THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE, #25–Seven Arguments Against 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 twenty-fifth installment contains sub-sections 2.4.0 and 2.4.1.

***

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)

***

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A NOTE ON REFERENCES TO KANT’S WORKS

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

2.2.4 Modernism and Countercurrents in the Arts and Design

2.3 The Philosophical Great Divide, Post-Modernist Cultural Nihilism, and Other Apocalyptic Developments: 1980–2022

2.3.1 The Rise of Po-Mo Philosophy

2.3.2 Po-Mo Architecture: Unconstrained Hybridity

2.3.3 Other Apocalyptic Developments: Crises in Physics and Big Science, and The One-Two Punch

2.4 From The Mechanistic Worldview to Neo-Organicism

2.4.0 Against The Mechanistic Worldview

2.4.1 Seven Arguments Against The Mechanistic Worldview

2.4.1.1 Logical and Mathematical Arguments

2.4.1.2 Physical and Metaphysical Arguments

2.4.1.3 Mentalistic and Agential Arguments

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

***

2.4 From The Mechanistic Worldview To Neo-Organicism

“The Human as Industrial Palace,” by Fritz Kahn (1926)
“Les Jardins D’Étretat,” by A. Kazantceva/Unsplash

2.4.0 Against The Mechanistic Worldview

As Olivia Newton John — whose maternal grandfather, not altogether irrelevantly, was Max Born, the pioneering investigator in quantum mechanics and Nobel Prize recipient — put it both iconically and also laconically in her 1981 breakthrough music video, “Physical”: let’s get physical. But, now turning from not-so-serious pop music to serious philosophy, the very idea of our “getting physical” is profoundly ambiguous. For are we talking about humanity either (i) as rational “human, all-too-human” animals, i.e., as living human organisms that are also conscious free agents, or (ii) as natural automata, aka natural machines? According to the mechanistic worldview, everything whatsoever in the cosmos is either a formal automaton/formal machine or a natural automaton/natural machine, including all rational human animals. But diametrically on the contrary, according to the worldview I’m defending — i.e., the new wave organicist, aka neo-organicist, worldview (see also Torday, Miller Jr, and Hanna, 2020) — only some things are machines, organisms aren’tmachines, we aren’t machines, and all formal mechanisms and natural mechanisms are not only categorically different from what’s organic but also either strongly logically supervenient on or strongly naturally/nomologically supervenient on the essentially processual, purposive, and self-organizing — or in a word, organic — nature of the cosmos.

Whitehead’s cosmological and metaphysical magnum opus, Process and Reality, can be regarded as the definitive statement of first wave organicism (see section 2.1 above). But because Process and Reality was written and published by 1929, Whitehead wasn’t in an intellectual-historical position to know about Gödel’s incompleteness theorems (1931), Tarski’s semantic conception of truth (1933, 1944), Alonzo Church’s undecidability result for first-order predicate logic (1936), Turing’s theory of computation and the Church-Turing thesis (1936–1937), Prigogine’s and his co-researchers’ work on non-equilibrium thermodynamics and complex systems dynamics (1970s to 1990s), or Varela’s and his co-researchers’ work autopoietic approach to organismic biology (1970s), all of which are essential inputs to the neo-organicist worldview. For whatever reasons, but perhaps because he associated it too closely with 19th century German neo-Kantian philosophy, Whitehead was not sympathetic to Kant’s philosophy, another essential input to neo-organicism. Nor was Whitehead, who died in 1947, familiar with the essential embodiment approach to the mind-body problem, whose origins can be traced back to Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception, published in French in 1945, when Whitehead was 84, but not translated into English until 1962. So, it’s possible to characterize the essential difference between first wave organicism and neo-organicism as being constituted by the fact that neo-organicism possesses a substantive repertoire of robust formal-scientific, natural-scientific, and specifically philosophical concepts, methods, and results that, for various reasons, simply weren’t available to first wave organicism.

2.4.1 Seven Arguments Against The Mechanistic Worldview

To start the neo-organicist ball rolling, I’m now going to present seven arguments against the mechanistic worldview. For purposes of clarity and convenience, I’ve grouped my arguments into three clusters over three sub-sub-sections, as follows: sub-sub-section 2.4.1.1 — logical and mathematical arguments (arguments 2.4.1.1a and 2.4.1.1b), sub-sub-section 2.4.1.2 — physical and metaphysical arguments (arguments 2.4.1.2a and 2.4.1.2b), and sub-sub-section 2.4.1.3 — mentalistic and agential arguments (arguments 2.4.1.3a, 2.4.1.3b, and 2.4.1.3c). Some of the sub-sub-sections, in turn, are divided into further sub-sub-sub arguments (arguments 2.4.1.1bi, 2.4.1.1bii, 2.4.1.2ai, 2.4.1.2aii, and 2.4.1.2aiii).

2.4.1.1 Logical and Mathematical Arguments

2.4.1.1a From the logocentric predicament.

The logocentric predicament says that in order to explain or justify logic, (a universal minimal classical proto-) logic must be presupposed and used; but every explanation whatsoever presupposes and uses (a universal minimal classical proto-) logic (Hanna, 2006: chs. 1–3), including all mechanistic explanation; hence (a universal minimal classical proto-) logic cannot itself be mechanically explained. In other words, every explanation and justification of logic is circular, since it already assumes and deploys (a universal minimal classical proto-) logic, but this circularity isn’t rationally vicious: on the contrary, it’s rationally virtuous, since what it shows is that (a universal minimal classical proto-) logic is more fundamental than and irreducible to any kind of explanation or justification (Hanna, 2015a: ch. 5), especially including mechanistic explanation. Therefore, the thesis of universal formal mechanism is false.

2.4.1.1b From the incompleteness of mathematics and mathematical logic, and the undecidability of classical first-order predicate logic.

2.4.1.1bi Gödel proved in 1931 that there are some uncomputable/undecidable, unprovable true sentences in Peano arithmetic plus Principia-Mathematica style formal logic, and that truth-determination and consistency in any logico-mathematical system rich enough to include Peano arithmetic and Principia-style logic must occur outside that logico-mathematical system itself, yet by hypothesis these sentences are indeed true, and also we can know them to be true (say, by mathematical intuition), hence (i) truth-determination and consistency in any logico-mathematical system rich enough to include Peano plus Principia-style formal logic cannot be mechanized, and (ii) our mathematico-logical knowledge cannot be mechanized (Gödel, 1931; Lucas, 1961; Penrose, 1990; Feferman, 2006). Therefore, the thesis of universal formal mechanism is false.

2.4.1.1bii Logical proof is a rule-following linguistic process. In 1936, Church proved that classical first-order predicate logic is undecidable, even though it’s also consistent, sound, and complete (Church, 1936). What this means is that generating valid proofs in classical first-order predicate logic according to the logical rules of that system, can’t be Turing-computed or mechanized. As the later Wittgenstein clearly saw, via his famous “rule following paradox” in the Philosophical Investigations, following linguistic or logical rules is irreducibly normative, and not mechanical (Hanna, 2021a: ch. XII). And a closely related point comes out via Noam Chomsky aptly calls “the creative aspect of language use” (Chomsky, 1988: pp. 5–6), according to which the infinite set of synatically well-formed outputs generated by applying and re-applying the innately specified rules of our innate grammatical faculty, are strictly and systematically underdetermined by empirical, contingent inputs to that faculty. Thus all linguistic processes that generate syntactically well-formed outputs are irreducibly spontaneous, and not mechanical (Von Humboldt, 1988). So even valid proof in first-order predicate logic is irreducibly normative and spontaneous, undecidable/uncomputable, and non-mechanical. Therefore, the thesis of universal formal mechanism is false.

2.4.1.2 Physical and Metaphysical Arguments

2.4.1.2a From the incompleteness of mathematical physics.

2.4.1.2ai Mathematical physics presupposes mathematics, mathematical logic, and in particular classical first-order predicate logic, so because mathematics and mathematical logic are formally incomplete as per Gödel’s theorems, and because valid proof in classical first-order predicate logic is undecidable, uncomputable, and non-mechanical, as per Church’s undecidability proof, then so is mathematical physics, and therefore formal truth and knowledge in mathematical physics cannot be mechanized. Therefore, the thesis of universal formal mechanism is false.

2.4.1.2aii Irreducible quantum uncertainty and indeterminacy show that certain micro-physical events cannot be predicted by the Standard Models of cosmology and particle physics (for example, which way a single particle will go in the Two-Slit Experiment, etc.), yet, as I’ll argue in section 4.3 below, many essentially analogous macro-physical events involving human free agency can be reliably predicted by the agents themselves, so mathematical physics as per the Standard Models is empirically incomplete, and therefore not only formal truth and knowledge, but also empirical truth and knowledge, in mathematical physics cannot be mechanized. Therefore, the thesis of universal formal mechanism is false.

2.4.1.2aiii Irreducible quantum complementarity, entanglement, and non-locality (see, e.g., Schrödinger, 1980) show that that there are micro-physical domains that cannot be completely divided or parsed into sets of causally or ontologically discrete individuals/units. In other words, such domains are non-denumerable; hence they’re neither Turing-computable nor mechanizable. Therefore, the thesis of universal formal mechanism is false.

2.4.1.2b From the irreducibility of biology to physics.

Living organisms cannot be fully explained according to the physical laws and principles governing naturally mechanistic systems (Torday, Miller Jr, and Hanna, 2020). The crucial move here is to recognize that there are essential homologies between the atom and the unicell that provide a unifying explanatory common denominator between them, thereby establishing a three-step irreducible metaphysical continuity between (i) processual, purposive, self-organizing non-equilibrium negentropic thermodynamic matter/energy flows constituting the classical microphysical quantum-theoretic particle/wave duality, (ii) organismic life per se, and (iii) minded animal organismic life. Therefore, universal natural mechanism is false.

2.4.1.3 Mentalistic and Agential Arguments

2.4.1.3a From consciousness (i.e., subjective or “lived” experience) and objective or “directed” experience (aka “intentionality”).

The specific characters (or qualities) of human consciousness and directed experience/intentionality can vary independently of any and all physical facts and properties, including functional facts and properties, therefore metaphysical materialism/physicalism is false: see, for example, (i) the “Chinese Room Argument” (someone inside a room who successfully manipulates Chinese inputs and outputs according to the grammatical and semantic rules of Chinese, thereby passing the Turing test, can consciously realize that they do not understand Chinese) (Searle, 1980a, 1984), (ii) the “Zombie Argument” (there are conceivably possible physical counterparts of a conscious animal, that lack consciousness) (Chalmers, 1996: chs. 1–8), and above all, (iii) the “Necker Cube Argument” from multistable perception of, for example, the Necker Cube (there are conceivably possible distinct mirror-reflected/enantiomorphic perceptual aspect-counterparts that can be paired with the same physical states, and physical causation alone fails to determine precisely which mirror-reflected aspect of the Necker Cube will be paired with that same physical state) (Hanna and Maiese, 2009: p. 281; Hanna, 2015a: pp. 94–97). Therefore, universal natural mechanism is false.

2.4.1.3b From intrinsic motivation.

Whether artificial or natural, machines cannot be intrinsically motivated to choose or do X, only extrinsically caused or programmed for bringing about X, yet we can freely choose or do many different kinds of things for their own sake, and when the fact of this capacity for free agency is conjoined with the FoL thesis, it follows that our intrinsic motivation can’t be mechanized. Therefore, universal natural mechanism is false.

2.4.1.3c From transcendental motivation.

Whether they are artificial or natural, machines cannot choose or do X for the sake of transcendental value, aka the highest good, precisely because they inherently lack consciousness, and are only extrinsically caused or programmed for bringing about X, yet we can freely choose and do many different kinds of things precisely because they are neither egoistic or self-interested (private utility) nor (merely) beneficial for everyone else (public utility), but simply for the sake of transcendental value/the highest good, for example, acting for the sake of sufficient respect for human dignity, hence our transcendental motivation cannot be mechanized. Therefore, universal natural mechanism is false.

AGAINST PROFESSIONAL PHILOSOPHY REDUX 677

Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Monday 13 June 2022

Against Professional Philosophy is a sub-project of the online mega-project Philosophy Without Borders, which is home-based on Patreon here.

Please consider becoming a patron!

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Mr Nemo

Mr Nemo

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