Galileo’s Error?

Galileo Galilei is thought of as the founder of modern science. “One of his most significant contributions was his radical declaration in 1623 that mathematics is to be the language of science.”

Before that time there was mathematics, but there was also the recognised ‘inner world’ of sensory qualities. The latter was excluded from the emerging science.

The triumphant march of science, with its handmaiden technology, since then, suggests that this was a useful simplification.

But what have we lost? Since Galileo’s time the measurable objective has significantly eclipsed the sensed subjective – not only in science, but across society and in our relationship with nature.

We clearly cannot blame today’s ecological and economic crises on Galileo, but I’d suggest that the trend he set in motion led to the problems we now grapple with. We need a new balance between subjective and objective, which other theorists have suggested is a balance between left and right brain hemispheres.

Incidentally Galileo’s simplification also created the so-called ‘hard problem of consciousness’, by excluding subjective consciousness from science.

Led by quantum theory, science has, over the past century, increasingly come to the realisation that this does not work. Objectification of everything leads to meaninglessness. Basically, mathematical models tell us little about the intrinsic nature of things.

How often, in politics do we see ‘managerialism’, where everything is measured and managed by number, being rejected by the people, in favour of more passionate and idealistic inner-directed politicians. Could this be a part of the natural rebalancing that is going on in the human psyche? It won’t be all ‘good’ – see eg Trump and Brexit…

This reflection was inspired by Philip Goff’s book Galileo’s Error, a well-written, readable and fascinating reflection on the history and philosophy of science and the foundations for ‘a new science of consciousness’. The case for different ontologies of materialism, dualism and panpsychism comes down firmly in favour of the latter. Well worth a read!

Featured image is 1636 portrait of Galileo by Justus Sustermans, via Wikipedia.

2 thoughts on “Galileo’s Error?

  1. Hi Barry:

    You’d think there’s be a marriage of science and philosophy to the degree where scientists, as a matter of course, understood the meaning of Descartes’s fundamental realization that the only thing we can be absolutely sure of is our subjective existence: “I think, therefor I am”. We know we exist because we are self-aware. And yet the one undeniable subjective truth is to this day not objectively provable by science. Science can’t find consciousness. That is a conundrum I’d expect people to be well aware of.

    On the contrary, I’ve had some rather unpleasant arguments online with people who insist there is no such thing as the immaterial, hence consciousness can’t be immaterial, and is just the action of the brain. Yes, I say, and the consequence of that action is a state of subjective self-awareness. That state is not a physical thing. They can’t acknowledge that anything is immaterial, even an idea, or a number.

    Consciousness is to us what water is to fish. It’s so taken for granted that it doesn’t exist unless you take the fish out of water. I can’t say I really understood the nature of consciousness until I did some experimentation with psychedelics, started meditating, and did a lot of research simultaneously into brain/consciousness science, eastern philosophy, and the psychedelic literature. I get it, now. But most people, I gather, merely think they understand consciousness because they understand the idea of it in linguistics. But it needs to be a subjective realization, not an intellectual conclusion apprehended. A computer can’t understand consciousness because it is not conscious. When it makes sense that the word exist in consciousness and not the other way around (because without consciousness no world is registered as anything as existing to begin with), even if the obverse is objectively true, than one may have a grasp on what consciousness is.

    I find a real division between people who understand consciousness, and those who haven’t yet “got” it. Science that writes consciousness out of the picture is throwing out the baby and enshrining the bathwater. Worse, I find that people today don’t even value the objective, and merely project their subjective narrative or conclusions onto reality, without understanding either objective reason nor the nature of subjective consciousness.

    Liked by 1 person

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