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Back to the ancients to find the future of science

Dualism, Monism and the Stoics

The Double Articulation

Two birds living together, each the friend of the other, perch upon the same tree. Of these two, one eats the sweet fruit of the tree, but the other simply looks on without eating. The two birds are the Jiva and Isvara, both existing in an individual compared to a tree. [Mundaka Upanishad]

What interests us about Stoicism is the paradigm. The paradigm does not belong uniquely to the Stoics but stretches back from Heraclitus and Parmenides right through Leibnitz to Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Marx, and Yung and to some of the more recent moderns. The paradigm has been referred to as monism.

The natural opposite to monism can be seen in the present sciences of our day. These sciences are characterised by atomism, fundamental dualities and abstraction. These traditional sciences, which include axiomatic mathematics, are aligned on virtually the same epistemological axis as Epicurean. Charles Sander Peirce pointed this out likening the Epicureans to John Stuart Mill’s philosophy. Bertrand Russell and Karl Popper could be added to the list. As you know, the author characterises the Epicurean type paradigm as left side science, as this is this kind of thinking is privileged by the left hemisphere of the brain. Initially we used this as a metaphor but things have started to become a little more literal. A lot is known about the functioning of this side of the brain, its syntactic language capability, but semantic limitations, its attention, even obsession, to fine detail, its tendency to fabulate when in doubt. A general characteristic of left side thinking is the continuous attempt to meld the mind to the world.

What is of interest here is the complementary mode of thinking, right side thinking. Much less is understood about this side of brain functioning. Here I am talking about the biological brain and also the “epistemological brain”. The latter brain contains, or should contain, two hemispheres of complementary knowledge. In this right side case, rather than mould mind to the world, the task becomes that of moulding the world to fit the mind. In other words, if the traditional “left side” sciences are bottom up oriented, the right side science will be a top down science – non-empirical, all worked out from pure reason alone – the Kantian scenario.
In our view, the right side thinkers par excellence were the Stoics. It appears to us that the Stoics were more advanced in many ways than even Hegel, the most prominent right side monist Western thinker of modern times.
It might seem strange that we have difficulty talking about the Stoics without continuously considering them in oppositions with their opposite number, the Epicureans. Even worse, we keep spreading the discussion across a left side right side epistemological dichotomy, a dichotomy that has distinct biological reverberations. Not only is knowledge organised along these lines, not only the universe but the very architecture of our brains also has this shape – a left side, a right side and even a back side with frontal lobe front side. Everything surely is connected and intercalated, as the Stoics claimed. Maybe they were right.
The basic message we want to get across is that there are two basic philosophical paradigms. Now everyone knows that already. The Western philosophical tradition has been split right down the middle almost since the year dot. What interests me is the multi-paradigm paradigm. This has been a long interest even in the author’s professional work developing computer languages. To many in the IT community, computer languages are like religions. The author treated each of the four fundamental computer language paradigms as separate dogmas and integrated the dogmas. This gave him a lot of practical experience in integrating what appear to be totally conflicting dogmas. Single doctrine doctrines are just doctrines and dogmas. Multiple paradigm paradigms become systems.
And so we finally come to the main point. We believe that one cannot arrive at a deep fundamental understanding of Stoicism without simultaneously understanding the nature and way of thinking of its opposite, which in the occurrence, is incarned in the Epicurean dogma. In addition, this great epistemological divides should be looked at from higher perspective than merely this historic occurrence. These two doctrines are instances of a greater generic dichotomy that has further instances in Cosmology right across to brain architecture.
Right side thinking expresses itself in oppositions. Thus, even to promote a particular doctrine such as the basic paradigm of right side thought itself, that paradigm must be put in opposition against others. Perhaps one should note in passing that Chrysippus himself practiced this technique. As Diogenes Laërtius wrote, early on in his studies “he got the habit of arguing for and against a custom.” (LAERTIUS)Chrysippus was also known for his prolific and lengthy citations. This is an important aspect of the critical nature of right side thinking. The demise of a vibrant critical tradition in politics and the social sciences is a lamentable fact in present day society. In the case of the sciences, such a tradition is totally absent: the only critique is that of peer review. What we need is a totally different kind of science to put the cat amongst the pigeons.
At this present time, our Western culture and our education system place all the emphasis on left side thinking. This is particularly apparent in the sciences. There the fundamental left side paradigm goes right back to the first atomists, Leucippus and Democritus, forerunners to Epicurus. The present day traditional sciences and modern formal mathematics continue the development. Some of the key aspects of this tradition are:
· Dualist and atomist – tolerates rigid dichotomies.
· Abstraction
· Languages
· Bottom up methodology
· Likes labelling things.
All of these characteristics are interrelated and are expressions of s single underlying paradigm. From a neuro-psychological perspective, these are also fundamental characteristics of left hemisphere brain function.
When it comes to right side thinking, it has its own tradition with the Stoics occupying a most prominent position. Some key characteristics of right side thinking are:
· Monist – no rigid dichotomies, everything relative.
· Generic (Non-abstract)
· No Languages just bare meanings – semiotics and a semiotic code.
· Top down methodology
· Likes expressing knowledge in terms of oppositions, not labels.

Language Difference

On the biological front, a most dramatic differences between the two hemispheres for humans is that the left hemisphere can speak and the right hemisphere cannot. A subject with the left hemisphere immobilised will be mute. With the right hemisphere immobilised the subject will be able to generate syntactically correct speech, although it may be severely impaired with regard to its meaning.

Hemi-Neglect

Another dramatic difference between the two hemispheres is that the left hemisphere, on its own, suffers from hemi neglect. This means that the left hemisphere appears to be only conscious of one half of reality. It will only recognise and be conscious of one side of the body, the right side. It will not be conscious of its left side or of anyone or anything on its left side. It may even only be able to see the right side of a clock. The right hemisphere exhibits no hemi neglect, recognises both sides of the body as its own, and sees a whole world.

Biological versus Epistemological Brain

In brief, the left hemisphere can have languages whilst the right side is mute. The left hemisphere sees a half world; the right hemisphere sees a whole world. These are differences easily observable in the clinic. However, these are differences between the biological hemispheres. A persistent theme in this work is that the biological brain and the structure of knowledge, the “epistemological brain,” share a common generic structure. If indeed this were the case, then the phenomenon of hemi-neglect for the left hemisphere and language muteness for the right hemisphere should have some epistemological analogues.
It finally comes down to the fact that there are two distinctive modes of thinking, a left side and a right side. If we admit of a second dichotomy, as indeed we must, then we end up with four modes of thinking. This secondary dichotomy is the front back dichotomy that we have been talking about. We argue that this four-cornered playing field provides the common ground for organising knowledge. For right side science, all knowledge is defined relative to this playing field, relative to the generic subject.

Biochemistry and the Double Articulation

The architecture of the generic subject was worked out starting from the Parmenidean question: What is? Answer: Reality is. This entity that really is, this Parmenidean incarnation of the real that is the eternal now, this thing can be thought of as the impersonal subject. It is from the point of view of this subject that situates the God’s eye view, the view from nowhere of what is not. Everything is relative of course. There are no absolutes. This Other, that is not (relative to the Subject), this other entity corresponds to the impersonal object. The impersonal subject and the impersonal object relate to each other in the most intimate and profound way. The Other, from the perspective of the science, is totally devoid of any specificity whatsoever. However, so pure and profound is this lack of specificity is that the lack of determined specificity becomes a characterising principle. This lack of attribute, this utmost purity can actually be thought of as an attribute. This Other has the attribute of such purity and lack of specificity.
We have already discussed this dialectic of to be and to have and cast it into a relative typing system called gender. The pure feminine was characterised as the entity having the pure attribute and the masculine, considered as an entity in its own right, becomes that attribute. The feminine has it, the masculine is it. What has the attribute can only be known via the attribute, via what is. This fundamental dichotomy between the feminine and the masculine is that between the object world and the singular subject, what we have been calling the left right dichotomy.
This is the dichotomy between reality and the impersonal subject, the result of the “view from nowhere.” In order to arrive at a tractable science, a tractable view of the world, a more determined purchase is necessary than the view of from nowhere. What is required is a view from somewhere.
The view from somewhere is the view you get when you are at this location, be it in time and space or whatever. In order for this to be the case, you must take on the determination commensurate with a subject sufficiently qualified to do the job. No longer are you an impersonal subject, but you become a personalised subject. The same gender qualification will do the job, but it is a qualification relative to you and not reality. The qualification must provide the singularity of you. This is the masculine side of the qualification. The feminine is the other side of the qualification. The side that is not a singularity in itself but has the singularity all the same – as an attribute, but not as its essence. The essence of the feminine remains a total mystery in this metaphysic: the mystery is its essence in fact. The feminine remains the wildcard at all times. It is the masculine, which is the open book.
The Indian Hindu thinkers, particularly the Advaita Vedanta school, understand this metaphysic very well and in detail. Many interpretations are of religious and spiritual nature, which illustrate these difficult the allusive ideas in vivid colourful detail. Sometimes the concepts are adorned with ancient mythical stories dating right back to Vedic times. At the more technical level, the absolutely unqualified entity, which even escapes any subject object dichotomy, is the Brahman. The Brahman is the cosmic self and is identical to atman, the self of all living beings. At the first level of qualification, the pure subject object dichotomy associated with the view from nowhere, corresponds to the Nirguna Brahman, the non-manifested form of the Brahman.
The next determination leads to Ishvara considered as both a transcendent and immanent entity. By coming into being, he creates the world and thus ends up living in it. In fact, he is the world in the sense that “this world is covered and filled with Ishvara”. After these two determinations, the world is divided up into four. This is ground zero, and like the North Pole, all roads from here lead in a single direction South. The interpretations of this original semiotic square abound. In all cases, there is the usual Three plus One form of the square. Since we know that the most generic labelling of the four elements of the square, we can consider different variants using the gender typing as a constant frame of reference. In other words, we use a gender-labelling scheme, noting that the labels are not arbitrary, as for left side methodologies, but ontologically constructed. One semiotic description of the Ishvara semiotic square consists of the triad Ishvara, all sentient entities and the World. The triad is complemented by the One, corresponds to the Brahman. Other accounts explain creation in gender terms resembling the Stoic version. The feminine is unqualified, formless substance. The masculine expresses the Individualisation Principle that fertilises the feminine, bringing about individualisation.
From all of this a universal structure emerges based on two oppositions and the mutual opposition between them. One opposition, the impersonal, is between Reality and its Oneness. The other, is the opposition between an individual being and its oneness. Oneness translates as the masculine, the Other as the feminine. We adopt the left right polarity convention for the first opposition and front back for the second. The masculine Oneness sides of the convention correspond to the right and front sides of the resulting semiotic square. This square becomes the generic reference frame for all that follows. An intuitive interpretation is to see this structure as the architectural layout for the generic mind. In terms of gender typing the four parts of the square are typed MF, FF, FM, and MM. These binary typed entities can be labelled with four single letters. We have chosen the convention of the four letters A, U, G, and C respectively, using RNA coding. A central tenant of this work is that these letters correspond to the four letters of the genetic code. We call it the generic code as we claim it can code any material being whatsoever, not just the biological.
From this generic Ground, the development must take into account the generic Figure. Ground, relative to itself, is obviously static, that is the nature of any ground, the nature of anything relative to itself for that matter. On the other hand, Figure, relative to Ground, is mobile. Figure itself can be understood in terms of a semiotic square structure. The structure of Ground is a Three plus One structure, where the Oneness part is typed MM and denoted by the letter C, the singular singular. The same applies for Figure. Figure can be determined relative to Ground where the AUG triad of quarters of Ground act as placeholders for the mobile quarters of Figure. So mobile are the quarters of Figure that for a determined Figure any triad of combinations are permissible including even repetitions and duplicates. This is like a dynamic Rubik Cube of prodigious complexity. Everything might appear jumbled and all over the place but there is a higher plan to produce an Oneness from this apparent chaos.
Figure and ground are the two moments of Self. Relative to Self, both Ground and Figure are mobile. Ground determines where, Figure what. Ground determines angle of point of view, Figure the view.
This kind of discussion can easily lapse into either poetry or abstraction. In an attempt to escape from this temptation, we provide the following easily understood example from biology as illustrated in the diagram below. The diagram is a schematic, not a detailed functional diagram. It shows schematically the relationship between the genetic code and the biological body that it is coding. The body is coded in a sequence of triads called codons. Each codon will consist of three letters from the alphabet A, U, G, and C. To each codon there is an implicit semiotic square where the fourth element corresponds to the body being encoded, looked at as a whole. The first codon is AUG and is the start codon. It determines the body to be coded as ground, the initial reference frame for all that follows. Each succeeding codon articulates a succession of holistic prescriptions for biological synthesis. Although lacking in determination and qualification to begin with, this sequence of holistic views increases in qualification. The specification becomes increasingly more precise as requirement on requirement compound and stack up. However, this code is nothing like the recipe for a cake, the sort of thinking characteristic of left side science. By continually viewing and recognising the organism as a whole, no matter from what viewpoint as the specification progresses, the wholeness of the whole becomes an invariant in this kind of language.
This generic language is hardly the kind of language that you would want to use to order your lunch. For that problem environment, a left side language is adequate. However if the objective is to create an autonomous unity of Oneness, you need a code whose very essence is abse3d on Oneness. For that you need the generic code, the genetic code, and as some call it even in its genetic version, the G Code.
Now the important point to note in the diagram below is that this biological body language of the genetic code illustrates what some French linguists call, the double articulation. The first articulation is what the biochemists see. This is the same view as the pastry cook. The recipe says, “Add an egg”, the pastry cook adds an egg. In the example below, the second codon says “UCC.” Looking up a table, we see that UCC codes the amino acid serine. We would thus expect to see, via the standard biochemistry mechanism, the synthesis of a component of the amino acid serine. Biochemists confirm that this is indeed the case: The organism is being constructed along pastry cook lines.
Biochemists can then write detailed memoirs of the role of the amino acid serine in the body chemistry of living organisms. Any mention or reference to the code that inspired its necessity in the scheme of things has been long forgotten. The genetic code only has one articulation. It is little more than a mere transcription language.
However, looking at the diagram we see that there is an implicit second articulation at work. The opaque four-letter code harbours an underlying generic structure based on ontological gender. Rather than
Rather than three letters per synthesis event, the diagram implicitly refers to six as each letter is double gendered. Rather than a dumb sequence of three opaque letters, we see revealed the seeds for a kind of generic geometry. This code is no longer just transcribing, it is building a highly elaborate structure of generic interiors and exteriors and so forth that make a Klein bottle look like child’s play.
The big challenge before us is to understand this second articulation. Until we make important inroads along this direction, we will have to downgrade the incredible achievements of the biochemists. They need provocation. Our finger points to the moon and the biochemist only sees the finger.
In the next section, we look at the generic logic behind the generic code. In a later section we will look at generic geometry.
Figure 25 A schematic illustrating the two articulations of the genetic code when encoding a biological body. The first articulation is biochemical transcription. The second articulates the specification in terms of a sequence of wholes. The genetic code becomes the generic code.

Shariing
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  • Anonymous November 20, 2014, 4:46 am

    Massimo, regarding our discussion of teleology, it seems you are abandoning the central Stoic doctrine of monism. The idea that everything is made up of one kind of substance–i.e. atoms is not really a sufficient expression of this monism is it? The atoms are configured in a certain way and regardless of how that came to be, in terms of external causes, that configuration is One Cosmos and everything this Cosmos does is an act of that Cosmos.

    If someone stabs me in the arm, and I tell you “Somebody stabbed me”, you don’t reply that I’ve confused a part of me with the whole of me simply because my self awareness seems to be concentrated in certain areas of my brain. Because my whole body is me, each part of my body is me. Seeing organisms like the human body as an apt metaphor for the Cosmos, the way the Stoics did, nullifies the idea that the cosmos is the result of a teleology while maintaining that it is essentially teleological. Like human bodies, it creates it’s own teleology. The fact that it does this in one particular ‘part’ (us humans as far as we know) is no more fantastic than that our own creation of teleology occurs in a relatively small part of our bodies.

    I realize this sounds like fantastic ‘woo’ to a lot of people. People who, by the way, unquestioningly believe equations which tell us that the billions of galaxies of inconceivable mass strewn across billions of light years were all once an object the size of a basketball. But it seems perfectly mundane and logical to me without any need of equations I don’t understand–where am I going wrong?

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