Wednesday, 3 June 2009

38. A central heresy.

The formal inversion theory suggests that in due course, on the accumulating evidence, our traditional and much-cherished one-truth thinking conventions will need to be replaced by two-truth thinking conventions.

One helpful way of introducing this heretical idea is to consider the reaction of you, the reader, to the foregoing argument for the theory. When the apparently similarly structured brain forms and mind forms involved in the theory were placed before you (in a deliberately 'broad brush' introductory way) I think it highly likely, on historical evidence, that you adopted one of two main reactions, depending on which of two pivotal thought processes you prefer.

If in general you happen to be more comfortable with your breaking-down than your building-up thought, like say Aristotle, Isaac Newton and Francis Crick (as suggested by their publications) you will have probably found the theory credible or at least arguable and fairly obviously so. Further, you will probably regard it as another small contribution to our brain-based understanding of the mind. Further yet, you will probably regard the mind itself as simply the brain at work and thus as a legitimate subject for scientific study.

If however you happen to be more generally at ease with your building-up than your breaking-down thought, like say Plato, Gottfried Leibniz and David Chalmers (as suggested by their publications) then you will probably find the theory incredible and/or unarguable and fairly obviously so. Further, you will probably regard it as another small contribution to a brain-based misunderstanding of the mind. Further yet, you will probably tend to envisage the mind as involving some dimension beyond the brain at work.

The two mindsets may be used to illustrate the central heresy. The formal inversion theory suggests:
  • that neither of these attitudes represents sole truth to the other's untruth,

  • that both are correct in that they are natural, complementary, mutually inverted, polar products of the same brain wiring, and

  • that there is abundant scientific and philosophical evidence that is compatible with such suggestions.

A recommendation that we replace our traditional one-truth thinking conventions with two-truth thinking conventions is at first sight (like all good heresies) deeply shocking -- and it gets worse. A corollary is that if such heterodoxy became orthodoxy (as heresies have a habit of doing) various famous two-way confrontations in the history of ideas would change their character. They would no longer have the status of Central Problems -- occupying some of our best thinkers in trying to decide which of the persistently double answers is the correct single answer. They would instead assume the status of Obligatory Dualities, warranting new kinds of investigation beyond their necessarily double nature.

This brings us to another intriguing aspect of the central heresy -- and one that amounts to a reinterpretation of philosophy. The formal inversion theory suggests that philosophy owes its emergence as a discipline and its broad structural features to the specific wiring patterns that have been briefly described in this introduction. The emergence of philosophy seems to have been driven by our human attempts to derive single truths from thinking equipment that appears necessarily (anatomically) double and circular -- the double cycles being mutually inverted.

One of the important issues raised by the last paragraph is why humans have continuously expected single answers to philosophical questions despite continually obtaining double ones. A suggested reason is that everyday life requires us to make firm decisions. Double answers to questions such as 'shall we have lunch?' have proved unhelpful. It seems understandable that attitudes born of such daily experience might have overlapped into philosophy. However when it comes to typical philosophical questions about value, knowledge, and existence, we appear less constrained than when arranging lunch. There seems to be no logical imperative that can insist on single answers to philosophical questions and countless double answers in the evolution of philosophy (such as the example to be described next) vividly attest to this.

Anyone who has studied Western philosophy is familiar with the double-stranded nature of its development. The contrast between the two strands is often seen as the heart of the subject and so was used by Raphael as the focus of his The School of Athens, pictured here.

One strand is epitomised by Plato (pointing upwards) who urges us to build up our thinking into ever more comprehensive and thus allegedly higher ideas.

The other strand is typified by Aristotle (gesturing downwards) who advocates that we break down our thinking into ever more fundamental and thus allegedly down-to-earth ideas.

It has long been scientifically recognised that the broadly double philosophical pattern bears a striking resemblance to the broadly double arrangement of our working brains. Although both sides of our brains are normally used in continuous combination, in the large majority of people the right brain contribution is biased towards building up or synthetically driven activity and the left towards breaking down or analytically driven activity.

All this provides yet another intriguing implication. Intellectual life has long benefited from various proposed Philosophies of Science. In contrast, the formal inversion theory suggests the beginnings of a proposed Science of Philosophy.

The above contradictions to prevailing paradigms appear to be suitable heresies for our modern age, because they represent scientific challenges to truth concepts at the heart of the aspiring authority of science itself -- hence the title of the main publication mentioned in the side-bar.

This completes the 'broad brush' introduction to the theory.

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