Part Two - The Wrong Approach: Looking To The Di-Verse.
5 - Where To Look?
We have made the starting point of our enquiry the question, "How can can we escape Unpeace and find Peace?" where we defined 'Peace' and 'Unpeace' in the most general way possible. 'Unpeace' can range from the most terrible suffering to mere irritational discomfort; it is that which prompts us, eagerly or reluctantly, to perform actions. It is a state of disharmony or unequilibrium, which we are dissatisfied with and which, consciously or unconsciously, we struggle to transcend.
Of course, it is often held that much that is beautiful and creative stems from such tension, suffering and disharmony, a case such as Van Gogh being cited for support. While the opposite viewpoint can however be equally well held (for instance Wordsworth, Mozart and Bach all created from tranquillity rather than harsh conflict), the point is that even if an artist produces a great work for mankind's posterity out of his suffering and Unpeace, surely he himself is still trying to escape his suffering? Anyway, we can always avoid the problem by defining Unpeace as that which we want to avoid!
In this sense, the question "how best to escape Unpeace?" is very basic and fundamental; more so even than the usual philosophical starting point such as "Who am I?" or "What is the nature of this world?" After all, we will only be led to ask these kinds of questions by the realisation that our present situation and understanding are insufficient for obtaining Peace. An example of this is the case of Descartes, the French philosopher mentioned in the last chapter. He lived in a world of obvious Unpeace; in particular there was almost continuous religious conflict between the Catholics and the Huguenots. He was caught up in the Thirty Years War (1619-1649), fighting first in Bavaria and later in the siege of La Rochelle. There was also conflict in the philosophical field between the advocates of Aristotle's world-view and those who supported the new theories of Galileo and others. It was this lack of security and certainty all round which led Descartes to his fervent search for unshakable knowledge, and which resulted in his famous 'cogito': "I think, therefore I am." Out of this certainty of his own existence, Descartes attempted to build a system of philosophy which was impregnable.
The point we are making is that the need to build up a philosophy or to understand the world is generated by Unpeace. Indeed, not just philosophy, but all the 'noble' activities of man, such as science, medicine, art, helping and loving others, in that they are activities are as much attempts to answer the question of Unpeace as are war, hatred, cruelty etc
Like Descartes, we are basing our enquiry on the universal fact that must be true. Rather than choose the fact of our existence to build on, we are choosing the fact of our experiencing Unpeace. We might even twist Descartes's 'cogito', and in place "I think, therefore I am" proffer, "I suffer, therefore I act."
Most of Part One was concerned with showing that the key word in connection with Unpeace is difference. We live in a world of difference, where everything is separate, changing and indeed different. The transience and changeability of all objects and situations means that nothing is or even can be certain, except the fact of change itself; and this causes continual tension and conflict on all levels (biological, psychological, social and intellectual). This in turn means that we have to be always changing and adapting to new situations, always evolving, never being but always becoming, or, as we expressed it in the first chapter, always being born.
For animals, and indeed for all sentient creatures other than man, this process is only on the physical level; but for man, this process is also in operation at levels distinct from the physical. In Chapter One we attributed this to a duality of natures in man - animal and human. But although this is a very useful way of looking at man, it is only an analogy, and we would be in a false position if we were to argue from it.
Instead, we will turn to the basic duality dealt with in the last chapter - that of mind and matter, or the private and public worlds. But rather than examine them philosophically, as we did in the last chapter, we will do so now practically. For this book is essentially practical - we are dealing with the practical problem of suffering and misery, fear and hate, bewilderment and confusion. Philosophy and intellectual word-pushing are only useful for our purpose in as much as they enable us to see clearly where the practical solution lies and how it might be obtained.
The philosophies mentioned as having some bearing on the mind-matter duality are all very well, but do they in themselves offer a practical solution? Of course, this question presupposes that it is possible to understand the philosophies in the first place. Some philosophy, particularly that of the idealists, can be so abstruse that when someone wrote a book entitled, "The Secret of Hegel's Philosophy," a reviewer observed that the author had kept the secret very well! 1
In this enquiry we are not so much interested in the mind-or-matter controversy as such, but more in the fact that in everyday life we in practice experience these two worlds, the public and the private (or matter and mind), whatever the philosophers may say.
Now our behaviour, our answering of the question how to avoid Unpeace, will basically depend upon which class of object (public or private) we look to most. For everything we experience must fit into one of these two categories - either it is private and cannot be experienced by anyone other than the person concerned, or it is public and can be experienced by anyone (in principle). And granted that it is our experience that we are in Unpeace, and that this is due to our experiencing a world of difference, then the question becomes whether we look primarily to the public or the private world to find Peace.
The Three Monks
To illustrate this point, we can look at a short story from the Chinese work 'The Gateless Gate' written in 1228.
Once, two Zen Buddhist monks were arguing about a flag blowing in the wind. The first monk said, "The flag is moving." The second monk said, "The wind is moving." Just then a third monk happened to be passing by. He told them, "Not the wind, not the flag; mind is moving."2
In other words, the first monk states his experience - that he sees a flag moving. The second monk looks for the explanation in the public world, while the third monk looks for the explanation in the private world. What exactly the third monk might mean by "mind is moving" we will not enquire; the important thing is that he explains a public event (the moving flag) in terms of his private world, while the second monk pursues the more obvious course of explaining the public event of the moving flag in terms of another public event or object (the wind).
Of course, if the first monk were to have observed a private event (such as pain), then the third monk's attitude is more comprehensible. We can retell the above story with the monks now discussing a subjective event, like this: First monk (looking at his cut hand): "This wound is causing me pain."
Second monk: "The knife that cut your hand is the cause of the pain."
Third monk: "Not the wound, not the knife; your experiencing (ie your consciousness) is the cause of the pain."
Although we agree with the second monk, that the knife is in some way responsible for the pain, nevertheless the third monk is also correct. If it were not for the first monk experiencing the pain, there would be no pain - this is what we mean by a 'private object'. If this first monk were unconscious, then certainly blood would still flow from the wound, neural impulses would go up the nervous system, electrochemical events would take place in the brain, but there would be no pain.
Whether to basically follow the second or third monk is tantamount to the question: what is more important - the way we look at things (the third monk's viewpoint) or the things themselves (the second monk's viewpoint)? Since the first monk has the role of mutual observer, we can say that it was he who was responsible for Part One of this book. He observes mankind (himself included) to be in Unpeace, notices that our behaviour is motivated (consciously or unconsciously) by the compulsion to end this Unpeace, and he observes that the root cause of this Unpeace is the essential difference we see everywhere. So far, so good. But now the second and third monks come onto the scene. We will take it for granted that they both accept the first monk's formulation of the problem; their solutions, however, will be very different and will lead to divergent styles of behaviour. Consider an example:
Suppose the first monk is fat, and as he walks down the street someone yells, "You fat slob:" A few minutes later someone else shouts, "You gross pig!" and not unnaturally, he gets angry. Now the question is, what is the cause of his anger? The second monk would tell him that he got angry because people were being rude to him. But the third monk would tell him that his anger was due to his state of mind, the way he was looking at things; if he were being carried down the road unconscious, then he would not hear any of the remarks and would not be angry; alternatively if he were in a happy mood, he might laugh off the insult, but if he were in a bad mood, then the insults would make him very angry.
Now we are all in a position similar to the first monk of being in Unpeace; we sometimes find ourselves frightened, sometimes angry; sometimes we suffer physical pain, sometimes mental pain. But do we follow the second or the third monk? In practice, the vast majority of us follow the second monk; we act as if it were public object and events which are the cause of our content or discontent. If we are bored, we watch television; if we are depressed, we have a drink; if we are unhappy, we watch a funny film; if we cannot sleep, we take pills. Advertisements tell us that this furniture polish takes the drudgery out of housework, that washing powder takes the dreariness out of washing. Do we want the 'real thing'? Then drink Coca Cola. Do we want pleasure? Then smoke such-and-such cigarettes. If someone calls us a fat slob, then we shake our fist at him.
But if we follow the third monk, we shake our fist at our own mind. And if we are able to be somehow in that state of mind where the world seems a good place, where we are looking at it through 'rose-coloured spectacles', then public objects (such as personal insult) will have little or no effect on us.
One advantage of taking notice of the third monk comes about because we have only a limited control over our environment. Suppose I am bored; then if I follow the second monk, I turn on the television. But what if the television station is not broadcasting at that time of day? Now, if I follow the third monk, I will not turn to the TV (ie a public object) to eradicate my boredom, but I will look to myself (the private world) and try to be in a state of mind where boredom does not exist. If I can do this successfully, then I am in a far superior position to the followers of the second monk, because I always carry myself around with me, whereas there are obviously times when I am not with the TV!
Similarly, we can take the cause of the insulted fat first monk. If he took offence at the first insult ("You fat slob!"), then he would do one of two things: if he follows the second monk, he would verbally (or even physically) attack the insulter, whom we shall assume he overwhelmed, so that the insulter promises that the monk is not fat, certainly not a slob, and is in fact quite slim and well-looking. If, on the other hand, the first monk follows the third monk, he would ignore the insult and would examine his own mind. Either by reasoning or by some psycho-spiritual technique, he would attain that state of mind whereby he was genuinely unconcerned at what anyone called him. The insult would wash off him like water off a duck's back.
Up to this point, both approaches seem equivalent in having led to the same result. But now consider the second insult ("You gross pig!") shouted a few minutes later. To become peaceful, the follower of the second monk will have to go through an identical process with the second insulter as he did with the first insulter. But the follower of the third monk will already be peaceful. Why? Because he is carrying around with him his peaceful state of mind which he generated after the first insult.
If he were a learned monk he might quote Milton:
"The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven." 3
(though not, of course, if he were a 13th century Chinese monk). It is also unlikely that he would know about the United Nations charter which says, amongst other things, "War begins in the mind of men, and it is in the mind of man that the defences of peace must be constructed." (Though there is no doubt that he would agree with it were he to have known of it.) So we can see that the difference between the viewpoints of the second and third monks in fact leads to a totally different type of behaviour in the same situation. And it appears that the third monk's behaviour is eminently more reasonable and successful in avoiding Unpeace. Why, then, do the vast majority of us in most situations follow the second monk?
The reason is very simple; we do not know how to follow the third monk. How can we generate from within ourselves a state of mind which enables us to look at everything peacefully and in terms of harmony and love? How can we automatically be in a state of consciousness such that all, difference is transcended, so that a bayonet in our stomach is a trivial matter, and even death is superficial? The failure to find an answer to these questions forces us to dismiss the third monk's attitude as far as practical every-day living is concerned, and to act like the second monk. The hallmark of the second monk's attitude is, as we have seen, that he thinks it important to control and manipulate his environment of public objects. He takes this viewpoint either because he thinks his surroundings are ultimately the cause of his Unpeace, or because the third monk's attitude seems impractical, or both.
To tie a philosophical label around the second monk is difficult, for he does not really fit into any existing category. He may well be a materialist, but he could equally well be an idealist, since we have not tapped his belief on the actual 'reality' or otherwise of the public world; he merely acts as if the public world were more fundamental and the cause of his Unpeace. The story is told of how Bishop Berkeley (who held an extreme form of idealism) went to visit Dean Swift. Swift, however, kept Berkeley standing on the doorstep, on the grounds that if his philosophical views were correct and the closed door only existed in his mind, then he would have no trouble in entering! 4 In other words, in spite of his philosophy, Berkeley was forced to act as the second monk.
In this book, we will call the second monk an 'externalist' and his way of behaviour externalism. We define an external object or event to be an object or event which belonged to the world of difference, and vice versa; that is, an object or event pertaining to the world of difference is defined as being external.
We began the chapter by summarising Part One - that we act because of the Unpeace we find ourselves in, and which is essentially due to the world being one of difference. Given this situation, our behaviour can be broadly divided into two categories, as that which results from laying emphasis on either the public world, or the private world. The former behaviour we call 'externalism'. While we may see the advantage of the latter category of behaviour, the difficulties involved in carrying it out means that most of us are externalists in practice.
The externalist thinks that the most important thing for him to do is to have control over his environment, since he believes it is his external surroundings which largely control his happiness and well-being.
Now of course there are many ways to try and control the environment. Basically they can be divided into two: what we can call 'indirect externalism' and 'direct externalism'. Indirect externalism is, as its name implies, an attempt to control the external world indirectly. All primitive peoples, and not-so-primitive people as well, rely largely on indirect externalism. It is evident in magic, miracles and all appeals to some supernatural agency for help in rearranging the external world somehow. It sometimes has the awe-inspiring name 'thaumaturgy', and there has been much study into its practice.1 Not only do we see indirect externalism in the animistic beliefs, prayers and sacrifices of the so-called primitive peoples, but also in the exorcism of ghosts, the blessing of ships and the claims to miraculous healing at Lourdes and Fatima in the present day. We can also include possibly the phenomenon of PK (psycho-kinesis), the ability to manipulate external objects by thought power. (PK will be discussed briefly in Chapter 7). Indirect externalism was rife in the Middle Ages, particularly in regard to witchcraft and the miracles performed on account of religious relics. Nowadays many devout Roman Catholics still pray to the various saints for help and protection in everyday life, such as to Saint Anthony of Padua for finding lost things.
Direct externalism is, on the contrary, an attempt to control the environment directly. Of course the dividing line between direct and indirect externalism is very vague, but nevertheless it is a useful classification.
We can further divide direct-externalism itself into two broad categories - those expressions of it which rely mostly on physical force and conquest of peoples, and those which tend to rely more on the intellectual and reasoning powers. All great empires tend to be products of the former category, and include the Macedonian empire of the 4th century BC, the Roman empire (certainly in its later stages), the Arab empire of the 7th and 8th centuries, the Mongol conquests of the 13th century and the Spanish and English colonisations of the 16th century. The common factor in these conquests is not only a desire to control the external world, but a desire to do so directly through physical force.
In this chapter, however, we will be concerned with the latter category of direct-externalism, ie that of controlling the external world by acquiring knowledge of it through the intellect and discursive thought.
The most obvious example of this for us is the rise of science in Europe over the past four hundred years, and the resulting technological and world-wide materialistic developments it has engendered.
That the growth of science is essentially externalistic is strikingly illustrated by a remark by one of the founders of modern science, Galileo: "The conclusions of natural science are true and necessary, and the judgement of man has nothing to do with them." 2 The second monk could not have put it better himself. Since the direct externalist believes that what happens 'out there' in the external world is important, and is not influenced by 'the judgement of man', then it becomes necessary to understand and to obtain knowledge of the external world and thus hopefully to control or master it. Modern science has achieved this mastery to an astonishing degree, its success being celebrated in such phrases as "the conquest of Space" with regard to the space projects; in fact, the aim of science as a whole is frequently expressed as the "conquest of Nature". This of course explains why science is the ultimate authority for dedicated direct-externalists, because they believe it is in the 'conquest' of their surroundings that they will find true happiness, total satisfaction and that Peace which we are all looking for.
Science is now the new religion; Genesis is not in it with a school text-book on chemistry, and we even rely on scientific text-books for such personal crafts as rearing children or achieving a happily married life. In this section we will take a brief look at science in the West over the past four hundred years, but before we proceed, it must be noted that we are not making any cut-and-dried propositions, such as "western culture is external or materialist" or "eastern philosophy is spiritual and mystic", Although western culture undoubtedly is externalistically orientated it has strong elements of non-externalism, notably the philosophy of the Christian Church. And while it is also true that eastern philosophy is largely non-materialistic, the East has produced materialistic schools of thought, notably the 'Nastikas' of Krishna's time and later the 'Charvakas', who anticipated and outdid the direct-externalists and materialists of the modern world in their thinking and behaviour, Also Buddhist mysticism, commonly supposed to be absolutely idealistic is linked with the theory of knowledge that would satisfy the most die-hard western externalists; and what is usually perplexing to the western observer is that the discipline of Hatha Yoga, for instance, while repudiating the external human body, is largely concerned with the preservation of physical health.3 As regards modern times, the person who thinks the East is totally spiritual should visit downtown Tokyo or almost any large, industrial Asian city; and the person who thinks that the West is totally materialistic should visit any of the innumerable spiritual, or even 'hippy' communities which have sprung up recently in the industrial West.
With this preamble, let us look at that expression of externalism in the West we call 'science' and see what it has contributed to the establishment of Peace.
We will start with 17th century, which is probably the most important, most eventful, and changeful single century we know of (excepting our own 20th century). Consider that was achieved in those hundred years. There was a great advance in the instruments for measuring and analysing the world: the compound microscope was invented in 1590, the telescope in 108 and a little later the thermometer, barometer and airpump; and clocks, while not new, were enormously improved in that time. In the field of medicine, Harvey published his discovery of the circulation of blood in 128 and Leeuwenhoek discovered protozoa (one-celled organisms), spermatazoa and even bacteria. In mathematics, the outstanding achievements were Napier's inventions of logarithms in 1614, Descartes's invention of co-ordinate geometry and the invention of calculus made simultaneously by Newton and Leibniz. And of course the most staggering achievements were in the fields of astronomy and dynamics: Copernicus put forward the revolutionary theory that the earth orbits the sun (although he belonged to the 16th century, his theory was only well-known in the 17th); Kepler simplified this theory with his famous laws of planetary motion put forward in 1609 and 1619, which confounded the 'obvious' belief that the planets were perfect bodies moving in perfect figures (ie circles - Kepler showed they moved in ellipses); Galileo founded dynamics, discovering and inventing acceleration, the law of inertia and the 'parallelogram law', and in astronomy he discovered Jupiter's moons, the phases of Venus (thus proving the Copernican theory) and that the milky way was composed of stars. In the year that Galileo died (1642) Newton was born. The achievements of Newton were very great; from his three laws of motion, every mechanical phenomenon could be explained until the end of the 19th century.
"Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night.
God said 'Let Newton be', and all was light." (Pope)
The universe became lifeless and inert, moving mechanically and inexorably by its own laws. Maybe God was needed to give the whole thing an initial kick to get it going, but after that he was an unneeded hypothesis. In fact, since it was not clear whether the world had a beginning in time, God's existence was altogether doubtful.
This incredible leap in the understanding and knowledge of our universe completely changed men's outlook. In 1600 the mental outlook was totally medieval, except for a very few outstanding individuals. By 1700, the mental outlook of educated men was completely modern. In Shakespeare's time (1600) comets were omens from the gods; after Newton's 'Principia' in 1687, comets became docile pieces of matter, as obedient to the law of gravitation as the planets were. In 1600, there were witchcraft trials; by 1700 they were impossible, for law and reason reigned so supreme that magic and sorcery were unthinkable.4
Thus we see that we have, by 1700, a thorough direct-externalist view of things, which began in the success of understanding and controlling the environment and which manifested itself in the whole spectrum of man's activities. Take architecture; in 1600 the style was Elizabethan and flamboyant, but by 1700 it was 'elegant' and dominated by classical proportions. In the field of literature, we have in 1600 such writers as Donne and Shakespeare, who were rich, irregular and exciting; by 1700 we have the dry and controlled intellectual wit of Pope and Dryden. In 1600 there were countless religious wars between varying sects, but by 1700 they had ceased, and we even had the Toleration Act allowing Roman Catholics into Great Britain. It was as if there were a great need for control, classification and security in all activities; the flamboyance and irregularity of 1600 were not to be entertained in 1700. We see this even in politics: in 1600 the politics were very unstable, but it was exciting, with Roundheads, Cavaliers and the Civil War. But by 1700 the government was very stable and dull; the Whigs and Tories were hardly differentiable, and the monarchy in the persons of William III or George I was eminently austere and reeked of security.
But how did the success of science affect the common people? What practical effect did it have on them? Well, life was hardly rosy in the early 18th century. In 1715 it was noted that of the 1,200 babies born every year in the parish of Saint Martin-in-the-Fields, 900 died in infancy; infant mortality in the work-houses was 38 per cent. Money was frequently stolen, accounts falsified and paupers starved and murdered. It was an age when hygiene was atrocious, violence was taken for granted; hanging, drawing and quartering was a popular and frequent public spectacle, and men "lived cheek by jowl with death and disease in their most gamesome forms" as a famous historian puts it.5 He then goes on to say that this state of affairs was good! Most historians agree that life in the early 18th century was comparatively easy in comparison with before and after. For afterwards, later in the 18th century, we have the beginning of the Industrial Revolution; this was when the great scientific advances in knowledge percolated down to become a technology which affected everybody. There is no need to catalogue the inhumanity and oppression, the slums and the misery it caused. It was a direct result of that type of behaviour we have classified as direct-externalism. For man's greed is always with us, but it was only in the die-hard direct-externalism of the 'new' science that man's inhumanity to men found such a powerful weapon for magnifying his selfishness.
That is all very well, the reader may say, but that was in the past; what about the present day? Well, we pay homage to science today for two reasons: one is the collection of devices it has produced which make life easier (or the destruction of life more efficient), and secondly we hold it in awe for the magical effect it produces. Let us take the last point first, dealt with by Dr Ravetz:
"When the layman (child or adult) sees a demonstration of some astonishing effect, can he imagine the human endeavour and intricate technical work which led to its creation? No: it is the effect itself which captures the imagination, and produces wonder and delight: this is natural magic. Of course, the audience of the 'wonders of science' is told that these achievements are simply the application of the laws of Nature, and that the creator of the effect is in no sense a magician. But since the audience cannot understand the laws of Nature that are relevant to the production of the effect, it is strange and wonderful (until it becomes a commonplace part of the environment) and so differs little from natural magic of the old sort. We can see the strength of this attitude from the great popularity of projects that are politely described as science but which are clearly recognisable as merely pure natural magic; the manned exploration of space is the best example." 6
But although the 'magic' of science is always increasing, the moral status of science has recently gone into decline. For several generations, up to the very recent past, 'science' was conceived of as a quest by dedicated individuals working in purity and innocence to increase knowledge and to discover the true laws of nature. It was as moral innocence that a group of physicists urged the U.S. government to produce an atomic bomb, but with the nuclear holocausts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki science lost its innocence forever. At the present day science is at best looked upon as a vulgar and commercial tool of industry, and at worst as an inhuman discipline of military interests, producing wicked devices of unparallelled savageness (eg nuclear, chemical and biological weapons). And since the study of ecology became prominent, we are learning of ever new and more subtle ways in which scientific knowledge and technology are poisoning the environment and ourselves. The terrible thing is that hardly any field of scientific research can claim itself to be blameless, since advanced scientific discoveries are so complex that they often call upon a very broad spectrum of research results, and the most innocent scientific 'fact' can tomorrow be used to help construct a device of powerful destruction.
There is also of course the horrific possibilities of mass control by a government which scientific knowledge and technology has made feasible. These range from genetic engineering to complex bugging systems and communication control, which have been gruesomely predicted and described in George Orwell's "1984" and Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World".
Thus a feeling is growing that science has prostituted itself; indeed, one scientist thinks that science's crime is not mere prostitution, but simony, which used to be defined as the perversion of magic to other ends than the Greater Glory of God. He writes:
"There is a sin which consists of using the magic of modern automatisation to further personal profit or let lose the apocalyptic terrors of nuclear warfare. If this sin is to have a name, let it be Simony or Sorcery." 7
But really the tarnishing of science goes much deeper than that. As Dr Ravetz says: "Western science has had a long period of happy adolescence; developing adult powers while enjoying children's irresponsibility. Combined with ideals of 'national enlightenment' in the 18th century and industrial development in the 19th century, it seemed for some generations to deliver the good things that magic and religion only promised." 8
But that has finished now. Not only do we see scientific knowledge being responsible for ingenious horrors of destruction and pain, but we also see it making an artificial environment producing misery and pain in a much less obvious fashion, and for which it must accept its 'adult' responsibility.
In part one, we had a rundown of some of the main sufferings which affect human beings. Some have been increased as a result of scientific knowledge (eg the ability for wholesale slaughter, or the strain of urban society); some have been lessened (eg disease and physical discomfort). No one would deny that the miracles of science have in many fields brought unprecedented comfort and ease, but the modern scientific and technological age with its vast range of material panaceas has not eradicated suffering and established Peace. On the contrary, many people nowadays think that the stress and strain of modern living more than offset the increase in physical comfort, and lead to a net increase in the big Unpeace of the world.
So although we do not doubt the obvious power of scientific knowledge, what we claim here and hope to have shown on a purely historical and practical basis, is that science and scientific technology have not brought about Peace - indeed, it can be said that in the overall picture that they have not, on average, even lessened Unpeace.
In this chapter we distinguished between indirect-externalism and direct-externalism, and dealt primarily with the latter in its modern-day guise of 'science'. We dealt with the rise of science in the 17th century and its effect in the 18th century, and with the basic effects of modern science today, showing on a practical basis that this aspect of direct-externalism has done little, if anything, to lessen Unpeace as a whole.
7 - Discursive Thought
In the last chapter we showed that the outward going effort and involvement in the world which is the hallmark of the direct-externalist is one ingredient of modern science. But direct-externalism by itself does not lead to science (we quoted the example of expansionist empires); another ingredient is needed, and we mentioned that as being intellect or discursive thought.
Now the word 'discursive' means literally 'running into two,' and so discursive thought can be defined as that thinking which is 'running into duality'.
In fact, it can be held that all thinking is really discursive, since to think clearly we have to clothe our thoughts in words, whether we speak them or not. To think without verbalising is impossible; anyone can verify this with five seconds of introspection. And since words are like labels we use to classify, distinguish and communicate various aspects of experience, they very definitely belong to the world of difference and duality. Thus all thought, being verbalised mental activity, also belongs to difference and duality and is thus by definition 'discursive'. (Although this word 'discursive' is normally only applied to thinking or reasoning, we will use it to describe any activity involved with duality or difference, which is its literal meaning.) The mental faculty with which we think we will term the 'intellect, which is the common usage it has nowadays, though it used to mean rather the opposite at one time.
In this chapter we will look at discursive thought, first in its main form as reasoning, and then as it is applied to understand the world in both science and metaphysics. However, before we proceed, we can note that since discursive thought is thinking through and about duality and difference, then all it can ever hope to do is to rearrange difference. But in Part One we saw that our Unpeace was due to our living in the world of difference; and thus it follows that Peace can never be achieved through merely rearranging our external environment of difference - for we will still be faced with difference. Thus discursive thought and the intellect are unfitted for the task of obtaining Peace. This is really the heart of this chapter; what follows is an attempt to support this in various ways.
Reasoning is that type of thinking which produces reasons for coming to a certain conclusion. Take an example: suppose I want to move my desk out of the room, and I don't know whether it will fit through the doorway. Now there are several ways I can think about the problem. I can learn from someone that it will not, in fact, go through the doorway. I can remember from a previous occasion that it did not fit, or maybe on intuition or in day-dreaming I just accept the fact that it will not fit. Fourthly, I can suppose as a matter of hypothesis that it will not fit. Now all these ways of thinking (learning, remembering, intuition, day-dreaming, supposing etc) have in common the fact that I do not produce reasons as evidence for my conclusion. But if my thinking about the problem takes the form of reasoning, then my thoughts will be something like this: "the desk will not fit through the doorway. The reasons are i) the desk is four foot wide, ii) the doorway is three and a half foot wide." In other words, my conclusion rests upon reasons.
We can observe to start with that reasoning, being discursive thought, is concerned totally with difference. In the process of reasoned thinking the mind works from point to point; it jumps through a series of different stages. Furthermore, the situations and problems to which reasoning is most often applied are those of difference, where something has to be related in some way to something else. So in a world where the most basic quality is difference, reasoning is obviously very useful. And because we all see difference everywhere, everybody uses reasoning to some extent.
But the direct-externalists, for whom the world of difference is fundamental, will (if he is intellectual) be preeminently concerned with reasoning. It will become, not just one tool amongst many, but the most useful and important tool for understanding a cosmos riddled with difference. And since of course an understanding of Nature is a prerequisite to 'conquering' her, then for the intellectual direct-externalist, reason reigns supreme, not merely a queen but a god, and an entire age is named after it. It follows that if reasoning is held in such estimation, then it is very important that it should be as refined and polished as possible - and this is the purpose of logic.
The study of logic has become incredibly complex and mind-twisting, such that any simple statement about it is invariably misleading. Nevertheless, we will continue undaunted and pick our way through one of the densest jungles man's intellect has grown.
A working definition of 'logic' for the layman is 'the science of good reasons', or that discipline which attempts to distinguish bad reasoning from good reasoning. It attempts to formulate rules which can tell us whether the reasons we have given are 'good' reasons for inferring the conclusion we wish to establish. It is important for the intellectual, as we have pointed out, to make his reasoning correct and effective, and so logic is a very necessary study for him.
The abstruseness of logic is to some extent due to the fact that it crosses back on itself, being reasoning about reasoning (note that then the study of logic is reasoning about reasoning about reasoning).
Obviously logic, or the polishing of reason, has different connotations according to which angle we view the process of reasoning from. For instance the psychologist views logic as a study of the reasoning process as manifested by individuals, whereas from a sociological viewpoint it might mean the rules for reasoning as laid down by custom (as John Dewey thought1). Alternatively, logic can be viewed as a sort of craft, or almost as an art, which an astute thinker can use to his benefit; and a fourth interpretation is to exclude all actual human thinking from logic, and to think of logic as merely dealing with the relationships between propositions. In the latter, the propositions themselves are immaterial; it is the relationships between them which are studied. This form of logic (called Symbolic Logic) has been very important in mathematics and philosophy and will be briefly discussed later in this chapter.
But first we will look at a feature common to all types of traditional logic (including Symbolic Logic), and that is their basic duality of 'is' or 'is not'. The reader will remember that in chapter 4 we discussed briefly this basic duality, showing that since we see ourselves in a world of difference we are governed by the duality that either something is, or it is not. Either I am six foot or I am not; either it is raining, or it is not;.
Now logic, since it deals with the world as we see it (or rather deals with the reasoning about the world) is forced to accept this duality. Even forms of modern symbolic logic, which claim not to deal exclusively with the world, still have to accept this very fundamental duality in the sense that even statements about relationships between meaningless propositions have to be either true or false. They cannot be both true and false, nor can they be neither true nor false.
But due to the findings of modern science, it seems that this basic 'law' is not always correct. For instance, Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity (discussed in Chapter 13) says that I can be both six foot tall and five foot tall from different viewpoints. This is quite complicated to go into here without the necessary preliminary grounding, but the discrepancy does exist, and has created havoc in philosophical circles. For a more detailed explanation the reader must wait until Chapter 13.
A clearer instance of the possible breakdown of the 'law of the excluded middle' lies in quantum mechanics, the physics of the very small (eg atoms). Since the 17th century, science has performed many experiments which show clearly that light is composed of waves. However, at the beginning of the 20th century some experiments were performed which showed that light consists of particles (called 'photons'). The amazing thing is, that this latest discovery did not invalidate the earlier findings. In other words, light can be considered as a wave and as particles. Yet a wave and a particle are completely different. For instance, a wave will bend round an obstacle (compare a water-wave bending round a post) while a particle will bounce off (like a ball hitting a post). This perplexing state of affairs was soon extended to matter. In 1925 Schrodinger demonstrated that particles of matter could be considered as waves, while at the same time Heisenberg shoved that particles of matter could be considered as particles! Within a short time, Dirac showed that the two descriptions were two views of the same thing. One view was based on the concept of differences in time (change) while the other was based on the concept of differences in space (separation).
Thus we get the situation that, for instance, the electron both is and is not a particle. This is valid from our human point of view, but logically it is meaningless. In other words, it seems that as science pushes up against the limits of the universe, the most fundamental tenet of our commonsense logic fails us. To the scientist, however, there is no real confusion. He just says that his equations and formulae describe the electron and that is that; if the non-scientist wishes to interpret what the equations mean, then that is up to him. But nevertheless, the admission that the equations of quantum mechanics cannot be interpreted in terms of classical mechanics or 'common-sense' logic, shows that when it comes to the crunch, one very fundamental duality seems to vanish. In fact, this is not only true in quantum mechanics; can the rigidity of the law of the excluded middle, and of logic in general, be applied to art, to beauty, or to love?
Anyway, we will return now from the crazy logic of the atom to the ordinary everyday logic we are familiar with. We will now look briefly at the two traditional divisions of logic - deduction and induction.
Deductive logic is concerned with the rules for arguing from the general to the particular. For instance, if I make two assumptions (technically called 'premises') such as "All Englishmen are human beings" and "All human beings are mortal." then by the rules of deductive logic, I can infer that, "All Englishmen are mortal." In other words, from general statement (concerning all human beings) I have inferred some information in a particular statement (concerning just some human beings, ie Englishmen). It is very important to note that since logic is only concerned with the rules of reasoning, it can say nothing about the truth or otherwise of the premises, and thus nothing about the truth or otherwise of the conclusion. It can only say that if the premises are true and if the deduction is sound, then the conclusion must be true.
For instance, consider the following deductive argument: "All Englishmen are human beings. All human beings are cucumbers. Thus it follows that all Englishmen are cucumbers." Now the deduction is completely sound, but one of the premises ("All Englishmen are cucumbers.") is obviously false. In other words, deduction alone is powerless to provide any new information; it must be coupled with premises. And of course the problem becomes how to be certain of your premises; for if they turn out to be not true, deducing conclusions from them is a waste of time, Thus it is that deductive logic is not a great deal of use in dealing with things of this world; since very rarely are we 100 percent certain of our premises. Even if we think our premises have a 99 percent chance of being true, deduction is still useless, since it is not the case that our deduced conclusion must also have a 99 percent chance of being true.2
Of course, if you define your premises to be true, then deduction is very useful. This is the case with some mathematical problems, with law and with theology to mention three cases, each of which derives its first principles from an unquestionable source. If your premises are true, then sound deduction is held to always produce true conclusions.
It is this neat, cut-and-dried and mechanically efficient aspect of deductive reasoning that leads to the philosophy of rationalism. Rationalists (the two most famous being Plato and Descartes) hold that we can be totally and completely certain of some essential truths of this world by the use of deductive reason alone. On the surface this seems an attractive possibility, but the problems appear when we look for our premises. The enormous number of 'absolute and certain truths' propounded by rationalists from Plato to Descartes are often contradictory, mostly fanciful, and seldom of any practical use at all. This has tended to belittle the idea of rationalism, and deduction along with it. (It is interesting however to note that a form of rationalism is in vogue again due to the contemporary philosopher Chomsky. He sees his premises in the universality of some properties of language, which he thinks are determined by structures of mind which are common to all humans, and with which they are born.3)
However, even if deductive reasoning seemed unable after all to establish 'absolute and certain truths' about the world as we see it, its cold elegance and formal efficiency were still attractive to the philosopher searching for an unquestionable certainty to cling on to. This led to a fifty year spate (1879-1931) of renewed faith in deduction. For if the stumbling block of a rationalist's philosophy is the need to find premises, then (said the philosophers) let's do away with premises. And if you remove the premises you only have the deductive reasoning left; so, undaunted, logicians studied the bare bones of deduction.
Now this could only be done after the middle of the 19th century, when George Boole invented Symbolic Logic. This, as its name implies, means that instead of dealing with propositions (such as "All human beings are mortal"), one dealt with symbols only (such as 'A' or 'B'). Thus the truth or falsity of the premises becomes meaningless, and enables the relationships between them and rules of the logical process itself to be examined.
This new study was first turned to mathematics, and in 1879 it was suggested (by Frege) that in fact pure mathematics is a form of deductive reason alone; this led to an attempt to drain mathematics of any meaning so that mathematical expressions became a collection of empty signs (technically called 'meta mathematics'); and this in turn led to a famous work called 'Principia Mathematica' in 1910,4 which claimed to prove mathematics is nothing but deductive logic (ie it needed no premises except logic itself) and furthermore that everyday language has a similar basic structure. This was very exciting, since it was thus believed that this 'new' form of deductive logic would provide philosophy with a tool of razor-like sharpness for clarifying language and thus solving some of the age-old philosophical disputes. And the resulting philosophy of Logical Analysis (as it was called) was in some degree successful, though it led A.J. Ayer to remark that philosophy is now just "talk about talk".5
But in 1931 there was a bombshell. For then a young Austrian mathematician, Kurt Godel, published in an obscure scientific journal a cast-iron proof that no deductive logical system of any complexity was consistent.6 It is impossible to even think of simple arithmetic (much less pure mathematics) as reducible to deductive logic; you can bring in as many premises as you like, of whatever sort you like, but it is still impossible to have a complete and consistent deductive system.
While Godel's proof does not render deduction or even Principia Mathematica useless, what it does do is show that deductive logic cannot produce by itself an all-inclusive system of consistent 'truths'. Some 'truths' will get left out, and if you introduce more premises to account for them, then you are bound to produce contradictions in the other 'truths'.
Godel's work is brilliant, and it has stirred up a hornet's nest amongst mathematical logicians, nobody being certain any more of the basis of mathematics. But is has undoubtedly left deduction a very weak candidate for solving the problems with which this book is concerned.
While deductive logic is concerned with arguing from the general to the particular, inductive logic is concerned with reasoning from the particular to the general. For example, I can state that if I hold my pen in the air and let it go, it will fall towards the ground. Now the truth of that statement does not come from deduction, but from induction. For I have no 'proof' that it will fall to the ground; I only think it will fall to the ground because in all the innumerable times I have let go of something in the air during my life, that something has invariably fallen towards the ground; and because it has happened so many times before, I feel it is bound to happen again. So strictly speaking, I cannot say, "I know, my pen will fall if I let it go," but only, "My past experience leads me to suppose that if I let my pen go there is a very great probability that it will fall down." Of course this latter statement is very ponderous, and if in everyday life we insisted on being absolutely correct and talking like this, we would be so pompous as to be unbearable; but nevertheless the latter statement is the correct one.
We can take another example. Suppose, as previously, we want to establish the truth of "All Englishmen are mortal." But now we do not want to use deduction, since although the deductive reasoning is valid, we are not sure of the premises; in particular, we do not accept the premise "All human beings are mortal." (After all one could only know this with certainty after every human being had died - which is certainly a problem if one includes oneself among the class of human beings.) So to establish "All Englishmen are mortal", we turn to induction, and argue from facts that we do know to be true, and argue from the particular to the general. For instance, we can say, "Every Englishman born before 1860 has died," and "Englishmen are still dying." These two statements are undoubtedly true, and they make it highly probable that my conclusion "All Englishmen are mortal" is true. This is induction. But notice that although my original two statements are 100 percent true, and the reasoning is sound, the conclusion is not 100 percent certain - it is only highly probable. (There may be an Englishman alive today who will never die.)
This is the hallmark of induction: that it cannot establish definitely true conclusions, but only conclusions which are probable. But unlike deduction, where the conclusions can be thought of as 'locked up' in the premises and have only to be 'led out', induction can give us fresh information about the world. In other words it can provide conclusions which tell us something new and original, but of course we have to pay the price that the 'truth' of the conclusions is only probable.
And just as deductive logic inspired a philosophy (rationalism), so inductive logic inspired a philosophy - empiricism. This scorned to produce 'absolute and certain truths' about the world via deduction, but tried to construct an account of knowledge in terms of sense experience via induction. In other words, from particular instances of what we experience through our senses, broad conclusions were established, which though only probable were nevertheless useful.7
Of course, scientific knowledge is largely gained by the use of induction; in fact science as we know it is often called 'empirical science'. It does not attempt to discover indubitable truths about the universe, but only to develop probable hypotheses. The empiricist claims that such hypotheses (though only high probable) are much more useful to mankind than all the alleged certainties of the rationalists.
The great 18th century philosopher David Hume claimed to show that in fact empiricism is not a sufficient basis for science, the whole thing resting on the shifting sands of uncertainty. Philosophers since have found it difficult to refute Hume's arguments. Scientists don't bother to try; they say that scepticism can be carried too far, and if you like you can find sufficient grounds for being uncertain about anything. The point is, they say, that empirical science and induction work; the results are useful in practice. In other words, they tell Hume and the sceptics to get lost.
But nevertheless, the fact remains, that for good or for ill, induction can never ever lead to 100 percent certainty.
The Scientific Method
We now turn from logic to the 'scientific method'.
It is difficult to define precisely what this is. Its object is to acquire knowledge of the world by simplifying the complexity we see around us; it requires in its practitioner a mixture of reasoning, the ability for controlled observation and patient experiment, a good pinch of imagination, and in some cases a fair bit of courage. It consists basically in patiently collecting a set of apparently unrelated facts of the universe and putting forward a unifying factor or common cause to explain them. This common cause is called the 'hypothesis', and it can be anything from an imaginative guess to a tediously reasoned conclusion. The hypothesis is then usually tested by reasoning what could be expected to happen if the hypothesis were correct, and then observing or experimenting to see if whatever it is actually does happen. If the hypothesis is confirmed in this way, and succeeds in explaining what were previously inexplicable observations, then it becomes dignified by the title 'theory'. Eventually it may even come to be known as a 'law'.
The beginnings of the scientific method can be traced back to the Greeks, but in modern times we can count Sir Francis Bacon as its founder. He attempted to systematise inductive reason and the scientific method in general. In true scientific spirit, he died in 1626 of a chill caught while experimenting on refrigeration by stuffing a chicken full of snow. The other important influence on the future course of science came from Descartes. He claimed to have thought of his philosophy while meditating in a kitchen stove (by contrast Socrates liked to meditate in the snow) and the resulting metaphysics gave science the go-ahead to dwell exclusively on the public world, as we saw in Chapter 4.
Anyway, in this section we will make just a few observations on the principle of scientific methods.
Firstly, from what has been said so far, we can see that the scientific method is a blend of discursive thought and a direct-externalist approach. The latter is essential, for the drudgery, endless patience and often acute boredom involved in scientific research and experimentation requires an unflagging direct-externalist attitude; since only when all hope of Peace is placed entirely in understanding the external world is it that the will-power will be generated to carry through the tediousness of much scientific work.
Secondly, being empirical, it rests largely on induction; in other words, it can be taken as a scientific 'law' that objects always fall to the ground when dropped because it has always been observed to happen. As we have pointed out, induction never leads to absolute certainty of a correct hypothesis, but a wrong hypothesis can be shown to be wrong with certainty. For instance, suppose I have an hypothesis, "The Sun rises in the West." Now just one instance of the sun rising in the East is enough to make it absolutely certain that my hypothesis is wrong. But if I put forward the presumably correct hypothesis, "The Sun rises in the East," then I can never be 100 percent certain of its correctness. However many times I observe the sun to rise in the East, strictly I can only state that it is highly probable that my hypothesis is correct. (I cannot be 100 percent certain that the sun will not rise in the West tomorrow.) Thus any empirical science can in fact only state with certainty what is not true, and cannot state with certainty what is true. As was mentioned in the last section, in practical terms this is unimportant, but it is nevertheless the case.
It is interesting to note that the Austrian born philosopher Karl Popper took this fact, that only negations of hypotheses could be claimed with certainty, for the starting point of his new approach to the scientific method.8 He hoped to build up a scientific method not based on induction; some think this is very successful, others do not. In practice, however, this is not very important, for although he encourages scientists to be critical of their own hypotheses and to try to negate them rather than prove them, nevertheless the result is the same - scientific 'facts' are only probabilities and not certainties. In fact, the intellectual history of mankind shows that most facts 'known to be true' at one time or another have turned out in the end to be false.
Popper holds that by negating our hypotheses we can, using imagination, progress beyond them and find hypotheses nearer and nearer the 'truth' (though we can never find an hypothesis or theory which is 'true', ie certain).
Indeed, the whole business of confirming hypotheses (which Popper rejects) is riddled with muddled thinking and bad reasoning. For a start, deduction is used considerably in the scientific method, mainly in the mathematical or verbal argument which leads either to the formulation of the hypothesis or the results which should lead from it. We have shown already that deduction can only be valid if the premises are 100 percent certain, and we have also shown that whereas scientific 'facts' are concerned, nothing ever is 100 percent certain. And since most deduced conclusions in science are based upon scientific 'facts', this speaks for itself. There is also the point that most sciences use mathematics, and as we have seen the foundation of mathematics is not at all well understood at the present time. This is particularly important in theoretical physics, for instance, where the mathematics used is very abstruse and complex.
Another very elementary mistake in the logic of the verification of hypotheses which is commonly committed, is that of "affirming the consequent". That is, I deduce from my hypothesis a conclusion, and because the conclusion turns out to be valid (by experiment) then I hold my hypothesis to be true. Suppose my hypothesis is "All Englishmen have wings"; now if I couple this with the statement, "All winged creatures eat food," then from these two premises it is valid reasoning to deduce "All Englishmen eat food." According to the scientific method, I examine my conclusion, and find that indeed all Englishmen do eat food, and so I can proclaim that my hypothesis ("All Englishmen have wings") is correct, because it leads to true conclusions. Thus the very foundation of the traditional scientific method is based on a fundamental logical error.
There are very many other examples, some very subtle, of the way incorrect logic is often used in scientific procedures. When we recognise the fact that in most scientific work many auxiliary hypotheses and results of other scientists are involved in the argument, it seems miraculous that the scientific method ever achieves any consistent results.9
Another point about the scientific method is that to be useful, a discovery must be related to already existing theories. Whenever this does not happen, a discovery is 'ahead of its time' and is ignored; not because it is thought to be untrue, but because nothing can be done with it. One example of this is the discovery of gene in 1865 by Mendel; it was not until 1900 that related topics in biology had 'caught up' and so enabled his discovery to be used and thus accepted. Exactly the same thing occurred in 1944 when it was proved that DNA was the substance responsible for passing on hereditary information.10 Today, the outstanding example of this phenomena concerns ESP (extra-sensory-perception) and PK (psycho-kinesis).
For there is no doubt that ESP exists. Recently there has been such a spate of hard documentary evidence that no reasonable person can deny it.11 For instance, Russian scientists are conducting extensive experiments into telepathy and premonition, believed to be for military purposes. One cruel but conclusive experiment which a scientist called Popov conducted was to take some newly-born rabbits born in a submarine, keeping their mother on shore with electrodes in her brain. At intervals the underwater rabbits were killed one by one, and at the exact time that each of them died, there were sharp electrical responses in the brain waves of their mother.12 An investigator in America has even shown that plants have some perceptive faculties.13 It has also been conclusively shown that premonition and prophecy actually occur.14 There are even people who can photograph scenes from their sub-conscious mind,12 and also people who can photograph past events.15
In the field of PK we have Uri Geller bending forks and Edgar Mitchell of the Apollo 14 lunar expedition (who himself did unofficial ESP experiment during the flight) supporting him.16 While the evidence of some of these later findings is not accepted by some, surely no-one who looked at even a small part of the evidence accumulated over eighty years by the Society for Psychical Research could doubt that ESP and PR actually exist. (This is probably why so few do look at it.)
So if we assume that such phenomena do exist, and have been more than adequately verified, the question arises that why are they so persistently ignored by the scientific community in general? The answer is surely that just as with the discovery of the gene in 1865, or of the hereditary quality of DNA in 1944, they cannot be dealt with by the scientific method. The discoveries are 'ahead of their time' and cannot be welded onto the existing body of scientific knowledge as it is at this time. Maybe it is because of this limitation the scientific method imposes that scientists feel impotent to deal with the discoveries, and the result is an unreasoning denial of the facts. As the famous biologist Alexis Carrel says: "They (scientists) willingly believe that facts that cannot be explained by current theories do not exist." 17
There is just one more point to make before the end of this section, and that is that many scientists admit that their discoveries or hypotheses came to them not via the scientific method, nor even through their imagination, but through a definite 'insight', a sudden revelation when all became clear. Descartes reports that he discovered the essentials of analytical geometry in a dream, and similarly Kekule in 1865 had a vision in a dream of a snake biting its tail from which he discovered the ring-like structure of the benzene molecule. The archaeologist Hilprecht solved a Babylonian inscription in a dream, and the French mathematician Poincare states that he solved an abstruse mathematical problem when he was not thinking about it at all. He was boarding a bus, and in the instant that he put his foot on the step of the bus, the whole solution came to him with perfect clarity.18
Whether one chooses to explain these phenomena as intuitions from a higher state of consciousness, or as the unconscious quietly working on the data and presenting the answer on a plate to the conscious mind, is unimportant. It is a phenomenon which is unexpected, cannot be readily controlled, is just the opposite from discursive thought and is completely outside the scientific method
All the above points combine to make it appear that the scientific method is unsuitable for dealing with the subject of the investigation this book is concerned with.
In this, the last section of this chapter, we look at metaphysics - not so much at the theories themselves, but more at the inherent limitations they possess on account of their being based on reason. Bertrand Russell defined metaphysics as an "attempt to conceive the world as a whole by means of thought",l9 and we will use his definition to work with. First however we will look back in history to the Greeks, with whom the 'attempt to conceive the world as a whole by thought' began (in the West).
The first western thinker to speculate about the nature of the world in a reasoned fashion is always held to be Thales of Miletus, from Ionia, who lived in the 6th century BC. For several hundred years afterwards metaphysics was a very popular pastime amongst the Greeks, reason and intellect assuming a greater and greater importance as time went by. In the 5th century BC we get Socrates, who was executed because his "search for Truth through reason unsettled young men's minds". Plato in the 4th century BC valued the intellect and reason even more, for while God is "the greatest, best, fairest, most perfect - the one only - begotten of heaven," He is nevertheless for Plato "the image of the intellectual".
After Plato we find Aristotle rationally dissecting the external world, classifying and dividing whatever he touched. Discursive thought reigned supreme - in fact God, the First Cause, is pure thought, "for thought is what is best."
The complete dominance of reason and the intellect were held to be amply justified by their fruits. We get Euclid's codifying of geometry which is one of the greatest achievements of Greek reasoning power, and in the 3rd century BC we get the complete Copernican theory of the earth orbiting the sun (put forward by Aristarchus of Samos) and we also get Archimedes, in the best scientific tradition, using reason to construct ingenious but fearful war-machines. After this, the great age of the emergence of the intellect was ended.20 Although the Greeks were intellectually great, they seemed to lack that patience and aptitude for sustained observation and experiment necessary for great scientific achievements
For instance, they almost invented the steam engine; a thinker called Heron had a hollow ball revolving rapidly due to pressurised steam, and while everyone agreed how powerful steam was and what fine things it could do, they did not follow it up with the practicalities necessary for developing steam power, as Watt did in an almost identical situation 2,000 years later.
But the question we are concerned with is how does 'conceiving the world as a whole by means of thought' lessen Unpeace? That the intellectual feats of the Greeks were great achievements is undisputed, but so what? Every schoolboy who studies the classics is brought up on the notion that Ancient Greece was a Golden Age, an age where Beauty and Truth were valued above all else. But if we look at history we see much ugliness and war; the Greeks were often fighting, either among themselves (eg Athens versus Sparta) or with others (eg the Persians). In particular, the so-called Hellenistic Age (c 350-100 BC) was an age of great turmoil and misery. After Alexander the Great died, there was almost continuous fighting over how to split up his vast empire. There was terrible cruelty and wide-spread discontent. Prices rose and wages fell, due largely to the influx of cheap eastern slave labour; and as Russell says of this period, "… fear took the place of hope; the purpose of life was rather to escape misfortune than to achieve any positive good."20 This only came to an end with the complete subjection of everybody by the Romans.
We dealt in Chapter with the lot of the common people in times of intellectual achievements in later centuries, including our own era, and so now we will go on to briefly mention some criticisms of the attempts to build up an intellectual understanding, of the world and of our place in it - ie a metaphysical system.
To begin with, it is worth noting that such systems have been constructed for over 2,000 years and after all this time there is no general agreement as to which of them (if any) are true. Moreover, each school of metaphysicians seems to be able to show the difficulties of all other metaphysical theories, but cannot justify its own theory satisfactorily. Thus the problem appears to be not the truth or plausibility of the theories, but the validity of the whole metaphysical enterprise itself.
One of the most damning investigations of the practice of metaphysics was carried out by the 18th century philosopher David Hume, the 'gentle sceptic'. We have mentioned him already in this chapter in connection with the shortcomings of induction and empiricism. Hume held that not only are the concepts employed by metaphysicians (eg 'reality', 'mind', 'substance', 'God', matter', etc) meaningless, but also the very questions that metaphysics tries to answer. For if our knowledge of the world only comes from what we experience, and the principle of induction has no rational basis and can never lead to 100 percent certainty (which Hume showed to be the case, based on a lengthy analysis of the cause-and-effect duality), then we have no intellectual certainty of anything - either in the public or the private world.
The key word in this last sentence is 'intellectual' - for Hume was the first to admit that we act, reason and believe as if many things were certain. What he is saying is that such certainty cannot be based on reason, but merely upon faith and experience. He writes, "The sceptic still continues to reason or believe, even though he asserts that he cannot defend his reason by reason." 21 It was because of this point that this book started with facts of experience, such as conflict and Unpeace, rather than 'facts' of reason, which can never be justified (by reason).
Thus for Hume the study of metaphysics became the study of metaphysicians; he wanted to know why supposedly sane and intelligent people discuss at great lengths questions which are only meaningless quibbles, and could not in any case be answered even if they were not. He would certainly have agreed with Adam's remark that philosophy (or to be precise - metaphysics) is "unintelligible answers to insoluble problems." 22
Hume's conclusions are echoed in some modern philosophical schools, such as the Logical Positivists and that of Popper. Many thinkers, including Russell, hold that no one has refuted these conclusions successfully; however, soon after Hume's death the great German philosopher Immanuel Kant claimed to have refuted him or - to be precise - his methods, since Kant agreed with Hume's final conclusion about metaphysics
Kant agreed that all our knowledge begins with experience, but denied that it arises entirely from experience. He maintains that the sum total of our experience (which he called the 'phenomenal' world) is the product of two things - something we are presented with from 'outside' (the 'noumenal' world), and some inherent condition of the mind (called 'forms of intuition' and 'categories'). That which is presented from outside, the noumenal world, is the world as-it-is, but which we can never perceive. This idea can be expressed as an analogy of us looking through some coloured glasses which we cannot remove. What we see is then determined by the objects we are looking at and by the coloured glasses. The form in which we experience the object is determined by the glasses, but the actual content is determined by the object itself.
So according to Kant, the world as it 'really' is (the noumenal world) cannot be perceived (or even conceived) as it is by the senses or the intellect. When we look at it, we do so through the inherent 'forms of intuition and categories' in our minds, and so perceive something else - the phenomenal world. In our terminology, the phenomenal world (being what we actually experience) is both the public and the private worlds; Kant saw no need to distinguish them, since they are both objects of experience, and he lumped them together as the 'phenomenal world'.
On this type of argument, Kant claimed to show that Hume was wrong, and that we can have intellectual certainty about some things in the world, on account of having 'within' us the inherent 'forms of intuition and categories' which always determined the structure of our experience. To go into Kant's philosophy in detail is very complicated, and we will not do so here. It is, in fact, immaterial whether Kant disproved Hume or not for our purpose, since he went on in any case to support Hume's main conclusion - that metaphysics is a waste of time.
For while Kant thought (unlike Hume) that we could gain certain knowledge concerning the phenomenal world we experience, we can never experience or know anything intellectually at all either about the noumenal world (the world 'as it is') or about the basis of the forms of intuition and categories which we view things 'through'. Since it is the business of metaphysics to go beyond the world we merely perceive (the phenomena) and to explain the 'real nature' of things (the noumenal), then metaphysics is doomed to failure. The most we can do is to philosophise about the conditions that regulate our knowledge of the phenomenal world, a line taken up by many present-day philosophers, notably Wittgenstein in both his earlier thinking (Logical Atomism) and his later thinking which developed into the Ordinary Language school. Russell, for instance, (a logical atomist or 'analyst') says that logical analysis "confesses frankly that the human intellect is unable to find conclusive answers to many questions of profound importance to mankind." 23
Of course, there are still philosophers who have not abandoned the quest for metaphysical 'truths', in particular the existentialists and the associated school of 'phenomenology', but there is as yet no agreement on the validity of their results
In this chapter we maintained at the beginning that the activity of the intellect, discursive thought, is inherently and in theory unable to extricate us from Unpeace. This was backed up by the following conclusions concerning three main intellectual disciplines:
1) In the realm of reason or logic we showed that
- i) the basic principle of reason did not apply to some external objects (eg sub-atomic particles, and also art, love etc),
- ii) deduction is not very useful in practical matters,
- iii) that no complex system is completely deductive anyway (Godel's proof) and
- iv) that induction can never give absolutely certain conclusions
2) As for the scientific method, we showed that
- i) nothing is ever certain (both traditionally or according to Popper),
- ii) that no completely new result can be assimilated, and
- iii) that insight, which is completely outside the scientific method, is often used.
3) In the realm of metaphysics we saw how it is impossible to understand the world as it is through the intellect, either from Hume's or Kant's arguments.
8 - Intellectual Unity
In the last chapter we showed that thought by its very nature of being discursive is incapable of breaking through the difference we find all around us; it is only fitted to deal in duality and not beyond. This was also suggested back in Chapter 2 on separateness, where we said that any unity we perceive must be in terms of difference.
In spite of all this, of course, we think about unity quite a lot. After all, if Unpeace is the result of being bound to the world of difference, and the fundamental urge in us is to avoid Unpeace, then obviously we will be attracted to any thought or theory which gives prominence to non-difference or unity.
In this chapter we will look at some of the attempts that have been made to intellectually construct and conceive of unity from the sea of difference we find all around us. We will deal mainly with concepts in modern science, especially that of 'superspace' and the 'bootstrap', and finally consider briefly some theological arguments for unity.
Although we have been at pains to show that science deals in difference, as it were, and in fact tends to enhance difference through classifications and analysing, there are nevertheless some strong impulses in science to find unity.
For instance, a successful scientific theory is one which explains a wide range of previously unconnected events; it establishes a principle from which many diverse phenomena follow. In this sense, science is striving for unity; there seems to be a deep-rooted urge to unify all the many differences. An excellent example of this is in Newton's laws of motion, mentioned in Chapter 6. From these three laws, every problem in mechanics and dynamics could (in theory at least) be solved; they were staggering in their simplicity, and in the fact that they could account for so many completely different phenomena. But at the end of the 19th century some phenomena were observed which Newton's laws could not explain - the unity had broken down. So a new theory was needed; one that could unify and explain not only all the phenomena explicable in terms of Newton's laws, but also the awkward new phenomena. Such a theory was proposed by Einstein in 1905 (the Special Theory of Relativity), and it succeeded in restoring the lost unity of mechanics and dynamics.
Man's inherent distaste for difference is admirably shown in his calling the cosmos he lives in a 'universe', a word which literally means 'turned into one'. For not only do we instinctively realise that Unpeace will never vanish unless difference is 'turned into one', we are also forced to accept that in some senses the universe is remarkably uniform. For instance, we cannot help but being amazed at the homogeneity of the universe, ie at its sameness. The same laws of Nature seem to operate in the room I am in and in the room next door; not only that, but they also operate on the other side of the world, and as far we, we know on the other side of our galactic cluster as well. The atoms of each element appear to be the same here as they do countless millions of miles away in space.
We can also not fail to be amazed at the incredible interconnection that exists between all the different atoms and parts of the universe. The cosmos is incredible coherent and well-ordered, from galactic dimensions down to atomic dimensions. This point will be taken up later in this chapter, but just for now we can quote Sir Charles Sherrington on the organisation of that miraculous 'bit' of the universe - the human body.
In a baby, the 25 trillion cells, he writes, "have arranged themselves into a complex which is a human child. Each cell … has taken up its right position. Each has assumed its required form and size in the right place … Each cell has taken on the shape which will suit its particular business in the cell community of which it is a member, whether its skill is to lie in mechanical pulling, chemical manufacture, gas transport, radiation absorption, or what not. "More still, it has done so as though it 'knew' the minute local conditions of the particular spot in which its lot is cast. … It is as if an imminent principle inspired each cell with knowledge for the carrying out of a design. And this picture which the microscope supplies to us, conveying this impression of prescience and intention, supplies us after all, because it is but a picture with only the static form. That is, but the outward and visible signs of a dynamic activity which is a harmony in time as well as space."1
This interconnection between all the separate parts of the universe is strikingly illustrated in that branch of quantum mechanics known as wave mechanics, developed by Schrodinger in 1925 and mentioned briefly in the last chapter. Basically, if we look at a very small particle (such as an electron) from a common-sense viewpoint, we have to sometimes think of it as a wave. Now although the wave practically dies down to nothing at very short distances from where the 'particle' is supposed to be, it does not vanish. In fact, it never quite vanishes. So each atom in my body is, to a very small extent, in everyone else's body; not only that, but is also to a very small extent on the other side of the furthest stars. Equally, a tiny piece of everyone else's body is in me. Of course, this does not in practice concern the scientist, since the quantities involved are so small, but nevertheless they are there.2
Probably the most famous scientific concept of unity is that of energy; but what exactly energy is, is not so clear. Newton defined energy as a property of moving things, or to put it more broadly, the power to do something. We say a person is energetic if he is doing lots of things; if he does nothing, then we say he has no energy. The fact that things are constantly happening on this earth and in the universe in general means that there is energy all around us. Now there is a scientific law that most people know (technically called 'the first law of thermodynamics') which states that "Energy is neither created nor destroyed." In other words, in order to explain a class of phenomena in the world of difference end change, science has to postulate an entity (energy) which does not change (in quantity). What do change are the forms of energy. One example of this is a hydro-electric generator where falling water (gravitational energy) makes a wheel spin round (mechanical energy) which in turn creates electrical energy; this then 'flows' into your bedside lamp where it is converted into light, which enters your eye and is transformed into neural energy - and so on.
Due to Einstein's famous formula E = mc2, scientists now consider matter to be just another form of energy - a sort of frozen energy. So when matter is annihilated, as in a nuclear explosion, what has happened is just that energy has changed from one form (matter) to another form (heat or radiation) - but the amount of energy itself remains unchanged.
In view of all this, it is not surprising that science is silent as to what energy actually is. For energy itself does not belong to the world of difference, since it cannot by definition change, and it is everywhere; and as we have shown, science by its very nature of being an intellectual and discursive activity can only deal with the world of difference, that is only with the forms of energy. What is interesting is that science feels it necessary to postulate an entity which does not belong to the world of difference in order to deal with the world of difference.
The concept of superspace is a very important concept in modern physics, thus in science as a whole. For modern physics is that branch of science which deals with the most fundamental 'things' in this universe, and which other sciences (eg chemistry and biology) are based upon.
By 'modern physics' is meant basically two fields: quantum mechanics, which deals with the very, very small; and relativity, which deals with the very, very big and the very, very fast. Superspace is crucial to both fields, and thus indirectly to all science and hence to all modern thinking.
Superspace is really the tying up of space and time into a neat intellectual bundle; so before we start on superspace, it would be as well to say a few words on space and time.
The concept of space is familiar to us all but what exactly is it? Indeed, philosophers are undecided as to whether it is anything or not. For instance, is space an emptiness in its own right, a sort of receptacle which may or may not have any part filled with matter? Or is it 'nothing', ie no thing, just the absence of matter? The book in front of me 'occupies' space, but what has happened to the space which was there before the book was? Is it till there, permeating the book, rather like the ether of 19th century science, or has it been displaced somewhere as water is displaced when an object is put into it?
We are faced with the same kind of problems in our thinking about time. As St Augustine said, "What, then, is time? If no-one asks of me I know: if I wish to explain to him who asks: I know not." 3
Both space and time are in a sense intervals between things, ie they largely provide the setting for difference to exist in. For objects are separate from each other because they exist in space, and things change because they exist in time. So if the world as we see it is one of difference primarily because of space and time, than it appears that we are dealing with the very foundations of difference.
In order to talk about superspace intelligibly, we first have to consider what we mean by 'dimension'. We say, for instance that the surface of this page has two dimensions. It is a "2-dimensional space". We say this because it needs two measurements to locate a point on it. For to locate point B, starting from A, I have to give two measurements: - I can say, for example, "B is one inch to the right of A, and 1.7 inches down." (See figure 1).
Alternatively, I can say, "B is two inches from A, in a direction of 30 degrees off the downward vertical. There are many such ways to locate B from A, but we find that like these two examples, in any way we have to give a minimum of two measurements. Thus a surface is defined as a "2- dimensional space."
Using such a definition, a line is a "space of one dimension." Why? Because now I only need one measurement to locate any point B from a fixed point A. I just have to say, "B is one inch to the right of A," and that fixes the position of B.
So now we can see why the 'normal' space we live in is known as '3-dimensional space'. It is because from a given point we need at least three measurements to locate any other points. In everyday speech, we say that an object in such a space has three dimensions: length, breadth, and depth.
Nothing we can perceive through our senses, and nothing we can imagine in our mind, has more than three dimensions in this mathematical sense. We see this universe, the earth and everything on and in the earth, including our bodies, as being 3-dimensions or less. We can form no visual concept of anything which has 4-dimensions or more.
Now in the last century, some mathematicians, notably a German called Riemann,4 started talking about spaces of four or more dimensions; but because of our total inability to visualise or imagine such spaces, the whole subject was thought to be theoretical. But at the beginning of this century, a Polish mathematician, called Minkowski, showed that we could mathematically regard time as a fourth dimension, no different from the other three, and regard ourselves as living not in a 3-dimensional space but a 4-dimensional 'space', called 'space-time' or superspace. It is only on account of our minds being limited to 3-dimensions that when perceiving objects 'in' superspace we can only see 3 of the 4-dimensions - we interpret the remaining dimension in utterly different way, and we call it 'time'.
ii) Curved Space
Einstein used this idea of 4-dimensional superspace to formulate his famous General Theory of Relativity in 1915.5 This theory was completely revolutionary in that it said that the 3-dimensional 'normal' space we think we are familiar with is curved within the framework of superspace. To explain such an incredible idea, we will use an analogy.
Meet Fred. Now Fred is similar to us in many ways, except he is a 2-dimensional being, and the 'space' he lives in is thus also 2-d such as the surface of this page. (From now on we will write 'dimensional' or 'dimensions' as just 'd'). But whereas we can see Fred, he can in no way see us or conceive of our existence. For to do so he would have to look up and out of the page, the surface of which is his 'world', and this he cannot do. He cannot conceive even, let alone perceive, the third dimension just as we have no possible conception of a fourth dimension in our 3-d space. 'Up' and 'down' have no possible meaning whatsoever to him. So Fred's viewpoint is entirely limited to the particular surface which is his 'space' ie this page.
If the page is now curved in any way, so it is not a flat surface, it would not make a scrap of difference to Fred. For to curve this page, part of it would have to be bent up (or down), that is, use made of the third dimension, of which Fred is utterly and completely unaware.
So whether the '2-d space' (this page) is to us flat or curved, it is always the same to Fred. It would be nonsense to him to think of it as being curved or flat, in the same way as it appears nonsense to us to think of our 3-d space as being 'curved' or 'flat'.
But let us is now imagine Fred to be living on the surface of a sphere. Of course, to Fred there would be absolutely no change, since, as we have seen, for a surface to be curved all three dimensions must be used, and Fred is limited to only two dimensions.
So far so good. Now suppose Fred goes for a walk in a straight line, noting the point where he started. After certain time he would get back to this point, though from behind. From our superior 3-d viewpoint, this is to be expected, since we see Fred as not actually walking in a straight line, but going in a circle around the sphere. But to Fred the whole thing is deeply paradoxical. From his point of view, he has been walking forward all the time along a straight line, since the curvature of the surface is non-existent to him.
If we now think of our 3-d space as being the curved 'surface' of a 4-d 'super-sphere', embedded in 4-d superspace; just as Fred's 2-d 'space' is the curved surface of a 3-d sphere embedded in 3-d space; then we can understand Einstein's famous joke that if you look at the sky with a powerful enough telescope you would see the back of your own head. For though our line of sight goes along what is, to our 3-d awareness, a straight line, it is in fact a circle in superspace, just as what Fred thought was a straight line in 2-d was in fact a circle in 3-d.
So just as Fred's 'straight line' ended up at its starting point, so our 'straight line' would also end up at its starting point and we would see the back of our own head. Of course, this would never happen really since although light travels very fast, the distance 'round' the universe is so immense that it would take billions of years for the light to make the journey; it is also very likely that the light would get stopped by a star; and anyway, it is completely beyond modern technology to construct a powerful enough telescope, now or in the foreseeable future.
But nevertheless, the joke gives us an idea of the structure of our 3-d space as being 'embedded' in 4-d superspace.
In fact, Einstein's General Theory of Relativity does not positively assert that our space is actually curved into a 'super-sphere' but it is a possibility, and in fact a very attractive possibility.
One fact that it explains is the 'expanding universe'. It has been observed that the clusters of galaxies in the universe are all travelling away from us, and the further the cluster is from us, the faster it is receding. From the normal 3-d point of view, this is deeply disturbing, since it implies that the earth Is at some special 'favoured' position in the universe, which astronomers are reluctant to accept. Yet there seems no alternative.
But if we accept superspace, there is a neat way out. We can explain it by again thinking of Fred on his spherical surface, but this time we imagine the sphere to be expandable, like a balloon. Now when the sphere is quite small, we can cover the surface with dots, all equally spaced. If this sphere is now blown up so it expands, all the dots move away from each other; and the important thing is that from the point of view of any one dot, all the other dots recede from it, and what is more, the farther a dot is from the one dot we have chosen, the faster it recedes from that dot. So this is powerfully suggestive of the fact that we do live in (or on) the 3-d 'surface' of a 4-d super-sphere, which is in fact expanding, just like a balloon being blown up. It does not put the earth in any special position in the universe, since on this theory the clusters would appear to be receding from any point you chose.
In fact, it has been shown recently, that if our 3-d space is rotating as well as expanding, then there must be shear in it, which in turn could lead to singularities in time (eg the 'beginning' - the act of creation) disappearing, so that the universe alternatively expands and contracts forever, with no beginning and no end! 6
iii) Black Holes
Another reason for accepting the existence of superspace is concerned with black holes, which can be thought of as vanished stars.
Anaxagoras, a Greek philosopher in the 5th century BC, thought that the stars shone because they were burning still. Modern science calls this 'burning' thermonuclear reaction, which provides the intense heat and light emanating from most stars, including our Sun. It also prevents stars from collapsing in on themselves due to their own gravity. However, after a length of time (which is commonly many billions of years) the star will eventually use up all its nuclear fuel, and will 'burn itself out'. When this happens, there is nothing to stop the star being pulled into its centre by its own gravity. This process can end in a number of ways, but it has been shown theoretically that if the mass of the star is greater than a certain value (which is in fact 1.2 times the mass of the sun) it can only end in two ways.
One way is for there to be a massive nuclear explosion called a supernova which ends the existence of the star as a star. The other way is for the star to squash itself out of existence, leaving a 'black hole' in space. The explanation of this is too complicated to go into here, but basically the smaller the star becomes, the more condensed it becomes, and the greater the inward pull of its own gravity. In the end the gravity is to strong that no outward pressure can balance it, and it relentlessly crushes the star right out of existence. Astronomers have recently claimed to have obtained evidence of black holes, so it appears that they do actually exist.7
The problem is, where has the star gone if it has left this universe? As we have pointed out earlier, matter (frozen energy) cannot just vanish; if it disappears it must mean that it has changed to some other form of energy. Now we know from nuclear explosions that if a mere fraction of an ounce of matter is destroyed, the amount of radiated energy it turns into is enormous. But in the case of black holes we are talking of many trillions of trillions of tons of matter disappearing, and that certainly is not all converted into radiated energy. Science will not accept that any energy can be destroyed, let alone trillions of trillions of tons of it (in its frozen aspect - matter); but yet the star has undoubtedly vanished from our universe.
The answer is clearly that it has not really vanished but has just left our 3-d space; it has gone into another dimension - that is superspace. Of course, it will appear to us to have utterly vanished, since we are viewing it (we have no alternative) from the viewpoint of our 3-d viewing mechanism.
In fact, if under certain conditions matter can be made to leave our 3-d universe as we perceive it, then why cannot matter enter it again? This has been put forward as a theory for quasars. Quasars are objects in the universe which are rather peculiar. They are commonly thought to be very far away from us, in fact the furthest objects we can observe. But the effect which makes scientist think they are so far away can equally well be ascribed to the fact that they have very strong gravitational fields. In other words, they are sort of black holes in reverse. They are matter being forced back into the 3-d universe from superspace. This theory has not been proved, but it is receiving serious attention
This long word means the study of dynamic geometry, or the power of space. That 'space' can have power or be dynamic is a strange concept. At the beginning of this chapter we rather thought of space as a 'nothingness' or an 'emptiness'; but we have seen how the work of Einstein and others has led us to view 'space' in a completely new way.
During the last twenty years there has been a new theory evolved, largely by a scientist called Wheeler, which goes under this name 'Geometrodynamics.' 8 This theory does not contradict the General Theory of Relativity, but attempts rather to go beyond it. For while Relativity neatly ties up space, time and gravity, into unimaginable 'superspace', it leaves out many things such as the existence of energy and matter. But geometrodynamics attempts to include even these into the structure of space itself. That is to say, that there is nothing other than superspace. Everything is a manifestation of this.
We have seen how Relativity leads us to believe that our 3-d space is curved within superspace. So far so good; but Wheeler asks what happens if there are 'local eddies' in space - places where space gets very sharply curved? We can get some idea of what the means by looking at an analogy with the sea. We can imagine our 3-d space to be like the sea, which is 'curved' since it lies on the curved surface of our spherical earth. But in addition to this general curvature, the sea is also curved in separate parts - waves. And when sea waves approach the shore they become more sharply curved, until there comes a point when they can no longer exist as water - they break up into foam. So in the same way, Wheeler says, it is possible that parts of our space have become so sharply curved that they can too longer exist as space - they break up into 'foam'. And this 'foam' is none other than the elementary particles of matter, the constituents of atoms.
So matter, which we perceive with our 3-d mental acuities as being hard and gross, is of this view nothing but a form of space. And energy? Energy, such as light waves, consists of 'ripples' of space, just like on the sea there are sometimes lots of ripples running across the surface.
Geometrodynamics has by no means been proved yet scientifically. This is largely because the mathematic needed to formulate the theory is so complex that results are, at the moment, impossible to achieve, but it is being treated seriously by many scientists.
To finish this section on superspace, we consider briefly the 'bootstrap model'. This peculiar name is given to a way of thinking derived from a particular mixture of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, known as S-Matrix theory. The basic bootstrap philosophy was expounded in a sense in the philosophies of Spinoza (17th century) and Hegel (1770-1831), and can be said to have originated in the Greek philosopher Parmenides of the 5th century BC. It holds that the coherence and internal consistency of the universe, remarked upon earlier, is the fundamental quality of nature. In other words, there is a real unity in nature which is more important than anything else, and all the aspects of difference we see around us must follow from self-consistency. Bootstrap philosophy thus holds that nature is what it is because it is the only possible nature consistent with itself. This means, that distinct and separate particles (such as protons, electrons etc) are not the fundamental entities of the universe, since this would mean that the universe was not a uni-verse, but a 'di-verse' ('turned into two') ie was founded on difference and diversity.
As we have been at pains to show earlier, science is only concerned with this world of difference; it thus follows that the bootstrap philosophy is, strictly speaking, unscientific.9
In spite of this, many physicists are using a bootstrap model in the S-matrix terminology, but needless to say they have to water it down somewhat. For a full bootstrap treatment would require everything to follow from the fact of self-consistency alone, including not only matter but space, time and even consciousness.10 A watered down bootstrap model has to be used because science finds it impossible to deal with non-difference, as we have observed.
The watered-down version most commonly used is the so-called 'hadron bootstrap' because it attempts to explain the interconnection and relationships between only hadrons, which are a certain class of sub-atomic particles. It turns out that if the bootstrap philosophy is accepted, every hadron contains all the other hadrons, and at the same time is a part of each of them! In other words, every single hadron is made up of all the other hadrons, and this is true of them all. This of course is absolutely impossible in common-sense logic, the basic dualities of is-or-is-not, of cause-and-effect, and of space-and-time all breaking down. This can only happen in superspace, where all our commonsense notions no longer hold, and where the hadrons cease to be 3-d particles but become one unimaginable 4-d entity. As has been pointed out, this is all very reminiscent of Eastern philosophy11 - for instance there is a passage in a Buddhist scripture which goes:
"In the heaven of Indra, there is said to be a network of pearls, so arranged that if you look at one you see all the others reflected in it. In the same way each object in the world is not merely itself but involves every other object and in fact is everything else. In every particle of dust, there are present Buddhas without number."12
To conclude this section on superspace, it should he pointed out that all of the theories mentioned here (General Relativity, Geometrodynamics, Bootstrap etc) could be disproved in the future. However, it seems certain that any alternative theories will have to use the concept of superspace; so it is immaterial whether the details we have gone into here are proved to be valid or not - what is important is that science is forced to describe so many phenomena in this world of difference in terms of non-differentiated superspace.
Indeed, some physicists have not seen any need to limit superspace to only four dimensions. Why four? Why not five dimensions? Six, seven, … infinite! Why not have a superspace consisting of an infinite number of dimensions? The point is that with our 3-d viewing mechanism superspace is completely and utterly unintelligible to us whether we say that it has four dimensions or an infinite number of dimensions. So for our purpose there is no need to specify the number of dimensions it has.
Of course, many scientists object to speaking about superspace as a thing, an entity; they insist it is only a mathematical description. That science has not 'proved' the physical existence of superspace is true; and from what we have said earlier, it is impossible for science ever to do so, for we have shown that discursive thought can only rearrange difference or the 'diverse' and never go beyond it. What is so revealing is that science, in using tools of difference to understand difference has to explain some observed phenomena by talking as if there is something completely transcending difference. Apart from giving this 'something' a name (superspace), we can never understand it or even conceive of it with the tools of difference and diversity, such as the intellect.
Arguments For The Existence Of God
Of course it is not only scientists who feel the need sometimes to postulate that there is, after all, a unity more basic than difference. Many philosophers and thinkers have postulated this as well. However, in this chapter we are only concerned with intellectual unity, ie with breaking through the world of difference or the 'diverse' using discursive thought. Though this is inherently impossible, we have seen that we can explain many events in the world of difference ('phenomena') through assuming that there is unity beyond difference, though we cannot talk or think about it.
Now not only scientists, but many metaphysicians have also used this approach of assuming that there is a world of non-difference, and then showing how many phenomena in our world of difference can be then explained. We gave three examples Parmenides, Spinoza and Hegel though there are many more.
The point is that however successful the explanations are, they do not prove that the originally assumed world of non-difference must exist. To hold (as it often is) that they do prove such a unity is an excellent example of the error of 'affirming the consequent' dealt with in the last chapter.
To prove intellectually (ie with discursive thought) that a world of non-difference must exist is held by many (such as Hume and Kant) to be impossible. We showed this in the last section of the last chapter, where we came to the conclusion that metaphysics ("the attempt to conceive of the world as a whole by thought") was unable to achieve its aim.
Notwithstanding this, there have been many attempts to establish by means of discursive thought (usually deductive reason) that a world of non-difference does exist. In this section we will look briefly at the five main arguments which have been put forward for theirs existing a basis, a unity on which the world of difference rests. Such a basis is usually called God.
i) The Ontological argument
This claims in essence that from the definition of God, He, She or It must exist. It is thus a purely deductive argument, and bears no relation to our experience or knowledge of the world, which made it so attractive to its main proponents such as Saint Anselm, Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz. St. Thomas of Aquinas criticised the argument by saying that it was circular, in that you can only define God if you know that He exists, and not the other way around. Bertrand Russell refutes the argument, but probably the simplest refutation comes from Gaunilon, a contemporary of Anselm, and from Kant, who said simply that by thinking about something, that something does not necessarily exist. For instance, I can define quite precisely what a unicorn is, but that does not mean that unicorns actually exist.
ii) The Cosmological Argument
This argument rests on the cause-and-effect duality. If everything finite (ie in the world of difference) has a cause, then the causes must themselves have had causes, and so on. To start this off, there must have been a First or Causeless Cause, ie God. This was argued by Aristotle, Anselm, St. Thomas and put into its most tight form by Liebniz. Hume held that this was no reason for a First Cause, since the chain of cause-and-effect could go back indefinitely; this has been made plausible by the recent advances in theoretical physics, showing that maybe the universe never had a beginning. 13 Kant refuted the cosmological argument twice over; first he showed that it involved in one of its steps the ontological argument, which as we have seen is invalid. Secondly, he held that God belonged to the noumenal world, about which we cannot know anything, even whether He, She or It exists or not. In our terminology, this is saying that in a world of non-difference, there is no duality and thus no cause-and-effects; so we cannot reason to God or non-difference by cause-end-effect arguments.
iii) The Argument from Eternal Truths
This was first put forward by Plato, and later by Leibniz. It basically says that truths exist in our minds, so eternal truths must be parts of the contents of an eternal mind, ie God. By an 'eternal truth', Liebniz meant something which is always true. (Plato called it an 'Idea'). Russell has shown that this argument is just another form of the cosmological argument, and so is invalid.14
iv) The Argument From Design
Whereas the other three arguments rest on deduction, the argument from design rests on induction and is empirical. It is sometimes called the "argument from pre-established harmony" (Leibniz) or the "physico-theological proof" (Kant).
Basically, the idea is that if we look around us at this world, although we see a world of difference, there is nevertheless such obvious design and interconnection that blind natural forces cannot be the cause, but there must be some conscious purpose (ie God) for it all. As science advances and discovers greater and greater evidence of interrelation and purpose in the cosmos, then obviously the argument from design becomes stronger; this has been forcefully argued from the recent findings in biochemistry and biology.15 (See Sherrington's quote previously).
The greatest critic of the argument from design was Hume, who spent 25 years (on and off) writing a critique of it. The basis of his criticism is that it is an unsound analogy, in the sense that the argument says because human consciousness is seen to produce order and design, then a far greater design must come from a consciousness greater than human. This is not logically watertight. However, Hume does admit that while the argument is not valid, it is to some extent convincing.
Kant, while not invalidating the argument, holds that it does not argue for God, but only for a conscious agency that is wiser and more powerful than we are, but which could still belong completely to the world of difference (and thus not be God, by definition).
Darwin's theory of Evolution has refuted this argument, showing clearly that blind natural forces certainly can, and probably do, cause what we humans see as 'design'. In other words, Hume was right. Except that the Argument from Design is no longer even convincing, as Hume thought.
v) - The Argument from Morality
It might be supposed from what we have said of Kant that he did not believe in God. This, however, is not true; he merely held that all intellectual proofs of God's existence were invalid. Kant's, and many other peoples', reason for believing in God was a moral one. Namely, that if happiness is proportional to virtue, then God and a future life must exist, since happiness is certainly not proportional to virtue in this life.
This is a deductive argument, and thus depends on the premises - notably the premise that happiness is proportional to virtue, which is an opinion or belief, and so cannot be validated nor refuted; thus the argument itself is not valid.
Whereas the last chapter showed that the intellect is only capable of dealing with difference, this chapter has shown that nevertheless it is often the case that we find it very useful to postulate that there is a world of non-difference, or unity (named variously 'energy', 'superspace', 'God', 'noumenal world', etc). However, this does not prove that non-difference exists. In this chapter we gave some examples both of attempts to prove intellectually that non-difference exists, and of attempts to intellectually deal with a postulated world of non-difference. Neither attempt was successful.
9 - The Third Monk
Summary Of Argument So Far
This is a convenient point to briefly summarise the main argument of the book so far.
We began by saying that we are in a state of 'Unpeace', which we find unsatisfactory and are hence continually acting in an attempt to lessen. Now this Unpeace can be thought of as being due to 'difference'; we live, in fact, in a world of difference, a 'di-verse', where all around us at all levels there exists separateness, change and duality, creating conflict and tension in our bodies, in our minds, in our community, in the world and in the whole cosmos. We observed that this principle of difference is more basic than any unity or connection (such as the binding of atoms or falling deeply in love) that we can see.
Part One ended by our considering the mind-matter duality, or the fact that we are aware of two different worlds - one public and the other private. Although we glanced at the philosophies and reasons for taking one (or both) to be 'real', we came to no conclusion.
At the start of Part Two we stated that given the position described in Part One, then how we act will, broadly speaking, be determined by whether we consider the public world to be more important (like the second monk) or the private world (like the third monk). We pointed out that although the third monk's attitude seemed to be superior, in theory, most of us follow the second monk in practice. We then called the second monk an 'externalist', defining an external object or event to be one belonging to the world of difference and vice versa.
We then divided the externalist attitude into two broad categories - that which attempts to manipulate the public world indirectly, eg by magic ('indirect externalism'), and that which does so directly ('direct externalism'). The latter could be further divided into two types - that which relies basically on brute force to rearrange the external world, eg conquest or human labour (which we can call 'physical direct-externalism'), and that which relies on the intellect. We saw that this 'intellectual direct-externalism' has, in the guise of science, probably caused almost as much Unpeace as it has alleviated. In the last two chapters it was additionally shown that the intellect cannot even in theory cope with anything outside difference, and thus can never liberate us from Unpeace, which is caused by difference. However, the intellect is often led to think as if there were a world of non-difference, though it cannot think about it nor prove its existence.
So we can fairly conclude that what we have labelled 'intellectual direct-externalism' is, both in practice and in theory, unable to solve our fundamental problems of finding Peace. In fact, we can now enlarge on this and say that this is true for all forms of externalism; for externalism is concerned in essence with just rearranging difference, with manipulating external objects and events, and not with finding a way out of difference. Obviously some arrangements of our environment cause less Unpeace than others, and it is to our advantage to cause those arrangements to come about, if possible. For instance, to lessen pain and alleviate suffering is a noble task; and much happiness, joy, laughter, love and peace (small 'p') can be obtained in this world of difference, although they are always mixed with their opposites to some extent so that the result is nevertheless still Unpeace. What we hope to have shown is not that activities in this world are useless, but that they are useless for obtaining Peace (big 'P'), since they do not and cannot liberate from difference.
The reader should note that by 'difference' we mean distinction, diversity, separateness, change and duality at all levels and in all things; ie difference in the deepest possible and most fundamental sense, and not just superficial difference which can of course often be transcended. In fact without this superficial difference we would be intolerably bored ("Variety is the spice of life"), and this might lead to some readers thinking that our urge to find a world of non-difference is grossly misplaced. However, as we have shown, it is not impossible to think or imagine about a world of non-difference (using the term 'difference' in its deepest sense), so we cannot say that we would be bored or anything else in it. We have dealt primarily with intellectual direct-externalism because that is mainly what the West in concerned with, though of course often the understanding of a situation with the intellect merely opens the way for a more effective physical control of the environment - which we have called 'physical direct-externalism' (this is admirably illustrated by modern military technology mentioned at the end of Chapter 6). However, we can take it that this latter form of externalism does not remove Unpeace either. Of course often it is held that physical conquest and the establishment of an empire provides stability and security for the populace, but few subjects of foreign domination would say they were happy with the situation - certainly that it does not remove all difference in our sense of the word.
So we conclude by holding that externalism (direct and indirect) and the intellect, by their very nature of dealing only in difference, are unfitted for liberation from Unpeace; and thus they cannot on their own fulfil man's purpose and answer the central question of his life.
Since this is the case, we have no alternative but to leave the externalist second monk involved in the public world, and to investigate the position of the third monk, who places more importance on the private world. These two monks act in dissimilar ways, as was described in Chapter 5, even though they experience the same things - the desire to be free from Unpeace and a world based on difference. Their contrasting behaviour is due to one (the second monk) looking basically to the public world for the answer, and the other (the third monk) to the private world.
We can describe the 'private world' loosely as 'mind' or the mental world; it consists of all 'objects' or events which are not public, ie which cannot be experienced by anyone else other than the person concerned. Furthermore, we can divide the mind, or private world, into two parts - the conscious and the non-conscious.
This division was first made obvious by the famous psychologist Sigmund Freud; and now the majority of psychologists, while perhaps not agreeing with Freud's analysis, hold that most mental activity is non-conscious. (Freud used the term 'unconscious', but nowadays there is also the 'preconscious' and the 'subconscious'; here we lump them all together under the term 'non-conscious').
It is generally held that the non-conscious is a sort of repository for all the mental processes that it is assumed must exist to account for our behaviour. Some hold that it is a seething mass of passions, desires, instincts, habits and even thoughts, which occasionally break through the surface and enter our conscious private world. Evidence that non-conscious activity occurs is overwhelming; much dreaming is obviously the result of a non-conscious kind of thinking, as is hypnosis. A hypnotised subject can be instructed to do something when he awakens, such as fall down at the sight of the first red pen he sees. When awakened, the subject has no memory of this instruction, and will behave quite naturally in every way, but when shown a red pen; he will trip and fall down, unaware that such action is not accidental. Such behaviour is obviously motivated by the non-conscious;1 in fact, it need not be caused by hypnotism at all. Freud filled a book2 with examples of little accidents which are not wholly accidental, eg the forgotten name or the misplaced wedding ring etc, all motivated (at least in part) by non-conscious wishes.
Given that what goes on in our non-conscious affects our behaviour and what we think, then it is obvious that our mental state as a whole will have a profound effect on our interpretation of what we see in the public world. As was pointed out in Chapter 5, the third monk bases what he actually does upon this fact. His tendency is to lay greater stress on the private world of the mind than on the public world as a means of dealing with Unpeace.
We can think of there existing 'backgrounds' in our mental world which we view the public world against. These backgrounds are usually in the non-conscious, and will turn out to be very important. The rest of this section will be concerned with developing this concept of 'background'.
i) Visual Background
To begin with, we will consider the formation of ordinary visual backgrounds with which we are familiar.
It is a curious fact that we perceive no field of view at one dead level. Whatever we look at, we automatically split up into two parts - one part is singled out as the main feature of interest, the 'object', while the other part becomes the background. The object stands out and is easily seen but the background tends to fall back and not be seen with any clarity. This is a mental process, and it depends largely upon the viewer as to what is object and what is background. One person's subject is often another person's background.
For instance, in this picture, do you see two faces or do you see a vase? Whichever we see is due entirely to what part of the picture we accept as background, and what part as object. Sometimes we will tend to see a vase, at other times the two faces. We cannot view the picture at one level throughout, but automatically split it up into the object, upon which our attention is focused, and the background, which we barely notice. So strong is this tendency, that some people who see in the picture only one object (either the vase or the two faces) take quite some time to see in it the other possible object, even when told it exists. This is because the background is so ignored that it takes quite a mental jump to focus attention onto it and away from the object, but as soon as this is done, then what was background becomes object and vice versa; and this switch in background gives the picture a whole new meaning.
A similar example is the "wife and mother-in-law ambiguity". Do you see in the picture above "the wife" (below left) or the "mother-in-law" (below right)? Which you
see depends upon what parts of the figure stand out and which parts are ignored. This division into object and background thus appears basic for our perception, and yet we see how once a background is chosen, we are conscious of it to a very small extent. In the above example we see how a field of view has a possibility of two object/background interpretations, yet once one has been identified, then we tend to stick with that interpretation.
But however little attention we give background, it nevertheless modifies profoundly the meaning of the object. For instance, against the background of the plain white paper, the two black lines in the picture below left appear straight and parallel, which indeed they are. But if we view the same straight lines against a radially patterned background as in below right, they appear curved and non-parallel. In other words, the background is not passive, but has an important effect on the interpretation and meaning of the subject.
A similar kind of effect is seen the circles below. The centre circles are exactly the same size, but we see them as
being different entirely on account of the different background each is embedded in.
ii) Non-visual Background
Let us now consider a field of view where the background is not entirely visual, but has a conceptual component as well. Below we have a chessboard with a bishop on it. In this case, the object is the bishop, and the background against which we are viewing it is the chessboard and the rules of chess. Now against such a background the bishop can only move diagonally. But if the background is changed and we now use the bishop as a paperweight on our desk, say, then it would be absurd to insist that it only be moved diagonally across the desk! Its pattern of behaviour depends upon its background.
In fact, 'backgrounds' formed entirely by our concepts and mental processes (usually non-conscious) condition what we perceive as much as the visual backgrounds we have just been considering. This idea was first developed and shown systematically by the Gestalt school of psychology, and their general conclusion that what we actually perceive is not due to public objects alone, but to their being projected onto a 'gestalt' or background set up in our minds, is still held valid today.3
We classify and recognise things we see, for instance, even when they appear different. For example, a round plate appears to be oval when viewed from an angle, yet we have no difficulty in recognising it to be round. Similarly, a table might be square when looked at from directly above, but diamond shaped when viewed from the side, yet we see it as a 'square' table. As we learn more about our environment, we develop more conscious systems of classification, or points of view. We impose a background of thought patterns and preconceived categories onto what we see, thus condition the raw sense data into something meaningful.
This was pointed out quite forcibly in 1690 by the philosopher John Locke. He had three basins of water - one hot, one tepid and one cold. Now if one hand is put in the hot water, and one in the cold water, and they are left immersed for a few minutes and then both hands are plunged simultaneously into the remaining basin of tepid water, then the water appears to have two temperatures at the same time - warm to one hand and cool to the other. His demonstration shows that the apparent qualities (eg the temperature) of public objects are very dependable upon the mental backgrounds of the person perceiving them.
The meaningfulness of something is not just an attribute of it, but depends upon the particular background (visual or mental) against which we are viewing it at that particular time. A doctor and an architect, visiting the same hospital, will each give different importance to different features. Each will be interested in the hospital from a different point of view, and they will each be judging the building against a different background of values and thinking. An excellent example of a non-conscious mental background is that of the rules of perspective. These belong to the western culture, and they lead us to interpret a picture in three dimensions if possible. People in other cultures (Zulus and some other African tribes) however tend to see perspective drawings as if they were flat. Thus when western people are shown drawings such as those below, they are often visibly confused. But they are only confusing when viewed against our mental background which tries to turn two dimensional figures into three-dimensional objects. To the Zulu there is no confusion, since he makes no attempt to view them in other than two dimensions.
A reason put forward for this is that we Westerners have a 'rectangular background': our rooms and many everyday objects are rectangular. We also see many roads and railways, which present long parallel lines, converging to a point, and so implying depth.
But Zulus have a 'circular' background. Their huts and doors are round, few of their possessions have corners or straight lines, and they even plough the land in round furrows. As a result, they have no conditioning to view drawings made largely of straight lines in perspective; in fact, not only do these images leave them unmoved, but they are also unaffected by the radial background of the parallel lies above,4 Not only our perceptions, but also our behaviour is governed largely by the backgrounds of learning and thinking against which we view any particular situation. If we are in a different environment and view new situations against old backgrounds, then our behaviour can vary from meaningless to ridiculous, which accounts for the many jokes about the Englishman's behaviour on holiday abroad. To move the bishop in a certain way is only meaningful when it is on a chessboard. Remove the chessboard, but retain the background of chess rules so the piece moves in the same way, and the result is ridiculous behaviour.
This idea was first put on a scientific basis at the turn of the century by the Russian physiologist Pavlov. He performed many experiments investigating the conditioning of the behaviour of dogs. Modern day experiments of the Pavlov-type show dramatically the strong effect that backgrounds in our mind can have on behaviour. In one experiment rats were exposed to a bright light and at the same time injected with an overdose of insulin, which gave them a severe shock and often made them unconscious. A few repetitions of this were sufficient to build up such a background in the rats that when the light alone was turned on, the rats still collapsed unconscious.5
Conditioning experiments performed on human beings all showed there is this same strong tendency to set up backgrounds and be governed to a large extent by them. In fact the whole process of learning is really one of building up a series of mental backgrounds against which we can view, and thus clarify and interpret, any suitable object, be it an event, relationship, process, or material thing.
We see in all these examples how we can become attached to backgrounds, and how this inability to change a certain background can be disadvantageous to us. One obvious example is the case of the 'impossible objects' above where we felt confused on account of our consistently trying to view the 'object' (the drawing) against an inappropriate background, namely that of trying to interpret two-dimensional drawings in terms of three dimensions. In this particular example, the effect was trivial, but such attachment to obsolete backgrounds can, in fact, be disastrous. This is illustrated in the 1914-18 war which presented totally new features of military strategy and tactics. The bulk of the generals, however, were conditioned by the old tradition of war, and being so attached to such backgrounds, they could do nothing other than view the new situation against them. As a result, there was appalling loss of life to no purpose. Military historians inform us, that if the generals had had the initiative to setup new backgrounds of military thinking more in line with the actual situation, then many lives would have been spared.
So obviously backgrounds are important. The externalist second monk would not deny this. As we have seen, science has done much to show their importance; and after all it is everybody's experience that when we have a good mood as a predominant background then we can laugh off annoying situations that would send us into paroxysms of anger or depression if we were in a bad mood. But the third monk sees the backgrounds generated in the private world as being fundamental, since, as we have seen, backgrounds alter profoundly how we actually see public objects and what importance we give them. Thus, claims the third monk, by cultivating the appropriate background or way of viewing things, we can strikingly diminish Unpeace.
To illustrate his point we can relate the following story:
A Japanese warrior came to the third monk and asked, "Do heaven and hell really exist?" "Who are you?" enquired the monk.
"I am a samurai," the warrior replied.
"You, a warrior!" exclaimed the monk. "What kind of ruler would have you as his guard? Your face is like a cabbage!"
The warrior became so angry that he began to draw his sword, but the third monk continued, "So you have a sword! But you are probably too incompetent to cut off my head."
As the warrior drew his sword, the monk remarked, "Here open the gates of hell!"
At these words the warrior, perceiving the monk's subtle and effective way of answering his question, sheathed his sword and bowed. "Here open the gates of heaven," said the monk. 6
In other words, the warrior was approaching heaven or hell according to the way he was viewing the situation, ie according to the backgrounds in his private world or mind.
So given that in a situation which causes some form of Unpeace the third monk will try to modify his state of consciousness or backgrounds, rather than modify the situation itself (as the second monk would), the problem obviously becomes: How? The reader will remember that it was this problem which caused us to shelve the third monk's attitude originally. To find an appropriate background so that a bayonet in our stomach is a trivial matter (as I facetiously put before) would appear to present some difficulties.
Now if we examine how the third monk's attitude could be put into effect, we will find that we come to a possibly startling conclusion: it seems impossible to adopt an approach other than externalism!
For instance, take the person who is in a situation which he cannot face up to very well; it may be a family situation or a crisis in his job or something like that. Whatever it is, he turns to drink. Now this is the way of the third monk, since the man is trying to alter his state of consciousness, or his way of perceiving the situation, and is not trying to alter the situation itself. (Of course, if the problem is a family one, his getting drunk is itself likely to alter the situation, but that is not the point being made here.) But the fact is that the sufferer is turning nevertheless to external agencies for relief! And this is true of all drugs of course; it is undoubtedly the case that they alter our state of consciousness, but it is also true that they are external agencies.
So it seems that the dividing line between the second monk's behaviour and that of the third monk fades away. Take the example of someone bored and turning on the TV to get rid of the boredom (mentioned in Chapter 5). It can certainly be said the action is that of the second monk, ie an externalist approach, but surely it can also be viewed as following the third monk, since he is trying to alter his viewpoint, his state of consciousness. If he scorns the TV and is determined to change the background of his bored state of mind by a method less obviously externalistic, what can he do? Drink and drugs are external, as is playing patience or talking to a friend.
After all, ever since the first man got drunk on fermented grape juice or lost his wits as a result of a blow from a club, it was obvious that physical and chemical external agents could profoundly affect our states of consciousness, or background. Daring techniques in brain surgery or the latest psychoactive drugs merely make this point stronger.7 What can a person not be made to feel or think as a result of such external techniques? We have all heard of brain-washing, truth drugs, neural surgery, electrodes in the brain and the like. The most well-known operation to profoundly affect behaviour is frontal lobotomy, where by cutting some tracts of fibres connecting the frontal lobes to the rest of the brain leaves the mind as agile as before and lifts depression, but makes the victim behave thereafter in a slovenly and unreliable fashion. (This operation was discovered in 1848, when a railroad construction foreman, Phineas Gage, accidentally shot a four foot iron bar completely through his head! Instead of dying, he became quite happy and joked about the hole in his head all the way to the hospital. The first frontal lobotomy had been performed!!) 8
Nowadays it seems probable that even our memory can be chemically altered. The substance in the brain known as RNA seems to be connected with memory, for when some rats had to learn a difficult task, it was shown that their RNA content was considerably changed compared to that of some rats who did not have to memorise the situation.9 On the basis of this, some flatworms were conditioned by first shining a bright light and then giving them an electric shock, whereupon they curled up. Soon they curled up merely on having the light shone on them. When that was the case, their RNA was extracted and injected into other flatworms (who had never had the light nor the shock). It was found that these naive flatworms then curled up the moment the light shone on them; in other words, memory had been chemically transferred.10 It has also been shown that RNA given to humans increases their power of memory.11
So what (if any) non-externalist method is left to the third monk to alter his way of perception or backgrounds? Of course most people will instinctively deny that there is nothing in their life beyond the surgeon's knife, the chemist's drugs or the biologist's microscope. What, for instance, about the state of rapture when looking at a gorgeous sunset? Is that just a case of light patterns on the retina, neural impulses to the brain, a complex reshuffling of chemicals and electro-chemical signals to my jaw muscles causing my mouth to open and say, "What a lovely sunset!" Or what about falling in love? Is that also the result of neural activity in the brain, and labelled by the biologists 'the instinct to continue the species'?
The trouble is, that although we can legitimately hold that falling in love is beyond the reach of the scientist's laboratory, it is still an externalist process. For even though it may alter our state of consciousness, it is done so via external agencies, such as sunsets or other people.
So it seems that everything can be reduced to externalist terms, whether we choose the materialist language of science or not. For since we have defined an external agency to be something in the realm of difference or the diverse, then it becomes clear that the things the third monk can consider to change his way of looking at any situation are external. Certainly the drugs and electrodes of the scientist are, for in Part One we showed that all matter partakes of difference, and this includes the physical body along with its cells and nerves.
If we try to modify our viewpoint or background by creating an artificial environment, such as, to take an extreme examp1e, solitary confinement and sense deprivation, then this is also a resort to external agencies, since no situation is static but is always changing, and is thus subject to difference. This is certainly true of a sunset, and of falling in love, for the person we love is different from us and separate. Also that person and ourselves are constantly changing. Even in that love when we feel that the partner and ourself have become one, merged into each other, there is still difference. There is still some separation (at least on a spatial level) and of course there is always separateness from the rest of the world. And any experience, however transcendent and beautiful at the time is transient; it changes, and becomes a memory, and thus belongs to the diverse, or world of difference. This, of course, is true of all experience, not just being in love. However much insight and understanding or failing of being at one with the whole world results from a change in our level of consciousness, if the cause of that change in consciousness (eg another person, a sunset, LSD, art, etc) belongs to the realm of difference or the diverse, then the experience will as well. It cannot be a constant experience, but is bound by the diverse to change and vanish at some time.
Many religious or 'mystic' experiences fall into this category. Higher states of consciousness are induced by rituals, prayers (formal or private) or mantras ie sounds the practitioner concentrates upon. Since these causes are all in the diverse, then the resulting experience must also be in the diverse, and thus cannot lead to Peace.
The reader must note that we are not decrying as useless such acts as falling deeply in love or, having a moving religious experience. We are merely pointing out that if they rest solely on external agencies; (as they do) and thus belong to the world of difference and the diverse, they must then partake of duality and diversity and thus be unable to provide absolute satisfaction or Peace, since some suffering or dissatisfaction must be mixed in, since this is the nature of the diverse as we have seen. In other words, we cannot look to them for answering the central problem of human life, even though such experiences can obviously be intensely beautiful. The same argument can be applied to 'supernatural' experiences - ESP, PK, ghosts, contacting the dead etc, for by being external agencies belonging to the diverse, they only set up (or alter) our mental background, which are subject to change. In fact, even the more permanent backgrounds that we possess are set up by causes which are also external and thus in the diverse eg hereditary, upbringing and culture. Now not only is it the case that backgrounds cannot be modified except by external objects or events, but it is also the case that any mental background is itself composed of external 'objects'. For all the private 'objects' we can think of such as emotions, feelings, thoughts, desires, instincts etc are external objects according to our definition, since they are always changing and so belong to the realm of difference or the diverse. So in manipulating even this kind of 'external' object we are still only rearranging difference or diversity, and are not creating that unity or non-difference which is necessary for Peace.
Thus the solution of the mind-matter duality is simple far as this book is concerned - we simply regard all objects of experience as being external. Whether an object or event is public or private, by virtue of its belonging to the realm of difference or the diverse it is an 'external' object. That we divide the 'external world into public and private does not concern us; nor does a problem mentioned in Chapter 4 of how mind can affect matter and the body or vice versa. We can lump all external objects and 'things' together and say that because of that common factor of belonging to the diverse, they are all powerless to help us solve the essential question how to find that Peace which must lie beyond diversity and difference.
This explains why in Chapter 5 we did not call the third monk an 'internalist', which would seem an obvious term; there is no such thing as an 'internal' object - for us there is only external.
Thus it appears that all we have said of the external public world in Part Two is also valid of the private world, since that too is external. And since our task is to free ourself from attachment to the external and the realm of difference and diversity, then to look to the private world, as the third monk would have us do, is as fruitless as looking to the public world.
The argument, however, is not completely watertight, since it will be obvious that by external means we can, in fact alter our private world and its backgrounds so that we are not aware of any difference. An obvious example is a clout on the head, as mentioned earlier, or drugs, deep sleep or even death. This brings us back to the point in Chapter 1, that although unconsciousness is a logical way out of the awareness of difference or diversity and its attendant Unpeace, it is hardly an acceptable solution. That the reader is reading these words and has not clubbed himself into unconsciousness is sufficient proof of the unacceptability of such a solution! However, that we do, in fact, need a regular deliverance from diversity and Unpeace lies in the fact that we spend about one quarter of our life in deep non-conscious sleep in which all difference vanishes from our consciousness.12 Again, we assume that the reader agrees that a continuous deep sleep, even if possible, is not the answer.
To conclude this chapter and Part Two of this book, we will look briefly at another way of arriving at the conclusion that everything we are aware of in the private world is external and thus belongs to the diverse.
In everyday speech, if we say an object is 'external', we mean that it is outside us in some way (usually spatially). We are saying "This is me here, and that is the object there." I can say my pen is an external object since I can hold it at arm's length, and see that it is situated there, at one and of my arm, and 'I' am situated here, at the other end of my arm.
Now we can carry out the same sort of procedure with private objects. If I am quite happy, and then something happens that annoys me, I can see my anger grow and then a little later vanish. I can figuratively speaking hold my anger at arm's length and say "That is my anger there." In other words, I can form a concept of it, and look at it with my 'mind's eye', ie externalise it. I do not identify the anger as being 'me', but I call it "my anger", inferring that although the anger belongs to me, it is not 'me' (whatever 'me' is), it is in a sense outside 'me' and can thus be classified as an external 'object'.
The same kind of thing can be said for any emotion, feeling or thought. They are things which are not me, but outside me, and I call them "my feelings" or "my thoughts", thus instinctively thinking of them as things 'external' to 'me'.
This is the case with anything we can think about. I can think of my body, and thus it is not me but something external which belongs to me, and so I call it 'my body'. And not only bodies or thoughts and feelings, but anything which we can think about. I can think about and talk in terms of "my mind", "my personality", "my state of consciousness" or even "my ego", and in so doing I automatically think of these things as being external. And not only do I feel them to be external by virtue of being able to hold them at arm's length, as it were, but the mere fact that I can think about them discursively means that they belong to the world of difference or the diverse, as we have discussed in earlier chapters.
So this approach leads to the same result as before, and again confirms the conclusion that the private or mental world is 'external' and belongs to the diverse. Thus we can conclude Part Two by saying that neither the public and material or physical world, nor the private and mental world, nor the workings of the intellect and discursive thought, hold of themselves any hope for providing the solution of the fundamental problem of how to obtain peace, on account of their belonging to difference and the diverse.
We began this chapter by summarising the argument of the book so far, concluding that all forms of externalism and discursive thought could not take us out of Unpeace. Then we considered the third monk's attitude of looking to the private world, and developed the concept of 'background'. Having shown that mental backgrounds were very important in our interpretation of the public world, we then showed that they and all private 'objects' were in fact in the diverse. Three basic arguments were used to demonstrate this:
- i) any method employed to alter background belongs itself to the diverse,
- ii) all private objects are in the diverse, and are thus external by definition and
- iii) all private objects are external, and are thus in the diverse by definition.
We concluded that the private world is thus as unfitted for finding Peace, as is the public world and the intellect.