Critique of TSW Part 27d The Myth of Exceptionalism
Bill objectifies motion and we reread part of the preface in sympathy with his eventual conversion from indeterminist to determinist.
I am ever so grateful to Bill Westmiller, whose comments are marked "BW: ". The quotes marked “TSW: “are from "The Scientific Worldview" and my comments are marked "[GB: ".
The Myth of Exceptionalism (Part 4 of 4)
TSW: "For every departure there must be an arrival. All things, except the infinite universe itself, must have an end."
BW: I've discussed this previously: I don't think the terms "departure" and "arrival" are properly defined. Even the word "things" is poorly defined. Do all configurations of matter change? Of course. Nevertheless, there are natural processes ("Westmiller Things") which are persistent, even eternal, that are distinct characteristics of matter in motion. Understanding what they are is a challenge, but I doubt that gravitation will cease to exist, no matter what the configuration of matter. Those kinds of "things" need not end.
[GB: I can’t figure out what you are trying to add to the discussion. I have clearly defined things as microcosms, xyz portions of the universe. “Natural processes” are motions, not things—a mistake common to many indeterminists since Einstein got them even more confused than they normally would be. I never could see your problem with departures and arrivals. Maybe you should get out of the office a bit more. Perhaps your confusion is a way of opposing the Sixth Assumption of Science, complementarity (All things are subject to divergence and convergence from other things).
I can see why your understanding is a challenge. Indeterminists must oppose the Fourth Assumption of Science, inseparability (Just as there is no motion without matter, so there is no matter without motion). Through the objectification common to Einstein (Borchardt, Glenn, 2011, Einstein's most important philosophical error, in Proceedings of the Natural Philosophy Alliance, 18th Conference of the NPA, 6-9 July, 2011 ( http://www.worldsci.org/pdf/abstracts/abstracts_5991.pdf ), College Park, MD, Natural Philosophy Alliance, Mt. Airy, MD, p. 64-68.), indeterminists typically form "Westmiller Things" out of pure motion. Your idea of gravitation is an example. Gravitation, like “running,” “walking,” or any other kind of motion, does not exist. It occurs. It is what matter does. Yours is an easy mistake to make, particularly for aether deniers. Without aether, Einstein left us with “immaterial fields” as the cause of gravitation and magnetism. This has gotten so bad that I often hear from those who theorize that matter can be made out of pure motion. I guess that I should not be so shocked. After all, we live in a universe that supposedly exploded out of nothing.]
TSW: "Eventually, a few of these [external things] will seal our fate."
BW: Undoubtedly, they will affect our fate. In a few billion years, when the Earth will be uninhabitable. That doesn't necessarily mean that humans *must* cease to exist. We can create our own environment, or find a new one.
[GB: That is a nice refrain perhaps, but it smacks of salvation and living after dying all too common in indeterministic literature.]
TSW: "... the motions of the microcosm are determined by the main features of the microcosm and the macrocosm."
BW: This essentially concedes my point: it is the *main features* that are consequential to humans, not an infinite set of features in the universe (whether finite or infinite). Nor are the main features *equally* attributable to microcosm/internal and macrocosm/external causes. The causes for any effect are *mainly* - almost exclusively - proximate. Depending on where you draw (real or arbitrary) boundaries, they may be *mainly* external or *mainly* internal.
[GB: Agreed. That is how we do science. In practice, we can only determine a few of the causes for a particular motion. The rest we lump into the plus or minus category. Often this makes no practical difference (unless you are trying to predict the weather, perhaps).]
TSW: "It treats humans, not as the microcosms they are, but as inert bodies that are bounced around helplessly, undergoing no internal change whatsoever."
BW: But, whether internal or external, it seems to me that Univironmental Determinism is fundamentally fatalistic. Absent some form of free will - abstract causes - we are just "bouncing around", with no rational purpose or motives.
[GB: You are getting there, but your imagined free will won’t prevent you from bouncing around. The fact is that the universe has no purpose—that is a religious idea for which there is no evidence. Any of the rational purposes that microcosms exhibit are the result of univironmental interactions with the macrocosm. Your imagined free will cannot produce motives, since free will does not exist or occur. Motive is derived from the word “motion.” Causes were defined by Newton’s Second Law of Motion: a colliding microcosm changes the velocity and direction of another microcosm. That is how we get “motivation” and why we call them social “movements”.
With regard to the concatenation of cause and effect that determines our activities, remember this wisdom from Shakespeare: “All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players.” To this I would add that we are not privy to the full script, so there is always excitement in following the chain of events. None of the acts are “predetermined,” even though all are determined. We do not have free will, but we can have the “feeling of freedom.” The upshot is that we should dance like no one is looking, continue along life’s journey, and partake in the great evolution of humanity wherever it may lead. You may swear to opt out of the whole thing, as some try to do by “rising above” the commands and urges of their earthly existence through abstinence of one sort or another. But if you “choose” to remain in the flow, you will have to drink, eat, and perform all that required for your survival as a biological microcosm within the social microcosm.
Bill, I sympathize with what you are going through upon finding out how the world really works. I expressed a similar reaction in the preface to the book:
“The univironmental idea had an intense personal impact. In my experiments I had always considered myself outside the reactions I was observing. Now I was a crucial, historical part of them. My physicochemical model of the world ran wild. For more than a week I was in a fatalistic daze as I thought, still somewhat narrowly, but certainly not conventionally: "We are all chemicals and all our behaviors are chemical reactions." This was a giant, if somewhat clumsy step outside systems philosophy. In this new way of thinking, whether we consider ourselves chemicals, systems, microcosms, or just plain folks ultimately made little difference—all are influenced by both the within and the without. Behavior was simply the motion of one portion of the universe with respect to other portions. This simple, yet profound conception was radically different from anything I had known. The dictionary didn't even have a word for it. I gradually recovered by savoring the newfound perceptiveness. I would never look at anything in the same way again.”]
TSW: "We don't need to believe that, with the advent of consciousness, we can now step outside evolution, go under it, rise above it, or stop it."
BW: With sapience, we already *have* stepped outside biological evolution; we go under it, above it, or stop it whenever we find a new scientific method of enhancing our survivability and pursuing happiness. A "Scientific Viewpoint" that ignores that is denying all scientific achievements.
[GB: Again, the only way you could believe that is to remove yourself and all predecessors from the univironment that produced those achievements. In a way, that is like the one-year old solipsist who puts a blanket over his head, making the world go away. In your case, the mental estrangement verges on that of the religious folks who imagine that they will eventually transcend their physico-chemical existence as solitary systems containing the sapience and souls they were promised.]
Next: The Last Chapter