THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE, #33–The Theory of Thought-Shapers Introduced.

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 thirty-third installment contains section 3.0.


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

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 Logical and Mathematical Arguments Physical and Metaphysical Arguments Mentalistic and Agential Arguments

2.4.2 Beyond The Mechanistic Worldview: The Neo-Organicist Worldview The Neo-Organist Thesis 1: Solving The Mind-Body Problem Dynamic Systems Theory and The Dynamic World Picture The Neo-Organicist Thesis 2: Solving The Free Will Problem Dynamic Emergence, Life, Consciousness, and Free Agency How The Mechanical Comes To Be From The Organic

2.5 Neo-Organicism Unbound

2.6 Conclusion

Chapter 3. Thought-Shapers

3.0 Introduction

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 Neo-Organicist Turn in Formal Science: The Case of Mathematical Logic

Appendix 2. A Neo-Organicist Note on The Löwenheim-Skolem Theorem and “Skolem’s Paradox”

Appendix 3. A Neo-Organicist Approach to The Nature of Motion

Appendix 4. Sensible Set Theory

Appendix 5. Neo-Organicism and The Rubber Sheet Cosmos



Chapter 3. Thought-Shapers

One thinks that one is tracing the outline of the thing’s nature over and over again, and one is merely tracing around the frame through which we look at it…. A picture held us captive. And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably. (Wittgenstein, 1953: §§114–115, p. 48e, translation slightly modified)

What really comes before our mind when we understand a word — Isn’t it something like a picture? (Wittgenstein, 1953: §139, p. 54e)

3.0 Introduction

Plato’s theory of “images” or eikones, as presented in his famous analogy of The Cave in the Republic (Silverman, 2014: esp. section 13), Bacon’s theory of “Idols which beset men’s minds” in The Novum Organum (Bacon, 1620, 2021), Marx’s theory of ideology in The German Ideology and other works (Wolff and Leopold, 2021: esp. section 6), Stephen Pepper’s work on “root metaphors” in metaphysics (Pepper, 1942: esp. ch. V), Otto Neurath’s ISOTYPE theory (Neurath, 1936), Wittgenstein’s theory of linguistically-transmitted “pictures” or Bilder and how they entrap philosophical thinking Wittgenstein, 1953: esp. §§114–115, p. 48e, and §139, p. 54e), Philip Johnson-Laird’s work on “mental models,” when taken together with that of other leading “depictivists” — especially Roger Shepard and Stephen Kosslyn — in the late 20th century debate about mental imagery in cognitive neuroscience (Shepard and Chipman, 1970; Shepard and Metzler, 1971; Shepard, 1978; Kosslyn, 1980, 1994; Shepard and Cooper,1982; Johnson-Laird, 1983),[i] and recent work in cognitive psychology and social psychology on the persistence of false belief or misinformation and the “backfire effect” (Nyhan and Reifler, 2010; Lewandowsky et al., 2012) are all anticipations or preliminary versions of what I’m calling the theory of thought-shapers, aka TTS. TTS is a new theory of human thinking, and as such, it’s an essential part of The Uniscience, along with the neo-organicist worldview.

Thought-shapers include mental representations of allegories, analogies, blueprints, catechisms, diagrams, displays, icons, images, lay-outs, metaphors, mnemonics, models, outlines, parables, pictures, scenarios, schemata, sketches, spreadsheets, stereotypes, symbols, tableaux, and templates.[2] Indeed, Plato’s Cave analogy is especially notable in being not only part of an anticipatory or preliminary theory of thought-shapers, but also being, as an analogy, itself a thought-shaper. More generally, what the philosophers and cognitive scientists mentioned in the just-previous paragraph are telling us, in effect, is that necessarily, all human thinking is inherently shaper-inflected. And not only that. The King James version of the Bible’s Book of John starts, “In the beginning was the Word (logos).” In the early 19th century, Goethe wrote in Faust: “In the beginning was the Deed” (Im Anfang war die Tat) (Goethe, 1808/1828–1829: I). And circa 1945, Wittgenstein wrote: “Words are deeds” (Worte sind Taten) (Wittgenstein, 1980: p. 46e). For my purposes in this chapter, I’ll take “the Word” and “words” in those quotations to mean natural language. Then, learning from all of these, in a nutshell, my claim is:

In the beginning of all human thinking, there were human words and human deeds only insofar as there were also Thought-Shapers.

My thesis, in turn, entails that all human thoughts are deeds too. Indeed, TTS falls fully within the broad scope of the first three Es of the contemporary 4E approach to human cognition, by affirming that all human thought is embodied, embedded, and enacted (Newen, De Bruin, and Gallagher, 2018).

More explicitly, the 4Es of human cognition are (i) embodied, which says that minds are necessarily realized in organismic animal bodies, (ii) embedded, which says that minds are necessarily external-context-sensitive or indexical, (iii) enacted, which says that minds are necessarily dynamically and practically implemented, and (iv) extended, which says that minds necessarily have external vehicles of consciousness &/or intentionality, aka “the extended mind.” Given my commitment to the essential embodiment theory (see sub-sub-section above), I reject the extended-mind component, and correspondiongly affirm a doctrine I call the body-bounded mind (Hanna and Maiese, 2009; Hanna, 2011c). Moreover, although many 4E theorists are anti-representationalists, by contrast I affirm a dual-content version of representationalism, which I’ll briefly spell out in the next section (see also Hanna, 2015a: chs. 1–3).

My argument in this chapter has seven parts. First, I propose a nonideal cognitive semantics for thought-shapers that’s grounded on the categorical distinction between conceptual content and essentially non-conceptual content. Second, I propose a cognitive dynamics for thought-shapers that’s grounded on the essential embodiment theory of the mind-body relation. Third, I introduce a basic distinction between constrictive thought-shapers and generative thought-shapers. Fourth, I present some paradigmatic classical examples of constrictive thought-shapers in metaphysics, epistemology and — thereby demonstrating the pervasive influence of thought-shapers — in morality and/or sociopolitics, along with accompanying diagrams. Fifth, I explain the distinction between constrictive thought-shapers and generative thought-shapers in terms of the categorical difference between mechanical facts and phenomena, and organic facts and phenomena, against the backdrop of new wave organicism, aka neo-organicism, as I spelled out that worldview and defended it in chapter 2. Sixth, I explore adverse cognitive effects of mechanical, constrictive thought-shapers. Seventh and finally, I propose a strategy for acknowledging organic systems and organic, generative thought-shapers: by achieving all or any of the modes of creative piety. As I mentioned in the Introduction, creative piety is

the meta-cognitive acknowledgment of specifically how it is that organic, generative thought-shapers radically restructure some or another determinate domain of representational content, thereby revealing new rich structures in that domain, as represented from a higher-order perspective, and produce correspondingly shaped human thoughts that are original insights with respect to that domain.

I conclude the chapter by briefly applying TTS to Voltaire’s classical organic, generative thought-shaper and its corresponding shaped thought: Il faut cultiver notre jardin, i.e., we must cultivate our garden.


[i] The debate about mental imagery in cognitive neuroscience was between the depictivists, who held that the representational content of images is essentially non-conceptual, and the propositionalists, who held that the representational content of images is essentially conceptual. See, e.g., (Block, 1981).

[ii] This list isn’t intended to be complete, but instead only to be a working list of paradigm cases I’m aiming to connect in an essential way to the nature of human thinking, and more generally, to explain. After I’ve provided a more precise characterization of thought-shapers in sections 3. 1 and 3.2, the list could in principle be extended according to those criteria. Moreover, allegories, catechisms, and parables differ slightly from the other items on the list, in a way that I’ll briefly describe in section 3.1.


Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Monday 8 August 2022

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Mr Nemo

Mr Nemo

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