Why are there Two Hemispheres?

Here, we are talking about the two epistemological hemispheres of left side and right side science, left side knowledge and right side knowledge  There are two kinds of take on reality. There are two kinds of knowledge. We leave implicit that this may also shed a lot of light into the biological arena concerning the two hemispheres, bi-lateralisation of brain function.

Our task is to find a fundamental, succinct answer to the following question:

What are the formal roles of left side and right side rationality?

In other words, exactly why must there be two takes on reality? At the start of writing this book two and a half years ago, the author could not provide a succinct answer to this question. Now he can and is profoundly pleased with the outcome. The answer comes in characterising the two modes of thought. The general consensus is that the left hemisphere is associated with analytical, verbal, linear, and intellectual thought processes and that the right is associated with holistic, spatial, non-linear, and intuitive processes. We now look at our more formal epistemological approach to this question.

Each paradigm is composed of two axes, one logical and the other semantic.

The Left Side Paradigm is based on Abstraction

Left side paradigm logic is based on second order logic. This is the upside. The downside is that left side reasoning is based only on first order semantics.

The Right Side Paradigm is Abstraction Free

Right side paradigm logic is only first order logic and so abstraction is impossible. This is the apparent downside. The upside is that right side reasoning is based on second order semantics.

There it is folks! In a nutshell, the abstraction paradigm underpinning all left side science is based on higher order logic but very flat semantics. The alternative is the generic, and universal oriented right side paradigm, which is totally devoid of abstraction and its higher order generalisations. To remove abstraction from the pudding, the paradigm only allows first order logic. Where it shines, is that it can handle non-trivial semantics, higher order semantics.

It appears that if you want a science of semantics, you have to throw away abstraction and its higher order logic. Vice versa, if you want the generalisation power of abstraction, you have to throw away higher order semantics and use the rather trivial default version based on first order semantics.

The two paradigms cannot be combined. They must forever stand apart. However, they can both be harnessed like the two horses of a chariot. It seems that they take it in turns to provide the working paradigm. How they cooperate and interact with each other falls outside the realm of this work and so is not considered here.

We start with first order logic. The prime example of first order logic comes from the Stoics. The Stoics only reasoned in particulars arguing that generalisations do not exist. Socrates can exist but Man and mortals do not. There is no such thing as Man. There is no such thing as mortals. Thus, they rejected Abstract generalisations do not exist. Aristotle’s species and genus saying that they had no need for them. In modern mathematical terms, they rejected sets. All of modern mathematics is based on sets in the form of Set Theory. Without Set Theory, there can be no traditional mathematics. If a Stoic were alive today, he would still reject Set Theory. The Stoic has no need for such abstractions. The Stoic is content with the logic of Chrysippus, which faithfully avoids anything but the particular. After all, only particulars can exist and that is what concerns the Stoic.

Of course, traditional mathematics goes the other way and reasons over the elements of an abstract set of objects, the set of green apples, the set of prime numbers, for example. First order logic avoids such abstract thinking and only talks about qualities relating to the existence of a particular entity. In their purest form, the qualities involved have nothing to do with the greenness of apples or even the primeness of a number. The qualities are the generic qualities of the generic entities. What matters is whether one has or possesses the quality or not. “if you have the first and the second quality …” is the premise of  Chrysippus’ first of the five undemonstratables.  The logic does not say what the quality is, but rather whether it is or not is. Relative to you, the quality is if and only if you happen to have it possession at the time. This is an ontological logic. Despite avoiding abstraction, the first order logic reasoning of the Stoics becomes surprisingly profound, as explored in the appendices.

We now turn to semantics. What is first order semantics? 

Firstly, who uses first order semantics? We blurt out that modern mathematics uses first order semantics and only first order semantics. We notice that this statement did not make the reader suddenly sit bolt upright, which is the reaction we wanted. In fact, the reader’s eyes seemed to have even started to glaze over. In search of a more engaging means of explanation, we come back to earth where people and things actually exist, and not just in the imagination.

We remark that if one looks around us hard enough, one will surely discover an acquaintance, a relative even, who only uses first order semantics in their everyday life. Such people are easy to spot.  The key giveaway is that the person concerned is totally incapable of putting themself in someone else’s shoes. For example, such a person is incapable of putting themself in your shoes. In order to accomplish such a feat, one needs second order semantics. In brief, first order semantics implies a total lack of empathy.

The inability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes leads the worldview that you are the centre of the universe. This is an inevitable consequence of a first order semantics view of the world. The most famous exponent of this worldview was Ptolemy, of the first century AD. Ptolemy was a gifted mathematician that wrote on many scientific topics. The most famous was his geocentric model of the world based on a set of nested spheres. This incredibly complicated system held sway for over a thousand years, until finally replaced by the much simpler heliocentric model.

One wonders whether there are any extremely over complex Ptolemaic scientific abominations around in modern times. One does not need much prodding to come up with a likely candidate. String Theory. Perhaps we should express our admiration for the String Theorists. Their achievements are even more laudable when you realise that they have accomplished so much, and only using first order semantics.
The above explanation of first order semantics is probably as clear as mud. Perhaps we will have to turn back to mathematics itself to bring some sort of rigour to bear on the question.  We must turn to the empathy free zone of modern mathematics.

Without going into details, we can say that the kind of mathematical geometry possible with first order semantics is, rather trivial compared to the geometry possible with higher order semantics. This is very important as we rely on mathematicians to describe to us the shape of the universe we live in.  However, no mathematicians or mathematical physicists that we know have ever pointed out the fine print in their deliberations. They simply inform us that, as a consequence of applying their mathematical theories, it turns out that the world is shaped in this or that particular way. Nowhere in the description is the caveat that, by the way, the expressed views have been based on first order semantic and only on first order semantic.
So what kind of geometry do you get when you only use first order semantics? The answer is surprisingly simple. Some mathematicians even boast about how simple it is. They see it as a triumph of applying abstraction.  To begin with, they claim that all spaces are n dimensional. Mathematicians cannot stop themselves from generalising. The letter n is a very general number. That way you cover all bases and so it is hard to be wrong. Then comes the decisive factor. All the various versions of space mathematics in mainstream mathematics have exactly the same geometry! Technically, they all have the same affine geometry.  This is truly remarkable. Lines behave like lines and points behave like points in all these vastly different mathematical spaces. The only difference from one mathematical version of spatiality to another is the distance between points. Mathematicians handle this detail by ascribing a different metric artifice, called a metric tensor, to each space.  In this way, for example, an ordinary Euclidean space can become Minkowski space-time geometry by simply swapping the metric tensor. 

Practically all these mainstream mathematical spaces are special cases of a Hilbert space, and so the construct goes back to David Hilbert. A ferocious critic of Hilbert was the great Henri Poincaré.  Curiously, as an aside, Poincaré was ambidextrous. We could certainly say that about his mathematics too, but he was both genuinely left and right handed with the pen and, it appears, also with the mind. The ambidextrous Poincaré goes head to head against the (presumably) right handed, left paradigm dominant Hilbert: it is a nice image albeit without any grand significance.. Anyhow, history has it that the abstract axiomatic geometry of Hilbert eventually prevailed over the objections of Poincaré. However, the battle is not over. Armed with the realisation that the Hilbert kind of geometry is only based on first order semantics and that there is our second order semantic alternative, the picture may indeed rapidly change.  However, this next time round, there will be no conqueror nor conquered. The only thing to settle will be as to which side is the Master and under what circumstances.

In brief then, mathematics relying on first order semantics results in a very simple, abstract kind of geometry. Simplicity is always an admirable quality when it comes to scientific explanations; the simpler the better, according to Ockham’s razor. However, the simple always runs the risk of falling into the abyss of being simplistic. Ptolemy’s thesis that the earth was the centre of the universe was also simple, but looks at the headaches that gave him, and all the poor astronomers that followed him for a thousand years. Modern day String Theory theorists utilise the simplicity of a geometry based on first order semantics and seem to get the same kind of headaches.
In this post we claimed that there are two kinds of knowledhge. Our more nuanced and more recent post points out that there are in fact two other “subtle” forms of knowledge, an FF type left side knowledge and an MM type on the right side.
The FF type of knowledge has no logic. It involves the interplay of first order and second order semantics, and is situated at the left hand rear part of the epistemological brain. The MM type knowledge has no semantics. It involves the interplay between first and second order logic  and is situated in the right frontal lobe of the epistemological brain. See  The Shape of Knowledge post for details.

Is there an alternative to Abstraction?

A few years back I was listening to an interview on the radio with a female intellectual from the Middle East. She was asked the question “What do you find is the most seductive thing about Western culture?” Her response was direct and succinct. “Abstraction,” she replied, without any hesitation. Her reply stuck with me and added to my torment on this question. Is abstraction a fundamentally Western construct? Is not abstraction the highest form of thought? If not, what is the alternative? Does abstraction have a sibling?

I’ve been concerned about abstraction for many years. My approach has been to attempt to find an alternative paradigm. Back in the early eighties, I was attending a philosophy course given by François Châtelet at Vincennes in Paris, who sadly passed away a few years later. I volunteered to give a seminar on what I conceived at the time, to be an alternative mode of thinking to abstract thought. Instead of abstract theory, I rather naively proposed concrete theory, theory you could construct. I was greatly influenced by my work at the time in Computer Science and had started thinking that alternative to abstract theories were theories you could build with computer programs. Rather than the theory being abstractly described in static pages of a book in the library, surely we can construct theories with computer programs and actually execute them, instead of just reading them. I gave the seminar. I though it went off rather well but to my horror, and to the amazement of the class, Professor Châtelet became extremely agitated and attempted to destroy my argument in the most emotional terms. After the seminar, a group of students of Middle East origin, mainly Algerian, came to my defence saying that they understood what I was saying and were in complete agreement. Like me, they couldn’t understand why it sent Professor Châtelet off the rails.

Since then I came across Hegel’s public lecture Who Thinks Abstractly? (Hegel, 1966 (1808)), His speech was a real gem. Hegel remarks that it is often thought that abstraction is the affair of the educated and cultured man and that it is “presupposed in good society.” Hegel observes that the community:

at least deep down, it has a certain respect for abstract thinking as something exalted, and it looks the other way not because it seems too lowly but because it appears too exalted, not because it seems too mean but rather too noble,

Having played his audience one way, the rueful Hegel cuts to the chase:

Who thinks abstractly? The uneducated, not the educated. Good society does not think abstractly because it is too easy, because it is too lowly …

Skirting the outrageous, Hegel must come up with proof; it is not far away:

The prejudice and respect for abstract thinking are so great that sensitive nostrils will begin to smell some satire or irony at this point; but since they read the morning paper they know that there is a prize to be had for satires…

… and yes, just as in Hegel’s time, a mere glance at the front page of today’s tabloid provides ample testimony to Hegel’s claim. Every day headlines trumpet out the most abstract of abstract catch phrases for consumption of the masses. Hegel provides an example of such high abstraction, the Murderer.

A murderer is led to the place of execution. For the common populace he is nothing but a murderer. Ladies perhaps remark that he is a strong, handsome, interesting man. The populace finds this remark terrible: What? A murderer handsome? How can one think so wickedly and call a murderer handsome; no doubt, you yourselves are something not much better! This is the corruption of morals that is prevalent in the upper classes, a priest may add,…

Having taken in Hegel’s little gem of wisdom we are now able to answer the question, “What does a radio Shock Jock and a theoretical physicist have in common?” The answer, of course is – abstraction.

However, this doesn’t answer the question as to the alternative to abstraction. Our Western universities have become abstraction factories. Is there an alternative product? Is the alternative complementary? The purpose of this blog, and my book soon to be published, is to present the natural sibling to abstraction. I call it the generic. Instead of thinking abstractly, think generically. However, what is the generic?

Follow up post: The Alternative to Abstraction

The Alternative to Abstract Thinking : the Generic

Continuing from the previous post Is There an Alternative to Abstraction?
Having taken in Hegel’s little gem of wisdom we are now able to answer the question, “What does a radio shock jock and a theoretical physicist have in common?” The answer, of course is – abstraction.
However, this doesn’t answer the question as to the alternative to abstraction. Our Western universities have become abstraction factories. Is there an alternative product? The purpose of this book is to present the natural sibling to abstraction. I call it the generic. Instead of thinking abstractly, think generically. However, what is the generic?  Equally, what is abstraction for that matter?
Two Fundamental Questions
Our aim is to move towards a formal knowledge of knowledge. There are two kinds of knowledge. On one side, there is what we call left side knowledge, which is dependent on a priori information. On the other hand, right side knowledge expounds on what can be known, without any a priori information. Each kind of knowledge answers a different question. Thus, two very precise questions characterise each of the two sciences. We can simplify much of philosophical and scientific tussling over different answers if we recognise that there are two different questions behind the scene. The questions are in a natural opposition and antonymic symmetry with each other.
The domain of discourse for each question is totally disjoint. The questions are so distinct that they can be imagined as being “orthogonal” to each other. The first question, suitably schematically simplified, was posed by Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason:


What knowledge can be achieved without reliance on any experimental  evidence whatsoever?

The answer would fall under the rubric of metaphysics. This question is familiar to all modern philosophers but is still waiting to be answered.
To some, like Karl Popper, the question is summarily dismissed. The problem posed by Kant is “not only insoluble but also misconceived.” (Popper, 1963) The problem was insoluble as we all know from Hume that there is no such thing as certain knowledge of universal truths. The only possibility was knowledge gleaned from observation of singular or particular instances. The inescapable truth is clearly “that all theoretical knowledge was uncertain.”
According to Popper, the problem was misconceived because Kant, even though he mentioned it, was not talking about metaphysics, but was really talking about what he didn’t mention; notably the pure natural science that had burst on the scene in his day, the science embodied in Newton’s gravitational theory. Newton’s theory has since been shown not to be the infallible exercise in pure reason that so impressed eighteenth century thinkers like Kant, but rather “no more than a marvellous conjecture, an astonishingly good approximation.” With the passage of time, Newton comes crashing down to earth and brings Kant’s question down with him. This demonstrates Kant’s misconception.
Popper concludes his demolition by replacing Kant’s bold question with his own languid alternative. “His question, we now know, or believe we know, should have been: ‘How are successful conjectures possible?’”
In this book, in order to arrive at a refutation, we actually go much further than Popper by bringing in some modern arguments to prove more convincingly that Q1 is insoluble. This is accomplished by showing that it is out of bounds of all formal mathematical reasoning.
To answer Q1 no axioms are allowed. Not only are operators of all sorts dispensed with – the commutative, the non-commutative, the associative, the non associative, even operator composition is declared a no go area. Traditional mathematics simply becomes non-operational in this zone. This is the domain where nothing can be said to proceed or succeed anything else.
In the business world, there is nothing more enticing to the entrepreneur than the accepted wisdom that something simply cannot be done. The proposition becomes even more enticing when learned abstract thinkers like Popper claim to have proven that it cannot be done.
Kant’s question Q1 viciously casts us into this apparently hopeless ultimate state of undetermined chaotic ignornace, However, by Popper arguing the futility of the enterprisse, the question becomes so well defined that surely there must be an answer. After all, it is only when the prisoner is actually placed in the confines of the four concrete walls of his cell can he really start plotting his way out. You cannot escape until you are locked up. Kant built the prison, Popper slams shut the door and rams home the bolt. It’s time to get out of this hell hole.
Once Q1 is clearly shown to be absolutely mathematically insoluble beyond any shadow of a doubt, we are then in possession of our first truth arrived at from pure reason alone. This is achieved without recourse to any experimental evidence whatsoever. We thus arrive at our first negative fact. We could call it a neg fact. The exercise then becomes one of building metaphysics out of neg facts in some way. This is obviously not an exercise in formal mathematics but an exercise in another genus of formalisation. We call it formal anti-mathematics. This and the remarkable results flowing from anti-mathematics eventually leads to code; a kind of “DNA of the Cosmos” so to speak. This is the principle theoretical contribution of this work and clearly the most enigmatic.
We now come to the second question, diametrically opposed to the first. It reads:


What knowledge can be achieved with only reliance on experimental evidence?

The question is very brief and needs to be expanded somewhat in order to convey the intent. What kind of knowledge can be achieved under the assumption that only what is measured is real and only what is real is that which is being measured? What knowledge can be obtained by totally excluding counter factual reasoning?  Stated this way the answer to the question is probably already apparent as will be seen below. The implication is that the moon only exists if you are looking at it. What kind of knowledge can imply that?
In the first question the only discernable real was that discerned by all embracing pure reason – the Parmenidean real, the big picture. Q1 addresses the uppermost confines of the top down reality bucket barrel. On the other hand. this second question, Q2 imposes the opposite sense of what is real. It demands the ferociously materialist atomism and absolutist one to one nominalism that only the Epicureans ever had the audacity to contemplate to the fullest degree. To each sensation there is something, to each something a sensation. There is nothing else. For the Epicureans, this was the way the world ticks. For modern science, it becomes a particular scientific methodological paradigm. It’s the way the world ticks from a particular viewpoint. It’s the view from the bottom up. What kind of knowledge can be achieved within the confines of such a dogmatic straight jacket?
In this case the answer historically came before the question was ever seriously posed. The ancient answer was the physics of the Epicureans complete with their deterministic atoms moving along Bertrand Russel like causal lines but armed with an occasional, unpredictable, and at that time, indiscernible “swerve.” The modern answer is in the form of quantum mechanics, Heisenburg’s uncertainty principle, and in particular the classical Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics.
The Epicurean ontological straightjacket implicit in Q1 limits the knowledge quest downwards to the minute, indivisible “Epicurean atoms” of reality: the elementary subatomic particles of modern physics. The only difference is that the atoms of Epicurus we assumed ot have extent. Modern physics is more radical in this regard. The elementary particles have no extent whatsoever. They are assumed to be point like. Such particles have nothing in the their interior. They simply don’t even have an interior. If there is something in the interior, your particle is not elementary. You haven’t reached rock bottom of the reality bucket.
The brutal minimalism of QM is succinctly expressed in Dirac’s razor principle.

Dirac’s razor

Quantum mechanics can only answer questions regarding the outcome of possible experiments. Any other questions, philosophical or otherwise, lie beyond the realms of physics.
This is the declaration that QM is a philosophical desert. QM declares that it is fundamentally a philosophical, metaphysical, epistemological, ontological, theological, spiritual vacuum. This is not a weakness, it is strength. It is this that gives it its rigour and even its vigour.

The Entanglement Problem

A situation arises in QM that there can exist minute particle systems which are non-localised. Consider the case of a pair of entangled photons produced by a photon splitting in two. Pairs of such photons can be produced in experiments. The polarisation of one entangled photon will be the opposite to that of the other. According to QM the actual polarisation for each photon would be indeterminate until the polarisation of one of the photons was actually measured. The measurement performed on one particle would flip its polarisation to say horizontal or vertical. According to QM, the polarisation of the other photon will instantly become the opposite polarity irrespective of how far away it is.
Einstein didn’t like the indeterminacy aspects of QM – “God doesn’t throw dice” but it was this “spooky action at a distance” that really bothered him. In the famous EPR paper, written with Podolsky and Rosen, he argued his case. QM conflicted totally with the classical view of physical reality that Einstein adhered to. According to his view a theory must allow for the simultaneous existence of “elements of reality” which are independent of measurement. The EPR paper gave a very concise and lucid definition of elements of reality:
If, without in any way disturbing a system, we can predict with certainty (i.e., with probability equal to unity) the value of a physical quantity, then there exists an element of physical reality corresponding to this physical quantity.
The EPR paper then put forward a thought experiment that revealed a paradox in the QM theory of entangled particles. The EPR paper argued that each of the “entangled” photons would possess their own element of reality and have their polarisations determined at the time of the pair’s  creation, not at the time when one of them was measured. The measurement of  the polarity of one wouldn’t affect that of the other as its polarisation had already been determined and couldn’t be altered by any “spooky action at a distance,” as predicted by QM.
Basically the EPR paper argued for what is sometimes called “local realism”. The two fundamental principles are that there exist elements of physical reality or “hidden variables” and that this realism be local. The locality principle demands that theory must adhere to the principles of relativity (causes cannot propagate faster than the speed of light). Thus the measurement on one member of an entangled pair of particles should not effect any measurement carried on the other member.
The simplified argument is that either the locality principle and with it the special theory of relativity was violated or the elementary particles harboured internal “hidden variables.” In the first case relativity theory is proved wrong. Alternatively in the second case there are aspects of reality not accounted for by QM. QM is not proved wrong but is proved “incomplete.”
With the passage of time thanks to the ingenious theorem of J. S. Bell and the experiments devised by A. Aspect et al and others, it has been demonstrated that the EPR paper’s proposed construct of local hidden variables could not possibly explain particle entanglement. This left the possibility that QM entanglement explanation would violate relativity theory. However, that is not a problem either as there is no determinate causal relationship between the particle pairs. The process cannot possibly be exploited for signalling and thus does not violate relativity theory.

Popper on Quantum mechanics

We have used Karl Popper as a point of reference for the first of our reality barrel questions, the one stemming from Kant. He dismissed the question outright with scant regard to any possible answer. For symmetry we should consider the other side of the reality barrel where we found an already existing answer in want of a suitable question. We provide the question but what would Popper think of the answer? The answer was in the form of a twentieth century science called quantum mechanics. Would Popper in fact agree that quantum mechanics was a proper science? As is well known Popper had great difficulty accepting many of the tenants of QM. For a start, QM would have to abide by his falsifiable criterion in order to be acceptable as a science. This allows provisionally valid propositions to be deemed scientific provided that there existed the potentiality for the propositions to be proven false. To Popper, all that was admissibly scientific was uniquely constructed from such potentially falsifiable propositions.
If one takes the long view at what Popper is saying here, one can easily get the impression that Popper is more concerned in fighting political dogmatism on the campus, than engaging in real science. He was more intent on arguing that what was inherently anti dogmatic was inherently scientific. But was hard core science itself inherently hard core non dogmatic?
This question takes on great importance when we consider quantum mechanics, the most fundamental and deepest of the empirical physical sciences. The difference between quantum mechanics and all other empirical sciences is not expressed in the details of the subject matter addressed, but in the fact that it is the only pure empirical science. Being purely empirical, methodologically pushes its subject down to the very bottom reaches of reality. It means that quantum mechanics is the only empirical science which tolerates absolutely no “elements of reality” which exist independently of the actual act of measurement.  In order to achieve this goal it must dig down to the bare, nude essentials of reality.
It is the only such science. To put it another way, quantum mechanics is dogmatically empirical. To put it even more bluntly, quantum mechanics is empericism as an absolute dogma. This dogmatism is most clearly expressed with its Epicurean like dogma of the one to one relationship between the sensation and the real. Quantum mechanics theory of the real is that only what is measured is real. This science, located at the very bottom of the bucket of reality, where is nothing is deemed below, expresses itself in empirical tautologies. The measured and the real are two sides of the one thing. As such, this most reliable, accurate, and most dogmatic of the empirical sciences is inherently unfalsifiable at its core.
All the same, Popper stuck to his guns and had no alternative but to reject some of the essential tenants of quantum mechanics as being, in his terms, “unscientific”. In so doing, he ignored one of the two most fundamental questions one can ask concerning knowledge of reality. In the case of Q2, the knowledge is not only true, but measurably so. After all the Copenhagen dogma declares only that which is measured is real. What is real is only that which is measured.
This has lead to a tautology, an implicit “analytic judgment”. Kant would have found that fascinating. Moreover, this fundamental tautology appears not on the transcendental side of the equation but on the empirical. Even more fascinating is that this fundamental construct defines the pure empirical itself. The pure empirical is, well…, purely empirical. Such is the fundamental nature of quantum mechanics as declared in the Copenhagen interpretation.

Is There a Fundamental Level?

There are two takes on reality. There are tow fundamental questions Q1 and Q2 that express the fundamental opposition between the two fundamental perspectives on reality. The fundmanetl opposition reveals itself in many ways. An important consideration concerns whether ther is a fundamantal level of reality.
Is there a fundamental level? Jonathan Schaffer asks the question and summarises the fundamentalist response. “The fundamentalist starts with (a) a hierarchical picture of nature as stratified into levels, adds (b) an assumption that there is a bottom level which is fundamental, and winds up, often enough, with (c) an ontological attitude according to which the entities of the fundamental level are primarily real, while any remaining contingent entities are at best derivative, if real at all.” He lists the physicalist, epiphenomenalist and atomist variants on the theme. Finding plausible the hierachial view of nature in (a) as being compatible with the discoveries of science, Schaffer homes in on (b) as the problem area, which he remarks has been almost entirely neglected. Concerning the primacy of what is real, the fate of (c) is linked to (b) as a reasonable but not inevitable conclusion.
And so is there a fundamental, bottom of the bucket, level in Reality?
In our preceding discussion of quantum mechanics we argued, with scarcely camouflaged glee, for a dogmatic interpretation of the science findings which would seem to place us firmly in Schaffer‘s camp of fundamentalists. We were advocating the bottom of the reality bucket theory. On the face of it we supported without reservation all three tenants of the fundamentalist argument. At the risk of seeming, or even blatantly being, excessively schematic we identified the ontological approach of quantum mechanics as smacking of pure Epicureanism, a natural logical set of conclusions resulting from a pure unadulterated atomistic,
uncompromisingly blunt materialism and one to one nominalism evolving down from Democritus, a thinker not particularly notable for his subtlety and dexterity of thought, At least Aristotle didn’t seem to be very impressed., advocating at one time that Democritus’s books should all be burnt. These Epicurians, and by implication the author, certainly seem to resemble Schaffer’s bottom feeding fundamentalists.
But the Epicurians should not be treated too harshly. They were, after all, primarily engaged in a peaceful quest for happiness in this life. They had identified perhaps the greatest obstacle to leading a happy life, notably fear of the gods and the accompanying troublesome predisposition towards deep, contemplative ways of thinking. An anti-metaphysical, anti-philosophizing, theologically bland, and some would say, anti-thinking creed called Epicureanism was the result. Few would have predicted that this creed would one day serve as the ontological stalwart of the successful and accurate modern sciences of today. Modern physics can even mathematically describe, at least probabalistically, the dynamics of Epicure’s mysterious micro-physicalist “swerve”. Strong on empirical scientific prediction and mathematical accuracy on one side, a self declared philosophical, ontological desert on the other. It aims to describe it all but can explain nothing. It’s as they say in the classics, you can’t have everything. At least not at the same time.
We return to the question. Is there a bottom fundamental level? We have answered in the affirmative. In so doing we have sided with a kind of metaphysic which, as Schaffer points out, is not particularly palatable for the more reasonable and civilised of people. Painfully it appears that we have excluded ourselves from such a community. Self declared metaphysical pariahs, we must face the dire consequences of our apparently foolhardy prise de position.
However, as we have argued throughout this work, there are two takes on reality, not just one. Hence we have assented to the proposition that there is a fundamental layer. This corresponds to the left side science take on the world, the simple, rather simplistic, abstract, naïvely realistic view of the world.
The right side science take on reality has a different vocation to its uncivilised and rather uncouth partner in crime. Right side science must not merely be content with describing the qualities that a thing has, it must explain what a thing is.
From a historical perspective, we argue that the ancient exponents of the left side take on reality were the Epicureans. In our sometimes desperate attempt to gain some traction for a right side science, we have singled out the Epicurean’s nemesis, the Stoics.
Of immediate concerns to our current discussion is the Stoic view on whether or not there is a fundamental level. The general view amongst the Stoics was that there was no bottom fundamental level. In some way reality was infinitely divisible, at no matter what level. This was also a position held by Leibnitz who made pains to add the nuance of being infinitely divided rather than infinitely divisible.
As for the Stoics, Chrysippus is credited with saying:
A key contribution of this work is to indicate how this genetic code is in fact a generic code applicable to anything. In the appendix the approach is applied to show how the generic code applies to particle physics.
As to answering the two fundamental questions Q1 and Q2, we can claim to have dealt with Q2, but the enigmatic Kantian question Q1 still remains to be answered. Nevertheless, we are starting to see what needs to be done. Rather flippantly we can say that all we have to do is to revamp ancient Stoic physics and logic and make it scientific. Let’s hope that we don’t die trying. So many have.

A later post is more to the point in answering this question,
see The Shape of Knowledge
See also What is Gender?

Kant, Buddhism and Sankara

Striving to Answer the Kantian Question

In attempting to answer the Kantian question, we explore some aspects of Eastern thought.

In the Critique of Pure Reason, Emanuel Kant entered into this doleful epistemological hellhole posing the famous question: “What can we hope to achieve with reason, when all the material and assistance of experience is taken away?” It is the central question addressed in this blog. How can you create knowledge working from virtually nothing but reason? Kant penned this question over two centuries ago. The question remains unanswered to this day. The question deserves to be raised once more and with even more urgency as Kant did in his time.This raises the additional question of why does the problem remain unsolved? Many of the Germanic philosophers that followed Kant claimed to have had answers but then only in the form of tentative, intuitive and very informal glimpses. Hegel was the most successful. He read elementary and generic forms of reality into and from the historic movement of society. He combined metaphysics with an empirical historicism. The Hegelian perspective has held considerable influence right into the twentieth century, but has stagnated and lost potency in recent times.
In modern times, Aristotle’s Square of Oppositions construct has inspired the development of semiotics. Aristotle’s square of oppositions becomes rebadged as the semiotic square. The basic idea of the semiotic square is that any particular view of reality as a whole can be analysed in terms of the semiotic square. The writings of Algirdas Julien Greimas (Greimas, 1991) provide many examples. In an early work (Moore, 1992), the author outlined his own primitive approach to the semiotic square, at the time.
From our point of view, linguistics is a left side science of the same kind as all the other traditional sciences. It is on the left side that we find an immense variety of languages both natural and artificial. Such languages lend themselves to study using the traditional tools of abstraction, generalisation, empirical measurement, and mathematical modelling. On the other hand, we argue that semiotics is an integral component of our embryonic right side science, the science of the second kind. This semiotic breed of science does not treat the sign as a signifier of something “out there” as does linguistics. Pure semiotics is not concerned with knowing and describing “this and that”. Rather, the objective is to know and describe something that simply just is.
Right side science may have introspective overtones, but this is not its characterisation. The relationship between left and right side science does not lie along any object/subject symmetry. If left side science can be characterised as a science of objects, it does not follow that right side science is merely the science of subject. The knowledge of the Self that is, dies not merely involve knowledge of Self as subject. Self involves both object and subject. Even when Self is considered as object, the subject is always present. This contrasts with the left side perspective where in the case of the thing as object, no subject is present. Left side sciences specialise in what has been called the “view from nowhere”, the “God’s eye view”, the view of the “detached observer”. In right side science the view is from the perspective of the subject or the object, depending on context. The Spectator never quits the Spectacle and the Spectacle never deserts the Spectator. In right side science, there is no desperately isolated and lonely Cartesian moi pensant left sitting on a rock.
Dramatic comrades like Threepio and Artoo abound across the art forms. Don Quixote profusely provides a running commentary on his illustrious deeds of chivalry while Sancho just tags along with his feet never far from the ground. In the comics, Mandrake the Magician, with clever words and a snap of his fingers, baffles everyone with his illusions while dark and silent Luther provides logistical support from the shadows. The common theme is of a couple with the flamboyant character playing the role of a dexterous manipulator of symbols, the symbols having only the most tenuous attachment to the real world. On the opposite side, the other character is rooted in a simpler and simplifying world with the symbol anchored in the semantics of the real despite being strangely mute, or nearly so.
As we have mentioned above, right science has a vocation for semiotics rather than linguistics. If there is any language at play on the right side turf it will be the language of semiotics, not the language of the popular press and the masses. Moreover, the language will be unique as there is only one system of signs. This is the central tenet of this blog and the most dramatic. There can be only one such science, one such System of Signs. This is echoed in central tenant of the ancient science studied by Newton. The tenet, as stated on the emerald tablet, bears repeating:
Tis true without lying, certain & most true
The task before us it to show that there is a unique, universal right side language that plays the role of uniting all scientific knowledge. Morevover, we claim that this universal code can be reverse engineered and will turn out to have exactly the same fundamental structure as the genetic code. Just like Artoo, who only speaks machine language, right side science only speaks in its own machine language; the machine language which is common to all life, the genetic code. Any living thing whatsoever speaks and organises itself in this language. The other dramatic message of this blog is that even the so called inanimate also speaks this language. This is why we will refer to it as the generic code. What is living and what is not, even starts to take on another allure.

Old Science, New Awakenings

Empedocles argued that the Elements were not gods, but rather got their power from the gods. There was a debate over which of the four prevailed over the other three. Heraclitus concurred with Empedocles that it was fire. He associated fire with Zeus. Later, the Stoics also adopted this point of view in their cosmology, where Zeus was the only entity that survived the eternally recurring conflagrations. For Anaximenes, of the four elements air was a god that “comes to be and is without measure, infinite and always in motion”. (Cicero)
Carl Yung saw this structure as an archetype for the gods:
Triads of gods appear very early, at the primitive level. The archaic triads in the religions of antiquity and of the East are too numerous to be mentioned here. Arrangement in triads is an archetype in the history of religion, which in all probability formed the basis of the Christian Trinity. (Jung)
The godhead of Hinduism follows the Three-plus-One archetype where the Hindu trinity is made up of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Whilst the Christian trinity determines a living god with terrestrial manifestations, the Hindu trinity is transcendental. The Hindu trinity represent the three different ways of understanding the ultimate reality,  where ultimate reality as the ultimate Self, reality as singularity corresponds to the allusive Brahman..

A Buffalo’s Hoof for Buttocks

Siddhārtha Gautama eventually obtained enlightenment, but radically different from what his original direction would have indicated. Under a fabled banyan tree he started to contemplate a complete doctrinal break from the ancient Brahman dominated Vedic religion. The notion of a supreme unqualifiable entity above all others, free from all determinations was a lofty notion but in reality, there was no such entity. In fact there could not be. How can the unqualifiable be qualified as supreme as this is a contradiction in terms? The Brahman starts to take on the dimensions of an oxymoron. A new doctrine was emerging in the Gautama’s mind where no entity could be taken to be superior to any other. This doctrine eventually became known as anatta, the Doctrine of Non-Self.

Side Note:
A basic tenet of this book is that religion, and particularly the four major religions, are based on the same underlying reasoning, and logic even, of the right side science that we are researching. In this respect, we are at complete odds with the fundamentalist atheists that abound today. The popular writings of Richard Dawkins (Dawkins, 2008) are a prime example. Dawkins characterises religion as simply a “delusion” and offers his concocted alternative, Evangelical Darwinism.  Dawkins joins Karl Marx, who infamously declared that religion was the “opiate of the people,” a ruse to keep the masses happy while they are being exploited by the ruling classes. Just as for Dawkins, this kind of attack does little to advance knowledge and understanding of religion. Their agenda is not to encourage people to abandon a stultifying dogmatic creed, but rather to swap one dogmatism for another. Dawkins’ Evangelical Darwinism leads to a modern version of Epicurean ism whilst Marxism has already run its course.
 Although not a fervent preoccupation of this blog, the religious dimension cannot be ignored. Instead of being a target for attack and ridicule, religion, its literature, history, and its art, can serve as a very rich source of informal, potentially scientific knowledge, at least for the right side science we are developing. In this respect, Buddhism is at the forefront.  Buddhism is the most difficult of the World religions as it is devoid of a fundamental role for a deity of any kind, As a result, this doesn’t leave much for the enquiring rational mind to latch on to.  In the final score, Buddhist theology becomes the science of Emptiness and so becomes excruciatingly delicate to formalise.
The Buddhist paradigm involves a negation of the ancient Vedic paradigm based on the supremacy of an all-pervading transcendental Brahman. The negation is not a single, simple negation but, to use a heavily misused Hegelian term, it involves a negation of the negation. The first negation totally negated that there can be any absolute hierarchy of beings. There are no absolutes. The Vedas claim the absolute supremacy of the Brahman. There is no transcendental reality. The only absolute truth here is that the Vedas must be wrong and so must be abandoned. However, this simple negation does not characterise the Buddhist paradigm. The first negation merely negates the possibility of any being, God or like creature, can be absolutely superior to any other being. In its perspective, this negates the existence of a transcendent as well as any omnipotent kind of deity as in Christianity. However, it does not negate the possibility of an imminent type of deity, a deity present with other beings but not over-towering. To eliminate that possibility, a second negation is required.
In what follows, only the first negation has been over simplified. No attempt has been made to make corrections. Better to ride with the error than to introduce yet more errors. The discussion at this juncture is only exploratory anyway as we presently lack the tools for a more incisive kind of precision.  We continue blithely onwards.
Legend has it that under the Banyan tree he started to describe a new way of living that he called the Middle Way. He also espoused the basic doctrine of Buddhism in the form of the Four Noble Truths. In so doing, he had discovered a new godhead for a new religion; but in this case, it was a godhead without any transcendent or omnipotent gods.

Buddhism and the Godless Godhead

The First Noble Truth declares that there is absolutely no permanence in the universe, everything changes, and everything eventually perishes. Clearly, such a Noble Truth does not leave much of a career opportunity for gods claiming to be immortal. However, this does not mean that Buddhism is atheist. Deities, demi-gods and deva of all kinds are tolerated as long as they do not claim to be of the imperishable supreme variety. In brief, deities are permitted in Buddhism but are excluded from the doctrine’s godless godhead. Only the First Noble Truth and its accompanying triad of truths, enjoy the status of being supreme and eternal.
The doctrine discovered by Siddhārtha Gautama became known as Buddhism. Buddhism rapidly expanded throughout the Indian subcontinent to become the dominant religion in India for a thousand years.

The problem is central and confronts any budding theological engineer aspiring to construct a World religion. The religion must be based on a Three-plus-One semiotic structure. It will be explained later why this should be the case, but for the moment it suffices to know that that is common practice in theological circles. The central problem is that the One part of the Three-plus-One structure must demand a supreme entity that is impervious to disqualification. (For the moment, we choose not to consider entities of the Jehovah and Allah variety, as they can be a bit tricky.) The best place to start is with the Vedic Brahman, as it is simply the entity the most immune from disqualification possible. Now a possible disqualification of the Brahman is to say that it does not exist. Fortunately, the Vedic Brahman has been engineered to withstand such an ontological onslaught because, as is well known, it is so devoid of qualification that it cannot be determined whether it exists or does not exist; it is beyond such

Clearly, this Brahman is a quite incredible entity. It stands out and above all others and so surely merits being entitled Brahman, the most supreme being of all. However, there is a problem. By considering the Brahman as the Supreme entity, the pinnacle of freedom from qualification, the adept had qualified the unqualifiable. The supreme unqualified being is a walking oxymoron. There cannot be any Supreme Being. Siddhārtha Gautama took his body, mind, and soul to the brink of the non-qualified and come back with the message that there is nothing there. There was no Imperishable One, but only a multiplicity of multiplicity. Everything changes.

Advaita Vedanta is first and foremost philosophical, rather than theological and theist. The philosophy rescues the ancient Vedic Brahman from attack from Buddhism by lifting the argument up to a higher level. Buddhism claims that there is no Supreme Being and, in particular, no Brahman. Advaita Vedanta has no alternative but to accept this argument as being literally true. There is not and cannot be a literal Supreme Being. To overcome this apparent impasse, the philosophy introduces Nirguna Brahman that is so totally lacking in qualification that it cannot be said to be literally a Supreme Being. Moreover, it cannot be said that it is not. Shankara concludes that Nirguna Brahman must be totally beyond comprehension.

 In order to comprehend Brahman, the finiteness and limitations of the human mind must be content with a lower realm of understanding. In this lower realm, Brahman appears as Saguna Brahman, which, unlike Nirguna Brahman, is endowed with determined characteristics. Thus, in principle, Saguna Brahman is knowable and is called Ishvara. The determined characteristics of Ishvara are those of the empirical reality in which we live. Although these characteristics, attributes and properties may appear real, according to Advaita, they are mere illusion produced by a mechanism called maya. The only thing that is real is Nirguna Brahman, which is the only objectively true reality. Advaita Vedanta, philosophically speaking, is monistic; but rather than declaring that Nirguna Brahman is the One, as does ancient Vedism, it must be qualified by what it is not. It is non-dual. The role of the maya mechanism is to maintain non-duality of the only fundamentally real reality, Nirguna Brahman.

What is at play here is a very profound form of relativity. In relativistic physics, it is the speed of light, a cosmological constant that is invariant for all inertial reference frames as explained in the Special Theory of Relativity. Not maintaining the invariance of the speed of light is tantamount to violating causality, allowing effects to precede their cause. Thus, relativity theory in physics can be seen as an essential aspect of maintaining the fundamental integrity of our universe. The profound relativity implied in maya mechanism of Advaita Vedanta would embrace modern relativity theories, but go much further and deeper.
Here is not the place to attempt a treatise on Advaita Vedanta philosophy. Our intention is merely to indicate how the philosophy moved from the Vedic literalism of Brahman to a non-literal way of thinking. Instead of talking literally, the philosophy reaches for a lower degree of qualification. This can be achieved by changing the attention from the privileged and mythically supreme Brahman to a radically different entity. The supreme entity of ancient times morphs into any entity whatsoever which plays the role of an entity in its own right. It is this being-cum-entity that takes centre stage. The whole Cosmos gyrates around it. The centre of the Cosmos is any entity whatsoever. Here we start to see the maya mechanism coming into play. If any determined entity, any determined being, were to enforce itself as being more important than any other then duality would be the outcome. A duality always exists where there is a ruler and the ruled. It is only in the case of the ontological democracy ofany entity whatsoever as the centre of the cosmos that such dualities can be avoided.
It is thus that anybody can declare that they are the centre of the universe. It is in this kind of way that Advaita Vedanta philosophy can be viewed as a counter Copernican revolution, albeit an ironic one.

Zinoviev and a light interlude

Alexandre Zinoviev photo
One of the aims of this project was to avoid at all costs falling into the morass of Kant’s “fine spun arguments”.  Above all, our discourse must avoid abstraction, a virus that Kant seemed to have picked up from his intellectual journey into the land of English philosophers. What we have learnt from writing the book (very soon to be published) is that abstraction is the result of applying abstract logical generalisations accompanied by a very flat semantics. This is the nub of left side rationality.  
On the other hand, right side reason employs only the first order logic of particulars and is so is devoid of generalisations and any abstraction. It is the logic of the motor mechanic. There is no room for abstraction when you are putting a motor car back together. Curiously, however, this lowly first order logic of right side reason, the logic of the Stoic logician Chrysippus, is somehow freed of the semantic chains that seem to enslave its left side counterpart. No longer is it limited to a shallow, literalist semantics.  This logic may indeed be employable by the motor mechanic, but it is also applicable by just about anybody and anything and even by a genius like Chrysippus. But, even microbes use this logic not to mention neutrinos and the even more exotic subtle beings that inhabit the material world.
The higher order semantics of right side rationality can be quite liberating to the writer. Consciously employing a right side rationality writing style does not necessarily lead to a discourse which is less rational then the supposedly more rational left side form of expression.  Right side driven literature can be extremely logical and certainly much more colourful than any left side driven discourse. In fact, our favourite author in this regard is Alexandr Zinoviev who was a top Russian logician. When the author first read Zinoviev, he had to rush off and read every other popular book he had written. Zinoviev’s writing resonated with what the author was attempting at the time, but he couldn’t put his finger on the common thread. He now knows that the style involved colourful higher order semantics accompanied by an almost total lack of abstraction. No mathematician could write like Zinoviev, only a logician can wright like that. Other logicians of renown have employed this style. Lewis Carol, or Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in real life, was another example of a logician turning his hand to higher order semantics. The fantasies, the allegories, the metaphors, the vicious irony involved are not abstractions but trajectories into higher order discursive semantics.
The Two Savants
Our dilemma is that it is difficult to accurately convey an understanding of right side reasoning using a left side writing style.  It is like asking a rustic to describe life in the big city. Our immediate task is to simply explain what is meant by higher order semantics versus the vanilla first order semantics of traditional left side reasoning, which includes all of the traditional sciences and mathematics of today.  We will attempt to illustrate the difference using the allegory of the idiot savant and his lesser-known accomplice.

In our attempt to find an easily grasped understanding of the difference between first order semantics and second order semantics, we can look at the difference between the Idiot Savant and the Savant Idiot. The first kind of savant is a left side dominant thinker and the latter is right side. Thus, there are two generic kinds of brilliant idiot in this world. It is the left side thinking Idiot Savant who consistently applies first order semantics to understand his world. In order to understand the city he is passing through, for example, he will read the entire White Pages from cover to cover. His favourite occupation is counting cards in casino blackjack.  On the other hand, the Savant Idiot applies second order semantics to each situation, dialectically musing over this and that. He is very philosophical. He is truly wise and resembles in many ways, the perfect Stoic sage. He is never wrong. His only weakness is that he cannot do up his own bootlaces or even fill out a tax return by himself. In fact, he is totally inept at most things practical. This is his idiot side.

Somehow these two savants seem to get along together, or at least they used to.