25 January, 2016

Explanation or Use?

What is to be Done: VII
The essential tasks for the Marxists of today

We have a bifurcation between Explanation & Use.

For literally centuries these were only used as a "team of horses" and clever scientists (like circus performers) learned to "switch horses" whenever necessary with remarkable agility. But the horses got bigger and more powerful and began to wilfully pull into their own ìfavouredî directions. The circus act became more and more difficult.

The Crisis in Physics

In the early 20th century, the long established, classical explanations in Physics began to fail drastically in certain sub atomic areas.. The age old problems of Descretness and Continuity, first intimated by Zeno again raised their contradictory heads and the physicists were stumped.

They then did a remarkable thing.

They abandoned Explanation completely as unreliable, and plumped for depending entirely on their mathematical equations. This gave them prediction, so they could do things with their formulae, AND as these were Pure Form alone, these could be manipulated in any way they liked. AND used in Formal Proofs as well. Even Absolute Truth was available when only Pure Form was involved. So all in all their decision made life much, much easier.

The only "minor" difficulty was that you had to know which formula to use where, but such people were used to juggling ñ they just did it now SOLELY within the realms of Ideality (for perfect forms) and Reality (for Use).

Mining Ideality?

But. Explanation was never a mere luxury. The bran-bin of Forms just got increasingly packed full of separate, unrelated alternatives.

Some co-ordinating narrative was STILL essential to guide our disembodied maths-manipulators through a still-there Real World. They couldnít admit defeat and return to Explanation in the old sense, so they turned inwards to their maths formulae and studied them instead. They looked for Unity within their extracted Pure Forms (for they believed that THERE only could be found the true Essence of the situation. And they started initially looking for identifiable sub-forms. The Truth was in their formulae!

And they found such sub forms in abundance, and taking their cue from Einstein, labelled each of these as if they represented physical entities or properties. Initially, they gave them shame-faced names such as charm and strangeness, but very soon these names became ìvery likeî the names of actual physical entities ñ such as , for example, particles and properties.

The scientists had learned to"mine" Ideality for new entities and properties for some conceptual glue!

The new Abstraction Processes involved in this are shown in the Modified Abstraction Diagram (shown below) in the overlap between Science and Ideality regions.

The essential role of Reality as the supreme arbiter in Science had been overthrown. This role was now to be taken over by Mathematics.

The maths-derived entities are correctly shown WITHIN Ideality in the modified diagram below. Where else could they be? And the pernicious amalgam of classical explanation with these new forms is shown by process XIII as below:

Man --- Maths Forms --- New Entities --- Analogistic Models --- Maths Forms

Now, this is ONLY a diagram!

A full analysis of what Modern Physicists have being doing does exist, but we have a more general objective here and must press on without too many detailed diversions.

To proceed, we MUST return to the basic philosophical assumptions about Reality which underlie the whole of Mankindís Thinking. We have NO choice! We must address his basic assumptions critically, and find out where he has ìgone wrongî

Reality Evolves!

I have already mentioned Holism and Plurality, and the difficulties associated with this dichotomous pair, but there is an even more profound assumption (connected to these for sure, but even more far reaching). It is connected with the question, "Is Reality the result of a summation of independent Parts - a Complexity - or does it actually EVOLVE?"

The normal answer to this question is always the former, whereas the evidence is mounting that the latter HAS to be the Truth. Reality must have a history. It must change with Time. Indeed it must evolve creating ever NEW forms and possibilities. Now, this is not merely an assertion of belief. The evidence is all around us. We have only to LOOK!

On a hundred fronts it is clear that Reality DOES have a history of Change and Development, in which New things emerge and its very Nature changes profoundly.

But as soon as we bring in Change in this way, all hell breaks loose philosophically
  • "If things change, why do they change?
  • "If things change, how can we alight upon the elements of Reality in order to understand it?"
  • "Is Reality totally self-moving, and actually creative in itself, or merely mechanistic?"
  • "Can we deal with Everything in Reality with Matter & Energy alone?"
 - and of course, an abundance of other similar questions.

This post is the seventh in a new blog series entitled "What is to be done?" on the crises in both Marxism and Science, and how a revolution is necessary in both. This body of work is now available as a Special Issue. Read it all here!

20 January, 2016

The Early Solutions

What is to be Done: VI
The essential tasks for the Marxists of today

Now, in spite of the difficulties with the current pluralistic forms, they had emerged fairly late in the history of Mankind, and throughout that long, long "prehistory" Man had developed OTHER important views on the World around him. Indeed, sometimes Reality itself seemed to be organising against him, and a holistic attitude to Nature was unavoidable. In addition Man was an intelligent animal, who had learned to intervene with Reality in order to survive and prosper. His own necessarily purposive actions coloured his World View, and he felt the need to endow purpose to Reality itself. He expected causes, just as he himself was the cause of many things in his day to day life. Of course, this led to animism and ultimately to a God, made in his own self-image, but it also expected useable causes to be available for dealing with Reality in general.

Contradiction Premise

Now this led to primitive versions of philosophy and science originally, and when Experiment finally arrived to invigorate his investigations, it also accompanied the experimental method as its Explanation. The tradition of looking for causes gelled with the extraction of relations and gave a meaningful narrative to those isolated achievements. Mankind developed Explanatory Science. But, this cosy idea of what Science became was a myth. Indeed, the experimental imperative was technological(?), whereas the explanatory imperative was surely scientific(?). These were NOT a perfectly matched pair!


Some years ago I realised this and determined to investigate. For a long time I kept tripping over my own incorrect basic assumptions and getting nowhere. But I finally settled on the man-made process at the heart of all of these diverse things. It was Abstraction!

I began to try to categarise exactly what Abstraction consisted of, and to effectively define it, started to conceive of the crucial Processes of Abstraction, and their resultant Products at various stages in a sequence of essential Abstraction Processes.

The task turned out to be prodigious!

For Mankind's earliest conceptions were also abstractions, So, I began to attempt to construct a sequential list of the Stages of Abstraction used by Mankind in his attempt to comprehend the World.

He certainly started with Observation, Recognition, Categorisation and a crude very speculative attempt at Explanation, but after the advent of Societies wonderful new forms appeared including Logic and Geometry.

The Processes and Productions of Abstraction

Finally, with the rise of Experimental science, the first true Theories began to emerge.. [I have written a great deal on this, under the title of The Processes and Productions of Abstraction, which has even culminated in a general overall Diagram. This figure attempts to relate the whole area as a single system] We cannot attempt here to replicate the whole of this extensive research here, but its final diagrammatic Form can be useful, and is reproduced here.

Now we must never lose sight of the fact that Abstraction is a man-made invention. It recognises diverse things in Reality which display features in common, and attempts to concretise this commonality under an appropriate Category Title, whose Name, then represents that commonality.

Note: This diagram is NOT the latest version, nor can it ever be, as it is constantly being revised and improved. But for the purposes of this paper it should prove quite adequate.

Once more the usual dichotomies and difficulties occur, due to our assumptions and premises, and even in Thinking and Thought ñ more particularly Abstraction ñ the bifurcations appeared which clearly showed TWO diverging roads which seemed impossible to merge.

Without this necessary excursion expanding into a veritable ìworld tourî, let us just concentrate on this parting of the ways. A brief explanation of the Diagram will be necessary.

Explanation of the Diagram

At the centre is the Active Element in the whole series of Processes ñ which is, of course, MAN, The background to the whole figure is, as it must be, Reality. While, in between these two there is an annulus containing the various Productions of Extraction ñ shown as labelled circles.

Between Man, Reality and the Products of Abstraction are the Arrowed Lines which represent the actual Processes of Abstraction. They too are numbered to both indicate their presumed sequence of use, and to allow them to be referred to precisely.

The earliest likely Processes can be seen to be fairly simple loops. From Man via Reality to the Product. Later the Processes take in previous Productions on route.

For example: Man via Categories to Objective Relations

The crucial Split occurs in the Science Region, where we have:-

VII --- Man --- Objective Relations --- Reality --- Analogistic Models

IX --- Man --- Objective Relations --- Maths Forms

Now, this is not a treatise on Abstraction, so the reader is asked to merely notice these TWO Processes.

Though the Process ending in Analogistic Models goes via Reality, and ends up within the Science region, the second alternative Process bypasses Reality and ends up in the World of Pure Form alone, which I have termed Ideality.

As you have probably guessed, I have highlighted these two because they reveal exactly where the most important problems arise. If we are to use our relations back in Reality itself, we have to go via this realm of Pure Form. Yet, it is a thoroughly laundered place. In it there is NO Reality, only Abstract Form. 

This post is the sixth in a new blog series entitled "What is to be done?" on the crises in both Marxism and Science, and how a revolution is necessary in both. This body of work is now available as a Special Issue. Read it all here!

12 January, 2016

What is to be Done?

Our continuing blog series on the importance of new Marxist theory is now also available as a Special Issue of the Shape Journal. 

10 January, 2016

An interesting video about gravity...

New Special Issue: Back Ways Up

Understanding Reality does not merely involve the ascending of a simple staircase of key discoveries. It is clear that there are innumerable floors (or levels) in this “Mansion of Truth". Nevertheless, it is always very difficult to find the way up to the next floor, for no staircases are immediately evident, and to ever find the presumed Grand Processional Stairway just isn’t possible – for it doesn’t really exist!

Of course, it is easy to convince yourself that everything you need to know and understand will be available on the current landing (Level), especially as the number of available doors (study areas) seems infinite, and, crucially, if one door turns out to be useless, you can always switch to the door opposite (the alternative arm of the Dichotomy?), and try that!

Mankind’s basic, and still universal, Pragmatism ensures the maximum possible is extracted from each level, but cannot go any further in a coherent and comprehensive way, without transcending that current level’s impasses.

However, new "hidden staircases" are becoming apparent with real potential for revealing a breakthrough.

One is the investigation into the inexplicable Quantum Entanglement, while another is certainly possible with Nuclear Decay. Finally, a third possibility could well be in the genetic role in Evolution – particularly involving the so-called Junk DNA. And, there are many more such quandaries that are beginning to reveal possible ways up!

The following papers, mostly from December 2015, are perhaps the most fruitful concerning the required General Holistic Approach.

09 January, 2016

The Technological Revolution

What is to be Done: V
The essential tasks for the Marxists of today

For several hundreds of years, Science has been flowering and equipping Mankind to investigate Reality, and bend sections of it to his own purposes. The modern world is the proof of this progress. But we must see why the tremendous series of advances have taken place. What was it in the Scientific Methodology that opened up the gates for such technological development?

Ask a scientist, and he will correctly tell you that the starting point was the turn to Experiment that vastly increased our Knowledge of Reality. So instead of mere discussion and Logic being the ONLY route to Truth, scientists insisted on carefully designed experiments to extract vast amounts of quantitative data, which could then be fitted up with pure mathematical forms for the purposes of reliable and useable predictions.

Measured Data as Primary Source

We must look much more closely at this process, for it is based on very ancient and well established premises, BUT applied for the first time with the possibility of control.

This ancient idea is termed Plurality, and involves seeing everything in the world as composed of Parts – indeed Plurality can be defined as “The Whole and the Part”. In spite of innumerable connections, mediations and determinations of all things with everything else, it is usually the first step in studying something to conceptually isolate it as an easily identified Part.

We Name it, and observe it with great care, to then move the same process on to identify its component Parts in turn.

Such a process historically usually didn’t get very far, because so many things were simultaneously involved. You couldn’t see the wood for the trees! Indeed, many crucial and causative factors were well hidden, and sometimes totally invisible, so such an undertaking frequently collapsed under the weight of multiple competing and hard to assess factors.

The Scientific Experimental Method and Use

But, Science finally appeared when sufficient was known to allow the absolutely essential control of a situation to maintain well defined and limited situations amenable to detailed study. The investigators “held down” as many variable factors as possible in any given situation to reveal ONLY a couple of variables free to change and openly display their mutual relation. Only when this sort of experiment could be carried out was the possibility of a Plurality inspired Science possible. This was the break through!

But, we must be very clear, an experiment is NOT a mere hands free observation of Reality. Quite the reverse! It first involves the process of isolation of the identified Part to be studied – both conceptually AND physically.

Now what was being achieved is that the scientists were artificially revealing a hidden (or at least obscured) relation within Reality for detailed and easy study. For the first time such relations were “made available” AND subsequently “matched” to Pure Relational Forms – mathematical formulae, which had over many years been extracted from Reality in a piecemeal way. But, they were ALWAYS definitely purified forms. Their “independence” was never established as such. for they never occurred alone in nature. 

Now, with the possibility of such experiments and extractions, accurate prediction was for the first time possible! And this led very quickly to purposive production. As long as the required and comprehensive Control was maintained, the derived “pure” formulae proved to be most definitely useable.

This whole extraction process can be most accurately encapsulated in the phrase isolate, extract and abstract.

The Fly in the Ointment

But, we must NOT assume that Mankind had discovered the golden, solve-everything methodology. He hadn’t! Experiment was a prodigious step-forward, but it both delivered and determined a particular direction of subsequent development. And, it cemented into our consciousness the erroneous Principle of Plurality. This leads to the conclusion that everything is composed of Parts, which can be be successively investigated, from sub-Part to sub-Part, all the way down to fundamental particles (or whatever were to be the irreducible minimal units of construction of Reality).

Reality was thus seen of as composed of a multiplicity of Parts. ALL phenomena were seen as a mere complication of successively more basic elements.

The full content of the World could be revealed by this magnificent Method! Thus, the Laplacian Concept of the nature of Reality was born! If we knew the positions and speeds of all the particles in the Universe, then the whole future could be accurately predicted in full detail and with certainty.

THAT, of course, is the flaw in this Methodology. And we must explain why that is the case!

Reality is not Pluralist: it is Holistic

Such a conception is an error because Reality is NOT so mechanist! For Reality includes Life, Consciousness and Evolution. To limit it to mere mechanist complication alone is a farce! Indeed, contrasting diametrically with this conception [Plurality] is the totally mutually interconnected and mediated alternative [Holism].

There are many version of this approach; the most famous is certainly that ascribed to the Buddha, 2500 years ago, but frequently revived by many thinkers throughout history. These people all see Reality as a much more self-referenced system. Rather than mere mechanist complication, this approach sees, from the very outset, constant Changes and development, generated by the myriads of possibilities inherent in the totally interconnected and mutually mediated elements in ways that in the end defy ANY mechanist analysis. 

Reality via this view becomes an unanalysible Whole. All analyses that we attempt to make are totally compromised, because we cannot encapsulate the limitless content involved.

Now, though there is profound Truth in such a view, it is hardly USEABLE to control and direct aspects of Reality to our chosen ends (except by an all-powerful God, of course!) It results in an essentially passive, contemplative approach favoured by hermits and holy men, BECAUSE it can only be an infinite process. The focus cannot be objective in any way, but only subjective – that is based on the individual.

Thus in these alternative approaches, we have the classic quandary! How do we intervene, understand and use aspects of Reality, while maintaining a truer holistic conception of its Nature?

Let us see, as clearly as possible, what it is that we are doing in our process of Scientific Experiment! The reason for the success of Experiment is that it modifies a part of Reality in such a way that the modified part is amenable to study.

Instead of hoping to hunt a totally wild animal for food, Mankind turned to controlling the herds via animal husbandry. THAT is the essence of the new slant - change reality in order to control it.

In the same way Mankind slowly got the wherewithall and the power to corral pieces of Reality, and thereafter study them in detail WITHIN the his erected confinement! The process certainly changed the studied Part as compared with the naturally embedded position within Reality, BUT he conceptually both excused and applauded this by conceiving of Reality in a new non-holistic way. Reality became a multiplicity of man-made corrals, rather than an integrated Whole. He had purposely changed Reality to FIT a version of Plurality. Mankind had learned how to deal with Reality so that it conformed to the Pluralist Principle – It COULD be conceived of as a summation of separate Parts. 

Edward Burtynsky

The Pluralist Solution – Farming Reality

By his isolation, extraction and finally abstraction of individual relations, he conceived of what he was doing as eliciting the Essences of Reality. He now had a method of investigation AND an overarching theoretical framework, which “together” would enable him to conquer the World (part-by-part of course).

And effectively, this WAS sort of true!

He did control, conquer and use broader and broader tracts of Reality, to the extent of having a powerful effect even on such enormous systems as the Global Climate of our planet.!

This post is the fifth in a new blog series entitled "What is to be done?" on the crises in both Marxism and Science, and how a revolution is necessary in both. This body of work is AVAILABLE NOW as a Special Issue. Read it all here!