THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE, #20– Formal and Natural Science After 1945, The Mechanistic Mindset, and The Rise of The Mechanistic Worldview.

By Robert Hanna

“FUTUREWORLD,” by A. Lee/Unsplash


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–including the BIBLIOGRAPHY–of THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE HERE.

This twentieth installment contains sub-section 2.2.1.


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)





0. Introduction: Science, The Four Horsemen of The New Apocalypse, and The Uniscience

0.0 How Uncritical and Unreformed Science Is Literally Killing The Modern World

0.1 My Aim In This Book

0.2 The Uniscience and Pascal’s Dictum

Chapter 1. Natural Piety: A Kantian Critique of Science

1.0 Kantian Heavy-Duty Enlightenment and The Uniscience

1.1 Kant’s Neo-Aristotelian Natural Power Grid

1.2 Kant, Natural Piety, and The Limits of Science

1.3 From Kant’s Anti-Mechanism to Kantian Anti-Mechanism

1.4 In Defense of Natural Piety

1.5 Scientific Pietism and Scientific Naturalism

1.6 How to Ground Natural Science on Sensibility

1.7 Sensible Science 1: Natural Science Without Natural Mechanism

1.8 Sensible Science 2: Natural Science Without Materialism/Physicalism

1.9 Sensible Science 3: Natural Science Without Scientism

1.10 Frankenscience, the Future of Humanity, and the Future of Science

Chapter 2. This is the Way the World Ends: A Philosophy of Civilization Since 1900, The Rise of Mechanism, and The Emergence of Neo-Organicism

2.0 Introduction

2.1 Wrestling with Modernity: 1900–1940

2.1.1 Six Sociocultural or Sociopolitical Developments

2.1.2 Two Philosophical Developments: Classical Analytic Philosophy and First Wave Organicism

2.1.3 Architectural and Artistic Trends

2.2 The Historical Black Hole, The Mechanistic Mindset, and The Mechanistic Worldview: 1940–1980

2.2.1 Formal and Natural Science After 1945, The Mechanistic Mindset, and The Rise of The Mechanistic Worldview

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



2.2. The Historical Black Hole, the Mechanistic Mindset, and The Mechanistic Worldview: 1940–1980

Then World War II happened (see, e.g., Weinberg, 2005), forming as it were a historical black hole in the middle of the 20th century, indiscriminately and relentlessly absorbing, ending, and/or exploiting massive numbers of human lives and correspondingly massive amounts of intellectual energy, physical material, and sociopolitical energy, all in historically unprecedented ways. In effect, nothing could escape from the grip of this historical black hole for six years, 1939–1945. But at the same time, World War II also created the human, intellectual, and sociopolitical conditions for scientific and technological developments in the decades immediately following 1945. Moreover, these technological advances heavily determined how humanity conceptualized the relationship between the State and society. The idea of “engineering” an entire society and all its citizens gripped humanity, and had immediate and eventually massive philosophical, artistic, scientific, social, and political consequences.

2.2.1 Formal and Natural Science After 1945, The Mechanistic Mindset, and The Rise of The Mechanistic Worldview

By the end of World War II, physicists working on the USA-funded Manhattan Project had produced the atomic bomb, and thereby helped to kill hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians in two cruel blows directed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and to create the Cold War atomic weapons build-up, thereby threatening — and continuing to threaten, 75+ years later — humanity with existential extinction (see also section 5.5 below). At the same time, technological advances flowing from World War II and the US-Russian Space Race during the 1950s and 1960s, helped to cement a widespread cultural attitude that I’ll call the mechanistic mindset. Just as early Analytic philosophers and the Logical Empiricist/Positivist philosophers of The Vienna Circle placed their faith in logicism, i.e., the explanatory and ontological reduction of mathematics to logic, or at the very least in logic-driven philosophy, so too non-philosophers placed their faith in the idea of endless economic and sociopolitical progress driven by the formal and natural sciences-driven application of technology to humanity’s problems.

Correspondingly, the mechanistic worldview triumphed in physics, biology, and chemistry (aka universal natural mechanism), as well as in the formal sciences that subserve those natural sciences (aka universal formal mechanism), yielding the development of the earliest versions of real-world Turing machines — i.e., digital computers and other digital technology — decision-theoretic economics, cybernetics in general, and artificial intelligence/AI in particular.

As I noted in the Introduction, according to the mechanistic worldview, everything in the natural world taken as a whole and also in all its basic parts, aka the cosmos, is essentially either a formal mechanism or a natural mechanism. More precisely, the doctrine of universal formal mechanism says that all communicative content, semantic content, logical content, mathematical content, pictorial content, some other kind of representational content, and information more generally, is strictly determined by Turing-computable algorithms and/or recursive functions; and the doctrine of universal natural mechanism says that all the causal powers of everything whatsoever in the cosmos are ultimately fixed by what can be digitally computed on a universal deterministic or indeterministic real-world Turing machine, provided that the following three plausible “causal orderliness” and “decompositionality” assumptions are all satisfied: (i) its causal powers are necessarily determined by the general deterministic or indeterministic causal natural laws, especially The Conservation Laws, including The 1st Law of Thermodynamics, and also The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, together with all the settled quantity-of-matter-and/or-energy facts about the past, especially including The Big Bang, (ii) the causal powers of the real-world Turing machine are held fixed under the general causal laws of nature, and (iii) the “digits” over which the real-world Turing machine computes constitute a complete denumerable set of spatiotemporally discrete physical objects.

Therefore, as I also pointed out in the Introduction, if the mechanistic worldview is true, then all organisms are nothing but more-or-less complex biological automata, or “survival machines” (Dawkins, 2006), and we’re nothing but “biochemical puppets” (Harris, 2012) or “moist robots” (Dennett, as quoted in Schuessler, 2013). And in this way, the mechanistic world resurrects Pierre-Simon Laplace’s Demon in the guise of 20th and 21st century computer science and the Standard Models of cosmology and particle physics: just as Laplace imagined a demon who could predict all possible events and their consequences, so too would the theory of computers together with our best physical theories provide the tools for mastering the inherently predictable realm of nature.

In this way, mirroring an unbridled confidence in the dual doctrines of universal formal mechanism — as, for example, in the work of John von Neumann (see also section 5.5 below), Norbert Wiener, John Nash, and the MIT/Princeton research axis — and universal natural mechanism, as per the Standard Models, together with massive government and private funding for universities, together with advanced capitalism and neoliberalism, after 1950 Eisenhower’s “military-industrial complex” gradually evolved into the military-industrial-university-digital complex and The Hyper-State. This profoundly alarming development is in many ways epitomized, for example, by the activities of The RAND Corporation — itself closely associated with the rise of post-classical Analytic philosophy (Isaac, 2013; McCumber, 2016), as per the next sub-sub-section — but in any case, this development has also been brilliantly displayed and criticized in Lutz Dammbeck’s 2003 film, The Net: The Unabomber, LSD, and the Internet (Das Netz) (Dammbeck, 2003).


Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Monday 25 April 2022

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Mr Nemo

Mr Nemo

Formerly Captain Nemo. A not-so-very-angry, but still unemployed, full-time philosopher-nobody.