Reading List

Noting that my implicit reading list was growing faster with every reference read, I attempted an explicit booklist last year, to keep tabs. I didn’t share it widely, but family bought me a couple off the list for Christmas.

Just updating it – striking out those acquired and adding new references – as I start to read:

Karl Sigmund “Exact Thinking in Demented Times – which might look topical in our 2021/22 demented Trump / Brexit / Boris / Covid / Woke-Identity-politics times, but is in fact a 2017 reference to the 1930’s Vienna Circle. A reference I picked-up from earlier David Edmonds and Cheryl Misak reads.

Erich Fromm “The Art of Loving (1957) which I picked-up as an individual recommendation on social media. (Can’t remember where / who specifically?)

And here is the current BookList as an Excel spreadsheet.
(Must remember to maintain it up to date.)

Haunted by Eddington’s “Reality”

As noted in yesterday’s post, I’m reading Eddington. Whilst it was the Gifford Lectures association that was the proximate cause, it was clearly McGilchrist’s references to Eddington that had sown the seed. The parallels are already patent – as noted yesterday – but I need to check the specific references from McGilchrist … later. For now Eddington himself:

Our attitude to the whole scheme
of natural knowledge
must be profoundly modified.
(p298)

Scientific determinism is an “ardent faith“.

He spends a good deal of his time elaborating what can we really mean by “reality” and “actuality” – using a lot of scare quotes, as do I, I might add.

There is still the tendency
to use the word “reality”
as a word of magic comfort
like the blessed word “Mesopotamia”.

(Remember WWI and its poets are raw memories here in the early 1920’s.)

Whilst defending the bounds of what can be considered “good science”, he warns that:

“The symbolic nature of the entities of physics are generally recognised; and the scheme of physics is formulated in such a way as to make it almost self-evident that it is a partial aspect of something wider.”

What lies beyond “good science” is no less real, not super-natural, merely super-metrical, super-symbolically-representable. Science cannot have it both ways, as I may have said before. It cannot say that the stuff it has discounted by design is therefore not real. This is “not a rejection of reasoning”, in fact “the same hiatus in reasoning” exists in the foundation of the physical world itself. There is no cosmic bootstrap.

After finally summarising the revolutions connecting Euclid & Ptolemy with Galileo & Copernicus, with Newton, Einstein and Heisenberg he concludes:

“The more it changes,
the more it remains the same.”

‘Twas ever thus, plus ca change.
“Nothing new under the sun” … as I so often say.

Plausibility is key, the counterfactuals of possibility.

“Proof is an idol.”

(And so much more. eg W K Clifford is a source too.)

The biggest reinforcement for me is in my information-based metaphysics of Epistemological Ontology. He makes a good deal of the distinction between symbolic and intimate knowledge – (the Connaitre <> Savoir or Wissen <> Kennen distinction) – and the triad they form with the real world “out there”. The idea of radical empiricism. He even gives it a name:

“The New Epistemological Outlook”

Eddington wasn’t just sharing the weirdness of quantum theory and relativistic gravity, with a non-expert audience, he was pointing out to the experts themselves that it really does undermine what counts as a scientific view of reality. The plausible conviction that there is a lot more to the real world than can be accounted for by scientific symbolism.

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(PS – follow-up the reverse references from McGilchrist.)

McGilchrist emphasis is on Eddington quotes on the physical being more mysterious than the mental (all ones I already had marked even if not included above … excellent.)

“No-one can deny that mind is
the first and most direct thing in our experience
and all else is remote inference …

… inference either intuitive or deliberate.”

With no need of any Descartes references, simply Reinforced by Russell:

Physics is mathematical NOT because we know so much about the physical world, but because we know so little: it is only its mechanical properties we can discover. For the rest our knowledge is negative.

Mechanical? – real substance – Eddington would say “metrical”.

(McGilchrist’s “The Matter With Things” is so marvellously produced by Perspectiva – so thoroughly indexed and annotated – that checking references is a doddle for any scholar.)

[PPS on the strength of this Eddington reading I have now also acquired a second hand copy of his Philosophy of Physical Science – The 1938 Tarner Lectures (1939) – in McGilchrist’s bibliography, natch.]

The Tower of Song

Mentioned in the Alex Klaushofer post that it had been a Leonard Cohen interaction that I’d previously noted. I also mentioned the “song and dance” element of human interaction that was the subject matter of her manifesto whilst noting that for me the key was the song & musical performance aspect. (And we both mentioned the need for natural environmental as well a human interaction.)

What I didn’t note was that the Cohen nexus had arisen from my Roy Harper post which led me back to Roy’s own posts. Originally his “Our Live Voices Are Missing” due to Covid originally, but more recently on his “Lifemarkers” post on the 9/11 20th anniversary. (The latter being extremely influential on my own research blogging project and on my remainder of life expectations!)

Those two Roy Harper posts interesting in the context of Alex’s recent posts.

Alex Klaushofer

I’ve been interacting with Alex Klaushofer since 2014 though I discover I’ve mentioned her previously only once, just earlier this past year in a Leonard Cohen context. (We met in a Theos / Rupert Sheldrake context originally.)

Natural theology is probably my new favourite word for whatever worldview we share – the reality of human values, something more, beyond orthodox scientific objectivity. That and a shared need to relate to human experience beyond the confines of our home culture. We differ recently in so far as she sees much more threat in restricted freedoms – eg in Covid responses and the rise of more right-wing authority – where I see a more pragmatic “shit-happens” bureaucratic incompetence. A difference of political and metaphysical focus.

Anyway, as an actual journalist / writer, she’s written more (and better) than I have, and I’ve not done justice to reading her published stuff closely enough until recently. Here, three links from her current SubStack platform “Ways of Seeing”:

The need for human company, how often, and what form it takes, varies hugely from person to person, and at different times within the life of the same person. But it is not something that we can do without, nor is it wise to construct a society which gives the state the power to take it away.

Can’t argue with that. As someone who’s been remote working on multi-national projects for decades before Covid I can assure anyone that real human interaction has to be part of the mix. And …

As a modern human, I re-affirm my need-right to spend time in nature.

As I was saying myself only recently. And human nature IS a part of nature, a part that the orthodoxy of received wisdom tries very hard to discount and ignore. (And the reason I see a more fundamental metaphysical problem whereby the orthodoxy supports nefarious authoritarian aims.) For me the “song and dance of life” has always been live music, the sweatier the better – something I do regularly mention in the blog, even if the encounters with nature herself tend to go unmentioned in symbolic language.

“Ways of Seeing” (*) is a telling title for her blog.
100% aligned with Iain McGilchrist’s natural theology agenda.
(* Though as she points out, it’s clearly a Berger reference. The socio-political scholars point out that we have choices and are influenced by peers and power-structures in our “ways of seeing” the world. The neuroscientists simply reinforce that we physically evolved to have this gift, but have allowed an orthodoxy of “received wisdom” to dominate our choices of world-views.)

Alex Klaushofer. Worth a read and a follow.

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[Follow-up post here: Tower of Song]

Eddington and the Real World

Arthur Eddington has been on my reading list for a decade or two, since he was so often cited as the person who had first gotten to grips with the new physics and its communication to a wider real-world audience, beyond those minds engaged at Copenhagen / Paris and in the Solvay conferences.

I happen to be reading his 1928 “The Nature of the Physical World” since I spotted in the previous holding post that, like so many important thinkers, this was based on his 1927 Gifford Lectures.

It’s very good.

I had to stop annotating when I was reaching my almost-as-much-annotation-as-original-text state. Noticeable that in terms of accepted physics, he notes that many of his interpretations and perceived problems were very much live debates amongst the main players at the very time he was lecturing and that undoubtedly some of his guesses we now know turned-out not to be the case. But, that doesn’t in any way detract from the quality of his thinking and explanation. A great voice too; it reads like he’s talking to you.

Love that he talks quite naturally of the aether and, without using the word emergence, he talks of possible layers, including a sub-aether for example, as well as the naturally evolved layers of living biology and sentient consciousness.

Love that, although he follows the scientists’ party-line that non-scientific philosophy is there to be the butt of jokes, he clearly has a lot of respect for Whitehead’s contemporary thinking.

Love his Einsteinian emphasis – multi-dimensional, curved space-time – that geometry is very much part of the fabric of reality itself and that, like the ancients, saw geometry as quite distinct from – more fundamental than – the mere human toolsets of the rest of mathematics and logic. Reality, time & causation; fluid-flow metaphors; mind-stuff, will & volition; it’s all there.

[Posted more on this Eddington read here.]

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One example geometric argument:

The number 10.

Recall I kept getting a strange feeling when 10 turned-up in Katoi’s mystical numerology musings – how can the base of our 2 x pentadactyl integer counting convention be significant in fundamental physical constants – it can’t, can it? The significance – if any – must be the other way around.

10 is significant geometrically long before we chordate vertebrates evolved our standard pattern of limbic symmetry.

We find it reasonably easy to think of the fabric of reality – the aether – in 4D terms, 3 of space and one of time. Even in 3D space we have trouble shifting our “surface” idea of curvature from 2D to 3D, but we indulge Einstein’s imagination in projecting the curvature concept into 3D space as a model of gravitation. But 10? And “i” as the square-root of -1 is everywhere as a ruse to symbolise the dimensions beyond those we can envisage in our plane of representation.

(Aside – not difficult to see how knotted strings arise as a way of compactifying or pointifying additional “curved” spatial dimensions above the 3 we can readily envisage. So maybe no coincidence that 10 turns up as the minimum number of dimensions in string theories, long after Eddington’s time? 2nd level interrupt – digression – 4 bases in DNA maybe has a fundamental geometric origin – seen that somewhere before? Long before Crick & Watson [& Franklin] Eddington is musing on the Mendelian atoms of biological evolution. Whoop, whoop, whoop – pull-up, pull-up, pull-up before we crash and burn. (*) See note on mystical numerology below.)

Back to the geometric significance of 10 in the fundamental fabric of reality – geometric series as well a geometry per se?

Eddington is explaining Euclidian & non-Euclidian (E / nE) geometry after several reminders that the whole of nature appears to be defined by 10 principal coefficients – all of which are values of relations, ratios or products – the coefficients are not things in themselves. He dwells at length on the Planck constant “h” being a product of energy and time (erg seconds) a recurring quantum of space-time or “action” – stuff happening.

2D (curved surface) nE geometry plus 1 relation = 3D E.
4D (curved space-time) nE geometry plus 3 +2 +1 relations = 10D E.

Eddington’s world model is relational – objects (relata) are simply intersections of the more fundamental relations. A relational world of 10 dimensions in the sub-aether.

He comes to bury Whitehead, not to praise him, methinks? The whole thing, despite appearances for the sake of his scientific colleagues, is a commendation of Whitehead?!?

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Add:

    • Quotes on Whitehead p236 etc after earlier “jibes”
    • Instinctive awareness p17
    • McGilchrist master <> servant geometry metaphor! p161

“The pure mathematician is under the impression that geometry is a subject that belongs entirely to him.

The pure mathematician, at first called in as servant, presently likes to assert himself as master”

[Posted more on this Eddington read here.]

[(*) Mystical Numerology? I’m making a distinction here with geometric relations that appear in the metaphysical foundations of physics itself, versus other geometric – mystical numerology – relations in other evolved levels. I only mention the number 10 and its relation to our human experience of maths (with base 10 counting) because maths itself has such a hold on foundational thinking (as per that final quote above). Any causal significance is reversed. Eddo points out – as I only hinted – that mystical numerology and the number 10 do in fact turn up at at higher evolved levels too. Not least the golden ratio (phi) and Fibonacci relations in the human aesthetics of wider nature where phi really is cosine (circle/10), a geometric relation whose expansion includes root(5). Starting from an earlier tweet:

The base post here is not about mystical numerology – there are lots of interesting relations – we’ve done the golden ratio et al, before and will no doubt come back to them again at the DNA level 🙂 ]

Must Write

Just a holding post – McGilchrist’s latest has kinda brought a long and winding agenda to a culmination.

Firstly, I said it in my previous TMWT summary post, The world-view forming is really what has been called Natural Theology since William Paley gave a name to the interminable God vs Science debates, as old as the history of philosophy itself. In trying to give meaning to conceptions of values & virtues, the good, the sacred, even the spiritual or divine within a world more comfortably understood in terms of the kind of reason we now easily call science, words may fail us. Typically writers with a “natural” outlook end up with a sacred naturalism or natural theology. Whatever Paley’s own motivations and arguments in terms of the existence of God, theology is a perfectly good word for the question, if not the answer. But a theology, where whatever word we choose to encompass these conceptions of the good, God or not, we’re not talking about some supernatural agent – by our chosen definition of nature, a natural theology, a sacred naturalism. Let’s call a spade a spade, and at least not dodge the question.

The reason for capturing that thought above is two-fold. Partly because the penny dropped about why so many of the best publications in this area started out as Gifford Lectures (Hannah Arendt, William James, Charles Taylor, Alfred North Whitehead, Arthur Eddington, Michael Gazzaniga, Sean Carroll, Steven Pinker to name a few). The Gifford Lectures continue to this day, with Natural Theology as their explicit subject area.

Secondly, because scientific advice regarding the sanctity of life is ever topical in our times of Covid. I need to contrast the two positions in this Twitter exchange with Prof Whitty discussing his own ethical issues with scientific advice and the WHO (a draft from almost exactly a year ago). One politician and two scientists.

What is the Matter with Things?

A Summary of Iain McGilchrist “The Matter With Things”

[My writings on Iain McGilchrist’s TMWT, and TME (The Master and Emissary) before it, are many, but unfortunately that means that no single post, since my reading of TMWT, gives any introductory overview for a new reader.]

So what is the matter with things?

In Two Sentences (after A Einstein and A Eddington):

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.

We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

McGilchrist demonstrates that “the plight of modern humanity” – everywhere from individual mental health to the litany of global issues our culture seems unable to get to grips with – arises from this error.

McGilchrist’s Hemispheric Hypothesis:

The hypothesis is that, as a result of a 20thC backlash against left-right-brain pop-psychology, the true relationships between our deeply divided brains and the views of the world they give us has been ignored in mainstream knowledge about the world and our relationship with it.

And, whilst the right view recognises and understands the power of the left, the left view fails to notice why it even needs the right. Because of this imbalance, the rational left-brain view and behaviour continues to further exaggerate and promote itself at the expense of the intuitive right. A vicious cycle. This is a mental-illness. We must, individually and as a society, recover the evolutionarily intended use of that intuitive gift.

Because of the intuitive nature of that gift, it needs to be understood by being embodied and enacted rather than being learned from an explicit list of components and features.

To recognise a necessary distance between our model of the world, embodied & manipulated in the left-brain, and the immediate experience & understanding of the world, obtained with the attention of the right.

Any further summary is merely to list the contents and name-drop the sources.

End of Summary

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Merely The Content:

(My summaries start here, but as already noted above, no summary can do justice to reading and absorbing it.)

Neuroscience – understanding evolved, normal brain physiology and behaviour in all sentient beings, from investigation of every kind of abnormal state, building on the A to Z of published material in this space from Austin to Zeman via … Bolte-Taylor, Damasio, Gazzaniga, Hughlings-Jackson, Kahneman, McGilchrist, Ramchandran, Solms, Sperry, Sacks, Tversky and many more.

Psychology & Psychiatry – Autism, Schizophrenia, Paranoia and Neuroses and how individual cases and symptoms map to societal behaviour and how both fit the hemispheric hypothesis.

Literature & History – understanding in metaphor and more since the earliest recorded civilisations – Master & Emissary, Elephant & Driver, Charioteer & Horses … all provide clues to the necessary hemispheric tension.

Philosophy & Fundamental Science – The world and our views of it, left, right & integrated. Consciousness, ontology & epistemology, time, causation, purpose, value, identity & opposites, science & ethics. A mass of sources woven around a strong Bergson, James, Whitehead and Wittgenstein thread with contributions from those at the bleeding edge of science – a dynamic, participatory, process view – beyond an ontology of “things” – hence the title.

[In fact Jonathan Rowson’s 10 minute introduction at the book launch is a very good summary as well as a commendation in it’s own right.]

No summary can do justice to the depth and breadth covered or to Iain McGilchrist’s erudition and credentials in bringing this range of resources and thinking together. And even if it were so summarised, it would not achieve the understanding gained from experiencing the read and engaging with it in dialogue with others. That’s not debatable.

The real test is going to be persuading the more orthodox scientific types to engage in dialogue involving what is, let’s face it, natural theology. Or even to give real attention to any idea of the sacred. After all, if nothing is sacred in science and yet every individual life is sacred in a science-led response to a pandemic, or every living thing sacred in an ecological response to AGW, science needs to start paying attention to that sacred gift.

My Own Marginalia (So Far)

Communing With The Countryside

Apart from one specific long-distance charity-walk challenge a few years ago, I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned in the blog my walking and hiking in the local moorland and coastline and appreciation of the local bird-life / wild-life as my main mind-clearing activities.

It’s something I do.
It’s not something I re-present in language.

I post noisily, here and Twitter on anything and everything philosophical and political but only very occasionally post a picture or a report from the outdoors, or from a Sparrowhawk visit, and only on Facebook, just to family and friends. Local beach covered in Sanderlings these days. Dolphin pod not seen since early October. Lovely Twitter exchange overnight with a journalist identifying owl sounds outside their London window, from 300 miles away.

I post here now, because I suspect it’s going to become topical in brain-mind progress discussions how much we embody our philosophies as opposed to re-presenting them as academic objects. It’s already become popularly topical that walking in and access to a rural environment is important to mental health generally. But there’s more. How one embodies one’s philosophical take on life, the universe and everything IS one’s mental state – full stop. Nothing more, nothing less.

Mind<>World participation and identity is central to McGilchrist’s hemispheric hypothesis and many on the similar parallel thought journey(s) have their own meditative or mindfulness preferences.

For me that’s being part of the environment.
Experiencing the landscape,
the geography,
the weather,
the living
world.

(Here’s one I prepared earlier, from a little farther afield.)