THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE, #22–The Two Images Problem and its Consequences.

By Robert Hanna

“FUTUREWORLD,” by A. Lee/Unsplash

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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 twenty-second installment contains sub-section 2.2.3.

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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)

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

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

2.2 The Emergence of Post-Classical Analytic Philosophy

2.2.3 The Two Images Problem and its Consequences

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

APPENDICES

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

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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2.2.3 The Two Images Problem and its Consequences

Correspondingly, it’s plausibly arguable, and indeed was also compellingly argued by, for example, Hilary Putnam and John McDowell, during the 1990s (Putnam, 1990, 1994, 1999; McDowell, 1994), that the basic problem of post-classical Analytic philosophy and phenomenology after 1950, alike — and indeed also the fundamental problem of modern philosophy — is how it is possible to reconcile two sharply different, seemingly incommensurable, and apparently even mutually exclusive global metaphysical conceptions, or world-pictures, of rational human animals and nature alike. On the one hand, there’s the objective, non-phenomenal, perspectiveless, formally and naturally mechanistic, value-neutral, impersonal, and amoral metaphysical picture of the world delivered by logic, pure mathematics, and the fundamental natural sciences — the very ideal that animated The Vienna Circle. And on the other hand, there’s the subjective, phenomenal, perspectival, teleological, value-laden, person-oriented, and moral metaphysical picture of the world yielded by the conscious experience of rational human animals. In 1963, Sellars aptly and evocatively dubbed these two sharply opposed world-conceptions “the scientific image” and “the manifest image” (Sellars, 1963b). Correspondingly, I’ll call the profound difficulty raised by their mutual incommensurability and inconsistency The Two Images Problem.

After 1950, scientific naturalism promised a possible complete solution to The Two Images Problem, by holding, according to Sellars’s famous formulation, that

[i]n the dimension of describing and explaining the world, science is the measure of all things, of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not. (Sellars, 1963c: p. 173)

Here, Sellars’s term-of-art ‘‘science’’ clearly refers to the formal and natural sciences, as I’ve been using those terms, including logic, mathematics, physics, chemistry, and biology.

Most importantly, however, it’s clear that when Sellars asserts that “science is the measure of all things,” he’s asserting (i) the theses of universal formal mechanism and universal natural mechanism, i.e., he’s asserting the mechanistic worldview, and also (ii) that the predictive precision of the formal and natural sciences is to be taken as incontrovertible evidence of their reliability and truth, thereby strongly reinforcing the mechanistic mindset. Correspondingly, according to the standard construal of scientific theory-reduction, both chemistry and biology have a fully mathematically describable and microphysical basis in fundamental physical entities, properties, facts, and processes, and therefore they are all fully grounded in a fundamental, formally and naturally mechanistic physics, nowadays construed according to the Standard Models of cosmology and particle physics — for more details, see chapter 4 below.

For my present purposes in this chapter, it’s critically essential, and indeed also both morally and mortally essential, to recognize that if scientific naturalism were true, then not only would (i) philosophy as a form of inquiry, as a practice, and as a social institution, be superseded by the formal and natural sciences, which directly entails the death-by-redundancy of philosophy itself (see also Mabaquiao, 2021), but also, (ii) because according to this view our consciousness, intentionality, self-consciousness, free agency, rationality, normative principles, truth, ideals-&-values, etc., are all either (iia) mere eliminable myths, or (iib) fully reducible to fundamentally physical facts, or, at the very least, (iic) strictly dependent on fundamentally physical facts and thus epiphenomenal, with no causal powers of their own, then it follows that (iii) we are nothing but biological machines with a built-in strong tendency to deceive ourselves by falsely believing in the irreducible and causally efficacious nature of our own consciousness, intentionality, free agency, normative principles, truth, ideals-&-values, etc. Hence (iv) by the same token, then we would be just as likely to be self-deceived about the truth of scientific naturalism itself, as not, so it follows that we are not rationally justified in believing it, all of which directly entails (v) the death-by-self-stultification of post-classical Analytic philosophy itself.

Therefore, at the foundational level, since 1950 and especially over the last forty-one years — 1985–2021 — the Analytic tradition has been living on borrowed time and running on empty, powered only by the combined inertia of its philosophically self-stultifying yet also hegemonic ideology[i] and its social-institutional domination of philosophy inside the professional academy: a philosophical behemoth on wheels that is built, like Hobbes’s Leviathan — the early modern liberal State — solely and wholly out of the compliant, contractually-bound, “captive minds” of post-classical Analytic philosophers and other professional academic philosophers,[ii] spiralling down into the ash-heap of history (Hanna, 2021a).

Spinning off this trajectory, by way of an instructive epicycle in the larger downward spiral of post-classical Analytic philosophy, a group of post-classical Analytic philosophers home-based at the universities of Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Leipzig,[iii] using the non-scientistic and neo-Kantian elements of Sellars’s work as a springboard, and hoping to avoid the crash-and-burn fate of the Analytic tradition, have full-circled back to British neo-Hegelianism and created a contemporary hybrid, Analytic neo-Hegelianism. But Analytic neo-Hegelianism is much too little, much too late. For it suffers from essentially the same basic metaphysical, cognitive-semantic, epistemological, and political flaws as classical German absolute idealism, flaws that were critically identified and compellingly formulated in the 19th century by classical neo-Kantians (Köhnke, 1991; Beiser, 2014), and then identified and formulated again at the turn of the 20th century by Moore, Russell, early Wittgenstein, and other Young Turks of early classical Analytic philosophy.[iv] So at the end of the day, Analytic neo-Hegelianism is at best a technically-adept sons et lumières show vainly imitating The Owl of Minerva, as the light inevitably dies and darkness falls on post-classical Analytic philosophy (Hanna, 2019a, 2020a).

NOTES

[ii] The allusion is to Czeslaw Milosz’s classic study of mind-control and mental slavery in post-World War II, mid-20th century social institutions, The Captive Mind (Milosz, 1955). For an extension of essentially the same line of critical thinking to the contemporary professional academy in general, see (Schmidt, 2000). And for a much-elaborated application of that line of critical thinking to mainstream contemporary professional academic philosophy in particular, see the blog Against Professional Philosophy (Z, 2013–2022).

[iii] The leading figures in the Pittsburgh-Chicago-Leipzig Analytic neo-Hegelian school include Nicholas Rescher, John McDowell, John Haugeland, Graham Priest, Robert Brandom, Robert Pippin, Irad Kimhi, and Sebastian Rödl.

[iv] Although I think that the critical objections of the classical neo-Kantians and the early classical Analytic philosophers to absolute idealism are substantially cogent, it must also be acknowledged that the absolute idealist tradition has made some defensible and enduring contributions to the philosophy of history, nature, and society. This is especially true of Schelling and Hegel. See, e.g., (Gare, 2011, 2019).

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Mr Nemo

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