• In total there are 0 users online :: 0 registered, 0 hidden and 0 guests (based on users active over the past 60 minutes)
    Most users ever online was 871 on Fri Apr 19, 2024 12:00 am

Ch. 12: Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective

#155: Oct. - Dec. 2017 (Non-Fiction)
User avatar
Penelope

1G - SILVER CONTRIBUTOR
One more post ought to do it.
Posts: 3267
Joined: Tue Oct 02, 2007 11:49 am
16
Location: Cheshire, England
Has thanked: 323 times
Been thanked: 679 times
Gender:
Great Britain

Re: Ch. 12: Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective

Unread post

I cannot find the 'Thank Post' button to thank Robert Tulip and Llandroid for their kind replies. I do appreciate and thank you again.
Only those become weary of angling who bring nothing to it but the idea of catching fish.

He was born with the gift of laughter and a sense that the world is mad....

Rafael Sabatini
User avatar
Robert Tulip

2B - MOD & SILVER
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 6502
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2005 9:16 pm
18
Location: Canberra
Has thanked: 2730 times
Been thanked: 2666 times
Contact:
Australia

Re: Ch. 12: Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective

Unread post

LanDroid wrote:Mr. Tulip has stated that until science and non-religious people come up with a myth or story with the power to counteract the force of religious or supernatural paradigms, they will never make significant progress in that arena.
Yes, this cry for myth is a universal problem in psychology, well analysed by TS Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. People are happy to live with anomalies in their paradigm when the critics are perceived as only making negative criticisms and don’t have anything positive and clear and coherent and superior to offer. The problem of myth was well explained by Plato in The Republic, that generating popular vision requires philosopher kings to produce a fantasy that will resonate with mass interest. The challenge is to take on board facts like those adumbrated by Tyson and turn them into a theory of value, producing a coherent explanation of how everything connects together from most important to least.
LanDroid wrote: Toward that end, NDT is on to something with The Cosmic Perspective. As a cosmologist, he focuses on astronomical scales. This could be improved by increasing the human connection to this perspective.
I have to confess, much as I like and admire Tyson, I find his analysis frustrating. I am mostly familiar with the astronomical facts that he lists, but I just don’t think he does a very good job of putting those facts into a coherent theory of value to construct a persuasive and compelling paradigm, which is the only interesting thing in philosophy. My view on how to do that is that the astronomical aeon of billions of years has to be used as a lens to also discuss shorter aeons, lasting millions or thousands of years. That is how to connect astronomy, geology and history.
LanDroid wrote:
If the astronomical scale is too cold and brings feelings of insignificance, NDT also attempts to provide a human connection. Yes, the molecules in our bodies come from star dust. "We do not simply live in this universe. The universe lives within us." But he also mentions "No way around it: some of the water you just drank passed through the kidneys of Socrates, Genghis Khan, and Joan of Arc." This is one aspect of The Cosmic Perspective that should receive more emphasis. Perhaps making the time frame current would help. Consider the water in your morning coffee may have, for example, been aerated in the waterfalls of Iguazu on the day you were born and may become part of a cloud floating past Annapurna this spring.
That mention of stardust reminds me, as I may have said before, of a conversation I had with the famous evangelical theologian NT Wright when he visited Canberra more than a decade ago. Wright attacked Joni Mitchell for propounding the false Gnostic idea that ‘we are starlight’, and I pointed out to him that her Aquarian song Woodstock actually involves the correct scientific observation that we are stardust, as Tyson so clearly explains.

Where these ideas get interesting for me is when people link them coherently to mad old books like the Upanishads, which develop seemingly crazy ideas like ‘all is one’ and ‘thou art that’. I have the impression that most astronomers look on these type of Vedic philosophies with considerable disdain, scorn and even fear, worried that talking about philosophy seems too mystical. That is where books like the conversation between Pauli and Jung can help open the dialogue on the psychological assumptions about the relation between fact and value, science and philosophy. Heidegger also usefully explores the foundation of the unity of all things in his analysis of Parmenides' dictum that reality is timeless, uniform, necessary, and unchanging.

Tyson’s point that the universe lives in us needs to be connected to human perspectives, such as to the old myth that we are made in the image of God, an idea whose real meaning is that human brains are where the universe reflects on itself, mirroring existing facts of perception through orderly conceptual systems of symbols. Unfortunately, analysing such mythological language from Genesis seems to be out of bounds for Tyson due to its cultural associations with supernatural faith, which he only approaches with a condescending superior tone.
LanDroid wrote: "...I learned in biology class that more bacteria live and work in one centimeter of my colon than the number of people who have ever existed in the world." NDT is very impressed with numbers. Yes there are more non-human cells in the body than human, but he missed a chance to discuss how the human body includes a life sustaining symbiosis between human systems and non-human bacteria.
One of the best books I read last year was Gut by Giulia Enders https://www.amazon.com/Giulia-Enders/e/ ... sr=1-2-ent She converted me to daily probiotic powder in a glass of cold water before I eat anything. It has done wonders for my digestion. Our gut is our second brain. Apparently, squat toilets prevent haemorrhoids.
LanDroid wrote:
From that day on, I began to think of people not as the masters of space and time but as participants in a great cosmic chain of being, with a direct genetic link across species both living and extinct, extending back nearly four billion years to the earliest single-celled organisms on Earth.
This unbroken tree of life is another aspect of The Cosmic Perspective that should be emphasized. Again, more detail could be added and the timeline could be made more current.
Per the link I shared in reply to Penelope, I get the impression that Tyson seems blithely unaware of quite big currents in the history of ideas, including how this concept of the great chain of being is central to a highly controversial supernatural theory. Re-purposing the chain of being for an evolutionary description of the tree of life has an element of irony.
LanDroid wrote: Any break in your ancestry - someone killed 100 years ago (or 50,000 years ago) prior to procreation - you would not exist.
Dawkins noted the analytic statement of pure genetic logic that all ancestors have had descendants.
LanDroid wrote:
Once thought to be a higher level function, humans and animals are not the only life forms that communicate. Bacteria communicate on a global scale as we discussed in The Global Brain many years ago. Trees in a forest communicate through fungi and root systems.
Yes, the wood wide web is a good illustration of the connections that people can perceive as mystic unity, explained as how trees use subtle chemical signalling.
LanDroid wrote: The molecular water cycle, bacterial symbiosis, the unbroken chain of the tree of life, and communication networks all the way down to the bacterial level are some examples of radical interdependence that is rarely perceived in daily life. (Buddhists expand this concept to one of inter-being, where humans are so dependent on deep time and global processes that the concept of a discrete self becomes an illusion, but we don't need to go there. Yet.) These add a warmer human connection to stark considerations of 100 billion galaxies in a 14 billion year old visible universe.
Going there, it is absurd for mystics to assert that the individual self is not real. And yet, the point they are making has some validity, in that people routinely hold delusional beliefs about personal identity, and these false beliefs become sources of suffering. It is not the concept of self or ego as such that is an illusion, but rather specific false ignorant beliefs that people have around what their ego is, such as that they are not connected to everything else, or that they will go to heaven or hell for ever after death based on their opinions on specific dogmas. Jung had some interesting comments around this topic of the relation between the ego and the id.
LanDroid wrote: The Cosmic Perspective is not a philosophy.
Unfortunately, that is precisely the exact contradictory fallacy and oxymoron inherent in Tyson’s entire perspective and philosophy. A philosophy is a viewpoint. Your point of view is your perspective, framing your perceptions with your conceptual assumptions. As Kant said, perceptions without concepts are blind. So the traumatised hyper-modern argument that we can do away with all perspective is a profound myth. Anyone who says their own opinion is just facts and not philosophy is in thrall to la belle dame sans merci.
LanDroid wrote: It is a recitation of non-controversial facts providing an expanded perspective on how humans relate to deep space, deep time, and critical interdependence from molecular to cellular to global levels.
Ha! These facts are "non-controversial" only among those who share the assumptions of Tyson’s value system based in evidence and logic with its de-centred universal transcendental imagination. Facts never “provide” a perspective until they are sorted into a systematic conceptual scheme. Tyson shows how controversial these facts from objective astronomy are by his constant digs at Donald Trump.
LanDroid wrote: As Mr. Tulip and NDT imply, if a compelling human-centric myth or story arises from all this, it may inspire improved human thought and behavior. This will take time; changing to a cosmic perspective, let's check progress in say 300 years.
Unfortunately we do not have three centuries to wait. As the Walrus said, the sea will boil this century without a profound paradigm shift.

Tyson is patronising toward the old idea that earth is unique, even though we have not yet found any evidence for life elsewhere. Then he uses this patronising stance to justify the mad idea of other universes, another piece of useless speculation that only diverts us from understanding our real universe.

He uses the cosmic perspective to support the growing religious movement of people who say they are spiritual but not religious. As the contradiction inherent in that idea illustrates, a non-religious religion, the better approach is to identify the errors in specific religions without making the sweeping assumption that religion can be abolished.

Religion is the effort to connect humans to the absolute. The modern atheist faith that we can abolish religion conceals the assumption that there is no way to connect to the absolute.

Tyson wants us to grasp the large and the small in the same thought, although he does not seem to find the Goldilocks path to this objective through the medium sized.

He says the universe is not a benevolent cradle, even though that is exactly what the universe has provided for our planet through four billion years of orbital stability and fecundity.
User avatar
Harry Marks
Bookasaurus
Posts: 1922
Joined: Sun May 01, 2011 10:42 am
13
Location: Denver, CO
Has thanked: 2341 times
Been thanked: 1022 times
Ukraine

Re: Ch. 12: Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective

Unread post

Penelope wrote:Once you lose the idea that God is a kindly old gent who answers our supplications like The genie in the lamp, and think of God being a state to work towards, it becomes quite a seductive mind set,
Marvelous. I might add that God is the working, as well as the goal, but that is fairly minor. Once a person has made the transition from kindly old wish-granter (or implacable judge) the rest is easy.
User avatar
Harry Marks
Bookasaurus
Posts: 1922
Joined: Sun May 01, 2011 10:42 am
13
Location: Denver, CO
Has thanked: 2341 times
Been thanked: 1022 times
Ukraine

Re: Ch. 12: Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective

Unread post

Robert Tulip wrote:Kant investigated this problem for philosophy [the subject-object split] with his so-called ‘reverse Copernican Revolution’, https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant/#KanCopRev demanding that objects conform to cognition, that experience conform to laws of necessary truth. The Newtonian shift from the Ptolemaic geocentric model had displaced humanity from the centre of scientific concern. Kant put man right back in the middle, by making mind the measure of meaning. But in modern science there has been a rejection of Kant, with British Empiricism based on Hume largely accepting the logical positivist argument that there is no meaning outside science.
Kant's mode of processing, with "a priori" modes of understanding such matters as time, seems to me not to have held up very well. Scientific investigation has uncovered matters that our nervous system treats as given which are not, in fact, true, such as time being absolute and causality being strictly sequential.

However, it is not clear to me why modern sophistication should have any strong implications for "meaning" which I take to be tied inextricably to "mattering", i.e. to values. In fact I don't see any way of escaping from a sort of Kantian "a priori" meaning of fairness. Our nervous systems are wired to detect unfair behavior, when it happens to us. Thus we experience a kind of dislocation from being the center of everything when we recognize unfair behavior happening to others, or even unfair behavior we have ourselves inflicted.

Even though I frequently oppose the "relativist" approach to right and wrong, I don't see how the world of values could be said to be independent of sentient perception and sentient thought about that perception. With our a priori sense of fairness we make deductions about what that "means" and this is the basis of knowing right from wrong. Other values work similarly: we have innate perceptions of importance, modified by logic and linkages with perceived causality (much of this structure coming from others around us).

So I am left unsure what either science or logical positivism gives us in the way of meaning. Maybe it plays a role a bit like relativity or quantum mechanics, helping us to sort out boundary situations foreign to experience (of ourselves and our compatriots), but having little to say about meaning in ordinary life.

On the other hand, the experience of dislocation of meaning from self is central to a more abstract, less visceral sense of fairness and right. Similarly, we generally value a broad sense of values, including in esthetics, based on principles rather than on direct emotional reaction. The distance created by reason helps to give a values system based in philosophically sound meaning structures, rather than self-centered gut feelings. Science doesn't automatically give that, but I have a sense that it contributes significantly to such distance.

In the extreme case removal of self as even a reference point for values seems, almost paradoxically, to come not from reason but from direct mystical experience. Mystics often take the distinction between "good" and "bad" to be artificial (though I prefer the taoist formulation that the shadow is intermingled with the bright, eye-catching aspects of life) as well as distinctions like "us" and "them" and even subject and object. But this is based on highly subjective experiences of "the unity of everything", which are similar in emotional impact to the crashing of ego boundaries when someone falls in love.

Both orientations, the experience of total unity and the intervention of reason, can lead to values that are subtly counter-intuitive. We may even overturn basic, socially prevalent understandings, for example with a rejection of capital punishment based on either reason or a dramatic identification with the criminal. I'm willing to grant that science and its impersonal approach has a healthy role to play in creating a richer understanding of the connections between cause and effect that inform our sense of meaning. I just don't accept NDT's inference that the link is automatic.
Robert Tulip wrote:But rather than overcoming the conceits of selfish assumptions, the astronomy of Sagan and Tyson itself generates its own mythology. Modern astronomy offers no way for humanity to connect to the cosmos except observation. The old geocentric idea of as above so below saw humans as meaningful parts of a coherent whole, whereas the timeframes of the Big Bang and the distances of cosmic expansion are too big for human connection.
Agreed that scale is a barrier to proper mythical connections. I think Tyson (like Dawkins) does a little "as above so below" himself, suggesting for example that insignificance in the factual account of the astrophysical universe corresponds to appropriate humility by individuals in the social structure. (Dawkins' myth-making is even more complex).

In the end, both scientism and scholasticism fail to make connections that hold up to careful examination. They may resonate, especially with people who are concerned with the same questions as the writer, but they don't do a good job of approximating the true structure in our sense of meaning.
User avatar
LanDroid

2A - MOD & BRONZE
Comandante Literario Supreme
Posts: 2802
Joined: Sat Jul 27, 2002 9:51 am
21
Location: Cincinnati, OH
Has thanked: 197 times
Been thanked: 1166 times
United States of America

Re: Ch. 12: Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective

Unread post

LanDroid wrote:The Cosmic Perspective is not a philosophy.
Unfortunately, that is precisely the exact contradictory fallacy and oxymoron inherent in Tyson’s entire perspective and philosophy. A philosophy is a viewpoint. Your point of view is your perspective, framing your perceptions with your conceptual assumptions. As Kant said, perceptions without concepts are blind. So the traumatised hyper-modern argument that we can do away with all perspective is a profound myth. Anyone who says their own opinion is just facts and not philosophy is in thrall to la belle dame sans merci.
LanDroid wrote: It is a recitation of non-controversial facts providing an expanded perspective on how humans relate to deep space, deep time, and critical interdependence from molecular to cellular to global levels.
Ha! These facts are "non-controversial" only among those who share the assumptions of Tyson’s value system based in evidence and logic with its de-centred universal transcendental imagination. Facts never “provide” a perspective until they are sorted into a systematic conceptual scheme. Tyson shows how controversial these facts from objective astronomy are by his constant digs at Donald Trump.
Very interesting as usual Mr. Tulip, but I don't agree with the above. Tyson is certainly not doing away with all perspective, he is detailing a new one. Facts such as we're a minute part of 1 galaxy out of 100 billion galaxies stretches one's perspective. That perspective may alter one's philosophy or not, but it has nothing to do with Donald Trump. As I recall, NDT criticizes Trump mainly for his stances on science. If you don't like those opinions, that has nothing to do with facts regarding the immense scope of time and space. Which specific facts do you dispute?
Mr. Tulip wrote:Tyson is patronising toward the old idea that earth is unique, even though we have not yet found any evidence for life elsewhere. Then he uses this patronising stance to justify the mad idea of other universes, another piece of useless speculation that only diverts us from understanding our real universe.
Tyson is fighting the ancient idea that the earth is the center of the universe. Obviously with at least 100 billion planets in our galaxy alone, the earth is not unique. We may never detect life on other planets even if it exists, but that doesn't mean our planet is unique let alone the center of the universe.

I don't think Tyson incorporates them into The Cosmic Perspective, but multiple universes are not a mad idea. There are some aspects of quantum mechanics that not only allow for multiverses, but actually require them to fully explain certain phenomena. You might want to check out The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. As I recall he describes about nine different theories of multiverses.
Modern astronomy offers no way for humanity to connect to the cosmos except observation.
Perhaps, but The Cosmic Perspective goes well beyond astronomy. As I pointed out before, "The molecular water cycle, bacterial symbiosis, the unbroken chain of the tree of life, and communication networks all the way down to the bacterial level are some examples of radical interdependence that is rarely perceived in daily life. ... These add a warmer human connection to stark considerations of 100 billion galaxies in a 14 billion year old visible universe."
User avatar
Robert Tulip

2B - MOD & SILVER
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 6502
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2005 9:16 pm
18
Location: Canberra
Has thanked: 2730 times
Been thanked: 2666 times
Contact:
Australia

Re: Ch. 12: Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective

Unread post

Harry Marks wrote:Kant's mode of processing, with "a priori" modes of understanding such matters as time, seems to me not to have held up very well.
It is a tough problem in philosophy that the analytic tradition by and large has accepted the subordination of thought to science, rejecting Kant’s approach of seeing time, space and causality as necessary conditions of experience. I would say that even if details of Kant’s Newtonian cosmology have been refuted by Einstein, that refutation does not do the work that the Vienna School of logical positivism claims for it. When the positivist philosopher Carnap said “the only philosophical questions which have any meaning are those of the logic of science”, he meant that the logical method of Kantian idealism, deducing necessary conditions of experience, is invalid. I see it as important to deconstruct the social and political work being done by Carnap’s assertion, to see how even science has its mythological dimension. The way Carnap’s existentialist bete noir Heidegger put this in An Introduction to Metaphysics was that the key metaphysical ideas are nature, truth and reason.
Harry Marks wrote: Scientific investigation has uncovered matters that our nervous system treats as given which are not, in fact, true, such as time being absolute and causality being strictly sequential.
Sure, and you could also reference Kahnemann’s multiple examples of how our intuition deceives us. But I think those are problems of psychology, not philosophical logic, strictly speaking. Our nervous system assumes the world exists as it appears, and by and large that is a perfectly legitimate idea. Discoveries like quantum indeterminacy and entanglement do help illustrate that the absolute Newton/Kant view of rationality needs more humility, but what those discoveries say for ordinary perception and meaning is far from simple.
Harry Marks wrote: However, it is not clear to me why modern sophistication should have any strong implications for "meaning" which I take to be tied inextricably to "mattering", i.e. to values.
Your phrase ‘modern sophistication’ might take a prize for the most ambiguous idea possible. Sophistication ranges from science to philosophy to culture, and each of these have very different attitudes to meaning and mattering. Much as philosophers claim to have a more sophisticated outlook than the positive idea that the meaning of a statement is its factual content, that positive idea remains a pervasive rational assumption.
Harry Marks wrote: In fact I don't see any way of escaping from a sort of Kantian "a priori" meaning of fairness. Our nervous systems are wired to detect unfair behavior, when it happens to us. Thus we experience a kind of dislocation from being the center of everything when we recognize unfair behavior happening to others, or even unfair behavior we have ourselves inflicted.
Fairness is a great example of an idea that seems to be a necessary condition of experience, which is a phrase that I find a more accessible way of saying that it has a priori meaning. But the immediate problem raised by the logic of necessity is we then need to say what justice and equality actually are, and as Plato showed in The Republic, our assumptions on such basic ideas can have wild conflict. Fairness can mean getting what you deserve, but the most vivid problem with that emerges from the claim from Jesus Christ known as the Matthew Principle that fairness means the talented will get more than the untalented.
Harry Marks wrote: Even though I frequently oppose the "relativist" approach to right and wrong, I don't see how the world of values could be said to be independent of sentient perception and sentient thought about that perception.
This observation opens a typical set of dilemmas within the philosophy of science. Relativism, the idea that contradictory statements can be equally true, entails the view that truth is a function of perception. Plato’s dialogue Protagoras is the classic analysis of the relativist idea that man is the measure of all things. Its logical invalidity makes relativism formally absurd, and yet relativism has practical utility where we are unsure which of conflicting opinions is correct and where we support political tolerance of right to believe false claims. Where this gets interesting for the philosophy of science is that relativism assumes truth is a construction, whereas people often think of truth as a description. The constructivist ideology that sees culture as autonomous from nature is often lampooned as hopelessly postmodern, as it sometimes indeed is, and yet this nest of problems shows that the automatic common sense type of epistemology implied by Tyson should be more a starting point for discussion than a final statement.
Harry Marks wrote: With our a priori sense of fairness we make deductions about what that "means" and this is the basis of knowing right from wrong.
The problem here is that a so-called “a priori sense of fairness” can so easily just be a cover for political assumptions and ideologies. When a person says that their views on fairness are necessarily true by definition, which is what a priori means, they are claiming access to a higher logic that invalidates anyone who has a different opinion about what is fair, just and equal. For example there is massive political conflict between the ideologies of equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.
Harry Marks wrote: Other values work similarly: we have innate perceptions of importance, modified by logic and linkages with perceived causality (much of this structure coming from others around us).
Here again we find one of the biggest assumptions challenged by Locke and Hume at the foundation of modern enlightenment, that any idea can be innate. The capitalist imperial mentality of British empiricism sought on the surface to demand robust polite logical challenge to innate ideas, while concealing its own racist assumptions about innate ability and importance. When I say my opinion is innate, that can just be a way to assert it is better than a conflicting idea, as a gambit in moral politics. What I liked about the philosopher Edmund Husserl was his argument that all presuppositions should be rigorously analysed.
Harry Marks wrote: So I am left unsure what either science or logical positivism gives us in the way of meaning. Maybe it plays a role a bit like relativity or quantum mechanics, helping us to sort out boundary situations foreign to experience (of ourselves and our compatriots), but having little to say about meaning in ordinary life.
I find it immensely valuable to support the positivist idea that facts have intrinsic meaning. By setting logic and evidence as the highest moral values, the scientific philosophy of logical positivism establishes a robust transparency that subjects all claims to rigorous analysis in the spirit of Popper’s method of conjecture and refutation. Naturally, that starting point rapidly encounters what you call ‘boundary situations’, but rather than looking for these in fields of scientific uncertainty like quantum mechanics and astrophysics, I prefer to see the boundaries of the scientific worldview arising in problems like the role of intuition in psychology, the role of faith in politics and culture, and the extent to which our concepts of truth are descriptive or constructed.
Harry Marks wrote:
On the other hand, the experience of dislocation of meaning from self is central to a more abstract, less visceral sense of fairness and right.
This basic experience of the problem of objectivity illustrates a schism in meaning between facts and values, between objective and subjective, and between truth as description or construction. What you call ‘a visceral sense’ involves the unreflective emotional reaction to perceived wrongs. We all know that the due process of legal challenge can produce results through the justice system that are quite different from our visceral beliefs.
Harry Marks wrote: Similarly, we generally value a broad sense of values, including in esthetics, based on principles rather than on direct emotional reaction.
Apologies that I can’t cope with replying to more than one sentence at a time. Each point here raises fundamental questions. Our sense of beauty usually relies on principles such as symmetry, and yet principles such as the stoic sense of connection to all humanity can generate perception of beauty in ugliness. The beauty within paradox such as that the last will be first are an example of a rational inversion of direct emotion.
Harry Marks wrote: The distance created by reason helps to give a values system based in philosophically sound meaning structures, rather than self-centered gut feelings.
It is not just reason that shifts our values away from our gut. We also have cultural precedents that function as myth, whose basis may not be in reason but which do produce moral consensus.
Harry Marks wrote: Science doesn't automatically give that, but I have a sense that it contributes significantly to such distance.
Absolutely yes. We test our gut reaction against reflection and evidence, scientific principles that often do produce a rational correction of immediate assumptions.
Harry Marks wrote:
In the extreme case removal of self as even a reference point for values seems, almost paradoxically, to come not from reason but from direct mystical experience.
The relation between mystery and logic is among the deepest problems of philosophy. Our reason tends to restrict truth to matters we can understand, but our sense of mystery creates awe for the vast unknown, and humility before the feeble powers of our rational description. Richard Dawkins expressed this well in The Magic of Reality by saying science creates a sense of wonder and reverence for the awesome beauty and coherence of the rational causal processes of nature. This sense of wonder has a touch of the mystical, and yet scientists are quick to contain that sense by demanding we not speculate about topics where evidence is weak. The old mystical idea that all is one is far from a paradox, but is rather a statement that the whole universe obeys the same orderly laws.
Self returns as a reference point for values in the Gospel injunction to love God and neighbour as self, indicating that a person who lacks self-respect cannot achieve a proper sense of respect for others.
Harry Marks wrote: Mystics often take the distinction between "good" and "bad" to be artificial (though I prefer the taoist formulation that the shadow is intermingled with the bright, eye-catching aspects of life) as well as distinctions like "us" and "them" and even subject and object. But this is based on highly subjective experiences of "the unity of everything", which are similar in emotional impact to the crashing of ego boundaries when someone falls in love.
I think the mystical critique of ethics has turned on the observation that practical systems of rules are often resistant to discussion. People’s opinions about good and bad are of course often arbitrary and artificial and dogmatic, making any imagined mystical grounding of ethics in a perception of ultimate truth very difficult to make persuasive. Only a sense of self-identity makes action possible, since oceanic mystical feeling of unity gives no basis for will or direction. Yet there is room here to open a dialectic between the soul and the ocean, our immediate assumptions and the deep needs of time.
Harry Marks wrote: Both orientations, the experience of total unity and the intervention of reason, can lead to values that are subtly counter-intuitive. We may even overturn basic, socially prevalent understandings, for example with a rejection of capital punishment based on either reason or a dramatic identification with the criminal. I'm willing to grant that science and its impersonal approach has a healthy role to play in creating a richer understanding of the connections between cause and effect that inform our sense of meaning. I just don't accept NDT's inference that the link is automatic.
Capital punishment is a great example of a moral value where our intuition can clash with our reason. I like to argue that such problems should be analysed in terms of consequences, but we face the incommensurable problem that the deep coarsening of a societies’ respect for human rights cannot be weighed in any objective way against the signals sent by a message of tremble and obey, or against the opportunity costs of imprisonment. Evidence informs such decisions, but at the end of the day policy outcomes emerge from principles whose real nature functions as social myth. Any effort to present the policy-evidence link as simple is an exercise in politics, not philosophy.
Harry Marks wrote: Agreed that scale is a barrier to proper mythical connections.
I am writing a paper at the moment on the physics of zodiac ages. This question supports a cosmology at human scale, whereas modern astrophysics has an almost moral insistence that cosmology can only be discussed at the level of galaxies and the Big Bang which have no possible connection to human scale.
Harry Marks wrote: I think Tyson (like Dawkins) does a little "as above so below" himself, suggesting for example that insignificance in the factual account of the astrophysical universe corresponds to appropriate humility by individuals in the social structure. (Dawkins' myth-making is even more complex).
The greatest thinker in the ‘as above so below’ topic was probably Sir Isaac Newton with his proof that the same law of gravity applies on earth as in the heavens. Unfortunately, Newtonian mechanics became the basis for a mechanistic enlightenment that derided the old moral sense of the unity of all things. Your example from Tyson is confusing, since it seems he is saying the ‘above’ of cosmic scale is completely different from the ‘below’ of human life.
Harry Marks wrote: In the end, both scientism and scholasticism fail to make connections that hold up to careful examination. They may resonate, especially with people who are concerned with the same questions as the writer, but they don't do a good job of approximating the true structure in our sense of meaning.
Scholasticism as a cultural movement gives priority to learning from books, where scientism gives priority to learning from nature. Both contribute to our sense of meaning, but with the risk of leading to static opinions. Any partial theories can only be improved through the challenge and contestability of conversation.
User avatar
Harry Marks
Bookasaurus
Posts: 1922
Joined: Sun May 01, 2011 10:42 am
13
Location: Denver, CO
Has thanked: 2341 times
Been thanked: 1022 times
Ukraine

Re: Ch. 12: Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective

Unread post

Robert Tulip wrote:I would say that even if details of Kant’s Newtonian cosmology have been refuted by Einstein, that refutation does not do the work that the Vienna School of logical positivism claims for it.
Thanks for this exposition of the implications of my statements. Overall, I feel well understood and I was interested to read your reactions.

I'm afraid I feel over my head with the philosophical material. I have never read a word of Carnap, for example. Still, your explanations seem to line up reasonably well with what I think I do understand. In general, I think a philosophical effort to ground our entire understanding of life in science is problematic.
Robert Tulip wrote:When the positivist philosopher Carnap said “the only philosophical questions which have any meaning are those of the logic of science”, he meant that the logical method of Kantian idealism, deducing necessary conditions of experience, is invalid.
Sounds like overreach. But then, Kant may have overreached in the first place, making a mistake of inferring too strong a conclusion from sensible, but not fully informed, observations.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote: Scientific investigation has uncovered matters that our nervous system treats as given which are not, in fact, true, such as time being absolute and causality being strictly sequential.
Sure, and you could also reference Kahnemann’s multiple examples of how our intuition deceives us. But I think those are problems of psychology, not philosophical logic, strictly speaking.
This may be a critical observation for epistemology. Problems we thought were philosophical have turned out to have their roots in psychology. Knowledge itself is a psychological phenomenon, before it is a category about truth, examples of which we might verify.
Robert Tulip wrote:Our nervous system assumes the world exists as it appears, and by and large that is a perfectly legitimate idea. Discoveries like quantum indeterminacy and entanglement do help illustrate that the absolute Newton/Kant view of rationality needs more humility, but what those discoveries say for ordinary perception and meaning is far from simple.
Indeed. We generalize from experience about things like "causality" and it turns out our generalizations are in some sense inapplicable across a wide variety of (related) issues. It is logically impossible for Schrodinger's cat to be both alive and dead, yet it is, in a real sense, possible.

I would propose a humbler orientation for the project of philosophy. Rather than thinking of it as clarifying truth, so that its conclusions demonstrate in a top-down way what propositions may be held with intellectual integrity, it might be better to think of philosophy as a process of correcting Kahneman's "System 1" thinking, which is basically immediate perception, with "System 2" careful processes.
Robert Tulip wrote:Your phrase ‘modern sophistication’ might take a prize for the most ambiguous idea possible. Sophistication ranges from science to philosophy to culture, and each of these have very different attitudes to meaning and mattering.
Sorry. I only meant to use some shorthand to refer to the breakdown of Kant's structures, as I moved back toward the dislocation to which Tyson ascribes such power.
Robert Tulip wrote:Much as philosophers claim to have a more sophisticated outlook than the positive idea that the meaning of a statement is its factual content, that positive idea remains a pervasive rational assumption.
Well the function, and therefore the reason for mattering, may not be limited to its obvious referent. Poetry is all about phrasing references in such a way that the mode of expression carries more communication than the reference to content does. There is nothing wrong with recognizing a generalized multifunctionality of language like that.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote: In fact I don't see any way of escaping from a sort of Kantian "a priori" meaning of fairness.
the immediate problem raised by the logic of necessity is we then need to say what justice and equality actually are, and as Plato showed in The Republic, our assumptions on such basic ideas can have wild conflict. Fairness can mean getting what you deserve, but the most vivid problem with that emerges from the claim from Jesus Christ known as
the Matthew Principle that fairness means the talented will get more than the untalented.
I would modify the question of what justice "is" to recognize that equal rewards is a different issue from equal outcome. But the larger issue I think you raise is that our a priori feelings about fairness (think of Haidt's elephant) are not rich enough to sort out the complexities of real issues.

At that point I think we are back to Kahneman's contrast between lazy System 1 thinking, vs. careful System 2 thinking. We would like logic-based processes which allow us to arrive at more reliable conclusions than the gut instincts we usually just try to construct justifications for. It helps to begin with a question that we can actually address - the "true meaning" of justice is a demonstrably hopeless project, while elucidating notions about justice which don't hold up to logic is not.

I had an interesting experience with System 1 once. I was following another car, which stopped short unexpectedly (for a turn into a driveway, it turns out) and I had steered around it before I even realized it was stopping. My attention was not necessary for the right action to be taken. Here's what Kahneman did not spell out: that action could not have happened without a long process of training my instincts to take into account the hazards of driving and how important it is to avoid accidents, as well as training in effective methods of evasive action. System 1 is loaded with connections that work automatically because System 2 has shaped them to do so. And so it is with fairness, and the dislocation of frame of reference needed to see fairness objectively rather than through the lens of my own interests.

I think I need to stop here and take up the rest of your post tomorrow in a separate response, if only because I seem to have lost an earlier version of the response, possibly due to it being too long.
User avatar
Robert Tulip

2B - MOD & SILVER
BookTalk.org Hall of Fame
Posts: 6502
Joined: Tue Oct 04, 2005 9:16 pm
18
Location: Canberra
Has thanked: 2730 times
Been thanked: 2666 times
Contact:
Australia

Re: Ch. 12: Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective

Unread post

LanDroid wrote: Tyson is certainly not doing away with all perspective, he is detailing a new one.
Yes, but that admission walks back from your assertion that the cosmic perspective is not a philosophy. Any perspective, whether new or old, becomes a philosophy as soon as it gets detailed with any attempted coherence.

The de-centred thinking of the cosmic philosophy of modern astrophysics reminds me of an old line from the existential theologian philosopher Kierkegaard, critiquing Hegel, that Kierkegaard wished Hegel could speak as a person, not as the voice of universal abstract reason. It seems tempting for astronomers to use their knowledge to slip into the mode of pretending to speak from the perspective of the universe, but such a pretence loses connection with ordinary reality.

Any real philosophy has to connect to ordinary reality. Astronomers avoid that tendency by avoiding philosophy, but Tyson is different since he wants to say what it all means.

I have noticed a tendency among empirically-minded writers like Tyson to assume that their strong grasp of facts entails an equally compelling sense of values. However, social values are incredibly complex, and it is far from clear that technical expertise on astronomy is the best source for expertise on social values.

I don’t agree with you that Tyson is detailing a new perspective, because I don’t think he says enough, or considers enough information, about what astrophysics means for our perspective on reality. I think he usefully hints toward a new philosophy, which can only come into being when its dialogue with older philosophies is strengthened.
LanDroid wrote: Facts such as we're a minute part of 1 galaxy out of 100 billion galaxies stretches one's perspective. That perspective may alter one's philosophy or not, but it has nothing to do with Donald Trump. As I recall, NDT criticizes Trump mainly for his stances on science. If you don't like those opinions, that has nothing to do with facts regarding the immense scope of time and space. Which specific facts do you dispute?
Tyson’s astronomy is excellent, but I question his attempt to connect astronomy to politics, only hinted in this chapter. There is a tendency of writers like Tyson to assume their technical knowledge confers political and cultural wisdom, when in fact decisions about social priorities are far more complex, for example on climate change. The question of why conservative people question scientific opinions is not just a matter of seeing conservative people as stupid, but rather of seeing scientific values as embedded in social context.
LanDroid wrote: Tyson is fighting the ancient idea that the earth is the center of the universe.
Not really. He is fighting a political caricature of that old idea. Once again, here we should place this astronomy in social context, seeing how modern philosophy and politics have argued for a more rational approach but have not always recognised the rationality in conservative opinion. From the human perspective the earth is the centre of the universe, since the meaning of perspective is point of view from where things are seen. Of course that produced a wrong geocentric cosmology in the ancient world, but the politics and psychology are more complex. People tend to think that when you have proved somebody wrong in one thing you can then discount their other opinions. Galileo’s discovery of the moons of Jupiter did not necessarily give him great political insight, but that was the implication of his attack on the pope as a simple fool.

I see there is a discussion of geocentric errors at the Obama book. There is an easy tendency in such discussion to think that a refutation of a simple error gets to the heart of the matter, when often the simplistic story is a placeholder for more complex ideas.
LanDroid wrote:Obviously with at least 100 billion planets in our galaxy alone, the earth is not unique.
The logic of that “obvious” point is invalid. Since we don’t know if any of those planets have evolved intelligent life, we do not know if the earth is unique, and have some justice in regarding it as unique until proved otherwise. Every human being is unique, so there seems to be some political agenda in suggesting it is obvious that the earth is not unique when that is completely unknown.
LanDroid wrote: We may never detect life on other planets even if it exists, but that doesn't mean our planet is unique let alone the center of the universe.
From the human perspective, the earth seems to be unique. With our constructed values, uniqueness can be a useful premise even if, speculatively considered, [absurd sarcasm alert] a multiverse world may have a near-exact copy of our current conversation going on right now.
LanDroid wrote: I don't think Tyson incorporates them into The Cosmic Perspective, but multiple universes are not a mad idea. There are some aspects of quantum mechanics that not only allow for multiverses, but actually require them to fully explain certain phenomena. You might want to check out The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos by Brian Greene. As I recall he describes about nine different theories of multiverses.
All the string theory speculation may be very interesting and theoretically possible, but I suspect that the entailment in your wording is too strong. These “aspects of quantum mechanics” that you mention may involve the possibility of other universes, but it would be a much bigger story if they entailed necessity as your phrasing implies.
LanDroid wrote:
The Cosmic Perspective goes well beyond astronomy. As I pointed out before, "The molecular water cycle, bacterial symbiosis, the unbroken chain of the tree of life, and communication networks all the way down to the bacterial level are some examples of radical interdependence that is rarely perceived in daily life. ... These add a warmer human connection to stark considerations of 100 billion galaxies in a 14 billion year old visible universe."
Yes, that is a fair point. Tyson suggests that the fact we are made of the stuff of stars illustrates our connection to the cosmos. My concern in this topic of connection arises from my longstanding interest in astrology, and in the philosophical and cultural divide over the astrological assumption that our connections to the cosmos run far deeper than is generally assumed in astronomy.

The astronomical world view takes its origin from the popularisation of Newtonian mechanics, and is hostile to the perceived fatalism of astrological claims of planetary influence. Assumptions around human identity, agency, freedom and will create strong emotional prejudices about astrological ideas. For example, astrology assumes that our real personality is a snapshot of the state of the cosmos at the moment of our birth, creating an intimate spiritual connection.

That is a claim that has not been well supported by statistical data, although there is more than is generally known. What I find surprising is that discussion about such ideas receives such disdain, such as on whether human nature has deeper sensitivity to initial conditions than is seen on the surface. Any sense of connection is mystical, such as Tyson’s observation that he has drunk the same water molecules as Genghis Khan.
User avatar
Harry Marks
Bookasaurus
Posts: 1922
Joined: Sun May 01, 2011 10:42 am
13
Location: Denver, CO
Has thanked: 2341 times
Been thanked: 1022 times
Ukraine

Re: Ch. 12: Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective

Unread post

Robert Tulip wrote: Fairness can mean getting what you deserve, but the most vivid problem with that emerges from the claim from Jesus Christ known as the Matthew Principle that fairness means the talented will get more than the untalented.
Let me propose a different reading of the parable of the talents, one which takes into account the spiritual level of understanding values. Suppose there is a village, in which some people are motivated and careful, and so gradually prosper and teach their children to be motivated and careful. Other people are driven by their instincts and so are lazy and careless, and therefore gradually lose ground materially. The first group, seeing the rewards to thoughtful planning, share among themselves the things they have learned about effective practice. The second group, being driven by instinct, see the differences and begin to fight among themselves out of frustration, and blame everyone in sight out of projective identification, so that they conclude the motivated people must be evil and exploitative.
Now, the motivated people could respond with paid security guards and just try to make the lazy people go their own way. But is that the kind of people they are? Of course not. Because they are careful and thoughtful and reflective, they recognize the plight of the lazy ones and begin to share with them what they have learned about effective practice. Further, they employ the others at digging canals and making roads.

In spiritual terms, the rich got richer. In material terms, this translates into the poor getting richer as well. More to the point of the results of dislocated frame of reference, the thoughtful frame is capable of encompassing the material welfare of all, not just of themselves.
Robert Tulip wrote: Plato’s dialogue Protagoras is the classic analysis of the relativist idea that man is the measure of all things. Its logical invalidity makes relativism formally absurd, and yet relativism has practical utility where we are unsure which of conflicting opinions is correct and where we support political tolerance of right to believe false claims.
This is not just obvious, but also penetrating. The formal absurdity of relativism is only relevant for boundary situations. As a functional pattern of interpretation, it can profitably be built into our System 1 instinctive interpretations. Once again, philosophy would do well to avoid claims of definitive ("ontological") categories and strive to clarify ordinary thought and discourse.
Robert Tulip wrote:Where this gets interesting for the philosophy of science is that relativism assumes truth is a construction, whereas people often think of truth as a description. The constructivist ideology that sees culture as autonomous from nature is often lampooned as hopelessly postmodern, as it sometimes indeed is, and yet this nest of problems shows that the automatic common sense type of epistemology implied by Tyson should be more a starting point for discussion than a final statement.
There is a difficult disconnect embedded in this, because people want to treat moral principles with the linguistic tools (such as "truth") appropriate to analysis of nature. Relativism is not really about two contradictory statements being true at the same time, it is about treating moral principles as unproven and open to argument. If they would just be discussed in those terms instead of inappropriate language like "true" and "false" we could get much further with a profitable discussion.
I have seen Rorty go overboard with constructivism, claiming that "vocabularies" make scientific revolutions and that therefore scientific truth is constructed. This is a silly reading of Kuhn, and a failure to come to grips with the actual sociology of science. Yet he is right when he applies constructivism to political thought. The project of uncovering universal political truth in thought about objective observation is so quixotic as to be dangerous.
Robert Tulip wrote:When a person says that their views on fairness are necessarily true by definition, which is what a priori means, they are claiming access to a higher logic that invalidates anyone who has a different opinion about what is fair, just and equal. For example there is massive political conflict between the ideologies of equality of opportunity and equality of outcome.
Only philosophers think the "a priori" categories such as time and causality are so inviolate that they are necessarily true by definition. Most of us can handle the idea that "a priori" understanding of the world is psychological, and that we have before us the project of refining it to make it practical (rather than simply deducing results from it). The kind of dislocation from self-centeredness, in which Tyson puts so much hope for the Cosmic Worldview, corresponds to the decidedly non-"a priori" (i.e. System 2) process of being objective.

It is vital not to let the good faith process of elucidating the nature of fairness be stymied by bad faith political subterfuge. There is no solution to differences of perspective, but we can step aside from claims of universal moral validity and look at the issues raised for how pragmatic processes influence our interpretations of what is just.

I love the recent letter by Catherine Deneuve and others arguing against taking #MeToo too far. I tend to reflexively take the side of women, who are indeed often infringed on by male aggression and privilege, but the letter restored some balance to the considerations being factored in. We may have gone too far with the case of Al Franken, I don't know. But surely power needs to be made vulnerable, not kept privileged.
Robert Tulip wrote: What I liked about the philosopher Edmund Husserl was his argument that all presuppositions should be rigorously analysed.
Huzzah for Husserl. He spoke for System 2.
Robert Tulip wrote:I prefer to see the boundaries of the scientific worldview arising in problems like the role of intuition in psychology, the role of faith in politics and culture, and the extent to which our concepts of truth are descriptive or constructed.
I doubt that these are similar in practice to the relativistic and quantum mechanics which concern "things we do not normally observe". These problems you mention are problems for the scientific worldview precisely because science concerns nature rather than the complexities of social relations, infused as they are with symbolisms and driven as they are by conflicts between perspectives. The problem with our System 1 interpretations of these issues is that they are too simple to handle such complexities, but scientism is rarely the source of such oversimplifications.

I will leave dislocation of reference point, objectivity and mythology for tomorrow. Sick today, so limited time, but this is fun. Very profitable explorations, it seems to me.
User avatar
Harry Marks
Bookasaurus
Posts: 1922
Joined: Sun May 01, 2011 10:42 am
13
Location: Denver, CO
Has thanked: 2341 times
Been thanked: 1022 times
Ukraine

Re: Ch. 12: Reflections on the Cosmic Perspective

Unread post

Robert Tulip wrote:
This basic experience of the problem of objectivity illustrates a schism in meaning between facts and values, between objective and subjective, and between truth as description or construction. What you call ‘a visceral sense’ involves the unreflective emotional reaction to perceived wrongs.

Our sense of beauty usually relies on principles such as symmetry, and yet principles such as the stoic sense of connection to all humanity can generate perception of beauty in ugliness. The beauty within paradox such as that the last will be first are an example of a rational inversion of direct emotion.
All of this hearkens back strongly to Douglas Hofstadter's theme of "tangled hierarchies" in "Gödel, Escher, Bach". Hierarchies are often set up by one system of perceiving beauty (or fairness) and reason can calcify that system of ordering perceptions. Then some other aspect of beauty (or fairness) becomes salient for some reason, and we find our frame of reference shifting dramatically and things that seemed up before are seen to be down by the new ordering of perception. Very much like looking at an Escher print with more than one motif, blended into one another in such a way that the transition seems gradual when we try to watch it, and yet the mind must leap from one to the other.

I ran into an interesting example of this. A student whose parents were well-paid development officers at the UN was somewhat resentful of them, as teenagers will be at times. When we began talking about aid (development assistance) and I asserted that it was the right thing to do, he sidetracked this with an assertion that the people doing the assistance were in it for their own ego gratification and even for the pay. Having thought about this issue before, I asked him, "Are you saying that the people they help have no reason to be grateful?" He said, literally, "Wait a minute. . . " and nothing more. His organizing principle had been overturned by a different perspective, (in my case the more obvious of the two perspectives) and he could not sort the cognitive dissonance on the spot.
Robert Tulip wrote:
Harry Marks wrote: The distance created by reason helps to give a values system based in philosophically sound meaning structures, rather than self-centered gut feelings.
It is not just reason that shifts our values away from our gut. We also have cultural precedents that function as myth, whose basis may not be in reason but which do produce moral consensus.
At least they function to corral the natural tendencies of moralizing to wander off toward whatever perspective seems favorable to the individual musing about it. Producing moral consensus might be a bit ambitious.
Robert Tulip wrote:Our reason tends to restrict truth to matters we can understand, but our sense of mystery creates awe for the vast unknown, and humility before the feeble powers of our rational description. Richard Dawkins expressed this well in The Magic of Reality by saying science creates a sense of wonder and reverence for the awesome beauty and coherence of the rational causal processes of nature.
Awe is considered one of the primal experiences which extract us from the calculating mind which the mystics call the false self, placing us in "I-Thou" relation to life.
Robert Tulip wrote:The old mystical idea that all is one is far from a paradox, but is rather a statement that the whole universe obeys the same orderly laws.
I suspect this dramatically sells short the truth (or rather the values-organizing-principle) perceived in the experience of the fundamental unity of everything. The idea seems to be that we encounter each thing as a subject, not an object of potential manipulation, and thereby perceive, as Blake put it, the world in a grain of sand.
Robert Tulip wrote:Self returns as a reference point for values in the Gospel injunction to love God and neighbour as self, indicating that a person who lacks self-respect cannot achieve a proper sense of respect for others.
Dislocation of perception is at the heart of this equation. As long as we look at self as an instrumental "thing" to be exploited, we will be dissatisfied with self for the things it does not provide us. Objectivity does not overcome this, for even the most accomplished and attractive, by objective standards, will fall short of others in some way. Rather we need to view self from the same relational (i.e. spiritual) standpoint that tells us to treat everyone with respect and genuine concern as a virtuous way of relating, rather than because the person has earned it, and so we find grace to offer to ourselves as well.
Robert Tulip wrote:I think the mystical critique of ethics has turned on the observation that practical systems of rules are often resistant to discussion. People’s opinions about good and bad are of course often arbitrary and artificial and dogmatic, making any imagined mystical grounding of ethics in a perception of ultimate truth very difficult to make persuasive.
I have never heard of a mystic "grounding" ethics in non-duality. The very idea would be paradoxical (and maybe that's why I found NDTyson's fulmination on cosmic perspective to be shallow.) A system of ethics has already disengaged someone from the "I-Thou" encounter that is the essence of what mystics advocate.
Robert Tulip wrote:Only a sense of self-identity makes action possible, since oceanic mystical feeling of unity gives no basis for will or direction. Yet there is room here to open a dialectic between the soul and the ocean, our immediate assumptions and the deep needs of time.
That is the crux of the matter. How is it the Zen master put it? "Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water." The implications for the enlightened one in behavioral terms are not really different from the exigencies which cause us suffering if we relate through our resentment of having to work. The dialectic with the ocean (or the Zen no-mind) allows us to shift our perspective to that of someone participating in the flow of all toward further freedom (or, as we Christians would put it, toward salvation).
Robert Tulip wrote:Capital punishment is a great example of a moral value where our intuition can clash with our reason.
Back to System 1 and System 2, I think. Or one might say between Haidt's elephant and the reflective process that gives us free will.
Robert Tulip wrote:I like to argue that such problems should be analysed in terms of consequences, but we face the incommensurable problem that the deep coarsening of a societies’ respect for human rights cannot be weighed in any objective way against the signals sent by a message of tremble and obey, or against the opportunity costs of imprisonment.
Tangled hierarchies. Alternate organizing principles are in competition, and I don't imagine there is any "objective" method that sorts such situations out.
Robert Tulip wrote:Evidence informs such decisions, but at the end of the day policy outcomes emerge from principles whose real nature functions as social myth. Any effort to present the policy-evidence link as simple is an exercise in politics, not philosophy.
I take your point, but I am actually engaged in trying to put together a systematic perspective in which evidence-based decision-making is given, one might say, mythic force. We currently have a legal and governmental system in which competing myths are manipulated by the rich and powerful for whatever ends they see as most important. Resisting such manipulation is the social equivalent of an individual being able to take a clear-eyed view of reality rather than being tossed about by the emotions of the moment.

I have, one might say, despaired of philosophy as the basis for such an endeavor. The whole top-down approach of philosophy (seeking "Truth") ends up undermining its own goals, in a classic tangled hierarchy.
Robert Tulip wrote:Unfortunately, Newtonian mechanics became the basis for a mechanistic enlightenment that derided the old moral sense of the unity of all things. Your example from Tyson is confusing, since it seems he is saying the ‘above’ of cosmic scale is completely different from the ‘below’ of human life.
I meant to be suggesting that Tyson was trying to get away with a false equivalence, which is very different from Newton's brilliant insight. I do recognize a kinship between his "cosmic perspective" and the shift to objective thinking that we have been discussing. But, in classic myth-making fashion, he left that as a poetic resonance to be felt, rather than spelling out the real workings.
Robert Tulip wrote: Scholasticism as a cultural movement gives priority to learning from books,
I would characterize it very differently. Aquinas in particular, but to some extent the others, sought to justify the social order of feudalism by putting it in a context with what Marx would call a "superstructure" of religious ideas. This was not a nefarious or manipulative effort, but it was trapped in the perspective created by the "relations of production" of the time. The justification using authoritative texts was a side effort, incidental to the magisterial use of logic to rationalize what was perceived as unchangeable. A fitting monument to the over-rigidity which System 2 can produce, which Zen no-mind or non-dual openness (direct subject-to-subject relation to life) function to dissolve. I fear that scientism (logical positivism?) can fall into the same trap.
Post Reply

Return to “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry - by Neil deGrasse Tyson”