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.

Inside out

Looking at myself I see an ‘inner’ and an ‘outer’, dualism. Similarly I see this in my dog, perceiving the ‘inner’ reflected in the dog’s ‘outer’. I have no reason to believe this does not apply to every living being, and even to beings that we would not regard as ‘living’ according to certain criteria.

I can call this ‘inner’ mind or soul or spirit or elan vital or etc. The ‘outer’ is what I perceive through the senses – which is the subject matter of empirical science. So there it is for each of us to see – two aspects to reality, subjective and objective.

I understand that this ‘ontology’ (idea of the nature of reality) was common among advanced thinkers in medieval times, such as Roger Bacon in 12/13C. It was also common in the East, such as the Indian Vedanta.

Then came the Renaissance, Reformation and establishment of Science. In the early days of science, pioneers such as Newton and Kepler shared the same dualistic ontology. Somewhere along the way, in the development of science, some of its exponents began to identify that which was the ‘outer’ domain as the true reality, measured by mathematical models, dismissing the ‘inner’ as something science would eventually explain in terms of the ‘outer’, without any justification. This was the ontology of materialism. Of course, the great thinkers such as Einstein, Pauli, Schrodinger… knew better.

The materialistic ontology succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of its proponents because mathematics gave the tools to control the ‘outer’ of nature – and there was no recognition of the ‘inner’ of nature. It also, incidentally gave the tools to manage people, in ways that did not need to take account of ‘inner’ factors such as justice, sanctity of life, beauty, goodness and truth even. The result is before our eyes, the ‘inner’ screaming for recognition as never before.

Yet it’s all ideas that are clearly not valid, if you just look at your self and your dog (or other living being).

Time to go back inward, individually and collectively to refind that beauty, goodness and truth.

With thanks to Maylinno’s post on the mind body connection
and Harald Walach’s paper on Inner Experience – Direct Access to Reality

Interview with René Descartes

I recently came across this interview, dated 2001/1649.

Interviewer: Bonjour, Monsieur Descartes. Can I call you René?

Descartes: Allô, allô. Mais of course!

Interviewer: I have come back from the twenty first century to ask you a few questions. People there are very interested in your ideas, but you have been getting some bad press lately. Are you happy to take part?

Descartes: I think so.

Read More »

Mind and Matter

According to Christian de Quincey (in his books Blind Spots) there are four basic philosophical/ontological ways of looking at the mind-matter conundrum. For simplicity I equate mind with consciousness and matter with energy (as per Einstein).

  1. Materialism. Everything is matter; mind is an emergent phenomenon.
  2. Idealism. Everything is ultimately mind. Matter emanates from mind or is an illusion (maya).
  3. Dualism. Everything is ultimately separable mind and matter. They represent separate domains.
  4. Panpsychism. Everything is ultimately inseparable. Mind and matter together constitute sentient energy, the inner and outer of the one reality. Mind pervades everything, even the smallest atoms.

So, which is the most likely? This is my take:

  1. Materialism really is a crazy hypothesis the more you think about it. How can consciousness ’emerge’ from matter? Which is the more real to you? Although currently in wide vogue, this is in my view the worst theory, and can cause immense damage to nature which is regarded as ‘inert’. This damage is what we see today.
  2. Idealism is sort of the opposite. It has a certain plausibility. How could we know if it were not true?
  3. Dualism seems inherently implausible. How could the two domains interact? This seems to require a third concept.
  4. Panpsychism seems entirely plausible, coming closest to ‘explaining’ the basics of the universe we see. In such a universe we are clearly both objectively and subjectively a part of the One.

You could regard this as a rather obscure philosophical debate. Should we be ‘mindful’ of it, and does it really ‘matter’? The damage being caused by materialism suggest it might actually be rather important to understand.

What do you think?