The Public Executon Of the Two-World Assumption
By Andrew Dorman
First delivered: 2002
At the time of Rene Descartes, the 17th-century person who thought he was, and, therefore, became what he was to himself, a spectre came upon the horizon, and this spectre is today known as the mind. But this spectre, so to speak, came equipped with baggage, and this ghost, who would be said to travel, at times, in a machine, would order his two bags to travel in separate cars. This was so because he didn't wish to be weighed down by his own ideas (as these were the contents of the bags). At any rate, ghosts apparently have nowhere to go, and as this ghost was and is no exception (as I'm about to prove), the manner in which these two world of ideas would, so to speak, interact when packed away, increasingly became more mysterious over time. So that, now, since this ghost was not without influence, we have two separate schools of ideas, representing each set of baggage: one school is known as rationalism, the other empiricism. As you're about to see, the contents of these bags have been lying around now for quite some time, and it's about time we, as idea cleaners, either launder the goods or pack them up for good. I suggest mixing the two loads together and see what comes out, once and for all.
Come to think of it, the cleaning management may claim that the mixing of these two clashing ideas, if they are clashing, as "a category mistake". If this is so, however, a term like "idea cleaner" is, in itself, an example of a category mistake. The nature of cleaning cannot be typically categorized along with the nature of ideas. A category mistake in laundering would consist of mixing together such garments, the interaction of which would defy sense.
- The seemingly admixture of mind-body results in questions like the following: if the mind is distingishable from the body, then how can the mind-body interact while co-existing as they seem to do? In other words, how would a mind (presumably the cause of an action) influence to move a body (presumably the effect of an action)?
- As of now, it's readily assumed that the nonphysical is of a less influential nature than the physical.
- Understandably, a nonphysical substance just doesn't fit into the scheme of Newtonian physics of inertia and impenetrability of physical things.
- Of course, the enigma involved here may not be as puzzling if the body is understood as the cause to the mind's effect (as would say an empiricist), but still we have a physical thing influencing a seemingly nonphysical substance, and that, still, doesn't fit into the scheme.
- Yet few would say that, as people, we just don't think--though, at times, we may act like we don't.
- So, what if we were to ask, what if the mind was of a more powerful nature than the body?
-If we are to ask, as would an empiricist, of what known natural phenomenon could possibly be likened to the phenonomon I'm suggesting now, could we possibily come up with "nothing", that's something, to show for it?
- At some time in history, energy was as mysterious to mankind as the mind continues to be to this day. Does energy act in a manner similar to the phenomenon of a nonphysical substance overpowering a physical one?
- According to modern physics, everything that's known to exist consists of energy.
- MATTER exists only because ENERGY may assume the form of an elementary particle. Without these elementary particles (which nobody has actually seen) we wouldn't know things exist (if only for the reason they wouldn't)--in the same way as without the mind we wouldn't know the world to exist (if only for the reason that we wouldn't).
- MASS is defined as energy with the attention concentrated on STATIC WEIGHT.
- So if we're talking about energy without this attention on STATIC WEIGHT, we're talking about mass that doesn't exist--not necessarily a substance that doesn't exist.
- To say that something exists and that something exists in space and time are two separate claims.
- We usually regard as the things most real, or to widen the domain: the phenomena most real, as that of which we're able to see. Aristotle considered sight as the most noblest sense. In fact, it's said, and understandably so, that without sight, we wouldn't be able to observe anything--that is, of what we see. Yet the only electromagnetic wave that is visible to the human eye is light.
- It seems that most of what we experience can be explained through touch, whether actively or passively. Even light needs to contact itself with the body, in order for the body to react to it. As such, touch seems to be the most dominent sense.
- Most of our common sense assumptions are based on this one common sense of touch.
- With this in "mind," the mind and the body, if we wish to call the two phenomena by these names, don't interact in any unique sense at all.
- Perhaps the body ought to be simply understood by the mind as just another object in the world, but as one that oneself has the most direct contact with.
- After all, we have not much more authority on how we can manage our body, as we do in how to manage our lawns. We rake the leaves and prune the bushes to keep our bodies in shape, but we cannot prevent our uniquely designated yard from growing older and getting alergies in any manner, with any more authority than we can prevent our household lawns from getting crabgrass.
- Perhaps the body ought to be understood in a sense that it imposes itself on the mind, and, in this manner, limits what the mind can actually know because of the body's, and the physical world's, own limitations--understood by this one common sense.
- The question arises: could the mind have knowledge without the body, or perhaps have even more without it? Perhaps an objective answer to this question can never be known, and to pose a guess would be subjectively determined by whether one chooses an implied empiricist position, or an implied rationalist position.
- But to choose a position regarding this dichotomy (between rationalism or empiricism) is exactly that, a choice.
- Perhaps the more objective position is to accept neither and/or to assume both.
- This is what modern physics does, in fact, by regarding choice and the results as complementary--taking note on what apparatus one chooses to use for one's findings and factoring that determination into the results.
- By assuming both schools of thought, one would avoid such paradoxes as those that arise by assuming in favor of the position one is taking.
- For example, it's meaningless for an empiricist to ask a rationalist (in this case, a conceptualist): If numbers are ideas in the mind, would there be as many number sevens as there are minds? Does that mean if a person dies or loses consciousness there's one less seven in the world? Obviously this question is a loaded one, posed in favor of empiricism in that it assumes that something existing resembles something that exists in space and time.
- Equally, on the other side of the baggage, a rationalist may ask a loaded question to an empiricist: If consciousness is said to exist in the brain, where is it? Why can't brain surgery point out the exact location of a human purpose, for instance?
- But take notice, the empiricist-loaded question and the rationalist-loaded question are exactly the same question using different constituents. Even the rationalist-loaded question alleges that something existing should resemble, necessarily, something that exists in space and time.
- The truth is that behind every observable phenomena there's most likely a foundation to that same phenomenon that we do not readily observe.
- It's just as likely that to every foundation or cause there's most likely a repercussion, or effect, that's readily observable, and, like physics, regarding metaphysics, we can determine causes based on these effects.
- The dichotomy between rationalism and empiricism gave rise to epistemology (how much can we actually know?) simply because the dichotomy sets an exact guideline to what degree we can base direct knowledge.
- But this dichtomy developed in the 16th and 17th centuries. Since then, our sciences, the institution determined to be most empirical (and, bearing in mind, that it was empiricism that gave rise to skepticism regarding rationalism in the first place), have increasingly fuzzied this guideline, inasmuch as what we observe is based on many foundations in which we simply posit based on the results. For example, such phenomena as quarks and quantas are not directy observable in themselves.
- Since the time of John Locke, regarded by many as the first intended empiricist--and who quickly followed the heals of Descartes--most of the theories accepted by science have shown that more of the premises set by empiricists over the years have been sillier than those of the rationalists. In fact, it's the theories of Gottfried Leibniz (the philosopher who Locke was allegedly most opposed to) and Leibniz's notion of monads that are today considered one of the more consistent philosophical theories in relation to quantum theory.
- At any rate, it seems that experience cannot make sense without foundations, and foundations cannot be known without observation of some kind, whether based on observable causes or observable effects.
- This implies that one school of thought implies the other, and that the distinction between the two is simply to categorize one set of baggage from the next.
- In other words, the distinction is made only out of convenience, with it being understood that our own reasoning methods are limited, possibily impaired by our own common sense--our bodies.
- When inconvenient paradoxes arise, we should ask whether the paradox is caused more by question-loading (i.e., a presuppostion limiting the range of what is knowable) than our limited knowledge of what can be known (i.e., accepting the range of possibilities without presuppositions).
- For one to limit the matter to any one degree along the range of possibilities, rather than be open to all possibilities, is a choice--insomuch that one chooses to be limited in what one knows over how much, or how little, one can actually know.
- In other words, the choice limits the thinker alone.
- For a philosopher to overly regard one means of acquiring knowledge over another shows the limitations of the thinker, rather than what can be commonly known.
- I find it tempting to wonder, should science have accepted metaphysics as a category in the same manner as it does physics, for instance, would we now have consciousness laws in the same way as we now have gravitational laws?