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Episode · 1 year ago

Lecture 21 THE FIELD OF THINGS

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

This lecture takes a theoretical stance on the topic of universal determinism, wherein the natural order is viewed as the product of soft determinism, blending necessity and randomness in the form of a determinate field of indeterminate possibilities.

Meditation, Time, Lecture Twenty one the field of things. Despite the best efforts of scientists and philosophers, the question of universal determinism is beyond theoretical certainty, as no amount of knowledge will ever exhaust the full measure of this question, ranging from the infinitely small to the infinitely large and extending through time infinitely. Mind you, there is not a single human theory that is exempt from this imperfection. For the self same reason, does this reduce the scientific and philosophical enterprise to a pointless exercise? Assuredly not, as it is a useful means of inhabiting the world meaningly, if in part fancifully. Every general truth...

...that attempts to make sense of the intricate workings of the Universe is therefore always presumptive and tentative, open to doubt. It is both subject to corroboration and liable to revision or refutation. Having said this, one theory of universe will determinism seems particularly compelling, all the more as it rings intuitively true. Neither strictly deterministic nor totally indeterministic, this theory is probabilistic to a variable extent, not merely for the sake of operational convenience, because of limitations in the process of measurement, but more fundamentally, as an expression of the natural order. The latter would blend necessity and randomness in the image of improvisational jazz that loosely follows a melody, an excellent metaphor that belongs to the astrophysicist Hubert reefs. It would thus take the shape of a field that is determined as a circumscribed...

...whole, governed by laws, but undetermined within its circumscription, where anything goes. A familiar example is the determination to buy an apple, mixed with the indetermination regarding what apple we will choose in a heap of comparably palatable apples, leaving the act of choosing to arbitrariness. By the same token, at the microscopic level, the behavior of elementary particles would be indeterminate within a circumscribed field of possibilities, whereas the field itself would have a determined that circumscription, only large numbers of these particles, considered as an organized mass, would behave in a strictly deterministic way, like a billiard ball that has collided with another. Similarly, a multitude of individuals intent on buying an apple would collectively and predictably buy all the apples in a given heap. Another example, which comes from...

...the structure of scientific revolutions by Thomas Coone, is worthy of note. Although observation and experienced drastically restrict the range of admissible scientific belief, they cannot alone determine a particular body of such belief. The restricted range in question may be construed as a circumscribed field of theoretical thinking, wherein a number of different theories that agree with facts can be conceived. In other words, empirical evidence allows for a certain degree of liberty and devising a theoretical framework that accounts for it. To sum up, the appearance of strict determinism at the macroscopic level of common observation points to an epistemic problem having to do with the conditions of knowledge, not an on logical one having to do with the nature of being. Accordingly, if we increase the granularity of observation to the quantum level, we...

...enter a subatomic microcosm in which straight lines gain considerable breadth and become fields where the passage from a to be offers multiple possibilities. This type of latitude within a circumscribed field of available options could be dubbed the freedom of redundancy, where determinacy, characterized by rigid uniformity, is tempered with indeterminacy, bringing flexibility and variability into the fold. It would constitute a margin of tolerance that preserves the effectiveness of an action, notwithstanding variations and execution, as long as this margin is not exceeded and these variations remain insignificant for all intents and purposes. As such, it would be beneficial, just as a buffer and a business or financial activity can protect it against the shock of fluctuations. In addition to the...

...freedom of redundancy, a second type of freedom exists that is specific to humans and presumably, but to a lesser extent, other intelligence and mammals like chimpanzees and dolphins. Let us call it the freedom of consciousness. In the case of humans, consciousness is a sophisticated display of perceptions, emotions, recollections, inventions and cogitations that introduces a new dimension in the field of determinism. Behavior is no longer the product of a purely automatic process, but of a conscious choice interlaced with subconscious impulses. In everything we accomplish freely and deliberately. The Prime Force at work is the decision to act in accordance with some esthetic, hedonistic, hygienic, ethical, logical or otherwise rational standard. This decision can...

...be weakened by confusion and faintheartedness and lead to vacillation, or prove articulate and mettlesome and be conducive to firm action. It therefore stands to reason the clear mindedness and resolve or the sine qua non for effective selfdetermination. Barring that, the freedom of consciousness is a shameful mess of hazy notions and wavering intentions that leave a lot to be desired.

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