I have heard that you have written a lot about philosophy.
What sort of things do you discuss?
One of the main things considered is metaphysics,
especially when thinking about the process of making personal choices.
This basis is then used to consider things like ethics, beauty,
community and cultural development, communication, and things of that nature.
Overall, most traditional philosophical topics can be
considered using a specific set of metaphysical tools.
That is quite a variety of topics.
Why is there such an emphasis on metaphysics?
Usually metaphysics is considered to be a branch of philosophy,
rather than its basis.
That is correct.
The way metaphysics is conceived of here, however,
is considerably more fundamental and abstract.
It provides a set of concepts and ideas that can be used
to significantly clarify what would otherwise be very
difficult and complex philosophical topics.
Rather than being considered as a branch of philosophy,
metaphysics is to be thought of as discipline of study unto itself.
It is and provides the necessary foundations for effective philosophical thinking.
Are you proposing some sort of New Age philosophy?
No, the work is much more akin to the historical and academic
considerations of metaphysics.
An academic would begin by defining their terms.
How do you define "metaphysics"?
Metaphysics is an inquiry into the nature of the relation between self and reality.
In other words, metaphysics is that study which is concerned with the relationship --
the interaction -- between the subjective and the objective.
The aim of metaphysics is to characterize that interaction, to know and describe its
characteristics, and the categories and methods by which that interaction may be considered.
In this way, metaphysics is properly considered as a body of knowledge unto itself
with its own specialized language and vocabulary, tools and techniques, etc.
I have read that other famous historical philosophers -- Kant for example --
have said that there was no point in studying metaphysics, or
that there could not actually be any actual effective consideration of
metaphysical topics at all, ie, that "metaphysics is dead".
Why is that?
Historically, the notion of 'metaphysics' was considered to be a branch of
philosophy that was particularly concerned with ontology and epistemology.
However, insofar as these earlier philosophers considered that having
any knowledge about 'things in themselves' was impossible, they also
therefore considered any knowledge about metaphysics itself to be impossible.
Hence there is this overall bias against metaphysics that you mention,
particularly in academic circles.
What does that jargon, particularly the words 'ontology' and 'epistemology', mean in plain english?
The subject of ontology is concerned with determining the basic nature of what it means to be "real".
Its basic question is about being, about what absolutely "is".
The subject of epistemology is concerned with determining how, or on what basis, we can know anything at all.
Its basic questions are about knowing and knowledge.
One of the main questions that has concerned philosophers previously is "what is reality?".
Some philosophers had proposed various answers to that question directly, with varying results over time.
Other philosophers instead asked "what can be known about reality?",
or alternately, "is it possible to know anything about being?".
Insofar as this question is both about the absolute nature of knowing and the absolute nature of being,
it is inherently about ontology and epistemology.
For example, the philosopher Rene Descartes answered the latter question with the assertion "I think, therefore I am".
Such questions and considerations turned out to be particularly important
to the early development of science during the Renaissance.
They are still important today when considering the foundations of physics and certain future technologies.
Philosophers who first seriously considered these topics laid the foundations for science
by developing clear ideas about what constitutes a reasonable scientific method,
what is science in itself, etc.
Given that it is possible to translate the special terminology into easier to understand terms,
why use such terms in the first place?
It is inherent in the nature of effective metaphysical consideration to emphasize clarity, precision, and essence.
A discipline of clarity and exacting precision is necessary to reveal (and avoid) the traps of hidden assumptions and implicit expectations.
This discipline is best facilitated by direct positive statement with a careful, dispassionate, and sensitive attention
to the complete meaning and connotation of each word used.
By focusing only on those ideas that are of primary significance and importance, metaphysical and philosophical
discussions will initially seem to some to be more intense, dense, and 'technical'.
The selective use of appropriate terminology frees us from painful error, misunderstanding, and confusion.
While a simplified and non-specialist terminology may be preferred in some situations,
the hidden and implicit complexity of "common language" precludes the distillation of essential notions
into precise expressions of concept.
Although ultimately an understanding of metaphysics and philosophy can be very simple,
a full knowledge of the meaning, implications, and applications, is much more involved and complex.
In recognition of the need for deep clarity, a certain amount of special terminology must be allowed for.
Specialist terminology is a means by which this complexity can be managed and minimized.
It ultimately makes things more understandable, not less.
To realize these important long term advantages, some additional work is needed in the short term, however.
Powerful and more specialist tools are needed to answer the increasingly deeper and more abstract questions of philosophy.
If it ended up being about science,
why should I learn the specialist terminology and definitions associated with philosophy?
Because many of the questions associated with philosophy and metaphysics are still very important.
Some of the considerations resulting from certain questions are deeply involved in current events.
For example, many problems affecting us today have to do with the community and culture, such as with the
economy, ecological concerns, the means and methods of group decision making (governance and politics).
These are are all about choices made within the context of an implied cultural ethics and value system.
Ethics and values are ultimately topics of philosophy.
Consider also that even the reality of community, society, or culture is ultimately understood in terms of
relationships between people, and that these relationships are themselves to be understood in terms of
language and communication.
Yet to understand the role of language and communication, and to communicate and teach what has been learned
about language and communication is going to require the use of a language within a communication channel.
When communicating about communication, or using a language to describe a language, a certain discipline and
rigor is needed to prevent the two layers of activity from getting mixed and muddled together.
There is an inherent self referential characteristic in considerations of this type and special techniques
are needed to handle this aspect.
Insofar as these are philosophical questions, why do we need to be concerned with metaphysics?
Metaphysics provides the necessary foundations and tools upon which a philosophy can be built.
For example, to understand the nature of ethics, we have to have presupposed something about the nature of choice.
The notion of language and the activity of communication also presupposes things about meaning, value and purpose.
All of these topics can be seen as special cases of more the more general concepts of interaction and relation.
Yet the notions of choice, change, and causation, and the interrelations between these three, are inherently metaphysical topics.
If that is true, I still do not see why metaphysics is still so unpopular, especially among other academic philosophers.
The unpopularity of metaphysics is partly due to a skepticism among both historical and modern philosophers that there can be any
'true' knowledge of any existing things, outside of and independent of any sense perception of them.
In modern science, to be measurable is to be.
Theories and ideas which are non-falsifiable in and within a practice of real observation are considered to be without merit.
Insofar as metaphysics was considered to be ultimately concerned with being and knowing,
and insofar as both being and knowing are necessarily ultimately based on some type of sense observation (ie, interactions of
measurement and comparison), then metaphysics was thus seen as being actually dependent on physics, and thus
not really necessary as a true and separate topic (called "meta"-physics) at all.
The net effect of all of this, and the reduction of metaphysics in particular, was to effectively collapse Cartesian Dualism
into Physical Monism, with the apparent side effect of rejecting any notion of the non-physical (ie, of minds, spirits, gods, etc).
Since the felt experience and notion of self consciousness and choice had never been disambiguated within the context of physical
and philosophical determinism in a satisfying way, a lot of philosophers, and the public at large, also felt that the result had
to be in some way incomplete.
The later development and cultural popularity of the "New Age" movement
made matters considerably worse, particularly because many proponents
tended to use 'wishful thinking' rather than rigor.
Many people presenting new age ideas also had a very definite anti-intellectual bias.
Naturally, many modern philosophers rejected all such 'metaphysics'
as being intellectually incoherent and therefore not worthy of any serious
consideration as a subject of study.
Even if you consider that the New Age movement was in some way a
reaction to the earlier rejection of metaphysics by intellectual
philosophers and scientists, the result in either case is that any serious consideration
of metaphysics among academics is wildly unpopular.
In this line of thinking, either metaphysics was unnecessary, impossible, or incoherent.
In the world of 'publish or perish', writing about metaphysics would be akin to career suicide.
However, insofar as all of this work is basically the result of a privately funded hobby,
I have no need to be concerned with supporting or sustaining a non-existent reputation,
and am therefore enabled to consider all of this in a much more dispassionate way.
So what is your alternative?
Is philosophy to be based on physics alone or is it otherwise unfounded, and therefore incoherent?
Are there actually real solutions to the world problems you mentioned?
As discussed, the reasoning used by a large number of earlier philosophers is based on the ideas
(and analogs) of Cartesian Dualism and its eventual transition into Physical Monism.
However, in this transition there was a false choice.
Philosophy has largely been divided into two camps depending on whether 'mind' or 'consciousness'
was considered primary or 'matter' and 'body' was considered primary.
From this basic dualism, each attempted to account for the other as an aspect of itself.
In effect, the effort and the hard question was to identify what was the specific nature of
the relation between mind and body.
This is somewhat akin to attempting to identify the relationship between content and context,
or between any one object and any other.
The 1st key insight here is to notice that the notion of relationship itself is in its own
ontological category, distinct from and otherwise independent of the category or categories
of the things related.
The 2nd insight is to recognize that there is no prior reason to assume that the basis of
category of the relationship should depend on the categories of the things related any more
than it is at least equally valid to assume the reverse.
For example, the relationship between content and context is neither an aspect or element
of the content, nor is it an aspect of the context.
The relationship between the content and the context is neither content nor context,
and yet it is essential to the nature of each of them, for without that relationship,
neither has an independent meaning or being.
In this direct sense, there is strong and obvious basis for regarding that the category
of relationship is actually primary, and that the category of that which is content and
the category of that which is context are actually the dependent and descendant concepts.
Yet when considering another example, the relationship between the salt and pepper shakers
on my kitchen table, it seems that the relationship between them is something that can only
be established after
having already established the existence of the objects themselves.
Do you posit that the relationship between them is actually primary, and that the existence
of both of these items somehow depends on their relationship?
Yes, actually I do, though I will not be the first who has done so.
Mach's principle is the name given by Einstein to a hypothesis credited to the physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach.
All motion, and all position, both translational and rotational, is relative in Relativity theory.
The inertia of any body in the universe is only determinable with respect to the frame created by the
aggregate of all other bodies in the universe.
Yet if we imagine a particle completely on its own in an otherwise empty universe,
it is clear that such a particle's state of motion has no meaning.
It is similarly unclear what its state of being would be in that case.
This leads to a 3rd insight, that no relationship is a relationship of just two,
it is always and at least a relationship of at least three.
In your example, the relationship between the salt and pepper shakers is not "just" the relationship between them.
It is also the relationship that each has with the table supporting them, with yourself as an observer,
with respect to any other observers (or users) of those items, etc.
The total union of all of these relationships, the complete constitution of the relationships between
each component particle and the component particles of the rest of the universe is involved.
In fact, any sensation that we would have at all of either of these is itself an interaction, a type of relationship.
Any measurable properties that any object has is itself an establishment of a type of relationship,
a determinable comparison or measurement.
What if we were to hypothesize an object that had no measurable properties: does it exist?
How would/could we know?
As such, the notion of having observable properties, being sensible, is therefore a type of
relationship, and thus it is clear that the notion of relationship is actually prior to existence.
Those seem like semantic differences.
Do these distinctions really matter?
Yes, they do. Starting with different ingredients, one can obtain very different results.
It goes back to the structure of our newer, revised definition of metaphysics itself:
an inquiry into the nature of the relation between the subjective and the objective.
In the prior philosophical language of Cartesian Dualism, this would initially look like an
attempt to identify the relationship between mind and body.
However, rather than transitioning into Physical Monism and asserting that body is primary,
we instead assert that the relationship between mind and body is primary.
In other words, that both the mind and the body are aspects of the relationship between them,
or in more formal terms, more deeply, that the relationship between the subjective and the objective
is actually ontologically prior to both the totality of the subjective and the totality of the objective.
Surprisingly, this is largely new territory, distinct from both
What do those two terms mean; 'realism' and 'idealism'?
These terms refer to two main historical orientations in philosophy.
The philosophy of realism
is based on the idea that only things having the nature of the body,
the physical, is real, and that everything else needs to be accounted for
in terms of those physical things.
For example, the attempt to account for minds in terms of brains is termed "epiphenomonalism".
Overall, realism became the basis of or aligned with the notion of 'physical monism' mentioned earlier,
and with the overall prevailing scientific perspective of our time.
The philosophy of idealism, in contrast, states that the primary concept upon which all others
must be based is that having the nature of a mind, or ultimately of 'the' mind (God),
and that all other knowing is basically an extension from this basis.
For example, in some expressions of this type of philosophy, physicality is accounted for in terms
of a creation event that is itself accounted for in terms of necessary divisions of a primary mentality,
which for various reasons, needed to split itself and 'forget' sufficiently so as to create all experience.
Aside from being aligned with what might be regarded as a more religious orientation,
the notions of idealism can also include the considerably more secular perspective that
all forms of knowing are ultimately mental and that therefore something about the basis of
reality itself must also be ultimately mental.
Is this debate still relevant?
It looks like most thinking people these days seem to have chosen "realism",
particularly since science has been so successful at creating useful technologies.
Aside from religious or historical interest, is there any real reason why the
philosophy of idealism should still be taken seriously?
In many respects, the concepts of idealism are still very much with us and part of our culture,
and even part of our thinking about physics, about what is real, in very deep and non-trivial ways.
For example, as mentioned earlier, our legal system is inherently based on the notion of individuals -- of minds --
having "free choice", and that this intentionality is of primary importance when figuring the rule of law.
If mind was purely a result of body, illegal behavior would need to be regarded as a health issue rather than
something that requires 'deterrence' in the form of punishment and imprisonment.
Other examples of current trends in idealism can be found deep within the heart of physics itself.
Consider the idea that there was an event of creation, commonly called "the Big Bang",
that after some time, resulted in all of the matter in the universe, and the universe itself.
Regardless of the specifics of the cosmological theories involved, the notion of creation is still considered
to be in some ultimate sense prior to the physical, and in all other respects completely distinct from it.
If anything, the notion of creation is still a religious concept, and not a physical one,
that since it cannot be in any way directly apprehended -- it is unknowable -- it must be taken on faith.
Since the physical IS, creation is implied, and that this "faith" on the part of otherwise
completely empirical scientists, is an inherently a mental event, an "ideal".
Whatever else may be thought about "creation", it is not in itself a physical thing or having
of a physical nature in any ordinary sense.
Since it is not observable (and probably not repeatable either!) the study of creation can
only be speculative, not scientific or otherwise falsifiable as the philosophy of realism
would otherwise demand.
Another particularly evident example of idealism within physics is the notion of 'measurement'
as it occurs within certain experimental scenarios.
The most famous example is the 'Schrodinger's Cat', where the state of a given system cannot be
considered 'definite' or 'real' until and immediately at the time of 'observation'.
In some particularly careful examinations of what is necessarily implied in the theory of
Quantum Mechanics, which at this point has been very thoroughly tested, there are
two distinct processes; a completely deterministic (non-contingent) evolution of a wave function
representing potential system states, and a completely non-deterministic 'collapse' of that wave function,
into a single definite 'actual' state, contingent on observation, which is then regarded as physically 'real'.
Inherent in this is the dilemma of why knowing (observation) and the nature of this wave-function,
both of which are purely "mental" concepts, should be so central to what is otherwise a physical theory
of what is real.
There are also many other examples, having to do with things like the relation between QM and General Relativity,
the specifics of the Bell Theorem and Aspect Experiments, the Godel Theorem, problems associated with
interterminism, cryptography and consciousness, and things of that nature, not to mention the
ongoing political and cultural debates between the religious right (idealistic) and the liberal left (realistic).
The difficulty in reconciling these differing philosophies -- is reality ultimately physical or is it
ultimately mental -- has never really gone away,
it has simply gone underground and the contradictions are no longer as widely noticed or regarded
by the general public.
Even scientists tend to not be too interested in these sorts of topics, particularly since such
considerations have been largely been taken up by "New Age" philosophers with all of the attendant
problems and publicity issues mentioned earlier.
"Reality" seems to work just fine without our understanding of it.
Why is it so important to attempt to reconcile these sorts of abstract problems?
The contradictions go to the very core of our everyday behavior and are
evident in the conflicted choices that we must each make everyday.
How are we to balance the wants of an individual with the needs of ecology, of the environment?
That is not an abstract question; it is a very concrete one with real consequences.
Currently, the action of an individual is largely considered in terms of mental events, as idealistic,
whereas the action of nature is largely considered in terms of physical events, ie, as realistic.
Is there a cultural process that can appropriately achieve some sort of balance in an effective way?
Those are really hard questions, and have clearly remained unsolved for a very long time,
even after the efforts of legions of serious and capable intellectuals over the last few centuries.
Are you claiming to have identified an answer?
Not directly; I am claiming to have developed a set of key insights into a set of tools,
which themselves have been found to be especially helpful when trying to find eventual
solutions to problems of this kind.
I also feel that some of the problems currently facing the world today are rather pressing,
and will need to be solved fairly soon if even greater and much more difficult global issues
are to be avoided.
So you are claiming to have found solutions?
No: I have some ideas which may
be new but which will in any case require a lot of
testing and careful thought to be applied correctly in each situation, and which although
I have found them to be especially helpful to me personally in clarifying my thinking,
will still need to be proven and demonstrated collectively as practical.
A work such as this is much bigger than any one person, and I will need a lot of help to
make any of this work on any larger scale, to make it more widely applicable to real problems.
I am asking for timely assistance in verifying that these tools are actually practical
and to ensure their correct application in many important situations currently needing
an effective and lasting resolution.
Where do we begin?
How do you actually reconcile the philosophy of realism with idealism, as stated?
It goes all of the way back to the definition of "metaphysics" as indicated earlier:
an inquiry into the nature of the relation between the objective and the subjective.
The objective is a concept that can be thought of as a placeholder for realism.
Similarly, the subjective can be considered a concept placeholder for idealism.
Therefore, the result of metaphysical inquiry is to characterize that relationship.
If this effort is successful, the reconciliation and necessary problem solving will
also have occurred as implied side effects.
So what is the relationship between the subjective and the objective?.
While that is the right question, answering it is not so simple and easy,
even though such answers will eventually be made very clear.
It will take some time and discipline to develop certain insights into
applicable tools which will then lead to the derivation of a solution.
Einstein once said that nearly anything could be explained to a 5 year old.
Why should your metaphysics be any different?
It is not so different.
While it is probable that, with some careful effort and good relationship skills,
any single particular thing could be so explained in such simple terms,
what Einstein did not say
was that everything
was altogether so easy to convey.
It is still the case that "mastering" any
skill will take
most people about ten thousand hours of effort and practice
over some ten or so years.
While it is true that the fundamental equations of all of physics could
be written on a postcard and handed to someone, and in that sense are very simple,
truly understanding what those equations mean and how specifically they are to be applied
is still going to require something equivalent to a graduate degree.
The Axioms of this Metaphysics are similarly expressible and demonstrable,
and imply at least a similar level of effort, if not an even greater one due to its inherent abstraction.
Perhaps the Axioms can be used to actually derive, as consequences, those basic equations of physics.
Actually doing so, however, is most likely also going to require a level of effort equivalent
to something like three graduate degrees: one for the physics, one for the metaphysics, and one for the math itself.
In any case, finding lasting value and "true answers" will take patience and skill.
It is important to begin at the place we are now, and to appreciate and enjoy each step
of the journey, even though our thoughts may occasionally tend toward the horizon.
Ok, so it begins with the definition of metaphysics.
What is the next step?
To observe that the relationship between the subjective and the objective is
itself neither wholly subjective nor wholly objective.
It is in its own class.
That is the first insight, the first observation about the nature of observation.
You mentioned some insights earlier.
What were they again?
One; that the notion of relationship itself is in its own ontological category,
distinct from and otherwise independent of the categories of the things related.
Consider the relationship between content and context, for example.
Two; that category of relationship is actually structurally prior to the category
of the things related.
Consider, for example, that the measurable properties, the interactions with an object,
both actual and potential, are defining of all that we can know about that object,
and thus, of the objects being.
Three; that no relationship is a relationship of just two,
it is always and at least a relationship of at least three.
To see this, consider the Mach principle as needed to establish the
relative positional and momentum characteristics for any observable body.
So in effect, you are saying that the relationship between the
objective and subjective is a bit like the relationship between
content and context.
Yes, that there are always three categories, inclusive of the relationship itself,
and that they can "map" to one another, with similar implications.
Ie, that whatever is inherent as an attribute of relationship is an attribute
inherent of relationships everywhere.
In this case, there are three 'roles' in the situation: that of the perceiver,
that of the perceived, and that of the perceiving.
All three concepts are necessary, inherent, and sufficient in order to properly
and completely conceive of an 'event' of perception.
This is the fulfillment of both of the first and the third insights
in that the perception is not the perceiver and also not the perceived,
even though it involves both.
The mapping in this case is to associate the perceiver with the subjective
and with context, the perceived with the objective and with content,
and the concept of perception with the concept of relationship.
That seems natural enough, and somewhat simplistic -- in what way is this helpful?
The rub comes in that insofar as we must take these insights as
self evident, we must also apply them as such, in all situations,
even when this seems contrary to our usual intuitions.
We cannot simply pick and choose when something is going to be true;
it either is or is not.
As such, we must take the basic notion of the 2nd insight seriously,
with all due respect, and trace the implications of what it actually means.
In particular, in this case, the effect is to necessarily claim
that the perceiving is in some sense more basic than, is somehow
prior than, both the perceiver and the perceived.
In other words, that the existence of both the perceiver and
the perceived somehow depends strictly (and only) on the prior
establishment of the perception.