Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Holistic thinking - formulating a more complete physics

  1. Sep 18, 2003 #1
    In comparison with other physics forums I enjoy the special qualities of this one. People here seem to be more open to a friendly dialogue (rather than indulging in personal aggressions, as is widespread) in the aim of developing more complete views and insights. The implied capacity to 'listen' is an essential condition for really advancing, also in all forms of science.

    The situation here inspired me to propose this new thread. Originally I come from natural science, but my field became philosophy of science. I would like to collaborate with you specialists towards formulating explicitly a more complete physics and maybe chemistry. You may wonder on what basis I arrive at this idea, which might seem a bit lunatic to some.

    Since many years I am interested in precise holistic thinking, quite generally, i.e. covering all forms of getting to know (in fact I developed a transdisciplinary approach to this effect). This is not a new topic; yet interestingly enough, in the presently usual approaches even holism cannot be approached truly holistically, but only in aspect holisms (epistemic, ethical, methodical, methodological, ontic, quantum, semantic, sociological etc. holisms). So with respect to the ultimate objective one is not really getting anywhere.

    The main reason for this fragmentation is in the vastly majoritarian approach to approaching. It is called the 'scientific' approach. The style is to hope for objectivity by looking 'from outside' at the thing (from gluon to universe, passing by language, life, society, consciousness, personal identity, etc.). But finally this 'god's eyes view' reveals more about how gods are imagined to be than about the real nature of the approached object, whose ultimate intrinsic features elude the onlooker. Kant expressed this as the problem that the 'thing as such' cannot be known.

    Indeed, the methodological structure implicit in mainstream philosophy and science allows no strictly complete and secure knowledge. This results from the habit of basing approaches on fundamental assumptions ('atomic facts', axioms, hypotheses, measurements, postulates, etc.), including the assumption that cognizing cannot proceed without any primal assumption. Yet this is a way of 'talking' into the problem before it can unfold fully. This is why today's sciences and holisms are self-limited.

    But this limit is not the human condition. Everything appears to the mind according to the developed and applied categoreality, which is shaped by what is foundationally effective in thinking. It seems to be unfathomable, or needing to be interpreted in natural science (which is self-limited). The interesting fact is that by 'listening' to problems instead of introducing 'plausible' biases, even deeply hidden prejudicial elements can gradually be filtered out, eliminating pointless conflictuality.

    This is exactly what my transdisciplinary approach proves systematically, then showing a way out of the usual treadmill. Instead of fundamental assumptions, its basis is a law of nature which governs the conceptuality in all mental processes, and which is more fundamental than the 'laws of logic'. The result is a system which can fully handle self-reference -- on which all formal systems get wrecked (this is why at the very end of the lines there are problems such as those of decidability in metamathematics, the crux of the continuum hypthesis, the indeterminism of QT, the floating character of RT, etc., etc.).

    So now I am curious about who is curious about all this and would like to collaborate in the outlined endeavor. In case you have mainly doubts you might start by formulating these, to which I will respond.
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2003
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 18, 2003 #2
    Can I be honest with you? While I feel that science can lok at things in many ways, I also have the sinking suspicion that your approach is little more than an excuse to introduce fuzzy trancendental New Age thinking into places it simply doesn't belong.
  4. Sep 18, 2003 #3
    But unless I'm mistaken, science has nothing to do with the human condition here, but with science itself. In which case there's really nothing holistic about it. Could that be because it's more of a left-brain discipline, as opposed to religion, which is more of a right-brain discipline? Whereas science wishes to disassociate itself from that which is inherently (seemingly) superstitious by nature.

    And yet, when you really get right down to it, isn't it more of a struggle between male versus female? And, by not integrating both of these qualities, aren't we in fact limiting our ability to achieve a balanced view? If you're interested, I go into more detail in the following thread, The Center of Existence.
  5. Sep 18, 2003 #4
    Religion isn't a discipline. Further, a "natural philosophy" of some sort would be a more suitable fit with science.
  6. Sep 18, 2003 #5
    Albeit there are certain religious practices which require the disciplining of the mind. And by the way, why does the word disciple sound so much like the word discipline?
  7. Sep 18, 2003 #6
    Why do you draw conclusions based on relatively flimsy 'evidence', like words that sound alike? 'Police' and 'politician' both come from the same root word, but you know not to call the mayor when someone is breaking into your house.
    Religion isn't the proper way to deal with the human issues that you think science ignores, mostly because 1) people cannot even agree on a religion(because they are all myth), 2) religion has a huge blind spot when it comes to evidence with refutes it, and 3) religion is based on dogma, which would stifle science if it could.
  8. Sep 18, 2003 #7

    Tom Mattson

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Even more to the point, "natural philosophy" is physics! Isaac Newton called it "natural philosophy".
  9. Sep 18, 2003 #8
    Well...Newton isn't the best example...he was a bit of a fruitcake! And, of course, he was trying to use his 'natural philosophy' as almost a new religion.
  10. Sep 18, 2003 #9
    It's funny, but I looked up both words in the dictionary and thought that's what it said (that disciple meant "student") but, that was my mistake. :wink:

    Actually there's no reason why religion can't be more "rational" in it's approach, that's a given. And yet you have to ask, whose pursose does science really serve by not promoting "wholeness?" Does it really serve humanity? Or, something else?

    How about more material and more things, which require more and more maintenance, which require more and more material things, in order to maintain that? Isn't that kind of the way it works? The more "nice" things you have, the more time it takes to maintain them, including the time it takes to go to work and pay for them, and the less time you really have to enjoy any of it?

    At the very least it makes life complicated -- or, even a drudgery -- not to mention what it does for the environment. While there may come a time when we find ourselves serving "the machine."
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2003
  11. Sep 18, 2003 #10
    What is 'wholeness', and how does 'scinece' not embrace it??
  12. Sep 18, 2003 #11
    Explain please.
    Do you actually believe science doesn’t serve humanity?
    Take for instance a bulldozer; it saves valuable man-hours that can be put to better use elsewhere. If this were not true nobody would bother to make or own one. The time and labor involved in repair work is more than made up for by increased productivity, allowing you to pursue other activities.
    Not true; it actually provides you with more options, see above.
    I will tell you what drudgery is; it is digging a water-well with your just your bare hands and a stick, crapping into a hole, and wiping with a leaf before heading back to cave. Yes, you will be getting away from “the machine” alright, and I guarantee it will give you some time to think, too…
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 18, 2003
  13. Sep 18, 2003 #12

    Tom Mattson

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    After reading sascha's initial post, I can see that no one is getting the point. As a result, it is going completely off topic. I'm going to ask Zero and Boulderhead to slug it out with Iacchus32 somewhere else, preferrably in the old Religion Forum.

    Back to sascha...

    OK, so here you are taling about people 'listening' to each other. I only pause to make a note of it because you are later going to talk about how scientists should 'listen' to problems. The first use of the word 'listen' is clear, but the second is not.

    The first thing I would like to see from you is a precise definition of "completeness" as it pertains to the above.

    OK, so how in your opinion can one make progress toward the ultimate objective? Indeed, how can one even know that one is making progress towards it? You seem to think that we can do it be including all "aspect holisms", but how would you even know you were including them all?

    My doubt on your idea here is that it seems to take for granted that the "ultimate objective" can be known a priori. Not only is there no reason to think that that is the case, but there is every reason to think that it is not the case.

    Again, you seem to be coming from the idealist approach that the "ultimate objective" can be known a priori. Why should one accept that?

    Here it is: How does one "listen" to a problem?

    That's a remarkable claim.

    To sum up:

    *What does it mean for a physics to be "more complete" than another physics?
    *What does it mean to "listen" to a problem?
    *You seem to think that humans are endowed with innate, a priori knowledge of the universe. If so, why?
    *How exactly does your approach sidestep Goedel's theorem?
  14. Sep 18, 2003 #13


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Greetings !

    Welcome to PF sascha ! :smile:
    Well that's FASCINATING ! Like Tom, I would certainly
    like to hear about ANY progress in that respect.

    In general though, though I'm no expert in the field of
    the philosophy of science, I think that a distinction
    must be made between an approach from within this field
    and science itself. Basicly, science needs to be devoid
    of philosophical features - it is just a matter of
    basing experience from observation in a universal way for
    all known reasoning systems - that is, building assumptionless
    structures as long as they work and not ascertaining their fundumental truth/falsehood or some absolute aspects of the
    In light of the above quote, I'd guess he means - TOE.
    Yes, I'd like to know that too. Aristotle, for example, also
    could be said to have "listened" to problems, but we
    don't use his "physical" laws today...:wink:
    I suppose that an approach/solution like the one proposed
    above would, for one thing, have nothing for Godel's theorem
    to be applied to in the first place - no specific constituents.
    Does it make sense ? No, for now.
    But the Universe doesn't either... :wink:

    Doubt or shout !

    Live long and prosper.
  15. Sep 18, 2003 #14
    Unfortunately you can't bring up the notion of "holism," and in effect the human condition, without considering the impact religion has had. Which was the only reason I brought it up in the first place, to see what considerations, if any, sascha had given it. And actually, I was more concerned in hearing sascha's comments, than "slugging it out" with the aforementioned parties.

    If sascha doesn't want to discuss it that's fine, and yet, it's been well over 15 hours since the original post. Does that make the whole thing off-limits until the mean time? While it's rather obvious that no one seems to be getting the point. :wink:
  16. Sep 19, 2003 #15
    Sorry guys, my access to Physicsforums did not work properly yesterday, and then I needed some sleep....

    Thanks Tom, for your observation. It put the debate back on track again, away from psychological projection. The interjections about New Age, religion (in the sense of faith), male versus female, general impressions about natural philosophy and wholeness, etc., do not yet get to the bottom of what I think we should, for disentangling the problem and address positively what I would like to. Especially Tom and Drag have posed conxcrete questions that lead further.

    The difference between 'listening' to each other and 'listening' to a problem seems, at first sight, to be considerable, because 'listening' to each other seems to happen through speech (using a discontinuity of linguistic elements), while 'listening' to a problem maybe sounds bizarre to some. But in fact, all forms of listening have their origin in an activity. Listening is not hearing (a passive attitude). It takes quite some awareness of one's own mental life to notice the difference, but then this new awareness leads further.

    Why? Because deeply 'listening' (to whatever is of real interest) is the path towards a gradual grasp of completeness that goes beyond completeness theorems in logical systems. If people like Goedel were not able to listen in this way, they would not be able to transcend the limits of the formal systems which they discuss. But they do, concretely. So this approach to 'listening' is no Now Age fad. Iacchus32 has mentioned the need of disciplining one's mind; it can be done in many ways. My point is that discipline by imposing something (an axiom, assumption, faith, postulate, ...) is concretely not of the same open quality as 'listening'; it is self-limiting: at the end of the line, the result mirrors the primal assumption. For example in QT we get indeterminacy, as a result of having heuristically posited the atomistic idea of 'pieces'. QT is so fascinating because it shows so clearly this structure of premise and result with its inverting quality (expecting 'pieces' and being forced to acknowledge non-pieces: nonlocality, and the barrier of complementarity). As to the inverting quality, I would like to remind the thinkers here that infinity has precisely this quality. I guess now and then we will come back to this.

    What I mean by a physics being "more complete" than another physics is that I aim at a physics that sets out on categories which do not limit at all its boundaries. The traditional approch to physics was through the mass point and the force vector. So what I am aiming at is not just a question of degrees, i.e. of refining the idea of points into the field concept, or something like that, but to think the problem of physics -- the nature of matter -- in a truly universal way. We will gradually have to get into this, we can't do it in a few sentences.

    Tom asked for a precise definition of "completeness" as I mean it. This is a delicate matter, because defining has a similar effect as presupposing. Hence I prefer to characterize as well as possible what I mean; then we can gradually become more precise (this is a bit more 'hermeneutical' than 'scientific', but 'science' is producing its problems precisely by being too rash in its 'scientific' attitude, wanting to nail down details too quickly).

    There is a link between completeness and holism(s). But how can it be understood adequately? The hope of reaching secure strict completeness and holism by summing up all aspect holisms is doubtful to my sense, because on that path we can integrate only linguistic structures, not that which is underlying. This is again demonstrated nicely by QT, where the attempt to integrate the 'counter-intuitive' truths led to ideas of 'entanglement' and 'decoherence', which illustrate the problem , but are not explanations in the strict sense of tracing back phenomena to universal laws of nature.

    We will certainly have to deal with the difference between language (as a principle) and thinking (as a principle). Nowadays this difference is being eroded by the 'linguistic turn' (assuming that thinking is structured linguistically). The result is that many are compelled by empirical evidence to notice that not all of thinking can be of this nature. Tom's question about sidestepping Goedel's theorem has a lot to do with this. Let me quote a piece of an article which I published a few years ago concerning this:

    Kurt Goedel revealed limits to formal logical systems ('languages'). Yet he was capable of thinking through this question in non-formal terms. Without operating clearly on this 'meta-level' he could not have found the solution, i.e. the non-formal idea that joins all the problem's opposites. He disclosed hesitantly being a Platonist — knowing he would be attacked if admitting this in public. Are we any better off today? So he presented his result through a formalization (his substitution method). Hence his proof is not a general one, it reaches only up to first-order predicate calculus. Interestingly enough, the same proof of non-decidability was offered in the same period by Paul Finsler, approaching the subject not from a formal point of view, but discussing the content of thought. His more broad, thus less formal but philosophically highly relevant approach to the same topic complements Goedel in a decisive way. But it was not received very graciously, because everybody wanted formal results, believing these offer more 'truth-value'. The limit of 'truth-values' is not well recognized yet. Booth / Ziegler [1996] (Finsler Set Theory: Platonism and Circularity; Birkhaeuser, Basel / Boston / Berlin) offer an integrative view of the problem and solution between GÚdel and Finsler. ((The only trouble in this book is its many typos and similar traces of flimsy editing))

    I can well understand why also Tom believes that I "seem to think that humans are endowed with innate, a priori knowledge of the universe". But this is not the case. I think the problem is not solved by assuming something "innate" (as even much of cognitive science is now led to assume, because it remains in the discontinuous principle of language, it cannot reach the nature of real thinking, which can handle continua of content).

    For a positive answer concerning this aspect, let me add another piece of an article of mine, an idea which till now has been published only in German: I will put this into a second post (because of the reasonable limit to 10'000 signs}.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2003
  17. Sep 19, 2003 #16
    So here comes this piece of an article:

    It is generally useful to distinguish between the language of intelligibility and the language of manipulability. The first consists of laws (forms of order, pure structure), which we grasp by means of concepts, ideas, representations, that can be communicated by using names and predicates; all forms of understanding are ways of grasping the ultimately relevant order. The language of manipulability consists of names and predicates ('handles' for catching 'things' in representations). At first glance it seems to contain also the aspect of intelligibility; only upon thinking through the network of all names and predicates, one can notice that it cannot cover strictly the whole, that something is missing somehow, or produces surprises. Remaining in the language of manipulability makes it impossible to know exactly what goes wrong. Sticking to the language of manipulability, while believing it can serve as language of intelligibility, logically leads to the belief that the encountered limit is absolute — while only the belief in the language of manipulability is absolute. Such knots are unnecessary.

    A first step is to distinguish the mode of language from fully coherent thinking. This difference was abolished in the 'linguistic turn'. In its heyday, reviving the distinction must sound like blasphemy to many. But this god is, as we saw, not firmly in his saddle — held only by belief, not ultimate knowledge. We should note a basic regularity: Within the use of language one can formulate all sorts of contradictions, from 'straight is curved' through '3+5=9' and antinomies like 'I am now telling a lie', down to voluntary deception — while it is in no way possible to think these linguistic structures in one single coherent thought (also in the sense of Frege's 'Gedanke'). Whoever has adopted fundamental suppositions that lead to antinomies is then compelled — for accommodating coherently the antinomies — to remain in the corresponding set of several elements (signs), which are intrinsically interrelated according to the nature of the causal prejudice. But 'interrelation between a set of signs' is the intrinsic law of being a language, not mere noise. Any person sticking to a assumption becomes thus dependent on the principle of language for keeping together the assumption's effect. Without language, everything would fall to pieces for this psyche, in extremis it would go mad; after all, languages can contain only the past. Using the personal pronoun 'I' can be authentic (out of psychic integrity) or false (if stuck to language), while fully understanding the unity of personal identity is impossible when remaining within the principle of language. The connection between problematic suppositions and a subsequent addiction to language is of course not limited to single persons, but can arise in styles of politicians or writers, schools of thought, philosophical or scientific positions, etc.. The thrust of 'publish or perish' contributes to understanding, but also adds to verbosity, since talking much can cloak contradictory basic assumptions.

    Language is always a corpus of dis-unity, but which allows on the other hand to gain time for solving problems caused on the level of pure ideas. This is possible only through 'pulling together' into one thought all content of the respective corpus. One then finds so-to-say the 'face' of that corpus. For being able to do this, the material and social conditions become crucial, because they allow or inhibit this activity. For example, electrosmog or noise limit the capacity to reach the rock bottom of personal unity, by imposing energetic disequilibria. Also personal strife or social tension has a limiting effect, which can drive conflict into escalation. Forceful separation, aggression, is the material form of language.

    In any linguistic constellation it is thus important that a context exist which fosters a view of the whole, beyond this constellation. Otherwise, when compelled to remain within language, authenticity (in Heidegger's sense) is compelled to hide in 'justifications'. A mind locked up in the circuit can never go beyond piecemeal — however attractive the seeming clarity of crisp formal logical structures may look. The only real way to complete reality is to face the 'face', the implied content as such. In fact, this is always done when finding new solutions, even in discussing pure logic; but the point is to declare all the means. Whoever can't dare this degree of self-awareness, or prefers sham existence, keeps operational the dimness of inauthenticity interactivity, which on its own must lose the overall coherence.

    It is common to say that humans differ from animals by making tools and having language. This is a way of forgetting that the really decisive capacity of humans is to think totally coherently, since also some animals have a certain capacity to use language and can make primitive tools. But what animals never can achieve is to grasp and handle pure ideas (like 'the geometric plane') and ideals (such as 'beauty'), because pure ideas and ideals have to do with the ultimate, the whole. Real ideals — like truth, harmony, understanding, love, freedom — are as such never coercive, but dialogically open and universal, and they allow self-reference (as opposed to formal logical structures). It is thus no coincidence that ideals are also called moral ideas: morality has to do with reflecting the respective content within its context, thus covering the whole. In this respect animals — like mechanisms and formalisms — hit their limit. Presently it is fashionable to bet on the principle of language, on formalisms and mechanisms; but this is only because the corresponding problems have not been completely thought through. Yet bad experiences are no good incentive....

    Are these two posts of some help for the moment?
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2003
  18. Sep 19, 2003 #17


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Greetings !

    Hmm... Intersting reading. I did not quite understand what
    you were talking about at first but past the first third
    of your second post I started to, indeed intresting.

    A few comments, if I may :

    1. I'd like to point out that I still do not quite
    see why our basic ability to understand - think, can
    or should reveal anything fundumental like you implied.
    I do agree with you that if, and that's a very large "if"
    for now, some practical approaches of this type are
    formalized - 'cause for now we still have no other way
    of treating them first - we have to formalize them somehow for
    now, then these approaches could potentially be useful.
    (Though at the moment I can't even imagine how to start.)

    2. Further more, you have, for some reason, made a strong
    and partially fundumental distinction between us and animals
    and even us and machines which I disagree with. This fundumntal
    ability to think, that I agree with you that language and formalization possibly limmit, may be grater for us but I see
    no reason to assume that except its high level it is anyhow
    unique compared to other animals or even (at their own
    very low level, for now) machines.

    3. I'm wondering wheather you can tell us something about
    the scientific approach (if such exists at the moment) to this
    subject. That is, is there research that tries to find the
    answer to our level of thinking or even that of other animals.
    For example, a modern computer, once its tasks are finished
    will stop working, further more it is completely unadapted
    to operate in most conditions with any "value" for itself
    or its mission. Yet, we and other animals can adept to
    a great deal of conditions and we can find paths to achieve
    certain goals in them - physical adapatation - general survival,
    pshycological adaptation, and so on (though even our "circuits"
    occasionaly get "fried").

    I personally, would try to approach it from bottom up in
    a purely scientific manner - first we have single celled
    organisms that form after release of potential energy of
    atoms and molecules in certain materials at a certain state.
    Then things already start to get hazy as we come to
    reproduction, beyond that we're looking at creatures at
    an ever increasing scale operating according to the same
    basic "program" but on a growing amount of levels and with
    growing complexity of situations and adaptability. (Basicly,
    Evolution and some of the relevant modern scientists are also
    trying to find these answers today.) This way, if we can make sufficient progress maybe we could finally explain one of the
    greatest puzzles - consciousness, and then we could also strive
    for the above mentioned "ultimate" core of it - thought.

    Personally, I wouldn't choose that as my life's goal, and not
    because I don't think it's worth it, it's just a bit difficult...:wink:

    Doubt or shout !

    Live long and prosper.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2003
  19. Sep 19, 2003 #18
    Hi Drag,
    there is no doubt that much of what I say seems a bit strange to the average scientific ear these days, which is accustomed to the bottom-up look and would like to have that in all respects. Its trouble comes only at the very end of the line, in the ultimate consequences.

    You seem to believe our ability to think cannot really reach to a full understanding of understanding. But simultaneously you expose the reasons for this limit, because you advocate a formalizetion as if this principle would warrant per se the sought success. In contrast, I would advocate ploughing through the questions, slowly and thoroughly, because of the inherent limits of formal systems. They cannot handle self-reference -- while, in seeking the idea of the mind, we are looking simultaneously at the agency (that which does the thinking) and the acted upon (the realm of ideas, here for thinking the idea of the mind's own functioning). The question is how we can manage this requirement: complete self-referentiality.

    In your next point you expose a second reason for believing in the above limit, because automatons (whether Turing machines or instinct-driven beings or people who automated their mental reactions) can indeed not deal with what is required for a full understanding of understanding. This is why I maintain my distinction.

    The scientific approach in this subject matter is riddled with difficulties, because categoreally today's science seeks agency in material objects. Laws and forces, not being measurable, can't be taken for the decisive aspects. Nevertheless, empirical reality is as it is, and it compels this scientific approach to seek the agency in ever smaller material objects -- in the same way as physics was compelled to shift the crux of the problem of what matter is into ever smaller entities -- with no end in sight, or rather: limited only by the amount of energy pumped into the system needed for measuring. As long as one seeks the idea of matter in empirical evidence (not in a fundamental clarification of the categories through which one thinks about matter), one will always reach only relative answers, i.e. relative to the experimental arrays. The bottom-up quest has indeed a limit, which is the more virulent the more the object is autonomously alive. The operative mind is the crux.

    When it comes to explaining things like consciousness, the question is with how little one acquiesces as to what an explanation is thought to be. Nowdays vivid descriptions, giving a hunch of what is going on, are often taken for explanations.
  20. Sep 19, 2003 #19
    5. A set of rules or methods, as those regulating the practice of a church or monastic order.
    6. A branch of knowledge or teaching.

    While many of the things you say may be right, these two definitions of discipline can be applied to a religion, therefore, by definition a religion can be a discipline.
  21. Sep 19, 2003 #20
    There is a reason for those to be the fifth and sixth definitions.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook