Evidence Versus Logical Fact

Bruce Charlton writes, as always, an insightful analysis of human mental self discipline. In it, he argues the following:

  1. Perception is regulated by conceptual understanding. What we know how to recognize in the flood of data coming in from our senses, we can mentally process. Everything else slips by into chaos.
  2. If true knowledge is possible, it must come from valid concepts. Because these can be shared between people, they must exist outside of people, or be in the world like neo-Platonic forms.
  3. Therefore, those who think purely in terms of concepts will be accurate, which means that we can think without evidence and achieve understanding of the universe.
  4. In essence, pure conceptual thinking is how we understand reality.

Charlton attributes this schema to Rudolf Steiner’s early philosophical book The Philosophy of Freedom, but alert readers here will recognize the actual root of this idea: Immanuel Kant and his idea of intuition as the basis of a priori understanding.

In my own writing, specifically the unpublished Parallelism, I expand on the basic concept of the black pill and how it leads to understanding reality.

Humans have big brains, and those receive stronger signals from themselves than the world, which is a problem especially because we know the world through our memories of it, encoded as tokens based on our conclusion of the relevant parts to us. This comes after we filter the world, as Charlton notes, through what we know to look for, living in “a representation of a representation” as Schopenhauer argues. We never come in contact with the raw data because it would be like trying to drink from a firehose and would paralyze our reaction times.

Consequently, any process of understanding involves separating what we know to be true from what is merely signal reflected back from our big brains. We have to navigate our assumptions, emotions, impulses, neurotic mental chatter and tendency toward quick absolute categorical judgments in order to do this, among other perceptual pitfalls and glitches.

At this point, we must consider “evidence” versus “logical fact.” Evidence is what we can derive from our perception, but as illustrated above, it is already heavily filtered through our conceptual outlook. Further, it is based on material factors, such as how parts of reality interact, but blind to pattern which represents the organization of reality and its structure (analogous to Platonic forms). Evidence therefore is best for figuring out how to do things like make gasoline engines or grow crops, but not so good when it comes to questions of understanding reality under the surface formed of the interaction of material objects, like seeds plus water equals plants.

Logical fact, on the other hand, consists of looking at the organization of these material parts and deriving principles about how they work. Mathematics and philosophy are the closest to this field because they analyze patterns and their transformation, but these become difficult because we are unsure that what seems logically true corresponds to reality, which is wily and has twists and turns and emergent complexities. Enter parallelism: the idea that patterns occur in parallel across multiple domains, including thought, energy and matter.

With parallelism, we can see what patterns recur in multiple places in our world, and use these as the basis for understanding new input. This works through a type of metaphor that is more exact than what we expect from language. It requires precision about the nature of each pattern and why it works as it does, animating the structure with an understanding of purpose.

At this point, we are starting to get somewhere. We have a way of knowing what is true beyond any immediate circumstance because we can see the pattern in multiple places and its function or role is consistent. At that point, we are able to discipline our thought to being like that of the universe, and in so doing, realize its logical basis. As discovered by the German Idealists, the universe behaves in a thought-like way, and appears to respond at the level of structure as we would expect thoughts to do so.

Now we have moved beyond materialism. We see first the world as a function of order or pattern, and next, that structure as resembling thought, which works by having multiple impulses and selecting whichever one is compatible with everything that already exists, or is parallel to the rest of structure. This enables us to see the universe as having an inherent mode of operation and intent, one that is initially foreign to the world of human intent, which reflects our interests within the structure as we perceive them without knowledge of that structure.

This in turn requires us to look into what the intent of the universe might be. It seems to specialize in making beauty out of nothingness, but also, by holding to a hard line of logical fact that punishes that which deviates from compatibility with its order. Through processes like natural selection and entropy, it destroys that which is disorganized and reshapes the rest into greater degrees of order, balance and efficiency.

From this vantage point, we can see the nature of a divine force or something like one: benevolent in intent, rigorously logical in method, and focused on urging us upward toward greater order, versus our tendency as human monkeys to scatter in divergent chaotic directions in pursuit of our personal illusions, desires and other artifacts of having a lack of focus toward the divine. We are evil not because we mean badly, but because our thought and thus behavior is not disciplined.

Since we have ventured into metaphysics, we might take a look at an old theorem of Plato’s. We can see cause-effect relationships in everyday life, but now we know that these are a product of a thought-like structure to the universe, which like a computation seeks to resolve a problem constantly in order to refine itself; think of a self-programming computer, always testing its own code to find what works better, and replacing the old code with the new, more precise algorithms.

This means that in addition to regular cause-effect relationships, there is a bigger cause-effect relationship formed of compatibility between patterns and a steady pressure toward upward organization. This no longer acts like self-interested material objects, but a purposeful Designer who is starting us as dust and working us toward a god-like level, or as close as we can get.

In addition, we know that this causal space of pattern is much larger than the physical objects in which it manifests, meaning that our material world is the smaller part, and the world of thought much larger, implying not a dualistic “second world” but an extension to this one formed of the patterns as the universe intends them, not our perceptions of them. In this space, which is so large as to be infinite, information matters more than material, and here we see that the presence of our minds as information agents can have applicability beyond our physical selves.

None of this was unknown to the ancients, but then again, instead of checking Twitter every thirty minutes, they were sitting in darkened caves in deep thought guided by regular breathing and a suppression of the chattering monkey creating a background hum inside our heads. Clarity of thought, and eventually metaphysical experience, came naturally for them.

As we look toward peeling back the layers of the onion that is modernity, realizing that it started from a lie and that the only way to beat it is to head in a contrary direction, it makes sense to return to this focus on meditative understanding of structure. It does not contradict the realistic imperative that we adapt to material reality, but shows us a stage in which to go once we achieve basic sanity, and a basis for a spirituality which does not — like almost all existing forms of religion — lead us further into the illusion of ourselves.

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9 Responses to “Evidence Versus Logical Fact”

  1. Jake Saga says:

    Amazing essay. Thanks.

    What is the basis for the parallelism you mention? How do we know that the parallelism itself is real, and not a figment of our imaginations?
    I love your theories, and your blog.
    I already agreed with a lot of your ideas before I started reading your blog, but they were not as clear. I was always what a friend who disagrees greatly with me called a proponent of “idealistic realism” ( I think that’s what he called it). That is, he didn’t agree with my idea that ideas/forms were more real than the material plain.
    Now I’ve met someone who agrees with me. But I have much to learn from you.
    We’ve communicated over another channel, and thanks for you sending your email address. :) The very complications I want to email you about are preventing me from having the time and clarity needed to write the email. Soon I should have the time during the holiday season.

    • crow says:

      No wonder you love Brett: he really likes to agree and disagree with people and their ideas.
      Strangely, however, Reality remains unimpressed with the whole agreement/disagreement gambit.

      Of course, if you were a leftist, that would pose no problem: just invent your own reality, and refer to it as ‘reality’. Maintaining, throughout, that reality exists only by means of your mental ability to create it.
      Which, in a way, is true, if the auto-created reality is the only one of which you are aware.

      Someday, somebody will realize what a fantastic TV show all this would make. An original comedy, the likes of which has never before been seen…

      • Maintaining, throughout, that reality exists only by means of your mental ability to create it.

        This is one of the prime targets of nihilism: the rejection of the idea that truth, morality and communication — human constructs — exist.

    • Thank you for the kind words. On to the vital question:

      What is the basis for the parallelism you mention? How do we know that the parallelism itself is real, and not a figment of our imaginations?

      We can observe relationships between things, and notice that above all else, the universe is consistent. This means that if a principle exists, it will always exist. Then we can look at the patterns of objects, and see that certain types of patterns repeat in certain situations. We can then notice that these patterns occur in parallel, not just between different types of situations, but between different media: mind, matter, energy. At this point, we start to form a “pattern language” based on how the universe structures certain things. As far as absolute certainty, we will not have it, and no one will have it, because we are part and not whole (see Goedel’s theorem for an interesting take on this; we must make laws about the universe because we are observer, and not the universe itself). That relationship cannot change. But all of human history is a story of patterns and us finding more accurate descriptors over time.

      That is, he didn’t agree with my idea that ideas/forms were more real than the material plain.

      Your idea — “Idealistic realism” might work better if you capitalize the term Idealism — is the oldest and sanest notion of humanity. In it, the world makes sense. The proof of it is obvious, in that we can make a chair out of any rigid substance, which means that it is the design/structure of the chair and not the wood that makes it what it is. But, most refuse it, for the same reason they refuse an afterlife: it means they have to become serious about their decisions, apply self-discipline, and have purpose, all of which are “difficult” because they dethrone the ego.

      Hope you have a great holiday season and yes, I would always love to hear from you and others who are enjoying the writing on the site.

  2. crow says:

    Interestingly, Mr. Charlton argues (for) things, because he only dreams them up from the depths of what he considers his understanding of those things.
    These things have precisely nothing to do with Reality, or the way Reality works.
    I can say this because I know this. I don’t know this because I understand it; I know it because I am it.

    I find myself, year after year, observing people who reach for understanding, while dispensing unto others understanding they do not yet have, while perennially ignoring the real thing, because they do not recognise it.

    It’s both frustrating and tiresome, knowing what nobody knows, and knowing nobody knows enough to know what it is that they don’t know. Thankfully though, it can also be amusing.

    • I know it because I am it.

      So are those thoughts which reflect it mostly accurately.

      Being is thought, as well. You knew that we were all German Idealists, nicht war?

  3. Chris I says:

    I can’t wait for your second book. This is exactly what I wanted to see more of here.

  4. Bruce Charlton says:

    @Brett – Thanks for the link and discussion.

    Steiner of course developed from the German Idealist tradition – in particular his PhD thesis…

    http://wn.rsarchive.org/Books/GA003/English/GC1981/GA003_index.html

    …focused on Kant and Fichte.

    But Steiner was (he believed, and so do I) saying something significantly new and different; not least because his scheme is (or was in later work) placed within a framework of the evolution of consciousness – such that the Pure Conceptual Thinking he advocated (what Owen Barfield termed Final Participation) was not what the ancients did; and was indeed only possible after the phase of modern alienation and detachment had brought the necessary freedom and agency – as I describe in today’s follow-up blog post:

    http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/how-to-do-pure-conceptual-thinking-or.html

    I agree with Barfield that the Romanticism of Goethe, Coleridge (and to an extent William Blake) was the first attempt to move onto this Final Participation phase – but instead Western Culture went down a path of materialism/ positivism/ reductionism – with rejection of all spiritual/ supersensory reality.

    Then The West forgot, then denied that materialism had any metaphysical assumptions, and the culture was trapped in alienation.

    • Interesting. I think this is the crux of your argument:

      If the passive thinking is using real true universal concepts, then it is true; but it is not free. It is not ‘our’ thinking, it does not change the web of causes and effects in the world. Such a thinker is in the (real true) world, participating in the world; but does not change the world – rather is changed by it.

      The true versus free dichotomy is at the heart of our decline. By understanding logic, we understand the world and it changes us; this is “true” in your lexicon. However, when we aim for “free,” we are modifying our knowledge of the world to fit our intent, and this is the classic human cognitive problem.

      To me, the above has always been the most crucial division in human behavior. Some seek to learn from the world, but most project onto it, and the former group has done essentially everything good and members of the latter have done everything bad.

      Romanticism was a mixed bag. It had is conservative side and its flaky side, mainly because when the locus of a movement is declared to be within the inner self of an individual, the different qualities of individuals emerge. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and only one of them can be right, when we speak of concepts.

      Another point:

      Communicated concepts are therefore percepts, inputs – and they are only possible because of the already-existing world of real true concepts that serve as an interpretative background and provide that which makes communicated concepts ‘work’.

      This is what nihilism is about, in part. Communicated concepts are data and subject to interpretation by the individual, which is accurate to the degree of congenital intelligence, honesty and dedication of that individual, with about 1% of humanity having much to offer in this area. Nihilism denies the universals of truth, morality and communication because they do not exist outside of human beings; reality exists, and forms exist, but what humans call “truth, morality and communication” are not those things in themselves, but exclusively communicated through human tokens, and individual humans therefore reinterpret and can only perceive some degree of what is there (per Dunning-Kruger) in the first place. For this reason these things do not exist, even though reality does and is consistent, thus we are tempted to call some things universally “true,” forgetting that we are merely projecting.

      Great post!

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