener cards and frequency, for instance, could be put into a graph, you could say that a given number of persons exhibited tendencies outside of the control group much the same as – say – the evidence that the more intelligent you are makes you more susceptible to hypnosis, and hence persuasion of a certain kind, in the same manner, and you wouldn’t be wrong…just not very conclusive. In most cases, the best anyone could get was random choice with perhaps a run or two wherein something else happened, a sudden connection or stunning guesswork – but nobody EVER KNEW. However, drop in premise #4 and you may get a different answer.

It was Einstein himself who, in a pure philosophic moment, described his work – the entire body of it – as “a small boy wandering into God’s library, barely tall enough to pull one of the lighter tomes off the lowest shelves, and just smart enough to understand the first few lines of the first page.” Humble, yes. But also precise as anything The Man ever said.

He was talking about LANGUAGE and COMPREHENSION -- Context and Syntax.

Go back to the source of language, the mythic times whereinafter the Tower of Babel, in Western/Christian civilization at least, served an iconic function, a symbolic representation. Scripture has it that this was the biggest punishment after the banishment from Eden; the second fall of Man from grace for daring to challenge the heights of God with our own creations was to jam his communications. (Seems like we should bring in Marshall McLuhan here, but let's wait for that introduction.) Now, substitute “Thought” for “brick & mortar”. Is this starting to take on a new context yet? It doesn’t necessarily mean that the multiplicity of languages is a curse. However, what is startling is that is shows some kind of gut-level knowledge, an inherent or even instinctual feeling, that organized human consciousness is a formidable tool and yeah, like the Irish are fond of saying about whiskey as an invention to keep them from conquering the Earth, maybe…