The Sound Hypothesis: Observation & Theory

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The views in the preamble were offered in an attempt to provide a general portrayal of scientific materialism as a world-conception. To recapitulate, according to this view, only what is measurable and without quality is real. The world’s qualitative and immeasurable aspects—the very form and substance of concrete experience itself—“are consigned to the trash heap” of falsified hypotheses. Despite the confidence of its pronouncement and its incontrovertible success in many spheres of human life, the cosmology of scientific materialism is philosophically untenable. One may compare it to a papier-mâché cathedral, or a castle built upon the sand. For example, to state categorically that “thinking is just the meat talking to itself” is to refute the credibility of this very statement: why should one believe such an assertion if it were true? To wit, that very statement itself must represent the mere product of senseless chemical processes, or, in short, “meat talking to itself.” This is to saw off one’s own branch in a figurative sense, or, as Hamlet so memorably exclaimed, “Thus is the Engineer/Hoist with’s own Petard.”

Rather than begin to rend apart the physicalist worldview like a shark in a feeding frenzy, however, one will exercise some modicum of restraint in this consideration. The reason for this intentional self-arrest is that philosophical refutations of scientific materialism have already been undertaken on numerous occasions by this very author, and on innumerable other occasions by many thinkers far wiser than than he. If such appeals to logic have failed, it is unlikely that further ones will succeed. Rather than engage in intellectual dispute over the cogency of a materialistic ontology, one will attempt in this inquiry to present a new way of seeing—a new theory to interpret the manifest quantitative Empirical findings that scientists of the past centuries have so commendably amassed. Contrary to the consensus in the scientific field, however, the latter findings do not constitute evidence for atomistic materialism. In fact, such evidence, eo ipso, does not exist. Instead, the same findings that appear to present scientific evidence for materialistic models of macrocosm and microcosm alike might just as well be marshaled to prove an entirely different world-conception. One will attempt to offer just such an alternative in the section to follow. First, however, it seems fitting to address any eventual and understandable reservations that the reader may have with such a severe contention against material science.

The contention that findings of material science represent just as much a fulfillment of an implicit confirmation bias as any bona fide advancement of human knowledge likely strikes the reader as nonsense, if not as flagrant blasphemy against the respectable institution of modern science. Nevertheless, the claim that incontrovertible evidence for scientific materialism does not exist may be allowed to substantiate itself if the charitable reader will merely consider that one would not recognise evidence as evidence in the first place without a particular theory that it could be evidence for. In the philosophy of science, this notion is often expressed by the statement that “all observation is theory-laden.” This loading of observation and theory is by no means confined to the field of science. Quite the contrary, it represents the basic principle of cognition as such. Reality itself is the issue of a perennial wedding of observation and theory,
sensation and intention,
fact and meaning,
Empirical and Ideal.
As Whitehead remarked in Process and Reality, if we want a record of uninterpreted experience, we must consult the autobiography of a rock. Iian McGilchrist expresses the same point in The Master and His Emissary when he notes that:

The kind of attention we bring to bear on the world changes the nature of the world we attend to, the very nature of the world in which those ‘functions’ would be carried out, and in which those ‘things’ would exist. Attention changes what kind of a thing comes into being for us….

One can only perceive what one can conceive. Indeed this enunciates the philosophy at the very heart of Theoria-press. We must recognise the singular importance to our perceptions of the conceptions that we entertain. How we look determines What we see. “To an hammer, everything looks like a nail,” as the old saw expresses this principle. Likewise to a physicalistic hammerhead, everything looks like aggregates of inert particles that mindlessly bounce about like Newtonian billiard-balls for the purposeless purpose of dissipating kinetic energy ultimately to usher in a global heat-death at the end of cosmic time. The next section will attempt to offer a new theory, which one may imagine as an alternative “form of attention” into which we may load our observations withal. Such a theory represents the new “kind of attention” to which McGilchrist alluded, and which may eventually “change the very nature of the world that we attend to.”

Originally published in December 2017 on the Lizard-press, which is to Theoria-press as Zeus is to Athena.

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