Ha, Karl, isn't e-mail wonderful ?
I was being lighthearted with the smiley emoticon :-) because I
thought your New-agey" criticism was genuinely gentle joshing. No
apology remotely required. In fact quite the opposite - many thanks
for your comprehensive considerations ...
... I'll take the rest of this thread off-line unless someone else pipes up.
On 5/31/06, Karl Rogers <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Hi Ian,
> I was not trying to be perjorative. Sorry if it came across like that. I
> guess that I have become quite jaundiced about the "New Physics" cultural
> movement over the years.
> Please forgive me. I did not mean to appear at all dismissive. The problem
> is that I tend to react about it in the same way that an ex-Catholic Priest
> would, who gave up his robes and faith many years ago, in order to adopt a
> different and secular way of life, would react to someone using ideas from
> Catholic theology in order to demonstrate some plausibility about truths
> that are already completely outside mainstream Catholicism.
> My problem -- and it is my problem, not yours -- is that I am so sceptical
> about hard nosed, mainstream physics that ideas that appeal to quantum
> physics and relativity tend to hit a brick wall with me. I end up being
> critical of the appeal to evidence and theory, rather than concentrating on
> what the ideas are. You see, as far as I am concerned, the ideas are often
> more acceptable to me than the use of science as a justification for those
> ideas. For example, I tend to find this happens in a lot of environmental
> philosophy. Some writers appeal to particularly strained or radical
> interpretations of the results of quantum theory to support their case for
> living a more interconnected and harmonious existence within the natural
> world. While I completely agree with their conclusions, I end up completely
> at odds with these writers because not only do I think that they
> misunderstand the science they use, fail to acknowledge the degree that it
> is implicated in a profound confrontation between technology and the natural
> world, but that they really do not need to use science to get to where they
> want to go. It is possible to achieve these conclusions without appealing to
> modern physics.
> Arne Naess for example, (a Norwegian philosopher and environmental activist)
> used a combination of logical linguistics and Gandhi's philosophy to develop
> a system of ordering our value-statements in a heirarchical structure, with
> self-realisation at the top, in order to show how it is in our rational
> self-interest to live harmoniously in the natural world and our societies.
> Not a word about quantum physics. Excellent stuff!
> It may well be of interest to note that Schroedinger and Heisenberg were
> very influenced by the transcendental phenomenology of Edmund Husserl. It
> seems to me that many of the conclusions regarding the interconnectedness of
> consciousness, intentionality, and the mediation of evidence, fit much more
> squarely within Husserl's system than they are derivable from quantum
> theory. There is still quite a movement (largely within Germany and the USA)
> to develop natural science based on Husserl's phenomenology and the radical
> re-evaluation of rationality and science that it calls for. Husserl was
> highly critical of positivistic science and his aim was to develop a much
> more meaningful and unfied system for scientific knowledge based on
> transcendental consciousness.
> To be honest, there is much about postmodernism that I completely affirm
> (especially its criticisms of rationality and science) and there are also
> many aspects of New Age philosophies that I think are simply delightful, but
> when they start using quantum theory to show the interconnected
> consciousness of all being and intersubjectivity of reality, often adopting
> an extreme relativism or idealism, then they loose me because they actually
> do not need to use quantum theory or relativity to do this, and, mores to
> the point, they would not accept the methodological foundations and
> constraints of the experimental work that lead to the results of quantum
> mechanics and relativitistic measurements that they use. They would never
> accept the methodological basis for the construction of experiments such as
> the Stern-Gerlach experiment, but they will take the interpretation of its
> performance in terms of abstracts such as spin-states and non-locality as
> being an objective basis for their intersubjectivity and anti-objectivity!
> I suspect that I am not explaining myself at all well. I appreciate that
> there are many ideas, especially around chaos theory and non-linear systems,
> which have lead to an extremely healthy debate and criticism about the
> modernist understanding of rationality, from within the scientific
> community. It was for this reason that I was particularly taken with the
> "...real human enterprises succeed or fail through subjective, chaotic, and
> seemingly irrational behaviour."
> I really would like to discuss this statement further because if it is true
> then everything is a matter of happenstance, and whether you enjoy the ride
> is a matter of luck. In my view, this statement, similar to ones that can be
> found in the writings of many philosophers, such as Heraclitus and Nietzche,
> sets down the opposition to the call for wisdom. The crucial difference is
> that Heraclitus and Nietzche would not have felt the need to use the word
> "seemingly" in this statement. In other words, if this statement is right,
> then the wisest thing that we can do is stop wasting time seeking wisdom.
> I think that this statement is an important starting point for a
> philosophical statement about wisdom and education. We need to show that it
> is false and that objective, orderly, and seemingly rational behaviour is
> not only possible, but is desireable in order to increase our chances of
> living a good life.
> As you say, our task is to find "the right kind" of rationality.
> Please feel free to email about Einstein, privately or on this list, as you
> wish. However, the problem is that Einstein's views changed quite
> considerably throughout his life. He had quite a different view about
> physics in his early career than when he was involved in the debates with
> Bohr about the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum theory. And, a different
> view still in his later work on unified field theory. He made many
> inconsistent statements throughout his life, for example, he considered the
> aether to be obsolete in his early work on relativity, but lamented the lack
> of a theory of the aether in his later writings because he considered that
> it was quite necessary for something like the aether to exist in order to
> make the vibration of an electromagnetic wave in a vacuum intellgible.
> (Incidently, Dirac also expressed similar views and tried to develop a
> theory of a sub-quantum flux as a replacement for the aether.) I am most
> familiar with the work of the young Einstein (of Brownian motion,
> photoelectric effect, and relativity fame) because I am interested in the
> experimental and measuremental aspects of physics. It seems to me that the
> young Einstein was an empricist, the middle aged Einstein a realist, and the
> old Einstein was a unified field theorist and theologican. Eeven though I am
> familar with his early work and I have read some of his writings around the
> Neils Bohr debate, I have only a few historical commentaries on his latter
> work and I am not particularly well placed to discuss the details of his
> views on the anthropic cosmological principle. Given that you are clearly
> interested in this, you are probably much more knowledgeable about this
> later phase of Einstein's life than I am.
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