THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE, #12–Sensible Science 1: Natural Science Without Natural Mechanism.
By Robert Hanna
This book, THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE: Uniscience and the Modern World, by Robert Hanna, presents and defends a critical philosophy of science and digital technology, and a new and prescient philosophy of nature and human thinking.
It is being made available here in serial format, but you can also download and read or share a .pdf of the complete text of THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE HERE.
This twelfth installment contains section 1.7.
We know the truth not only through our reason but also through our heart. It is through the latter that we know first principles, and reason, which has nothing to do with it, tries in vain to refute them. (Pascal, 1995: #110, p. 28)
If there is any science humankind really needs, it is the one I teach, of how to occupy properly that place in [the world] that is assigned to humankind, and how to learn from it what one must be in order to be human. (Rem 20: 45)
Natural science will one day incorporate the science of humankind, just as the science of humankind will incorporate natural science; there will be a single science. (Marx, 1964: p. 70, translation modified slightly)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
A NOTE ON REFERENCES TO KANT’S WORKS
1.7 Sensible Science 1: Natural Science Without Natural Mechanism
Chapter 2. This is The Way The Worlds Ends: A Philosophy of Civilization Since 1900, The Rise of Mechanism, and The Emergence of Neo-Organicism
Chapter 3. Thought-Shapers
Chapter 4. How To Complete Physics
Chapter 5. Digital Technology Only Within The Limits of Human Dignity
00. Conclusion: The Point Is To Shape The World
Appendix 1: A Note on The Löwenheim-Skolem Theorem, “Skolem’s Paradox,” and Neo-Organicism
Appendix 2: A Neo-Organicist Approach to The Nature of Motion
Appendix 3: Sensible Set Theory
Appendix 4: Neo-Organicism and The Rubber Sheet Cosmos
1.7 Sensible Science 1: Natural Science Without Natural Mechanism
According to what I’ve been calling Kant’s anti-mechanism, there’s a fundamental ontological and metaphysical difference between (i) natural mechanisms, that is, deterministic — or indeterministic for that matter, although as I mentioned above, Kant himself wouldn’t have been in a good historical-theoretical position to recognize that, since the very idea of indeterminism and probabilistic/statistical/stochastic laws was a 19th century discovery or invention (Hacking, 1990) — mechanistic processes in nature, and (ii) natural purposes, that is, spontaneous, teleological, self-organizing, living organismic processes in nature, including mental processes, all of which are also self-organizing, living, organismic processes:
[L]ife is the subjective condition of all our possible experience. (Prol 4: 335).
[T]he mind is for itself entirely life (the principle of life itself). (CPJ 5: 278)
But according to Kant in the second half of the third Critique, although natural science can and actually does know natural mechanisms, it cannot know natural purposes, as this now thrice-quoted text asserts:
It is quite certain that we can never adequately come to know the organized beings and their internal possibility in accordance with merely mechanical principles of nature, let alone explain them; and this is so certain that we can boldly say that it would be absurd for humans to make an attempt or to hope that there could ever arise a Newton who could make comprehensible even the generation of a blade of grass according to natural laws that no intention has ordered; rather we must absolutely deny this insight to human beings. (CPJ5: 400)
Hence, according to Kant in the second half of the third Critique, although natural science cannot know the real difference between natural mechanisms and natural purposes, it must also investigate nature as if there were a real difference between them, as a regulative Idea for the purposes of a coherent and progressive natural-scientific investigation of nature.
Now although this “regulative” (hypothetical-practical) conception of natural purposes is not “constitutive” (assertoric-theoretical), nevertheless it also directly entails the synthetic a priori subjunctive conditional truth that necessarily, if natural purposes were to exist, then universal natural mechanism would be false. But since Strong Kantian Non-Conceptualism is true, we can also advance from Kant’s necessary subjunctive conditional thesis to a corresponding assertoric thesis that I’ve been calling Kantian anti-mechanism. According to Kantian anti-mechanism, although natural science cannot know either natural purposes or the difference between natural mechanisms and natural purposes, nevertheless we human cognizers can and actually do also have veridical essentially non-conceptual cognition of natural purposes, by means of the “feeling of life” in our aesthetic experience of the beautiful and the sublime in nature (CPJ 5: 204). In this way, natural purposes actually exist in manifestly real nature, because we actually exist in manifestly real nature and because we veridically feel our own life and we are living organisms: therefore, not everything in veridically apparent or manifestly real nature is a natural mechanism.
Since we actually exist in veridically apparent or manifestly real nature, and since we are natural purposes, and since it is not only the case, (i) according to the third section of the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, that we must conceive ourselves under a regulative Idea of our own free agency and act as if we were transcendentally and practically free, and also not only the case (ii) according to the third Postulate of Pure Practical Reason in the Critique of Practical Reason, that we must have moral faith (Glaube) in our freedom, but also the case, (iii) according to the “Fact of Reason” in the second Critique, that we have a direct essentially non-conceptual awareness of our own freedom, then it follows directly, according to what I’ve called Kant’s biological theory of freedom (Hanna, 2009) and also his Embodied Agency Theory of free will and practical agency (Hanna, 2006a: ch. 8), that (iv) transcendental, practical, and autonomous freedom really and truly exist in the manifestly real world, as biological facts about our own lives, at the source of our self-determining, creative agency. More specifically, just as conscious, self-conscious, intentional, emotional, volitional mind is essentially a mechanistically/deterministically and physicalistically irreducible form of life, so too our self-determining, creative, deeply free agentive sourcehood is essentially a mechanistically/deterministically and physicalistically irreducible form of life. Or in other and fewer words, as per Kant’s biological theory of freedom and Embodied Agency Theory of free will and practical agency, Kant is an anti-mechanistic/organicist source incompatibilist.
According to Kant in the first Critique and in the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science, matter is essentially a nomologically-governed totality of dynamic attractive and repulsive forces. Moreover, in the unfinished Transition from the Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science to Physics project contained in the Opus postumum, Kant argues in the so-called “Aether Deduction” that an a priori material condition of the possibility of experience is an actual material correlate of the supersensible substrate, namely, the universal dynamic aether, as the unified totality of attractive and repulsive forces, as the dual causal source of inert matter in motion (natural mechanisms) and also natural purposes (living organisms) alike (OP 21: 206–233). Kant’s universal dynamic aether is, in effect, what we would now call “fields” or “matter/energy flows.” Indeed, viewed in this retrospective light, with 20–20 philosophical hindsight in 2022, it’s clear-&-distinct that Kant’s dynamic aether theory is fully compatible with some or another version of quantum field theory, holding fixed and bracketting the standard competing metaphysical interpretations of the quantum phenomena and quantum mechanics (for example, the Copenhagen or Bohrian/Heisenbergian interpretation, the Bohmian “hidden variables” interpretation,[i] the Bohmian “implicate order” interpretation, the “multiverse” interpretation, etc.) that don’t merely belong to physics but also to metaphysics, i.e., to cosmologically-oriented philosophy. In turn, the universal dynamic aether minimally obeys The Conservation Laws, Turing-computability, and the mechanistic dynamics of time-reversible, entropic, equilibrium systems, in the precise sense that (i) it’s universally compatible/consistent with The Conservation Laws, and (ii) at least some natural processes operate according to The 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics, according to the basic constraints of Turing-computability, since they can be simulated post hoc on a real world Turing-machine, given a complete set of discrete physical “digits” over which computation occurs, and holding all the general laws of nature fixed. And to the extent that at least some natural processes are necessarily nomologically determined by The Conservation Laws and The 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics, together with all the settled quantity-of-energy facts about the past, and also Turing-computable from those laws and facts, then those — but only those — processes are natural mechanisms.
Nevertheless, just because X is metaphysically compatible/consistent with Y, it does not follow that Y necessarily determines X. Therefore, just because some natural processes in the universal dynamic aether are metaphysically compatible/consistent with The Conservation Laws, The 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics, and Turing-computability, it does not follow that every process is a natural mechanism. A natural process in the universal dynamic aether is a natural mechanism if and only if it’s necessarily determined by The Conservation Laws and The 1st and 2nd Laws, together with all the settled quantity-of-energy facts about the past, and Turing-computable from those laws and facts. Or in other words, any natural process within the dynamic aether is a natural mechanism if and only if it is inherently governed by The Conservation Laws, The 1st and 2nd Laws, and Turing-computable algorithms. But if the existence and specific character of any given natural process within the universal dynamic aether are minimally in conformity with The Conservation Laws and Turing-computability, then that process need not actually be a natural mechanism. For it’s really possible for that natural process actually to be a natural purpose, while still minimally obeying The Conservation Laws, and thus The 1st Law of Thermodynamics, provided that it also violates The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, in accordance with non-equilibrium thermodynamics.
A natural purpose, via its non-equilibrium thermodynamic spontaneity, therefore, does not bring more matter or energy into the world, which would violate The Conservation Laws and The 1st Law of Thermodynamics: on the contrary, it brings only irreducibly new and uncomputable self-organizing forms of the universal dynamic aether into the world, which is still minimally in conformity with The Conservation Laws and The 1st Law of Thermodynamics, but it also reverses entropy. It thereby creates negentropy and increases the total amount of structural “information” in the world in an uncomputable way, but does not increase the total amount of matter or energy. This in turn suggests a Kantian anti-mechanist advertising slogan:
Create negentropy!: just do it.
Like an artistic genius, who “gives the law to nature,” spontaneous natural purposes, including especially including free minded animal intentional agents, creatively self-organize, and therefore creatively self-determine, but they are not causa sui.
We already know from the first section of the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals that there’s a categorical distinction between (i) choice and action that’s minimally in conformity with The Categorical Imperative, and (ii) choice and action that’s inherently governed by The Categorical Imperative. Therefore, the distinction between (i*) natural processes that are minimally in conformity with basic causal natural laws including The Conservation Laws and thus The 1st Law of Thermodynamics, and (ii*) natural processes that are inherently governed by all basic and non-basic causal natural laws, including The 1st and 2nd Laws of Thermodynamics, is simply a theoretical-nomic Kantian generalization of that Kantian practical-nomic distinction. In any case, in the Opus postumum, as we just saw, according to Kant, the universal dynamic aether is also the synthetic a priori real metaphysical ground of organismic life, mind, and freedom, insofar as the irreducible structures of organismic life, mind, and freedom emerge in intrinsic-relational orientable space and through intrinsic-relational irreversible time. Because the metaphysical grounding of life, mind, and freedom in the universal dynamic aether is synthetic a priori and based on negentropic natural purposes in intrinsic-relational orientable space and intrinsic-relational irreversible time, then, over and above their compatibility/consistency with The Conservation Laws and thus The 1st Law of Thermodynamics, this is dynamic emergence, as opposed to static so-called “emergence,” which, sharply unlike dynamic emergence, is inherently insensitive to manifest essence, spatiotemporal asymmetry, and spatiotemporal spread/duration, and also fully open to either physicalist reduction (logical strong supervenience) or causal-explanatory exclusion/epiphenomenalism (natural/nomological strong supervenience).[ii]
In dynamic emergence, novel irreducible structure is immanently integrated with existing simpler structures, in essentially the same way that the irreducible but inherently more complex systems of the real numbers and complex numbers occur between the systems of the rational numbers and natural numbers, not “over and above” the rational numbers and natural numbers. By sharp contrast (if in fact they really existed, which I deny[iii]), statically emergent properties, as extrinsic properties, would merely metaphysically “pop out” of their supervenience-bases, and dualistically-epiphenomenally exist “over and above” those bases. Notice that in the mathematical analogy, Turing-computability operates via the primitive recursive functions characteristic of the rational and natural number systems: therefore Turing-computation runs on top of the novel integrated complex and real number structures, which are the deeper, “mathematically efficacious” structures. Or in other words, Turing-computation is “mathematically epiphenomenal” in relation to the complex and real number structures. Hence, by analogy, in dynamic emergence it is the simpler pre-emergent, natural-mechanistic processes and structures that are dualistic-epiphenomenal in relation to the more basic nonequilibrium thermodynamic processes, “running on top of” everything else, not the more complex novel integrated immanent structures, grounded in nonequilibrium thermodynamics, which are the fundamentally causally efficacious structures in the new system. In static or “pop-out” emergence (if in fact it really existed, which I deny[iv]) it would be precisely the other way around.
Therefore, by the time of his post-Critical period after 1787, and presupposing the nomological framework of Kant’s Neo-Aristotelian Natural Power Grid, then Kant is (more or less) explicitly committed to the following dual or two-part robustly non-reductive real-metaphysical continuity/grounding thesis: (i) mind-in-life = mind is irreducibly metaphysically grounded in life = life metaphysically contains all that is needed for the dynamic emergence of mind, but in a less complex form — “mind is for itself entirely life (the principle of life itself),” and (ii) life-in-unversal-dynamic-aether (aka life-in-energy) = life is irreducibly metaphysically grounded in the universal dynamic aether (energy) = the universal dynamic aether metaphysically contains all that’s needed for the dynamic emergence of life, but in a less complex form.
In order to understand these theses correctly, we should explicitly compare and contrast (i) Kant’s or Kantian dynamic emergentism, mind-in-life, and life-in-universal-dynamic-aether theses (aka Kant’s dynamic world conception), with (ii) hylozoism, which says that everything in nature is alive, and also with (iii) panpsychism or panexperientialism, which says that everything in nature is conscious or protoconscious, that is, everything in nature has either subjective experiences or phenomenal states of some sort. According to Kant’s dynamic world conception, (ia) not everything in nature is either alive or has consciousness/intentionality, or freedom, but also (ib) necessarily, there’s nothing in nature that could not, in principle, become a part of life or conscious/intentional mind, or freedom, that is, necessarily, everything in nature is inherently open to the real possibility of life, conscious/intentional mind, and freedom, and (ic) life, mind, and freedom dynamically emerge in orientable space and over irreversible time, as irreducible forms of the universal dynamic aether (energy), as dynamic complexity increases.
It should also be noted, before moving on, that hylozoism and panpsychism or panexperientialism are not metaphysically “crazy” theses: they are merely too strong. It seems fairly unlikely that rocks and beer bottles have life or consciousness or proto-consciousness, whether macroscopically or microscopically. But hylozoism and panpsychism/panexperientialism are on the side of the metaphysical angels, because at least they acknowledge that the “conceptual dualisms” of (i) inherently-matter-excluding mind vs. inherently-mind-excluding matter, and (ii) inherently-matter-excluding life vs. inherently life-excluding matter, really and truly are metaphysically “crazy,” since (i) and (ii) both deny what is phenomenologically self-evident: the essential embodiment of our minds in a suitably complex living organism. So, diametrically on the contrary, only the dogmatic belief in scientific naturalism, especially including the sub-theses of universal natural mechanism and (reductive or non-reductive) physicalism, makes hylozoism and panpsychism/panexperientialism seem metaphysically “crazy.”
But what’s even more directly to the point, since we are, phenomenologically self-evidently, minded and alive and essentially embodied beings, then clearly it’s actually scientific naturalism that’s metaphysically “crazy,” since it denies what’s phenomenologically self-evident in our own first-person case of essentially embodied consciousness, intentionality, caring/emotion, and rationality: mind-in-life and life-in-matter/energy, hence mind-in-matter/energy. Everything is thermodynamically energetic, potentially or actually: free agency is a complex form of life, mind is a complex form of life, and life is a complex form of matter/energy flows. What is phenomenologically self-evident, then, is universal dynamicism, and metaphysical continuity, all the way through nature, from free agency to matter = energy. So dualism and materialism/physicalism alike are phenomenologically self-evidently bonkers.
Or in other words, and now more explicitly, by “phenomenologically self-evident” I mean this:
A claim C is phenomenologically self-evident for a rational human subject S if and only if (i) S’s belief in C relies on directly-given conscious or self-conscious manifest evidence about human experience, and (ii) C’s denial is either logically or conceptually self-contradictory (i.e., it’s an analytic self-contradiction), really metaphysically impossible (i.e., it’s a Kantian synthetic a priori impossibility), or pragmatically self-stultifying for S (i.e., it’s what Kant calls “a contradiction in [S’s] own will” in the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals [GMM 4: 424]).
In turn, this leads directly to what I call the criterion of phenomenological adequacy for metaphysical theories:
A metaphysical theory MT is phenomenologically adequate if and only if MT is evidentially grounded on all and only phenomenologically self-evident theses. (Hanna, 2018a: part 1, section 1.3, pp. 3–6).
Therefore, by virtue of its commitment to materialism/physicalism, scientific naturalism fails the basic metaphysical evidential criterion of phenomenological adequacy.
[i] In sections 4.3 and 4.4. below, however, I’ll spell out and argue for a neo-organicist interpretation of the Bohmian hidden variables theory that’s also smoothly coherent with broadly and radically Kantian weak or counterfactual transcendental idealism.
[ii] For explicit definitions of logical and natural/nomological strong supervenience, see sub-sub-section 220.127.116.11 below: in that section, I also deny that static emergence is metaphysically real — indeed, I argue that it’s nothing but a metaphysical myth of the mechanistic worldview, and that only dynamic emergence is metaphysically real.
[iii] As per note [i], I’m going to argue in sub-sub-section that static emergence is nothing but a metaphysical myth of the mechanistic worldview, and that only dynamic emergence is metaphysically real.
[iv] See notes [i] and [ii] above.
AGAINST PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY REDUX 638
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