26 July, 2016

Epistemology & Being II

Our Understanding of Reality and the Consequences for Theory

The Route to an Alternative?

So, what are the glaringly crucial questions which we wilfully ignore?

The number one question has, surely, to be an explanation of the Origin of Life on Earth. Can you think of a more important question? And, as soon as that type of question has ever been posed, a whole avalanche of related ones pour out – the most obvious becoming the different Subjects which we have set up to deal with different areas of Reality.

We have, of course, Biology to deal with the Science of Living Things, which in turn is quite separate from Physics, which deals with aspects of inanimate or material objects, and finally we should mention the even higher level areas of study, such as Psychology, concerning the minds of human beings.

And, it is clearly crucial that each of these areas have very rapidly become walled-cities, wherein each has its own set of related approaches, which are necessarily unique to their own discipline, while the important connections-between these "subjects" are largely ignored.

The classic "explanations" of these “categories” do not allow the slightest criticism. They extrapolate the “local” successes of reductionism that are possible only in tiny sequences of explanation, into an overall, world-wide methodology, which, “in time”, is expected to explain ALL such connections – but not yet!

Any determined criticism of the bases of such assumptions sees them, inevitably, to be deemed to "fall at the very first fence", by the consensus defenders.

And, I do mean the first!

Zeno, for example, exposed our false assumptions in how we deal with Time and Space (particularly with respect to movement) with his famous Paradoxes, and that was about 2,500 years ago, and the consensus still simply chooses to ignore such revelations to this day!

And the assumptions that we make are not just the ancient ones, such as Plurality and Reductionism, but even the relatively modern approaches that we employ in Experimental Science and even in the famed, and even sacrosanct, Scientific Method.

These unquestioned assumptions MUST be addressed, and the mechanist view of the richness of Reality and its reduction to basic, immutable elements overturned for ever.

It just isn’t true!

And, it is clear to me that the key to addressing these mistakes (perhaps surprisingly) must reside in tackling such Revolutions as the Origin of Life on Earth, and similar vital overturns, which have occurred throughout the History of Matter, “since the Big Bang.”

No-one has yet got within a million miles of explaining the Origin of Life, in terms of more basic, non-living relations and entities, and the reason is precisely connected with the assumptions with which they all attempt to tackle the problem.

They merely expect to climb a ladder of relations and processes all the way from inanimate matter to the first occurrence of Living Things.


Needless to say, they always and inevitably FAIL in that endeavour!

Why? The answer lies in their assumptions, as you will by now have already guessed. They MUST, on principle, explain everything, even including Life itself, in strictly material terms, and the only ones that they have available turn out to be totally inadequate to the task. They expect unbroken processes, and smoothly continuous sequences of relations, to do the job, and they simply cannot do that!

The Origin of Life on Earth was never such a process, nor even a very rare and unlikely version of such processes.

It was an Emergence!

On hearing the mention of such a label as “Emergence”, most scientists run like hell.

They spent their lives correctly opposing religious mysticism, and replacing it with reductionist materialism, and “Emergence” smacks altogether too much of the enemy’s approach. If such things turn out to be inexplicable in their usual terms, then it seems to be opening the door to mystical alternatives.

But, in that, they are entirely wrong!

An Emergence needs NO mysticism, or God, or any outside intervention to bring it about.

It is wholly due to material processes, BUT they are NOT pedestrian, pluralistic processes, nor are they predictable in the usual way. But, they are real, concrete processes. They are not strictly organisational, wherein some higher form appears as “built” out of lower order processes and relations – mere complication!

So, what is it that actually occurs in an Emergence?

To address this question we must totally renovate our basic conceptions of the nature of Reality. We must embrace the opposite of Plurality, which is termed Holism!

Reality is NOT a strictly one-way, bottom-up erection. Holism conceives of Reality as multiply-mediated – bottom-to-top, top-to-bottom, and every side-to-every-other-side.

It allows Recursions of many kinds: a simple ladder upwards will never do it!

All things are multiply-connected, and, indeed, multiply-determined, at least potentially, by literally everything else. So, our cherished premise, for example, of Stability not only being the norm for development, but actually essential for it, has to go.

Indeed, Stability, when it gets established, makes new developments wholly impossible!

It is an actively-maintained balance between diametrical opposites, and will, when achieved, persist for long periods, until its internal contradictions begin to successively undermine it, finally leading to a terminal crisis, which ends in a wholesale collapse.

But, the consequent swoop to oblivion is only of the constraining Stability and its self-maintaining sub processes.

Its demise leads to a Revolution, in which wholly new systems of processes arise, and can occasionally erect a wholly new Stability.

That is how Life arose!

The Phoenix must arise from the flames of destruction!

Revolutionary Routes

You can see how it is causal, but NOT in any direct traceable sequence from the pre-life level. An actual Emergence is essential to allow such radical changes.

Now, this was realised (also around 2500 years ago) by Siddartha (The Buddha), but as an almost incomprehensible system. There certainly was order there, but it seemed impenetratable.

Siddartha also conceived of the problem from a wholly human perspective – the purpose had to be a personal realisation of Man’s place within the Universe. Those who realised the holist nature of Reality HAD to dedicate their whole lives to its study and ultimately hope for Nirvana.

Though Holism is certainly a sound approach, it did not take account of the undoubted unevenness of Reality.

For Reality is not homogeneously interconnected, with multiple mediations of relatively equal weight, determining every discernable thing.

Yet, such things were not necessarily locked into indeterminable complexes of mediations, these mediations were, inevitably, of very different magnitudes in any particular situation. Some would be so tiny as to be both invisible AND undetectable, while others could be so dominant as to reveal themselves literally all the time, partially obscured, but quite evidently present.

To treat all situations as composed of contributions of comparable weights would certainly prohibit ANY progress in understanding. So, holistic Buddhism did NOT precipitate its own Science of Reality.

Holism was correct, but both insufficient, and had no analytic methodology with which to investigate Reality, and reveal all its contributions. Its defence of total interconnectedness and universal mediations seemed to prohibit the development of a means of penetrating Reality in some revealing way.

Parallel with the holist view was the pluralist view, and though the latter was certainly incorrect, it would, in time, provide a means of analysis and study, but NOT for a further 2000 years.

To deliver anything at all, even a pluralist approach HAD to be allied with a wide already-existing Knowledge of dealing with things, and bending them to particular outcomes successfully.

Now, this was, indeed, available in day-to-day living, where Mankind increasingly learned how to control situations to his own advantage.

Edward Burtynsky - Manufactured Landscapes - China

Modern pluralist Science was born when Mankind could intervene in Reality with considerable control to constrain situations artificially, in order to reveal dominant relations, and, indeed, for the very first time, measure them. 

Then, Plurality could be employed as an effective pragmatic method, in both holding down, and also measuring Parts of Reality, to reveal their evident dominant relations.

Its gains were both considerable and remarkable, but its “paths to Truth” were considerably constrained. You could only find relations that were both evident AND revealable. You had to study only those areas where control could be established and dominant relations were quite obviously there, even if embedded.

The difficult areas, which did not display such prospects, were simply not available for study. Their significant contributions were just not evident, so you did not know in what way to control the situation, in order to reveal any of them for isolation, extraction and indeed abstraction.

These areas offered NO means of approach.

This meant that many areas were unavoidably ignored, and because of this biased selection, Reality was NOT revealed in its essential nature, but instead delivered piecemeal, via only its more amenable and relatively simple areas.

The totality of such studies gave the false impression that the whole of Reality was like these amenable areas.

It wasn’t and isn’t!

Nevertheless, mankind had been exploiting whatever he could glean from Reality for many, many millennia, and even these limited paths were quickly turned into “paths to something”.

The gains became blueprints for Productions, and the Industrial Revolution was born.

Back to PART 1



This set of papers was originally published on the Shape Blog under the title Why Socialism? It was written as an multi-part introduction to the topic and became a very popular series on that site, vastly increasing its visitor numbers during the period.

Clearly many questions were still needing answers, for in spite of a long and illustrious history since the original publication of the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels in 1848, Socialism has accrued countless failures and even betrayals. Yet its central tenets are as true today as when they were first written down in that document, well over 150 years ago.

The position was not like that of the Utopian Socialists, but was based upon a materialist philosophic standpoint - a meeting of German philosophy, English political economics and French social history. It was, and is, a magnificent amalgam, founded upon the necessary processes of social revolution, to finally dismantle old class regimes and liberate the masses.

Yet, only in a few places was this possible, where the working class was in a position to carry through a revolution by itself. In most cases the only possible route to a successful uprising was via an alliance of classes, including both the peasantry and often a large slice of the as-yet unliberated middle class. The problem was always what would happen once the repressive regime had been vanquished. Could the task of establishing Socialism be straightforward, or would the classes of this revolutionary alliance break apart and begin to work for their own dominance? The answer to such questions has been produced time and again by history, in Russia, Germany, China and right up to the present day with the avalanche of revolutions precipitated by the Arab Spring.

Socialism grounded in solid Marxist theory is needed now more than ever, as Capitalism faulters and people across the globe take to the streets in their millions.

Let this collection of essays on Democracy, Economics and Revolution, by a life-long Marxist, help with the problems of this, the most widespread unrest since the Europe-wide Year of Revolutions in 1848.

20 July, 2016

Epistemology & Being I

Our Understanding of Reality and the Consequences for Theory

Introduction: Stance and Means

If we are serious about understanding Reality, we must be absolutely clear about the methodology that we will use, and, indeed, depend upon, to reveal its inherent nature. Does our usually employed assumptions and methodology actually deliver Being to us, as it really is, or, is it something much less that we actually obtain?

The obvious answer is that the latter must be much closer to the truth!

At best, our methods only deliver fragments of Reality, unavoidably divorced from their necessary context, AND severely filtered by our usual assumptions and techniques.

The results obtained are fragmentary, in other ways too, in that they are gathered into various quite distinct categories of study. Hence, the results so-obtained are both patchy and imperfect, though they do allow effective intervention, when using them, in very specially constrained circumstances, to various purposeful ends.

In philosophical terms, we must be conscious that what we have in our hands are our conceptions of Reality, rather that Reality itself. The consideration of this is termed Epistemology.

To get what we have, we had to interact with Reality in particular ways to achieve anything at all.

We have to actively intervene, to constrain and simplify aspects of Reality, in order to make it amenable to study, and also to achieve anything useable.

Without this essential pre-structuring of the situation under study, the elements of Reality are often too enmeshed and mutually obscuring for us to be able to see the wood for the trees. 

Photograph by Michael 'Conflux' Coldwell


So, we embrace the construct of Plurality – the division of all things into Wholes and their constituent Parts, and, on this basis, set about “releasing” significant Parts from their embedded-ness in order to study them, and reveal their nature.

In addition, we assume that the explanation of any such Whole must reside with the roles played by these constituent Parts.

Now, this was always a pragmatic decision, but our history is littered with such short-cuts, gradually becoming ppromoted into Principles of Reality, and various effective tricks, seemingly being seen as “explanations”

It was, therefore, not long before Mankind considered that absolutely everything could be definitively “explained” in terms of such Parts, as long as they had ALL been revealed by our now well established methods.

Of course, that is NOT the situation at all!  Plurality had been assumed, mainly as a means of simplifying complex and often opaque Reality – to effectively “get us going”, and NOT to be the sole and sufficient means to reveal Being itself - full and entirely sufficient!

Yet, that is what we came to assume, and even more than that, we considered that the process of division into Parts could be repeatedly employed to go “all the way down” to finally arrive at some immutable set of basic units and fundamental laws, which could alone generate the Whole of Reality.

The myth of a possible Theory of Everything was born!

There can be NO difficulty with the pragmatic imperative as such, of course, whereby any task of understanding would be initially purposely limited in accordance with Plurality, and carried through until some useable formula was established. That is the pragmatic way to get desired results, in specially provided, highly controlled contexts.

But, the difficulties began to accumulate when scientists immediately truncated the necessary process of study as soon as such an equation had been made available.

This truncation then made the possible units of further explanation, the only things actually in our hands – the quantitative, pluralistically-derived formulae. That was, and always is, totally untenable!

We had replaced a study of Reality, with a study of Form – Mathematics! And, these purely formal descriptions were being seen as the drivers of Reality. That, I'm afraid, is not Science, it is a stance called Idealism!

Finally, we must address that unavoidable division of Reality into multiple “Areas of Study”, for only, by so doing, was it possible to intervene with our controls to effect an achievable set of useable results. Of course, our queue-jumpers would loudly protest! They would insist that all these multiple areas of study would ultimately, and by the very same means, as they are now using, be, automatically, condensed into a “single, all-embracing Science”.

Absolutely Not!

On the contrary, that can never be the case, while depending solely on pluralist methods!

For, to achieve such things, all “seekers for Truth” must overtly admit-and-establish their ground, slow their headlong dash to technological solutions (where these drive a search for “useful” applications), and, instead, place their work in a sound, and consciously-admitted, epistemological context.

No eternal Natural Laws actually exist, indeed the laws, which are claimed to be such, are totally dependant upon an absolutely essential context!
Assumptions and premises such as Plurality and Reductionism pervade the whole of present day Science, and prohibit thought-through Explanation of the many, as yet obviously unsolved, problems, which demand attention.

Instead, we willingly blinker ourselves to address ONLY separate, disembodied “problems”, and turn our backs on the requirements outlined above.

New Special Issue: Charge + Magnetism II

This is part two of our new series of issues on magnetism.

These papers comprise the current work-in-progress, by this theorist, upon an as yet incomplete attempt to explain these crucial properties of Matter.

Many would consider that such a project was completed long, long ago, and could certainly point to a host of achievements in this area, with literally centuries of brilliant experiments, explanations and formulae to show for those efforts. But, these are technological gains, rather than any demonstration of intrinsic understanding, so the process is far from complete...

You can read Part 1 here.

08 July, 2016

Psychology, Economics, and Orlando

Another good show from Prof. Richard Wolff and Dr Harriet Fraad