1 Philosophic Wonders
Document prepared for course participants
Philosophic Wonders
UNITY::UNIQUENESS and other paired complements
Transformation model
Texts: intrapersonal-personal-interpersonal-transpersonal
Time-referenced textual perspectives of consciousness
X-Y-Z coordinates of mental-rational consciousness
Psychological functions of consciousness
Structures of consciousness
BCE—Before Common Era
Emergence of mental consciousness
Mathematics and geometry
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CE—Common Era
Synthesis of theology and idealism
World religions
Islamic scholarship
Synthesis of theology and empiricism
The Black Death
Copernican revolution
Inductive method
Theology, authority, and scientific knowledge
Rationalism—skepticism, subjectivism, mathematicism
The mechanical world-view
British empiricism and liberalism
Leibnitz: monadology, dynamics, imaginary numbers
Radical skepticism
Critical idealism
The Enlightenment
Mechanistic determinism
German idealism and evolutionary historicism
Existentialism: Kierkegaard
Theory of evolution
Dialectical materialism
Existentialism: Nietzsche
Logical positivism and symbolic logic
Depth psychology
Theory of relativity and gravitation and the decline of the mechanical world-view
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The exclusion principle
Quantum physics and the decline of the mechanical world-view
Process philosophy
The incompleteness theorem
Phenomenology and phenomenological method
Phenomenology: Heidegger
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
Phenomenology: Sartre
Phenomenology: Merleau-Ponty
Information theory
Ordinary language
Noosphere and the Omega Point
Semiotics, structuralism, and deconstructionism
Epistemological crisis
Feminist epistemology
Gaia hypothesis, morphic resonance, and autopoiesis
Integrative psychologies
Lévinas—ethical metaphysics
Chaos theory and complexity theory
The Ecozoic Age
Consciousness studies
McLuhan on technology and the future of human nature
Heidegger on the Danger
Adorno on postmodern aesthetics
Wurzer on timecapital and filming
Integrative post-aesthetics
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Integral consciousness
UNITY::UNIQUENESS and other paired complements
Rather than “paired opposites,” UNITY::UNIQUENESS are paired complements. UNITY does
not oppose UNIQUENESS; UNIQUENESS does not oppose UNITY. These two metaphors are
paired in representing a larger completeness. With integral philosophy, paired
complements are more to be contemplated than paired opposites. Another paired
complement is LIVING::DYING. LIVING is not opposed to DYING, but the processes are
complementary and paired in a larger completeness of a whole process.
Transformation model
>> RESTRUCTURATION–metamorphosis
This reiterative, bifurcative model describes transformations at all scales of
magnitude microcosmic and macrocosmic, phenomenal and noumenal.
The model is applicable in personal life and world life. It models transformations on
the life path from child to adolescent through midlife into older age, and the dying
process. The model also describes social and cultural change from group formation to
global transformations of apocalyptic proportions.
Texts: intrapersonal–personal–interpersonal–transpersonal
Texts are comprised of the complex inter-weavings of experience in all structures of
consciousness. Texts always exist in contexts from which they emerge, develop, and
Intrapersonal texts
Intrapersonal texts emerge from archaic consciousness and the ambiguities of our
earliest awareness. The initial conditions of our lives—cycles of hunger-excitementfeeding-resting, sleeping-dreaming-waking, and so forth—form these pre-symbolic
texts of infantile memories. Jung describes the instinctive patternings that re-iterate
in our behaviors and perceptions as archetypal. Intrapersonal texts emerge from the
psychoid unconscious, with proprioceptive body awareness and and with the feelingtoned complexes that shape our lives from birth to death. Intrapersonal texts include
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unexpressed and inexpressible feelings associated with trauma and personal
defenses, repressed memories, forgotten dreams, the things one “could never say”
and “would never say.” Intrapersonal texts are not observable to others.
Personal texts
Personal texts emerge with the earliest bifurcations of archaic consciousness. Magical
consciousness arises with the spaceless, timeless, symbolic powers and secondary
processes of early mirroring and object relations. Personal texts begin with projective
identifications—attachments—with persons and object-constancies, namings,
signings, and rituals. Personal texts are woven out of the parasyntactic cries that
precede awareness of having a personal voice. Out of these cries emerge baby
language, callings for Mama and Dada, and recognition of one's own name. Personal
texts are extended through dressing and cleaning, peekaboo games, totems and toys,
play spots, furniture and places of the house. Apotropaic defense structures are
woven into texts with the purpose of warding off dangers and perceived evils.
Personal texts include the reveries, anecdotes, images, and illustrations of our most
intimate memories, diary entries, journals, letters, photographs, and narratives that
may or may not be shared with others.
Interpersonal texts
Interpersonal texts express shared experience. Interpersonal texts may be associated
with mythic consciousness. This structure of consciousness is indicated by the
awareness of questions and the need for explanations, and the questioning of
awareness itself. With interpersonal texts, untruthfulness, embellishment, fantasy
and fiction become options. Whether orally transmitted or recorded, interpersonal
texts surpass individual experience and may outlast societies and cultures through
which they emerge. These texts address creation, the nature and destiny of soul,
causality and transformation, value and meaning, death, and life after death.
Genres of interpersonal texts are folklore, story, and myth:
Folklore is composed of anecdotes, sayings, signs, jokes, etc. Folklore is
extemporaneous. Associated with folklore are photographs, heirlooms such as quilts,
handicrafts, etc.
Stories communicate meaning to multiple listeners and readers. Story texts include
folktales, narratives, ballads, annals, correspondence, journalism, advertising, and
the achieved texts that form literature. Stories include teaching texts such as
textbooks and technical /instructional writing. Story modes include lyric, epic,
dramatic, and cinematic. Styles include classicist, realist, naturalist, impressionist
and expressionist, surrealist, etc.
Myths carry the archetypal patternings and experiences of personal and collective
life, and they express the most profound personal and cultural necessities of
intersubjective meaning. Myths carry archaic and magical images, symbols, facts,
and values—of supreme importance to the spirits of the ancestors, to the living, and
to coming generations.
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Myths of origin, or Beginning are cosmogonies [cosmogonia, creation of the world].
Myths of the First People are anthropogenies [anthropos, human + genesis, origin].
Myths of the stages of life, changes from birth and childhood through the heroic
struggles of adolescence and adulthood, sexuality, suffering, fear, error, and sin, in
settings that range from Eden and Golden Age through Fall and Flood, and the
conflicts and challenges of everyday life, are transformation-initiation-hero myths.
Myths of ultimate destiny, deliverance, and salvation from evil, loss, and death are
soteriologies [soteria, salvation, deliverance + soter, savior, deliverer]
Myths of the End, the raising of the dead, and afterlife are eschatologies [eschatos,
Transpersonal texts
Transpersonal texts encompass and surpass all other text forms in carrying the
ultimate values and meanings of humankind. Such texts are associated with mythic,
mental and integral consciousness. Transpersonal texts may be described as sacred,
philosophic, scientific, and integrative.
Sacred texts are the scriptures and sacred writings regarded as revealed or resulting
from supraconscious sources. Perennial wisdom is attached to sacred texts in
sacramental, liturgical, and performance contexts.
Philosophic texts and scientific texts may be associated primarily with mental
consciousness that grounds rational explanations of reality in essence or substance.
Integrative texts encompass all texts, including the sacred, philosophic, scientific,
and texts of literary and cinematic imagination, mystic experience, and altered states
of consciousness. Integrative texts may be regarded as prophetic, revealed, or
manifest from transcendent sources. In the West, Gebser speaks of diaphaneity, and
in the East, Sri Aurobindo speaks of an integral yoga.
Time-referenced textual perspectives of consciousness
[view as a “tic-tac-toe” box]
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Texts are generally time-referenced past–present–future or diachronic (across time).
I texts are intrapersonal (available and unavailable to consciousness and/or to
communication) and/or personal.
WE texts are interpersonal—folkloric story, historical narrative.
ALL IN ALL texts are transpersonal—mythic, sacred, prophetic.
X-Y-Z coordinates of mental-rational consciousness
Mental consciousness may be described by drawing an axial-coordinate form with
three axes:
diagonal (not represented below)—skepticism/mathematicism/subjectivism
Psychological functions of consciousness //JUNG, MYERS-BRIGGS, KEIRSAY
PERCEIVING [ P ] is locational—
SENSING [ S ] consciousness of MATTER
sensory impressions locationally spatial/sequential/actual/concrete
INTUITING [ N ] consciousness of MOMENTUM
imaginings locationally temporal/open/potential/process
JUDGING [ J ] is intentional—
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FEELING [ F ] consciousness of ENERGY
attracting-centripetal X repelling-centrifugal
instinctual/immediate energy flows
THINKING [ T ] consciousness of TIME
layered and structured feelings
mental/space-time abstracted/complex meanings
outwardly interactive responses
internal responses
oceanic artist
creative scientist
experienced moralist
manager structuralist
//Robert Moore
Structures of consciousness //GEBSER
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spaceless/natural time psychic
3 dimensional
dualistic perspective
mind and matter space/historic time
4 dimensional
spacefree timefree/non-local/diaphanous simultaneity
10-40 The Universe flares forth into existence, about fifteen billion years ago.
10-32 Universe inflates to the size of a grapefruit.
Galaxies form.
The Sun and the solar system form.
4.5 TO 3.8
Life forms in Earth’s seas. Meteor bombardment possibly kills early life several times
before any forms survive.
The earliest known fossil-leaving life forms.
An oxygen rich atmosphere forms.
One-celled organisms with nuclei form.
One-celled sexual organisms form.
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Astronomers focusing on a star at the center of the Milky Way say they have
measured precisely for the first time how long it takes the Sun to circle its home
galaxy: 226 million years. The last time the Sun was at this exact spot of its galactic
orbit, dinosaurs ruled the world. The Sun and its family of planets are orbiting the
galaxy at about 135 miles per second. That means it takes the solar system about
226 million years to orbit the Milky Way and puts the most precise vale ever
determined on one of the fundamental motions of the Earth and its Sun. The Sun is
one of about 100 billion stars in the Milky Way, one of billions of ordinary galaxies in
the Universe. The Milky Way is a spiral galaxy, with curving arms of stars
pinwheeling out from a center. The solar system is about halfway out on one of these
arms and is about 26,000 light years from the center. The measurement adds
support to the idea that the Milky Way's center contains a supermassive black hole.
The Earth rotates on its axis at about 1,100 miles an hour, a motion that creates day
and night. The Earth orbits the Sun at about 67,000 miles an hour, a motion that
takes one year. The Sun circles the Milky Way at a speed of about 486,000 miles per
hour. And every object in the Universe is moving apart from the other objects as the
Universe expands at a constantly accelerating rate.
//Associated Press
Complex life forms.
Life forms on land.
Earth’s rotational velocity produces 22-hour days.
225 TO 65
Dinosaurs flourish.
Era of mammals begins.
Homo habilis hominid is active.
Homo erectus hominid uses fire.
Homo sapiens appears.
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A celestial event occurs which 20th century astronomers will classify as Supernova
1987A with a small pulsar barely ten miles in diameter at its core spinning 2,000
times a second, and with a magnetic field at least a trillion times more powerful than
Neanderthals hunt skillfully.
Anatomically modern Homo sapiens appear in Africa or in the Middle East.
Linguistic capacities signal the era of modern Homo sapiens.
Sapiens prevails over all species.
Sapiens exhibit cultural overshadowing.
30 TO 10
Horticultural Great-Mother societies appear. Venus of Willendorf is sculpted. The
caves of Altamira and Lascaux are painted.
Ice sheets melt creating a Great Flood with 130-foot rise of sea-level.
The dog and cat are domesticated.
BCE—Before Common Era
8,000 TO 7,500
In the Fertile Crescent, agriculture, irrigation, and city-states appear. Tokens are
used in temples to control receiving and redistributing goods—requiring unitary
number systems of notation consisting of single strokes in one-to-one
correspondence with items counted. Claude Levi-Strauss describes this aspect of the
invention of writing as a medium of exploitation.
7,000 TO 6,000
Baskets, pottery, and textiles appear.
5,000 TO 4,000
Metallurgy and fermentation techniques emerge.
4,000 TO 3,500
The plow, wheel, and oar are devised in the Bronze Age.
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A quantum jump in use of tokens as “tools of the mind” occurs in cities such as Uruk
and Susa indicating the inclusion of manufactured goods among commodities
accounted by the state.
Sumerians develop a cuneiform alphabet and wheeled carts.
3,100 TO 1,200
3,100 TO 1,090
Advancing beyond one-to-one correspondence, abstract counting utilizes pictographs
representing an item [sheaf] preceded by a numeral [5]. The decimal or base-10
number system arises in Egypt, Sumer, and China. The Babylonian system uses a
sexagesimal (base-60) positional notation. The Mayans use a modified vigesimal
(base-20) system.
The Gilgamesh, first written legend, is composed in Sumerian cuneiform. World
population is one hundred million.
3,000 TO 1,100
2,500 TO 1,700
Sargon is the first empire.
Stonehenge is under construction.
The Code of Hammurabi is established.
Abraham migrates to Canaan. Bathing rooms are constructed in the palace of
Knossos in Greece.
The Old Canaanite writing system originates.
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1500 TO 1027
HWANG VALLEY CIVILIZATION in China is documented on tortoise shell and bone.
1350 TO 1200
Moses leads the Exodus from Egypt.
1200 TO 1000
In India, the Rg Veda describes deities similar to the Greek and Norse.
1200 TO 842
Chinese writing originates.
Phoenician writing originates.
Old Hebrew and Aramaic writing systems originate. Techniques from Asia Minor lead
to smelting of iron in Europe.
The Hebrew temple is built in Jerusalem.
910 TO 612
800 TO 400
The Upanishads state that salvation is knowing that Brahman and atman are one.
The first Olympics are held.
740 TO 681
The prophet Isaiah lives.
Greek writing originates.
Latin writing originates.
Greek poet Sappho flourishes on the island of Lesbos.
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Zoroaster teaches in Persia.
Nebuchadnezzar destroys Jerusalem.
Lao-Tse sets down the principles of Taoism in the Tao Te Ching.
Siddhartha Gautama is born a prince of the Sakyamuni family in India and will
become the Buddha.
Confucius is born.
Thales of Miletus, the first western philosopher, dies.
In Greece, theatres are built; techniques of metallurgy are widespread. Seric steel
from India is the best available (through Roman times).
Protagoras states: “Man is the measure of all things.” Gorgias, his younger
contemporary, writes a book, Peri tou mé ontos é peri physeós, On that which is not,
proving that nothing exists, that if something existed, we could have no knowledge of
it, and that if somebody knew it, this knowledge could not be communicated.
Hippocrates, the father of medicine, identifies natural causes of disease.
The period of composing the Hebrew sacred texts closes.
Emergence of mental consciousness
In the mythic consciousness of ancient Greece, the divine family structures preserve
the kosmos and provide explanations for nature of things. Divine personalities are
personally responsible for phenomena and causality. With the emergence of mental
consciousness, the question guiding Greek philosophy is what is real? Philosophers
view causes as substances, and they seek causality in things themselves and not in
anthropomorphic forms. Philosophers wonder if nature consists of a single,
continuous substance or of a mixture of multiple, atomic substances. The reality of
the soul, or psyche, is rarely questioned.
Thales of Miletus is regarded as the first philosopher of Greece. Thales regards myths
as childish allegories. He takes a critical approach and seeks to establish a
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systematic ground to explain reality through causality in substance. Dismissing the
responsibility of Zeus and elevating the validity of logos, Thales finds the kosmos to
be a living organism nourished by water.
Anaximander explains the development of life from the sea and finds the substances
of heat and cold to be the primary opposites, or enantia. Anaximenes deduces that
air, transmuted by condensation and rarefication, is the material substrate.
Empedocles adds earth and fire to water and air thus completing the explanation of
sublunary matter adopted by Aristotle that stands until the late 17th century.
Quintessence is the fifth substance composing the superlunary Sun, stars, and
planetary (wandering) objects.
Parmenides asserts the unity and immutability of the First Principle or Being, the
Eleatic or Parmenidean One—“All is one.” This monism recognizes no change or
diversity. Change is impossible because it would transform Being into Nonbeing, or to
be broken into parts, and Nonbeing does not exist. Change is only an apparent
concealment of the unchanging substrate of reality.
Heracleitus asserts that the antinomies of Being and Nonbeing participate in a
dynamic unity of flux in which each phase is continuously transformed into its
opposite. “All things change,” “Nothing remains the same,” “All change is
contradictory; therefore contradiction is the very essence of reality.” “We step and we
do not step into the same river; we are and we are not.”
Leucippus is credited as the originator of atomism. His student Democritus explains
that the Void does exist as the vacuum that is space. Moving through the Void are
infinite, indivisible atoms. Reality is made of the composites and configurations of
atoms. Motion is a vibration bringing about collisions and whirlings that, by
necessity of a fixed mechanical system, produce various structures of reality. Birth
and death and other such changes indicate the increase and decrease of compounds,
but the atoms are discrete, uncaused, and eternal. Objects emit atoms that impact
and change the atoms of the soul thus creating sensations. Democritus describes
atoms of water as smooth and round unable to hook together, while atoms of iron are
jagged and uneven and cling together. Color is due to the position of atoms in
compounds—smooth, flat atoms that cast no shadows are white, and rough, uneven
atoms that cast shadows are black. Hot and cold, bitter and sweet, and other
opposites are only conventions. The drum-shaped Earth is located in the center of
kosmos. Since atoms and motions are eternal, an infinite number of worlds must
come in and out of the Void.
With the ongoing emergence of mental consciousness in Greek thought, the
instrumentality of universal terms allows new orders of thinking. Questions about
causes and substances are surpassed by generalized abstractions about things—
ideas in themselves—and metaphysical [meta + physis] questions about a universal
mind or spirit behind or beneath phenomena.
These new questions indicate empirical, epistemological, and ontological problems.
Empirical problems are those of how the senses function with mind to bring about
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reliable thinking and true knowledge. Epistemological problems concern how we
know whatever we know, how we can be sure knowledge reliably reflects the really
real and is not delusion. Given these empirical and epistemological problems,
ontological problems pertain to the actual nature of the really real and the human
capacity to have knowledge of the really real.
It is useful these four approaches of Western philosophy: metaphysics—the True;
physics—Nature; ethics—the Good; aesthetics—the Beautiful.
Here is a list of basic terms in Greek philosophy.
logos—speech, account, reason, definition, rational faculty, proportion. Logos is an
underlying organizational principle of the Universe—rule of change, proportion,
harmony of opposites—perceptible to intelligence. Logic refers to valid inference. Two
forms of logic are deductive and inductive.
Deductive logic reasons from macro- to microcosmic, general to specific, the
conclusion follows from premises, rearranging what you already know.
Deductions are syllogisms (major premise / minor premise / conclusion):
Every good deed is praiseworthy; assisting the sick is a good deed;
therefore, assisting the sick is praiseworthy.
Inductive logic reasons from microcosmic to macrocosmic, specific to general,
the conclusion follows with probability from the premises accepting that what
has happened will repeat:
All lemon blossoms I have smelled have a citrus fragrance, thus
lemon blossoms in the future will have citrus fragrance.
enantia—opposites (as substances)
limit peras
odd peritton
right dexion
male arren
resting eremoun
straight euthu
light phos
good agathon
square tetragonon
unlimited apeiron
even artion
left aristeron
female thelu
moving kinoumenon
curved kampulon
darkness skotos
bad kakon
oblong heteromekes
harmonia—blending of opposites, harmony
Ratios descriptive of musical intervals suggest that number [arithmos] constitutes all
things. Harmonia describes mixtures and suggests psyche is a harmony of opposites.
Plato and Aristotle both speak of the harmonia of the celestial spheres, and Aristotle
states a medical aspect to harmonia.
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thauma—wonder, starting point of philosophy and mythology [Aristotle]
psyche—breath of life, ghost, vital principle, soul, anima
phantein—to appear (as in phenomenon, and phantasy)
phainesthai—to show itself, to be in the light
manthanein—to learn (as in mathematikos)
eidos—appearance, form, type, species, idea (as in idea)
noesis—operation of mind
alētheia—unconcealing, revealing, truth
epistemé—true, organized knowledge—not dóxa, opinion
technē—craft, skill, art, applied science
monas—unit, the one, primary arché of the Pythagoreans; root of Monism
dyas—dyad, pair; Monas is associated with Good, Dyas with Evil
atomon—not cut, indivisible material, particle, atom
arche—beginning, starting point, principle, ultimate underlying substance.
genesis—birth, becoming (in contrast with being), process
physis—nature, from phyein, springing forth
enérgeia—activity, actualization
kinesis—motion, movement, change
aporía—with no way out, difficulty, question, problem
diaporía—exploration of different routes
lysis—loosening, as from the chains of ignorance [Aristotle]
telos—completion, end, purpose
aisthesis—perception, sensation (as in aesthetics, and anesthesia)
mimesis—mimicry, imitation, art
katharsis—purgation, purification
Mathematics and geometry
Pythagoras considers the Pythia under whom he studied to be the source of his
wisdom. He asserts that "All things are numbers." Number is the essence of reality,
and things are numbers. Divine unity in the multiplicity of nature is evidenced in
harmonia and the essences of all things contain numerical relations as with musical
tones produced on diverse instruments by using the ratios—1:2, 2:3, 3:4 . . .
Pythagorean Theorem: c2 = a2 + b2
Golden Mean:
= a
The smaller is to the larger as the larger is to the whole.
Let a = 1 and solve for b. b = .618033989, or Φ (phi).
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[The above are in modern mathematical notation.]
For Socrates, the supreme goal of philosophy is the form of the good that is the guide
for intellectual and moral development. Since the kosmos is orderly and purposeful,
the good can be determined rationally, and anyone who truly knows the good could
not choose to live in self-contradiction. All knowledge of Socrates is written by his
pupil Plato.
In the Protagoras, Plato ascribed to the Seven Wise Men the saying, “Know Thyself.”
In the Apology, he wrote “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Distinct from
mythos, logos is a true account of reality. With the senses we perceive only corrupt
copies of eternal forms, eidos. Until informed by a priori knowledge of the eidos that
cannot be corrupted, raw experience is a disorganized flux. The eternal forms of “that
which always is and has no becoming” is true knowledge [epistemé], and knowledge
of “that which is always becoming and never is” can only be opinion [dóxa].
Authentic, rational theories should be presented in formal, mathematical, geometrical
terms that reveal unchanging structures of reality, as required by Parmenides, and
such as is the case with astronomy. In the Myth of the Cave, Plato contrasts the
philosopher who sees the incorruptible Being with ordinary persons who see only
shadows of the real.
Picture men dwelling in a sort of subterranean cavern with a long entrance open to
the light on its entire width. Conceive them as having their legs and necks fettered
from childhood, so that they remain in the same spot, able to look forward only, and
prevented by the fetters from turning their heads. Picture further the light from a fire
burning higher up and at a distance behind them, and between the fire and the
prisoners and above them a road along which a low wall has been built, as the
exhibitors of puppet shows have partitions before the men themselves, above which
they show the puppets.
See also, then, men carrying past the wall implements of all kinds that rise above
the wall, and human images and shapes of animals as well.
This is like to us, I said. For, to begin with, tell me do you think that these men
would have seen anything of themselves or of one another except the shadows cast
from the fire on the wall of the cave that fronted them? How could they, he said, if
they were compelled to hold their heads unmoved through life?
If then they were able to talk to one another, do you not think that they would
suppose that in naming the things that they saw they were naming the passing
objects? Necessarily.
And if their prison had an echo from the wall opposite them, when one of the
passerby uttered a sound, do you think that they would suppose anything else than
the passing shadow to be the speaker? Then in every say such prisoners would deem
reality to be nothing else than the shadows of the artificial objects.
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Plato dies.
Aristotle founds the Lyceum at Athens.
Aristotle responds to Plato by asserting that the world of substance and change is
real, and that it is not necessary to assume the existence of eternal Forms or Ideas.
Trusting the senses as the only sources of reliable knowledge, Aristotle establishes
empiricism [from in + peîra, trial, experiment].
Aristotle bases his theories not on astronomy or geometry but rather on observing the
life cycles of plants and animals (particularly marine). The kosmos is formed of
energy. Energy operates in nature according to categories [kategoríai]. The categories
form the logical structure of classification in direct correspondence with reality such
that nature becomes intelligible to human understanding—the correspondence
Change is emergence of the not-yet-existing potentiality into existing actuality
through four categories of causality: material, efficient, formal, final. Examining a
seed, one can observe its becoming, or morphogenesis. The material cause consists of
the substances of earth and water composing the seed. The efficient cause is the
energetic interplay of environmental factors such as Sunlight and rainfall necessary
for the seed to develop. The formal cause is the pattern of emergence that reiterates
in all such seeds. The final cause, or entelechy, regulates growth into maturity. Study
of entelechies leads to the clearest understanding of the processes of nature
With human beings, material causality includes the earth, water, air, and fire (heat)
of the body. Efficient causality includes all the environmental factors of food,
clothing, and shelter necessary for survival. Formal causality is the patterning that
emerges similarly and uniquely in human beings. The final cause that sets human
beings categorically in distinction to all other animals is the power of mind, or Nous,
that makes us rational and able to perceive the kategoria. Our telos, or end, as the
rational animal, is to bring forth reason and logic, in particular the syllogism. The
greatest good is complete exercise of reason.
God is the Prime Mover. The Earth is fixed and surrounded by the celestial bodies
moving uniformly in perfect circles. Sublunary motion is either a correction of an
imbalance or it is violent. The four sublunary elements are transmutable, and, except
for fire, seek rest in their natural place toward the center of the Earth. Air, always
mixed, moves unpredictably. If air were pure, it would rest without wind, below fire
and above water and earth.
When he conquers the “known” world of Asia and North Africa, Alexander the Great,
pupil of Aristotle, successfully plants seeds of Hellenistic culture and diffuses Greek
philosophy by deliberate policy.
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Elephants are first used in battle. Euclid teaches at the library in Alexandria; it holds
100,000 volumes.
Euclid presents five basic postulates of geometry stating how it is possible to:
—draw a straight line from any point to any point;
—produce a finite, continuously straight line;
—describe a circle with any center and radius;
—prove all right angles are equal;
—prove that if a straight line falls on two straight lines it makes the interior angles on
the same side less than two right angles and if produced indefinitely, the two straight
lines will meet on that side on which the angles are less than two right angles.
Developing knowledge from a small number of definitions and axioms will be called
the axiomatic method.
Under construction for twelve years, the Colossus of Rhodes is completed.
Horse collar and harness are introduced in China.
Hipparchus catalogs the stars.
In later Greek philosophy, Zeno of Citium teaches in the Stoa Poikile (painted porch),
thus Stoicism. This philosophy holds that happiness is conforming the will to the
divine reason governing the kosmos. The empirical world is intelligible only in terms
of the interactions and patterns of harmony operative at distances. Stoicism as an
ethical philosophy has strong influence in early Christian thought, beginning with
Paul of Tarsus.
Epicurus defines pleasure as criterion of good. Epicureans argue for a corpuscular
view in which individual units of matter move independently unless in actual contact.
For Plotinus, we perceive change as change only because we cannot perceive totality
all at once, sub species aeternitas. Time is "the moving image of eternity" and
movement is psychological, the "movement of soul."
The water-mill, from China, first appears in Greek writings.
Hero of Alexandria describes imaginary numbers, and invents various machines. 64
Caesar Augustus is born.
21 Philosophic Wonders
Y’shua is born outside Jerusalem.
CE—Common Era
World population is two hundred million.
Y’Shua is executed under Roman law.
Paul of Tarsus dies in Rome.
Caesar introduces the Julian calendar.
Jerusalem is destroyed, and the Gospel of Mark is written.
Paper, fireworks, and the magnetic compass are invented in China.
The thermae in the Baths of Titus contain elaborate rooms for exercise, steaming,
cooling (frigidaria), and quiet meditation.
The Apocalypse of St. John, or Book of Revelations, is completed.
Ptolemy (Claudius Ptolemaeus) of Alexandria, compiles the Almagest (Arabic, “the
greatest”), the encyclopaedia and basic guide for Arabic and European astronomers
and mathematicians until the beginning of the 17th century. It will be translated into
Arabic in 827 and retranslated from Arabic to Latin in the last half of the 12th
Book One outlines the geocentric model of the heavens composed of deferents, large
circles, and epicycles, small circles. Each planet travels the circumference of an
epicycle, the center of which revolves on a deferent. Book Two contains trigonometry
texts: a table giving the values of chords of a circle at intervals of 1/2° accurate to
five places, and studies in the solution of spherical triangles. Book Three deals with
the motion of the Sun and the length of the year. Book Four deals with the Moon and
the month. Book Five also addresses the distances of Sun and Moon and provides
instructions for building an astrolabe. Book Six addresses eclipses, planetary
conjunctions, and oppositions. Books Seven and Eight give ecliptic coordinates and
magnitudes for 1,022 fixed stars based on the catalog of Hipparchus (129 BCE). The
remaining books detail the system.
22 Philosophic Wonders
The Ptolemaic model stands until Copernicus. After Ptolemy, most natural
philosophers work to “save the phenomena” by predicting planetary motions, and so
forth, rather than by trying to explain physical processes.
A Chinese court official invents paper.
Practicing medicine in Rome, Galen establishes basic knowledge of anatomy and
Mayan writing originates.
Arabic writing originates.
The present canon of the Bible is established.
Synthesis of theology and idealism
Saint Augustine of Hippo, the first Christian theologian, completes De civitate Dei,
The City of God, conjoining Hebraism and Neo-platonic Hellenism. His thought will
prevail in the church and western world through the Middle Ages. Augustine believes
that beyond the domain of the senses, the City of Man, lies the eternal realm that is
the object of the mind and the goal of all striving, the City of God. The ultimate reality
is the City of God, to be realized with the Second Coming of Christ, according to the
plan which is the ultimate truth of the Creator, the God of Israel.
Human beings are composites of the inferior body, corrupted by sinful nature, and
the superior soul. The eternal form of the soul can be attained only as pre-destined
through gratituitous grace. Augustine’s cosmology affirms the geocentric model of the
kosmos devised by Ptolemy. Consistent with Jewish and Muslim traditions based in
the First Cause argument, Augustine holds that the world was created about 5000
years before Christ.
Augustine’s influence culminates in the pontificate of Innocent III who, as feudal lord
over much of Europe at the end of the 12th century, will achieve the greatest political
power of any pope in history.
Vandals sack Rome.
23 Philosophic Wonders
Boethius, Roman consul and author of The Consolation of Philosophy, is executed.
Although the influence of the Platonic Academy endures, after the fall of Rome, the
West is largely split from Greek philosophy, and few Greek writings are preserved.
Teotihuacan is larger than Imperial Rome and roughly the size of 17th century Paris.
After Muhammad’s last pilgrimage to Mecca and his death, Muslim power becomes
prevalent in much of the world.
World religions
The configuration of world religions, after the accomplishments of Muhammad, is set
for the Middle Ages and into the present. Of these religions, Judaism, Christianity
and Islam are “historical”—with conceptions of the world and of humanity
intrinsically linked to time. For Christianity and Islam, the eschatos, or “last things”
and the irruption of the future into the present, are explicit principles of meaning and
The Dome of the Rock is built in Jerusalem on the site of the Hebrew Temple, and the
earlier site of Abraham’s precluded sacrifice of Isaac.
Buddhist texts are reproduced by block printing in China.
The Council of Chelsea adopts the Anno Domini dating system.
Windmills are built in Europe.
A monastic order is founded at Cluny.
World population is 275 million.
Islamic scholarship
Muslim studies generate almanacs [Arabic, climate]. In the 700s, Hindu and Arabic
mathematicians begin to refine the decimal system. The first use of zero as a placeholder in positional base notation is attributed to Muhammad ibn Musa alKhwarizmi in the 800s. Drawing on the traditions of Greek science passed through
Christian scholars of Syria, the Arabic rulers of Baghdad, location of a great
24 Philosophic Wonders
observatory, preserve and translate most Greek scientific manuscripts into Arabic.
Caliph al-Ma’mun initiates construction and operation of astrolabes, quadrants, and
armillaries at multiple observation sites to prepare astronomical tables. Islamic
scholars describe the optical properties of glass lenses, and they advance
mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, and medicine. In the 900s, the use of zero and
Arabic (Gobar) numerals is spread throughout Europe by Gerbert who later becomes
Pope Sylvester II.
In the 1100s, Averroës integrates Islamic traditions and Greek philosophy, especially
the works of Aristotle, contributing to the rise of Scholastic philosophy. Averroës
holds that domains of faith and reason do not conflict, and that truth derives from
reason rather than faith. Aquinas will later agree, reversing the roles of faith and
reason. Islamic contacts in Spain and Palestine translate works in astrology, magic,
and medicine into Latin. In Persia, Maragha is the site of a great observatory with
library holdings of nearly a half-million books. The library of Cordoba has similar
holdings, when hardly five thousand books exist north of the Pyrenees. Also in the
1100s, algorists successfully challenge abacists (using the abacus) in speed and
accuracy and are able to produce permanent records. Adopting positional base
notation, zero, point, and comma to accomplish multiplication, division, and root
extraction, the algorists provide the precision that will be needed in astronomy,
navigation, and manufacturing.
Movable type is invented in China.
The Final Schism occurs between western and eastern churches. Literate culture in
the west, ruled by Rome, is barely kept alive in monasteries such as Cluny, while
culture flourishes in Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire.
Chinese astronomers reported that a star in the constellation of Taurus suddenly
became as bright as the full Moon. Fading slowly, it remained visible for over a year.
[Remains of the supernova explosion remain visible as the Crab Nebula. The core of
the star collapsed to form a rotating neutron star or pulsar, generating pulsating
beams of radio, visible, x-ray and gamma-ray energy.]
William the Conqueror orders a census and survey of English landowners—the
Domesday Book. It records 5,624 water mills in England.
The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam combines poetry, algebra, and astronomy.
Water-powered mechanical clocks are constructed in China.
Christians set off on the Crusades to seize the Holy Land from the Muslims.
25 Philosophic Wonders
Abelard teaches in Paris. Texts of Aristotle are re-introduced in the West.
The Universities of Bologna and of Paris are established. Cambridge will be
established in 1209 and Oxford by 1220.
Work on the Cathedral of Notre Dame begins.
Lock gates are developed for canals.
Feudal lord over much of Europe, Innocent III achieves greatest influence of any pope
in history. Returning Crusaders introduce Arabic numbers and the decimal system to
Leonardo of Pisa (Fibonacci) introduces modern mathematical notation in Liber abaci.
Genghis Khan rules the Mongols and initiates the largest land empire in history.
King John signs the Magna Carta signaling the end of the Middle Ages in England
and the founding of modern democracy.
The first coal, broken by wave action from submarine outcroppings, washed ashore
near Fife and Northumberland, and gathered by women and children, is transported
by sea to London. Later in the century, monks will begin to mine outcroppings of coal
in the north of England.
Instruments of torture are used in the Inquisition for the first time.
Perhaps studying Arabic sources, Oxford monk Roger Bacon records the first formula
for gunpowder in De Secretis Operibus Artis.
Shipboard navigational charts are first recorded.
Marco Polo begins his journey to open the way for a transfer of techniques from
China, including silk working, the magnetic compass, papermaking, and porcelain.
26 Philosophic Wonders
Synthesis of theology and empiricism
Thomas Aquinas synthesizes the philosophy of Aristotle with Christian theology,
completing the Summa Theologica. In a challenge to Augustinian theology by from
idealism to empiricism, Aquinas argues that theology and philosophy cannot
contradict one another because they come from the same divine source. Nous is
clarified by Logos. Faith and reason are in harmonia. The body and nature, though
Finite Being, are not inherently corrupt but rather participate in the process of
Becoming. God affirms this process in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ who presents
the ultimate entelechy. Freedom and diversity have divine value. Regenerated
individuality has perpetual meaning in the Great Chain of Being, the vertical
connection of the lowest of creatures to the highest gates of heaven. The influences of
Scholasticism will be truncated by the Black Death.
Marco Polo returns from the East.
Early in the 1300s, Arabs develop the first practical gun using a bamboo tube
reinforced with iron and firing an arrow.
Eyeglasses are invented.
Dante begins writing the Divina Commedia.
Cannons are first used to knock down castle walls.
The spinning wheel from India is introduced to Europe.
Perfected water-powered sawmills spur development of shipbuilding in Europe.
Petrarch describes his first glance of landscape after ascending Mount Ventoux, thus
introducing an elementally new sense of perspective and spatiality to European
thought. Crowned poet laureate in Rome in 1341, Petrarch’s admiration of classical
knowledge supports attitudes that will lead to the Renaissance, and his work
influences Chaucer.
The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is completed after 182 years.
27 Philosophic Wonders
The Black Death
The Kipchak army of Mongols and Hungarians carries corpses infested by bubonic
plague originating in China and Inner Asia. Laying siege on a Genoese trading post in
the Crimea, the army catapults corpses into the town. Refugees from the trading post
carry the plague to Sicily. Spreading from there into continental Europe, the Black
Death, probably both bubonic and pneumonic, will kill a third of Europe’s
population, about forty million persons, by 1351. The Black Death causes a
proportionately greater loss of life than any previously known epidemic or war.
Monastic communities have the highest incidence of victims. Two successive
archbishops of Canterbury die, the Avignon papal court is reduced by one-fourth,
and the stature of the Church is diminished. Many royals die. Recurrences continue
into 1400 when, with the disappearance of about 1,000 villages, the population in
England is about half what it was a century earlier. The pre-1348 population of
Western Europe is not equalled until the beginning of the 1500s. The Black Death
causes cessation of war, restriction of trade, and drastic reduction of land-cultivation
leading to the first paying of wages to tenant-laborers able to work.
Guy de Chauliac publishes what will remain definitive guide for surgeons for next
300 years.
John Wycliffe prints the first English Bible.
Chaucer dies without finishing the Canterbury Tales.
In Florence and the Netherlands, the revolutionary technique of perspective signals
the Renaissance.
Portuguese adventurers bring African slaves to Lisbon.
Jean d’Arc is executed; among charges against her was the wearing of Celtic trousers
under her armor.
Trade routes to the Orient are cut when Muslims conquer Constantinople.
Johannes Gansfleisch zur Laden zum Gutenberg, a goldsmith in Mainz, uses the
newly invented printing press to produce Bibles.
28 Philosophic Wonders
The Catholicon is the first printed dictionary (Latin-German).
The table fork is first mentioned, in the will of John Baret of Bury St. Edmunds.
The first printed advertisement appears in Strasbourg.
Page numbers first appear in a printed book.
Caxton produces the first book in the English language.
The first printed maps are produced in Rome.
Emphasizing the centrality of humankind in the Universe Pico della Mirandola writes
Oratio de hominis dignitate, Oration on the Dignity of Man.
Plus (+) and minus (-) signs are introduced in Mercantile Arithmatic by John Widman
of Leipzig.
1492 Cristobal Colón lands on a Caribbean island. Da Vinci describes a flying
The Renaissance brings a rebirth of learning, literature, and art in Europe in a
pattern extending to the 1800s. With the Renaissance comes the turn to the subject
and the limited, horizontal transcendence of humanism (although the word is first
used in this sense in 1832).
With the rise of the Modern Age, humanism is associated with
—the New World;
—the Idea of Progress through the science and technology (industrialization,
communication, transportation) with the materialism, capitalism, and opportunism
of market economies;
—re-discovery of classical authors of non-Christian perspectives
—religious tolerance and human rights;
—non-religious, non-mythic, and vernacular language;
—rejection of horizonless, vertical transcendence in fall-redemption myths;
29 Philosophic Wonders
—initiatives to break through limits of horizontal transcendence;
—historiographic distance (time) and optic perspective (space);
—the autonomous, rational individualist (turn to the subject);
—the ideal of the universal man;
—the classical Liberal Arts curricula comprised of the Trivium and Quadrivium.
The Trivium consists of grammar (language, myth, and literature); rhetoric (eloquent
speaking in the fivefold art of persuasion and moving imagination to accept a
recognizable truth); and dialectics (wisdom as pure logic employing critical reason
and abstract argument). The Quadrivium consists of arithmetic, geometry,
astronomy, and music.
Niklas Koppernick (Copernicus), age 27, travels to Rome for the Christian jubilee,
perhaps lecturing informally on mathematics. Hieronymus Bosch completes The
Garden of Delights.
Michelangelo completes David.
Africans are enslaved and transported to Portuguese sugar plantations in Brazil.
Niccoló Machiavelli, sometime secretary of state of the Florentine republic, writes The
Martin Luther nails Ninety-five Theses of protest on a cathedral door, and before the
Diet of Worms, states: Hier stehe Ich, Ich kann nicht anders, so helfe mir Gott. “Here I
Stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.”
Magellan circumnavigates Earth.
Copernicus is invited by the Lateran Council to comment on calendar reform
necessary to correct inaccuracies of existing astronomical observations. To avoid
contradicting the dogmatically held Ptolemaic model, he declines to render an
The first railway track is laid in a German mine.
At the court of Montezuma, Hernán Cortés is served xocoatyl, a bitter cocoa-bean
drink that he will introduce to the King of Spain. After exploring Nueva Espana,
Cortés will describe California as a mythical island like one described in the 15th
century work by Garci Ordonez de Montalvo, Las Sergas de Espandian, in which the
30 Philosophic Wonders
word California may first have appeared. The island-myth persists until the 17th
century when the friar Eusebio Kino crosses the Colorado River and enters California
by land.
The first water closet is installed in England, and Queen Elizabeth is among the first
regular users of the invention.
In A Brief Report on the Destruction of the Indians, Bartolomé de Las Casas writes:
“The reason why the Christians have killed and destroyed such an infinite number of
souls is that they have been moved by their wish for gold and their desire to enrich
themselves in a very short time.” Five years earlier, Las Casas advances the doctrine
of peaceful evangelization in Concerning the Only Way of Drawing All Peoples to the
True Religion.
Copernican revolution
Seeking a model of the motion of heavenly bodies more accurate than that of Ptolemy
[see 1514] Nicholas Copernicus reads Greek philosophers and finds the heliocentric
concept. Copernicus completes his work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, libri VI,
Six Books On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres. In 1536, Pope Clement
approves the request of Copernicus to publish. Reluctant to affront church teaching,
Copernicus delays printing the book, finally consenting to have a student deliver the
manuscript to a publisher in Germany. There, Martin Luther opposes its publication.
The book is published, with a publisher’s cautionary preface, and the story is that
the text was presented to Copernicus on his dying day, May 24, 1543.
Aristotle had taught a fixed Earth, the location of all change and decay, forming the
center of an otherwise unchanging kosmos. Copernicus describes a moving Earth,
one celestial body among many. He replaces the old arrangement of Earth-MoonMercury-Venus-Sun-Mars-Jupiter-Saturn. This new model is subject to rigorous
mathematical description.
With Copernicus, the perception of the size of the Universe is vastly altered, thus
explaining the apparently “fixed” stars. The notion of an infinite Universe with the
stars scattered throughout shortly arises. The belief in the correspondence between
humans as microcosm mirroring the surrounding Universe as macrocosm is shaken.
The heliocentric model requires a new theory to describe the motion of falling bodies,
which Newton will provide.
Before Copernicus, the basis of knowledge in medieval Europe is theological
illumination and the omniscience of the divine mind. In church teaching, these are
expressed in the theology of Augustine, the natural philosophy of Aristotle, and the
Ptolemaic model. The Copernican revolution challenges ancient teachings and the
teaching authority of the church. This challenge produces a profound shock and
establishes science, not the church, as the authority on which to base the
31 Philosophic Wonders
philosophical conception of the Universe. After Copernicus, authority in science
begins to shift from monasteries to universities.
Vesalius bases De humani corporis fabrica on dissection of cadavers.
Disturbed by the academic innovations of Petrus Ramus, orthodox Aristotelian
philosophers at the University of Paris induce Francis I to suppress his work on
reformed logic and forbid him to teach the subject. Ramus emphasizes that logic is
the method of disputation, using invention to discover proofs in support of a thesis
and disposition to arrange the materials of invention. Ramus invents the paradigm of
the textbook for the arts of dialectic, logic, rhetoric, grammar, arithmetic, etc., with
precise definitions and divisions developed progressively to dissect and dispose of
every element of a subject. Everything in an art is demonstrably self-evident,
complete, self-contained, and separate from any other art. Printed texts include
dichotomized outlines or charts organizing material with spatial exactness. Ramus’s
logic has enormous vogue in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries. His last
years are marked by persecution from academic and ecclesiastical enemies, and he is
murdered by paid assassins in 1572.
The equals sign (=) is invented by Robert Record, Fellow of All Souls, Oxford, in his
algebra text, The Whetstone of Witte, using this sign because ‘noe 2 thynges can be
moare equalle’ than two parallel lines.
Tobacco is brought to Europe.
John Calvin dies; William Shakespeare and Galileo Galilei are born.
Mercator devises his cylindrical method of map projection.
Palissey suggests that relics (fossils, Latin, to dig) in the soil represent early, extinct
forms of life.
Tycho Brahe publishes meticulous astronomical observations in De Nova Stella.
Frances Drake claims northern California for England, naming it New Albion.
The Gregorian calendar, currently used, is put into effect by Pope Gregory XIII,
approving the proposal of mathematician and astronomer Cristoph Clavius.
32 Philosophic Wonders
Overcoming the “invincible” Armada, England breaks the sea power of Spain. In
London, Christopher Marlowe stages The Tragedy of Dr. Faustus.
Harington introduces a flush toilet.
The word psychology first appears in print.
Galileo, age 28, invents the first thermometer.
Writing to Johannes Kepler, Galileo states his reluctance, for fear of ridicule, to affirm
the Copernican theory.
The Spanish attack Acoma, the Sky City, a Native American pueblo, to avenge the
death of an official trying to exact tribute. They destroy the town and fields, killing
many. Men and women age twelve or more are sentenced to twenty years of labor,
and males have one foot cut off.
William Gilbert publishes Concerning Magnetism, Magnetic Bodies, and the Great
Magnet Earth. Observing the dipping of magnetic compass needles, Gilbert concludes
that gravity and magnetism are interconnected. Gilbert introduces the terms
magnetic pole, electric attraction, and electric force (Latin, electricus, “generated from
amber, as by friction” Greek, êlektron, êlektor, “beaming Sun”).
The English East India Company (British East India Company) is incorporated by
royal charter, formed to share in the East Indian spice trade and trade with East and
Southeast Asia and India. Until the defeat of the Spanish Armada, this trade had
been a monopoly of Spain and Portugal.
Shakespeare premieres Hamlet.
Galileo tests a thermometer for use in air.
In The Institution of a Young Nobleman, James Cleland advocates a broad education
including sound judgment and manners, physical exercise, travel, good teaching
techniques, and the duty of parents—rather than only classical texts.
Chief Powhatan addresses the Colony of Virginia: “Why will you destroy us who
supply you with food? What can you get by war? We can hide our provisions and run
into the woods. Then you will starve for wronging your friends. Why are you jealous
33 Philosophic Wonders
of us? We are unarmed and willing to give you what you ask, if you come in a friendly
Based on observations of Tycho Brahe, Kepler modifies ancient and Copernican
notions of uniform circular motion to argue that planets move in ellipses and at
variable speeds on their orbits. Galileo learns of the invention of a primitive telescope
in Venice. He greatly refines it and is the first to use it to study the sky. Galileo ends
the ancient division of physics into superlunary (above the Moon) and sublunary
(below the Moon) realms when he observes that the Moon’s surface is marked with
mountains and valleys not made of quintessence and concludes that matter must be
universally the same or similar. Newton will similarly conclude that physical laws are
universal. Galileo observes that the Sun’s surface is not immutable but has spots
and is rotating. His observations of the Moons of Jupiter support Copernicus and
Kepler, and he discovers that the Milky Way is made of stars.
With carefully weighed South American silver ingots, the Bank of Amsterdam
introduces regulated money; the bank soon offers loans at interest.
An Authorized Version of the Bible is completed for King James. Shakespeare stages
The Tempest. Galileo sets up his telescope in Rome and shows zunspots to an
admiring crowd.
Shakespeare dies. Cardinal Robert Bellarmine, chief theologian of the church,
decrees that the theory of Copernicus is “false and erroneous” and places the writing
of Copernicus on the Index. Galileo is warned to treat the theory as “mathematical
supposition” and not to “hold nor defend” it.
Inductive method
In the year of the Pilgrim landing at Plymouth Rock, Francis Bacon publishes the
Novum Organum, establishing the inductive method. “Knowledge is power,” asserts
Bacon. He rationalizes methods of natural philosophy with the aim of freeing them
from superstition and the assumptions—abstract, syllogistic and a priori —of
Scholasticism. Empirically observed facts have the properties of clear, distinct, selfevidently valid concepts, and these alone form the ground to “establish and extend
the power of dominion of the human race itself over the Universe.” The inductive, a
posteriori, method takes an exhaustive gathering of empirical facts as the starting
point of knowledge and relies on theories only insofar as they are derived from
Wilhlem Schickard engineers a mechanical calculator which can add, subtract,
multiply, and divide.
34 Philosophic Wonders
The Parlement of Paris passes a decree forbidding attacks on Aristotle on pain of
William Harvey presents his theory on the circulation of blood.
Theology, authority, and scientific knowledge
Galileo Galilei publishes Dialogo sopra I due massimi sistemi del mondo, tolemaico e
copernicano, Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems—Ptolemaic and
Copernican. Galileo supports Copernicus and Kepler rather than Ptolemy, and he
states that “The Book of Nature is written in mathematics.” The book is highly and
widely praised. Citing a conflict of scripture and Copernican theory, professors
initiate events that lead to Galileo being prosecuted before the Inquisition. Galileo
warns church leaders of the “terrible detriment for the souls if people found
themselves convinced by proof of something that it was made then a sin to believe.”
Following warnings from the Jesuits about the threat of Galileo, a false note
regarding his ideas is planted in church records, and Galileo is prosecuted before the
Inquisition for “vehement suspicion of heresy.” In 1633 he is found guilty of having
“held and taught” the Copernican theory, and he is forced to renounce his beliefs and
writings by reciting that he “abjured, cursed and detested” his past errors. He is
sentenced to house arrest for the final eight years of his life. After the trial Galileo
states, “Religion may tell how to go to heaven but not how the heavens go.”
Galileo combines experiment with calculation, transforming the concrete into the
abstract and applying the results to experiments and further observations. Galileo
studies the paths of pendulums and the parabolic paths of projectiles, and defies
common sense by demonstrating that the velocities of falling bodies are not
proportional to their weights. This experiment and his work with equalibrium, motion
on an inclined plane, and formulations regarding momentum indicate the conjoining
of mathematics and physics in a unified understanding of natural phenomena, as
with Newton’s laws of motion. After Galileo, interpretation of nature becomes
scientific and natural philosophy is separated from religion.
Descartes suppresses Le Monde after Galileo is condemned in Rome for adopting the
Copernican model, central to Descartes’ own thought.
Harvard University is founded.
At the Massacre of the Pequots, the unarmed village of Mystic Port is set afire by
colonial militiamen, killing five hundred Pequot men, women and children and
burning many alive. Captives are sold as slaves in Boston.
35 Philosophic Wonders
Rationalism—skepticism, subjectivism, mathematicism,
In 1637, René Descartes publishes Discours de la methode, Discourse on Method and
Meditations, one of the first important philosophical works not written in Latin,
affirming the authority and autonomy of reason and establishing the ground of
continental rationalism (Latin, ratio, reckoning, calculation, proportion).
Descartes rejects all knowledge based on authority because experts are sometimes
wrong. Sensory experience cannot be trusted because of deceptions such as mirages.
Reasoning can be unreliable. Illusions may also arise from dreams, insanity, or
demons. Skepticism employs complete and systematic doubt to eliminate every belief
or presupposition that cannot be proven indubitably, in the tradition that the senses
are deceived by nature.
Subjectivism establishes the turn to the subject, that is, the certainty of selfconsciousness as the only basis of knowledge. Cogito ergo sum, "I think, therefore I
am,” or more simply Cogito sum, “I think I am,” is the only innate idea that cannot be
doubted. “I” cannot doubt the thinking self, the res cogitans, or pure substance of my
own mind. Only the cogito is logically self-evident, giving certain evidence of the
thinking thing, even if deceived. Yet the thinking of others can be doubted, and
ultimately reliance on the cogito alone leads to solipsism (only self knowledge can be
actual), yet the clarity of the cogito provides the ground of thinking for all reason that
is clear and distinct, prior-to, independent-of, and superior-to sense impressions.
In the Principia Philosophiae, Descartes constructs a single, self-consistent theory and
coherent system of mathematical methods for demonstrating how nature can be
comprehended, and accepts as true only ideas and propositions that are clearly
defined according to four rules of reasoning: 1. Accept nothing as true that is not
self-evident. 2. Divide problems into simplest parts. 3. Proceed from simple to
complex to solve problems. 4. Re-check reasoning. Analytic geometry translates
points on a plane into coordinates and holds that for every real point there can be
attached a set of Cartesian coordinates. With points translated into numbers, an
algebraic equation corresponds to every line, curve, and body. He introduces the
conventions of representing known numerical quantities with a,b,c,.., unknowns with
x, y, z, and square, cubes, and other numbers with superscripts, x2, x3, ….
Descartes divides the world in a metaphysical dualism of mind and matter. God is
the necessary third that unites mind and matter to form a human being.
Mind is a spiritual substance of self-contained, self-conscious thinking. Physical
reality is almost entirely divorced from mind. Mind is immortal, unextended and
whole, bodies, including human bodies, are machines that operate by mechanical
36 Philosophic Wonders
principles. The substance of matter is three-dimensional spatial extension. Bodies
extended in space are divisible into parts. Human beings unite the dissimilar
substances of mind and body, interacting in the pineal gland. Because animals have
no souls, they do not think or feel, thus vivisection is permitted, and Descartes
pioneers this practice.
Matter consists of infinitely divisible particles separated by the motion of vortices
imparted by God into the subtle matter of space and the densities of bodies formed as
bodies bump into one another. The laws of nature, established by God, determine the
energy of the universe. If the speeds and quantities of motion and positions of all
particles of matter could be described at one time, simple deductions with reference
to laws of motion would allow descriptions for any other time, and thus the universe
operates mechanically, is deterministic and describable using analytic geometry.
God must exist and must be perfect, otherwise the innate idea of perfection in the
thinker would be more perfect than the divinity that is thought. The perfection of
God, surpassing human ideas, is not a deception but rather the ground of reality,
morality, and immortality. Free will is the sign of God in human nature, and the
ground of moral judgement. Free will is outside of deterministic nature, while
motivating the body within nature. Metaphysics forms the roots, physics the trunk,
medicine, mechanics, and morals the branches producing the fruit of the tree of
With the moral certainty of the deductive intellectual structure, as exemplified with
the axioms of Euclid, the work of science is to extend understanding through
additional, equally self-evident axioms, definitions, and postulates. Science is
concerned with finding the mechanical laws of moving bodies, and not concerned
with causality as described by Aristotle and church teaching. Mechanistic physics
advances on the basis of the certainties of general reasoning and the innate ideas of
mind, matter, and the necessary existence of God, while accumulating probabilities
based on observation and experience in the material world. Historically, the goals of
modern scientific humanism to control mind and matter are grounded in Cartesian
Cartesian mechanism is paralleled with the advance of mechanical arts and crafts.
Ferrier makes lenses according to Descartes’ designs, and Étienne de Villebressieu
works with Descartes to develop an improved pump.
Galileo dies, and Newton is born. Blaise Pascal invents a calculating machine.
When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity before and
after, the little space which I fill, and even can see, engulfed in the infinite immensity
of spaces of which I am ignorant and which know me not, I am frightened, and I am
astonished at being here rather than there; for there is no reason why here rather
than there, why now rather than then. Who has put me here? By whose order and
direction have this place and this time been allotted to me? The eternal silence of
those infinite spaces frightens me.
37 Philosophic Wonders
//Blaise Pascal
Torricelli invents the barometer and measures the pressure of the atmosphere.
Clarendon first uses the word capital in the modern sense: “Power given by
Parliament to the South-Sea Company to increase their capital.”
Collected works of Jan Baptista van Helmont, father of biochemistry, are published.
Helmont bridges alchemy and chemistry and applies principles of chemistry to
physiological problems. He invents the word gas and recognizes that discrete gases
comprise the air.
The Taj Mahal is completed.
Guericke invents the air pump. Irish minister James Usher reckons Creation took
place on October 23, 4004 BC.
At 5:00 A.M. on February 1, Descartes delivers the statutes for a Swedish Academy of
Arts and Sciences to Queen Christina of the Netherlands, age 22; he catches a cold
and dies ten days later.
Thomas Hobbes completes The Leviathan. Hobbes grounds his political philosophy on
the basis that mind, spirit, consciousness, soul, society, and all reality consist only of
atoms in patterns of motion that can be known through a formal system applying
exact laws of logic and pure mathematics in the pattern of Euclid.
John Milton goes blind. He will dictate ten volumes of Paradise Lost to his daughters.
Christiaan Huygens discovers the rings of Saturn, builds the first pendulum clock,
and devises a wave theory of light to explain double refraction.
Further separating chemistry from alchemy and giving the first precise definitions of
element, reaction, and analysis, Robert Boyle states a law that the pressure and
volume of gases are inversely proportional.
Thomas Willis publishes Cerebri anatome, the most comprehensive treatise on brain
anatomy and function published up to this time, with illustrations by Christopher
38 Philosophic Wonders
The bones of Descartes are placed in Sainte-Geneviéve-du-Mont in Paris; that same
day, the Roman Catholic Church places his works on the Index of Forbidden Books.
With a microscope, Antoni van Leeuwenhoek first observes microbes. Microscopes
will not come into general use until 1830 when Joseph Lister perfects the
manufacture of lenses.
The Royal Greenwich Observatory opens under the direction of John Flamsteed, first
Astronomer Royal, appointed by Charles II. Flamsteed was commissioned to produce
tables allowing determination of standard time and thus longitude at sea. Flamsteed
accomplishes the first modern telescopic catalog and establishes Greenwich as the
world’s leading observatory.
Benedict de Spinoza publishes Ethics, deriving his rationalist metaphysics from
Descartes, presented in mathematico-deductive form with definitions, axioms, and
derived theorems. Spinoza’s metaphysics is monistic, pantheistic, and deistic. God is
the substance of the world, which is comprised of an infinite number of attributes
each of which expresses the totality of God. Human beings only know the attritubtes
of mind and matter.
The pressure cooker is invented.
The last witch-hanging in England occurs. Near Bristol, seventy coalmines employ
123 workers.
The mechanical world-view
Isaac Newton publishes the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica. A father of
the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason, Newton’s work culminates a movement
from Gilbert to Copernicus and Galileo. “Gilbert plus Galileo plus Kepler plus
Descartes add up to Newtonian mechanics.” Newton synthesizes mathematics and
permanent laws of deduction regarding all aspects of nature in every detail. The
authority and autonomy of reason establishes the mechanical world-view that by the
1900s dominates all of science and philosophy. Newton also invents differential and
integral calculus (simultaneously with Leibnitz).
Law of universal gravitation
Bodies attract each other with a force that is proportional to a quantity called their
mass and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.
39 Philosophic Wonders
First law of motion (law of inertia)
When one physical body influences another body, this influence results in a change
of that body's state of motion, its velocity; the force exerted by one particle on another
results in the latter's changing the direction of its motion, the magnitude of its speed,
or both. Without such external influences, a particle will continue to move in one
unchanging direction and at a constant rate of speed. There exist frames of reference
(inertial frames of reference) with respect to which particles not subject to external
forces move at constant speed in an unvarying direction. Each frame of reference
may be thought of as realized by a grid of surveyor's rods permitting the spatial
fixation of any event, along with a clock describing the time of its occurrence. Any
two inertial frames of reference are related to each other in that the two respective
grids of rods move relative to each other only linearly and uniformly (with constant
direction and speed) and without rotation, whereas the respective clocks go at the
same rate.
In Book Three of the Principia, Newton presents “Rules of Reasoning in Philosophy”
defining the hypothetico-deductive method. The form of a theory is seen as a
mathematical system in which particular empirical phenomena are explained by
relating them back deductively to a small number of general principles and
—Admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient
to explain the appearances (Ockham’s razor);
—To the same natural effects we must, as far as possible, assign the same causes;
—The qualities of bodies within reach are assumed to be universal; and
—Inductive evidence is conclusive, and hypotheses are of less value than arguments
from general induction.
Newton makes no attempt to demonstrate empirical evidence that is unavailable to
verify all his theories. He regards his theories as working assumptions that do not
meet the Cartesian requirement of deductive certainty in advance of observation.
Because of the possibilities of non-Euclidean geometries, the rationality of Newton’s
equations can not be proven to be self-evident. After Leibnitz and Hume, Newton’s
accomplishment requires Kant’s “transcendental method” for validation.
Job Charnock, an agent of the English East India Company, establishes a trading
post and a British settlement in Calcutta.
British empiricism and liberalism
John Locke publishes Two Treatises of Government and the Essay Concerning Human
Understanding, introducing the British Empiricism and materialism. Locke’s
procedure is “the sense of fact, plain speech, and common sense,” or the "historical,
plain method," consisting of observations derived from external sensations and the
internal processes of reflection or introspection. This psychological definition of
experience as sensation and reflection shifts the focus of philosophy from an analysis
40 Philosophic Wonders
of reality to an exploration of the mind. Rejecting the notion of innate ideas, Lock
describes the mind as a tabula rasa, a blank slate on which knowledge is inscribed
as the experience of sense organs. “All knowledge is founded on and ultimately
derives itself from sense or sensation.” Mind consists of the aggregate of discrete,
atomistic data drawn from combining and de-combining sensations of matter.
Sensations, memories, imaginings, and feelings as well as concepts are ideas insofar
as they are mental. An "idea" is "whatsoever is the object of the understanding when
a man thinks." All ideas can be tested by a simple appeal to sensation. The apparent
immateriality of “soul” remains a barrier to a complete empirical explanation of
The outlook that mind is blank at birth leads supports “liberal” political theories
calling for the development and “freedom” of lower and middle classes by means of
sensory enrichment and rationalism. As spokesman for liberalism, Locke emphasizes
equality and opportunity for the individual as the “atom” of society. Security comes
about with emancipation “from the bonds of nature.” The Treatises influence Thomas
Jefferson in writing the Declaration of Independence.
Thomas Savery takes out a patent for a “new Invention for Raiseing of Water and
occasioning Motion to all Sorts of Mill Work by the Impellent Force of Fire.” The use
of negative numbers becomes widely accepted in the 1700s.
Edmond Halley concludes that comets observed in 1531, 1607, and 1682 are one,
and predicts it will return in 1758.
Abraham Darby, a Quaker and iron-founder in Shropshire, uses coke to reduce iron
ore in his enlarged and improved blast furnace.
Bishop George Berkeley [Ireland] writes his Treatise Concerning the Principles of
Human Knowledge answering the question of “What is real?” with a phenomenalist
argument, uniting mind and matter in the substance of mind, “to be is to be
perceived or a perceiver.” Matter is actually made of sensible ideas. Bodies are
collections of sensible ideas provided to the mind in lawful order by God. Phenomena
are known directly because bodies are made of mental ideas, some of which the mind
can control.
With a mercury thermometer, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit devises a temperature scale
of 180 degrees between the freezing and boiling points of water. Thomas Newcomen’s
steam atmospheric engine supplies a power source for a pump to remove water and
allow deepening of coalmines.
Newcomen erects the first commercially successful steam engine near Dudley Castle
in Staffordshire.
41 Philosophic Wonders
Leibnitz: monadology, dynamics, imaginary numbers
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibnitz, a “universal genius” and a founder of German
Idealism, publishes The Monadology. For Leibnitz, the basic component of reality is a
teleological center of possibility, a point of force and perception called a monad.
Monads are simple, nonmaterial, self-contained, self-activating, self-directing, selfsufficient, unextended, impenetrable, indivisible, and indestructible. While each
monad mirrors the Universe as a whole, it is “windowless” and does not interact with
other monads. Each monad is a finite, unclear, and indistinct mirror of the attributes
of God, the Prime or Supreme Monad. . A monad is analogous to a psychic center,
and “if someone would have sufficient insight into inner parts of things...he would be
a prophet and would see the future in the present as in a mirror.” Metaphysical evil
is the lacking and dissonance of the finite nature of each individual—increasing still
the beauty of the whole.
With dynamics, Leibnitz introduces a physical model based on kinetic energy, time
and irregularity. (Leibnitz invents infinitesimal calculus concurrently with Newton.)
Leibnitz is the first to publish a generalized treatment of positional number systems
and is a proponent of the dyadic or base-2 system—with 1 standing for God and 0
the void. Leibnitz advances the notion of imaginary numbers. To write an imaginary
number, place the letter i next to it. The i stands for the square root of –1. For
example, 6 is a real number. The number 6i is imaginary. The mixture of real and
imaginary numbers is called complex numbers. Complex numbers add an imaginary
dimension to the real number field. The complex number field includes all real and
imaginary numbers. The product of multiplying an imaginary number by itself is a
real number, i X i = –1. There is a connection between real and imaginary numbers.
The conjugate of a + ib is a – ib. The product of multiplying a complex number and its
conjugate is a real number. The reals or the imaginaries by themselves are subsets of
the complex-number system. Complex numbers are analogies of the wholeness of our
experience, which combines both real and imaginary qualities. Leibnitz describes the
number i as the Holy Ghost of mathematics, “a fine and wonderful refuge of the
divine spirit—almost an amphibian between being and non-being.”
While each monad expresses a pre-established harmony with the activities of all
other monads, each creature is autonomous and defined by all possibilities of
experience that comprise individual identity. According to the Principium Rationis
Sufficientis, Principle of Sufficient Reason, nihil est sine ratione, nothing occurs
without reason. Human ideas are strictly analogous to the ideas of God, and human
logic is identical to God’s logic. This certitude of dialectic presence is the ground of
ultimate explanation. Since God is infinite possibilities and this world is comprised of
the maximum of simultaneous possibilities, it is “the best of all possible worlds.”
Anticipating Einstein, Leibnitz perceives the interconnectedness of all things and
holds that space and time are not substances but a relationship that includes the
imaginary, and that the world may be described as a relational dream. Similarly, his
42 Philosophic Wonders
view of the individual as entitate tota, a whole being who cannot be reduced to ego or
aggregate elements, anticipates Jung. The pluralistic monadology of Leibnitz can be
associated with quantum physics and holography. Leibnitz invents a calculating
machine on the premise that all reasoning is reducible to an ordered combination of
elements, and his quest for a lingua characteristica can be associated with symbolic
logic and cybernetics.
Leibnitz is the first to hypothesize that Earth formed in a molten state. He is first to
use geological data in historical interpretations, and he is the first to base historic
interpretations on original documents.
The word science as it is now used is introduced by Isaac Watts in Logic, or the Right
Use of Reason in the Enquiry After Truth, a standard textbook for several generations.
A clergyman, Watts is regarded as the father of English hymnody (Joy to the World, O
God, Our Help in Ages Past, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross).
Giambattista Vico publishes Scienza Nuova. Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten uses the
term aesthetics in an attempt to account for poetry and all art as involving a
particular form or level of “sensory cognition.”
The expression “point of view” appears in Chambers Cyclopaedia.
Carolus Linnaeus publishes Systema naturae fundamenta botanica which first
expounds his taxonimic system of classification based on plant sex organs with
names consisting of generic and specific elements and hierarchical groupings of
genera, classes, and orders.
The first chart indicating depth (of the English Channel) by contour lines is
Anders Celsius devises a temperature scale with 100 degrees between the melting
point of snow and the boiling point of water.
Pompeii is excavated.
Radical skepticism
Causality and empiricism are brought to crisis in the radical skepticism of Scottish
philosopher David Hume. In Philosophical Essays Concerning Human Understanding
(later titled An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding), Hume reformulates
ancient skepticism and argues that since all knowledge is inductive and limited to
43 Philosophic Wonders
subjective experience, no link can be proven between inner-subjective experience and
outer-objective reality. Hume dismisses the ground of the cogito and the innate ideas.
Minds are nothing but collections of ideas, and descriptions of things must be
grounded in experience only, using the mathematical objectivity that produces facts
while subjective emotions produce values. The mind is brain, and thoughts are only
material motions in the brain that may resemble and represent other material bodies
and cause responses to them. Descartes’ cogito consists of atomistic perceptions that
the mind passively receives in sense-data. Impressions are immutable Cartesian
substances on a minute scale. Mind, body, ego, and world are dissociated. All
knowing is limited and limiting, and no absolute knowledge is possible. Phenomena
are known as probability. No philosophical or religious dogma can claim fixed
certainty, and all authentic claims to knowledge should be respected. The options
and requirements of religious faith should not be diluted with rationalism.
The Industrial Revolution commences with the refinement of the steam engine by
James Watt. Symphonic form emerges in music.
Benjamin Franklin publishes Experiments and Observations on Electricity.
A great earthquake and fire takes 30,000 (to 60,000) lives in Lisbon on All Souls’ Day.
The event shakes European confidence. In the novel Candide, Voltaire reports that
heretics were publicly burned because the University of Coimbra declares “that the
sight of several persons being slowly burned in great ceremony is an infallible secret
for preventing earthquakes.” Voltaire states that the ultimate reason for things is
unknown and unknowable.
Kaspar Friedrich Wolff obsserves the development of growing plants and will be a
founder of embryology.
The sextant is designed in England.
Roller-skates are invented.
In Du contrat social, Jean-Jacques Rouuseau introduces, “Liberty, Equality,
Fraternity,” and states that no laws are binding unless agreed upon by the people.
Rousseau deeply affects French thinking and the forces that bring on the French
Revolution and the Romantic movements in Germany, France, and England. In the
novel Émile Rousseau urges that young people be given freedom to enjoy sunlight,
exercise, and play. He recognizes that there are definite periods of development in a
44 Philosophic Wonders
child's life, and he argues that learning should be scheduled to coincide with them.
Education should begin in the home. Parents should not preach to their children but
should set a good example. Rousseau believes that children should make their own
Love of oneself [amour de soi] is a natural sentiment which inclines every animal to
watch over its own preservation, and which directed in man by reason and modified
by pity, produces humanity and virtue. Amour propre is only a relative sentiment,
artificial and born in society, which inclines each individual to have a greater esteem
for himself than for anyone else, inspires in all the harm they do to one another, and
is the trust source of honor.
// Jean-Jacque Rousseau
Mechanized textile spinning begins.
On August 2, Gaspar de Portola and company camp at a riverbank near the Indian
rancheria Yang-Na. Because it is the Virgin Mary’s feast day, Father Crespi names
the river El Río de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles (the River of Our Lady, the
Queen of the Angels). In twelve years, a city will be founded close to the site of this
In England, small steam engines are successfully developed for lifting coal out of
mines. Hargreaves patents the spinning-jenny.
Calcutta becomes the capital of British India.
The first major work of political economics, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of
The Wealth of Nations, is published by Adam Smith. Smith systematizes economic
liberalism by arguing for the creation and satisfaction of new needs in the course of
economic development, potentially without limit, drawing upon inexhaustible natural
resources. History is continuous moral and material progress by means of scientific
and social rationality, the primacy of efficiency, the ethical priority of individual
welfare, and the definition of the good life in terms of material abundance and
leisure. Smith is the first to perceive socioeconomic consequences of the division of
In France, the first central heating system is put into operation. Lavoisier assigns the
name “oxygen” for dephlogisticated air.
Manufactured water closets are introduced.
45 Philosophic Wonders
Herschel discovers the planet Uranus.
Critical idealism
Immanuel Kant publishes the Critique of Pure Reason. The task of philosophy is
epistemological, to determine what reason can and cannot do: How does the knowing
process work? What is the exact nature of mathematical and physical knowledge?
And, “under what conditions is experience of an objective world possible?”
Comparing his perspective in philosophy to that of Copernicus in science, Kant states
that knowledge is not an aggregate of sense-data but transcends sense-experience in
the synthetic process of knowing and judging. Human beings can only ask and must
ask: What is it to be human? What can I know? What ought I to do? What may I hope?
Perception is not based in sensations. Experience does not shape mind. Mind shapes
experience. Experience is inseparable from mind. Mind transcends nature. The active
mind synthesizes transcendent concepts with which we know and judge nature.
“Mind is the law-giver to nature.” The transcendental method discloses the exact, a
priori concepts, rational forms, and categories that are the ground of experience and
the structure for interpretation of experience. The “human project” is an active
struggle, and nature is to be mastered. From a position of command, mind is “putting
Nature to the question” to answer our questions. The project of science-technology
represents “a genuine and positive transformation of our human being.”
The cognitive structures of mind include forms of intuitions such as the nature of
space and time in the pre-scientific rational organization of sensory experience.
Causality, Euclidean geometry, and Newtonian mechanics provide the one and only
complete, adequate, effective framework for understanding the intelligible world of
objects. However, concepts formed in accord with this mental structure do not
correspond to independent reality. All knowledge is transcendental. This immanent
transcendence centers in the transcendental ego with the consciousness of persisting
in time, the conjoining of opposites into continuous patterns of meaningful
experience, and the developing of models and “new ways to organize our experience.”
We cannot know the noumena, the Ding-an-Sich, or thing-in-itself, sufficiently to
confirm or deny the existence of any particular object. We know objects only as they
appears to consciousness as phenomena transcendent to the world of things-inthemselves.
Phenomena that do not conform to the structure of our minds—such as God,
freedom, immortality—cannot be proven, yet they cannot be disproven. Logic and
ethics supercede metaphysics. The existence of external reality, existence of the soul,
the existence of God, and existence of the Ideas of Pure Reason are a priori.
Using Ideas of Pure Reason to construct a moral and political world comes to be the
intrinsic, rational ideal of Enlightenment ethics and morality. “Act only on that
maxim which you can at the same time will to become a universal law.”
46 Philosophic Wonders
Ideas of Practical Reason constitute a priori presuppositions—categorical
imperatives—that our free will exists in the context of eternal consequences.
Enlightenment is man’s exit from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is man’s
inability to make use of his understanding without direction from another. Selfincurred is this tutelage when its cause lies not in lack of reason but in lack of
resolution and courage to use it without direction from another. Sapere aude! [Dare
to know] ‘Have courage to use your own reason!’—that is the motto of enlightenment.
Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe, the
oftener and more steadily we reflect on them: the starry heavens above and the moral
law within.
//Immanuel Kant
After Kant, scientific epistemology tends to be viewed either from his critical idealistvitalist standpoint, or from the mechanistic-materialist standpoint applying
Newtonian mechanics with matter-based approaches.
The Enlightenment
The Enlightenment, or Age of Reason, advances the rationalist as the ideal person.
Rationalism in practice resembles Roman attitudes of authority, law, and subduing
the passions rather than Greek attitudes of Greek skepticism and reflection. On the
foundation of British Empiricism (see 1651 Hobbes and 1690 Locke) modern
materialism gains ascends with Positivism and the Enlightenment. The
Enlightenement fully emerges in the 1800s.
First manned hot-air balloon flights take place.
Thomas Jefferson states “It may be regarded as certain that not a foot of land will
ever be taken from the Indians without their consent. The sacredness of their rights
is felt by every thinking man.”
An improved, horse-drawn threshing machine is invented.
Mozart composes the Jupiter Symphony.
Lavoisier establishes modern chemistry. Washington takes the oath of office. The
University of North Carolina—the first state university in America—is founded. Count
Donatien A.F. (Marquis) de Sade is transferred from the Bastille to the asylum at
Charenton. Michel Foucault states “Sade’s great experiment is to introduce the
disorder of desire into a world dominated by order and classification.”
47 Philosophic Wonders
The first ambulances are introduced in France.
Luigi Galvani demonstrates the electric nature of nervous action by stimulating
nerves and muscles of frog legs.
Mary Wollstonecraft publishes Vindication of the Rights of Women, the first feminist
Condorcet advances the idea of absolute progress in Historical Survey of the Progress
of the Human Mind.
A network of semaphor flags on towers sends messages from Paris to Lille. Eli
Whitney patents the cotton gin.
The hydraulic press is invented in England. James Hutton publishes Theory of the
Earth, the first general theory of geology. Prior to Hutton, the prevalent belief has
been the Augustinian view that Earth was created about 6,000 BCE, and that
sedimentary rocks are the result of the biblical flood. Hutton describes processes of
upthrusting, erosion, deposition, and sedimentation operating with general
uniformity in grand cycles over vast eras of time. Hutton is the first to explain crustal
formation, volcanism, and formation of igneous from the internal heat and pressure
of the Earth.
Jenner creates a vaccine against smallpox. LaPlace advances the nebular theory of
the origin of the solar system, as first suggested by Kant.
In An Essay on the Principle of Population, English clergyman Robert Malthus deduces
that population increases by a geometrical ratio and the means of subsistence by an
arithmetical ratio, i.e., population will increase faster than food supply. Wars and
disease must kill off excess population unless the number of children is limited. From
this, Darwin deduces the relationship between progress and survival of the fittest.
In the palace of Louise XIV, the political labels “right-center-left” originate from the
seating arrangements of nobles.
Charles Tennant perfects the use of chlorine bleaching powder in his St. Rollox
factory in Glasgow. In a Leicestershire village, worker Ned Ludd destroys stocking
frames, and organized groups of English workers called Luddites set about destroying
manufacturing machinery in the midlands and north of England from 1811 to 1816.
48 Philosophic Wonders
Mechanistic determinism
Pierre Simon LaPlace publishes the volume one of Celestial Mechanics, advancing the
deterministic outlook of science with applied mathematics. Refining Newton's physics
and cosmology, LaPlace defines the Universe as a stable system without need of
divine maintenance. Asked by Napoleon about the absence of God from his theory of
probability, Laplace responds that he "had no need of that hypothesis.” Mechanistic
determinism explains diversity and change as changing configurations of atomic bits
of matter. With the kinetic theory of matter, all events are reduced to completely
determinate movements. Change exists only on the surface and does not affect the
immutability and unity of the underlying material substrate. With accurate
information about earlier stages of a mechanistic system, later stages can be deduced
and predicted with precision and certainty. Given sufficient data, one can observe the
future of a phenomenon and the future of all things mirrored in it. Laplace proposes
the nebular theory of formation of the solar system.
Induction, analogy, hypotheses founded upon facts and rectified continually by new
observations, a happy tact given by nature and strengthened by numerous
comparisons of its indications with experience, such are the principal means for
arriving at truth.
//Pierre Simon de Laplace
Volta makes the first battery. Fichte publishes The Destiny of Man.
Carl Friedrich Gauss introduces the first step in the solution of algebraic equations of
all complex numbers. Later he introduces the Gaussian error curve, representing the
probability of statistically distributed data with a bell-shaped curve, the normal curve
of variation. Gauss also develops geodesy, the determination of the shape and size of
the Earth's surface. In Theoria Motus Corporum Coelestium (1809) Gauss introduces
the methods still in use today for calculating movements of celestial bodies.
At Whitehaven, England, coal is hoisted 180 metres by four horses at the rate of
nearly 50 tons in nine hours.
Joseph Marie Jacquard invents automatic loom using punched cards for control of
patterns in fabrics.
Gian Domenico Romagnosi discovers that a magnetic needle aligns itself
perpendicularly to a current-carrying wire, but this announcement is ignored. The
Charlotte Dundis is the first steamship.
49 Philosophic Wonders
Dalton presents his atomic theory.
In Wales, Trevithick builds the first steam locomotive.
1806 Beaufort develops a scale of wind velocity.
In Philadelphia, fruit-flavored, carbonated soft drinks are first manufactured.
Traveling between New York and Albany, Robert Fulton’s Clermont is the first
commercially successful steamboat.
German idealism and evolutionary historicism
German Idealism grows out the modern turn to the subject, not only with the rational
“I think” but also with the volitional “I will.” German Idealism also affirms the original
unity of life flowing through polarities, returning to ultimate unity.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel publishes Phenomenology of the Mind. The central
concern of philosophy is human being and self-consciousness in the totality of
experience. Value lies less in intellect than in morality and individual striving for
fulfillment and infinite being. Still, self cannot be known in isolation. Absolute
idealism penetrates existence to find the conceptual truth of the core, kernel, or
essence of the spiritually enveloping world-soul, the Absolute, Absolute Spirit,
Cosmic Self. Absolute mind is Unity in diversity.
The rhythm of ultimate reality is the dialectical synthesis of opposites. The process
has the character of organicism, as in the development of organic life with parts
serving the whole at every level of reality, and applicable to personality, societies, and
history. Spirit manifests in human freedom which is latent in the historical process
as the Absolute unfolds and reveals Itself to consciousness in the progression of
thesis > antithesis > synthesis. Synthesis resolves conflict between thesis and
antithesis while retaining the element of truth contained within them, and, with the
transcending of conflict, sublimation leads toward higher truth and the perfection of
freedom. The totality of thought is absorbed and unified in the infinite, objective
mind, the ultimate entelechy or telos. Subjective reality reliably mirrors objective
reality since they mutually—dialectically—evolve. Hegel integrates the irrational and
pluralities of lived-experience as objects of reason. Categories of understanding tell
about reality itself. The “Object More Deeply Understood" is the rational, and the
rational is the real, ”not something that the mind imposes but what it discovers.”
With evolutionary historicism, knowledge is epistemologically world-historical rather
than empirical. Efforts to understand origins, evolution, and history are motivated by
will and passion for the Absolute. World history takes place in scenes constructed in
terms of the rational truth dialectically and teleologically revealed to finite
consciousness at each point. Thus, the individual’s goal is to freely master the
greatest portion of the totality of truth as may be possible in a given epoch. This is
50 Philosophic Wonders
one sense of the relativism that truths depend on who, where, and when they are
held. While consciousness of the world-historical process emphasizes the
interdependence of the human quest, stoic endurance may be required of individuals
enmeshed in a given era.
Hegel perceives the threshold of a new epoch of human experience in modern times.
The first mass production process is developed for manufacturing pulley blocks for
the Royal Navy.
Having redrawn the political map of Europe, Napoleon's fortunes are at their zenith.
Having lost his post as an engineer following the return of Napoleon from Elba,
Augustin-Jean Fresnel takes up research in optics that, on the basis of the
interference of polarized light, leads him to devise compound lenses to replace
mirrors in lighthouses. Franz Joseph Gall proposes that specific regions of the brain
control specific functions.
The Davy safety lamp encloses flame in a double layer of wire gauze that prevents
ignition of flammable gases in coalmines.
The stethoscope is invented in France.
Along the Trail of Tears, Cherokees, Choctaws, Creeks, Chickasaws and Seminoles
are marched at bayonet point by the U.S. Army into land acquired in 1803 with
Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase.
To connect the Great Lakes with New York City via the Hudson River, Governor
DeWitt Clinton of New York initiates building of the Erie Canal—363 miles long, 40
feet wide and 4 deep, requiring 83 locks to cross a 500-foot rise west of Troy. Using
horse and human power alone, and without roads for supply, America’s first worldclass engineering project is completed in 1825, dramatically affecting the growth of
Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and New York City.
Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, age 21, daughter of the first feminist author (see
1792) and wife of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley), publishes Frankenstein, or The
Modern Prometheus. The story is of a scientist who takes parts of corpses to
manufacture a living creature who gains control over his creator. The novel sells
millions of copies in at least two printings per year for forty years and is translated
into thirty languages.
51 Philosophic Wonders
Schopenhauer publishes The World as Will and Idea. Schopenhauer writes: “The will,
as the thing-in-itself, constitutes the inner, true, and indestructible nature of man.”
“Intellect is a secondary phenomenon, the organism is primary, the immediate
phenomenal appearance of the will. The will is metaphysical, the intellect physical.
The intellect is phenomenal, the will is thing-in-itself. The will is the substance, the
intellect is accident. The will is matter, the intellect is form. The will is heat, the
intellect light.”
J. L. McAdam’s macadamized roads allow increased coach travel.
During an evening lecture in April, Hans Christian Ørsted discovers that a magnetic
needle aligns itself perpendicularly to a current-carrying wire, demonstrating the
relationship of electricity and magnetism and leading to the rapid development of
electromagnetic theory (see 1802). Street lighting is illuminated in Pall Mall, London.
Shelley publishes Prometheus Unbound.
Fourier publishes “Analytical Theory of Heat,” precursor of chaos theory. Charles
Babage conceives Difference Engine No 1., first mechanical computer.
1823 Berzelius isolates silicon.
Ørsted isolates aluminum. Never occurring in metallic form in nature, aluminum is
the most abundant metallic element in the Earth's crust and is present in
compounds in almost all rocks, vegetation, and animals. The nine-mile-long Stockton
& Darlington Railway, first railway, is completed in England. Using techniques
developed by Marc Brunel, a tunneling shield allows a tunnel to be driven through
soft or strata and construction begins on the first tunnel under the Thames River.
1826 Jedediah Smith leads the first Euro-Americans to reach California by land.
Niepce creates the first photograph.
1829 The Liverpool and Manchester line uses steam locomotive exclusively.
1830 The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad begins operations.
Auguste Comte founds positivism and gives the name sociology to the first of the
social sciences. Positivism sets aside metaphysics in order to purify philosophy with
logic and scientific method. Comte introduces a rationalist notion of social
development in three stages: theological (belief in the supernatural), metaphysical
52 Philosophic Wonders
(belief in ideas as reality) and positive (explanation of phenomena by observation,
hypothesis and experimentation). He advocates a “religion of humanity.”
The sewing machine is invented in France.
In Principles of Geology, Sir Charles Lyell begins to define the problems and methods
of geology.
Darwin sets sail on the Beagle. DeTocqueville writes “It is this consciousness of
destruction . . . that gives, we fell, so peculiar a character and such a touching
beauty to America . . . Thoughts of the savage, natural grandeur that is going
to come to an end, become mingled with the splendid anticipations of the triumphant
march of civilization.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 82, finishes Faust and dies.
Babbage designs an analytical engine, forerunner of the digital computer. The first
instructional science laboratory opens at Bruce Castle School, Tottenham, England.
A breakwater in Algiers built by the French is the first structure made entirely of
The first fatality in a self-propelled vehicle occurs.
Fox Talbott makes the first photographic negative.
Telegraphy is established. The Great Western is the first steamship built for oceanic
service in the North Atlantic.
The first Opium War begins when the Chinese oppose illegal opium exports by the
British East India Company to finance the tea trade. Defeat of the Chinese brings
expansion of British trading privileges.
Michael Faraday states that electrical action is the result of forced strains in bodies.
When these tensions are rapidly relieved—that is, when bodies cannot take much
strain before “snapping” back—then what occurs is a rapid, cyclical repetition of
buildup-breakdown-buildup of tension that passes through a substance like a wave.
Insulators are materials with particles that can take an extraordinary amount of
strain before they snap. Faraday is the first to produce an electric current from a
magnetic field, and first to build an electric motor and dynamo. Faraday also
53 Philosophic Wonders
demonstrates the relation between electricity and chemical bonding, and the effect of
magnetism on light.
Schleiden and Schwann theorize all living things are made of cells.
The first artificial fertilizer is applied—to turnips.
Louis Daguerre announces his still-photographic process and makes the first
photograph of the moon.
The successful, long-term development of using the steam engine to hoist coal is a
major turning point for the industry, and advances in coal-mining techniques become
rapid. The first nude photograph is developed.
The first wagon train treks from Missouri to California.
The Mines and Collieries Act outlaws work of women and children in underground
coalmines, but men, women, and children in the chain-and nail-making trades are
required to work as hard, in conditions almost as bad, for even less money.
In France, cigarettes are manufactured commercially for the first time.
Joule publishes his theory of thermodynamics.
On October 16, Sir William Hamilton walks to Dublin along the Royal Canal and
intuits that geometrical operations in three-dimensional space require not triplets but
quaternions, thus greatly advancing the theory of complex numbers. As he passes
Brougham Bridge, he cuts the formulas on the stonework: i2 = j2 = k2 = ijk = -1.
Earlier in his career, Hamilton had unified optics and dynamics. His work will not be
fully appreciated until quantum mechanics.
Samuel F.B. Morse builds a telegraph line between the cities of Washington and
Baltimore. Engels publishes The Condition of the Working Classes in England in 1844.
At the American Hospital for Tropical Fevers in Florida, John Corrie installs the first
air conditioning system.
Thoreau moves to Walden Pond. At the end of the Pacific Period, the Native American
population in California has been reduced by half.
The planet Neptune is discovered. The first practical use of anesthesia in surgery
occurs in Georgia. Rubber tires are first manufactured.
54 Philosophic Wonders
Existentialism: Kierkegaard
Existentialism states the crisis of subjectivism. Søren Kierkegaard emphasizes the
despair of the human condition and the need for a leap of faith. Criticizing both
cognition and faith, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, son of a clergyman, will later
emphasize human potentials rooted in freedom and volition. Kierkegaard and
Nietzsche are concerned with psychological phenomena and states of being. Other
existentialist themes are the absurdity of existence; the nothingness of consciousness
without reliable structures of knowledge, moral values, and relatedness; and the
certainty of death.
In 1846, Kierkegaard publishes his Concluding Unscientific Postscript. The values of
existence precede the abstractions of essence. Philosophy should be centered in the
values of the existing individual. Value judgements are inherent in all acts, including
each act of scientific observation and practice. Essence is contained in the existential
conditions of emotional life, anxiety, despair, and the universal fear of nothingness.
The search for deliverance is the ultimate struggle at the center of the self. Through
stages of despair when reason is seen as of no help, the individual may achieve the
final religious stage of a (soteriological) leap of faith.
Modern philosophy has lost its way in abstract, detached, objective theorizing and
system building. Kant’s universalized system of morality ignores the particularities of
actual ethical problems and treats practical and social problems as technical
decisions to be left to experts. Strict epistemological requirements and philosophically
technical worldviews split human knowing from the more urgent claims of existence
and the struggle for deliverance before the abyss of death. The individual is deluded
to think the precarious and mysterious contingency of salvation can be achieved
Karl Marx publishes The Communist Manifesto.
Kelvin invents a temperature scale keyed to absolute zero, -273.15°C. Gold is
discovered at Sutter’s Mill on the American River.
The safety pin is invented. Rudolf Clausius proposes the second law of
thermodynamics, entropy, as the measure of a system’s energy that is unavailable for
work. Since work is obtained from order, the amount of entropy is a measure of
disorder. All natural processes are irreversible and involve an increase in entropy.
Gorrie receives the first US patent for refrigeration.
Cast iron is used for framing the Crystal Palace.
55 Philosophic Wonders
Bernhard Riemann announces the function theory of relations between varying
complex numbers. Riemann formulates a non-Euclidean geometry of spaces with
three or more dimensions. The Riemann surface contributes to topology, which deals
with position and place instead of measure and quantity—preparing the way for
Einstein. Riemann concludes that mathematical theory can show the relationship of
magnetism, light, gravitation, and electricity, and suggests field theories to describe
the space surrounding electrical charges.
Whitman publishes Leaves of Grass.
Sir Joseph Whitworth perfects his machine for measuring to an accuracy of 0.000001
inch. W.H. Perkin produces the first artificial dye from aniline at the Royal College of
Chemistry in London.
Permanent electric street lighting is installed in Lyons, France.
A Paris street is paved with asphalt.
Gustav Kirchhoff discovers that each pure substance has its own characteristic
spectrum, the basis for analytical spectroscopy.
The first hotel elevator is put in service.
Ètienne Lenoir demonstrates the first successful gas engine in Paris.
Edwin L. Drake bores successfully through 69 feet of rock to strike oil in
The word technology, in the sense of the science of mechanical and industrial arts, is
first recorded.
John Stuart Mill publishes Utilitarianism, to be followed by On Liberty and
Considerations on Representative Government, condemning the evils of the Industrial
Theory of evolution
In 1859, Darwin prints On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. Similar
to the word revolution after Copernicus, use of the term evolution ascends after
Darwin. Darwin’s biology parallels Newton’s physics. Prior to Darwin, no consensus
exists about a mode of biological explanation. Drawing on the evidence of “geological
proof of succession” in stratigraphy, Darwin employs the inductive method in
exhaustive observations. Darwin adopts the expression "survival of the fittest,”
56 Philosophic Wonders
although it confuses his meaning. Darwin asserts only "that the essential feature in
the operation of natural selection is not mere survival for its own sake. It is the
differential reproductivity of individuals favored adaptively by chance variation.”
Much of The Descent of Man in 1871 is devoted to the significance of the preferential
choice of reproductive partner. He establishes human descent from primates, and
describes intellectual and social faculties as processes of adaption.
Lenoir builds the first practical internal-combustion engine. Bessemer devises
techniques for mass production of steel.
Alexander Parkes wins a bronze metal at the International Exhibition in London for
his invention of Parkesine, the first manufactured plastic. President Lincoln signs
TheHomestead Act, lending the spirit of emancipation to Jeffersonian ideals of
hundreds of thousands of small farmers, ranchers, and landowners while ensuring
the mutilation of Native American cultures and defacement of western landscapes.
Lewis Carroll publishes Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Pasteur publishes his theory of the microbial origin of diseases.
Claude Bernard, a founder of experimental medicine, publishes Introduction a la
medecine experimentale, Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine. Bernard
introduces the concept of the milieu interieur, or internal environment of an
organism. His understanding of the vasomoter system, the dynamics of homeostasis,
and other self-regulating processes, anticipates negative feedback control theory.
Bernard insists that life processes are determined by the mechanics of physicochemical forces which should form the basis of experimental physiology. Bernard’s
views are associated with the epiphenomenalist view that subjective experience has
no causal influence on underlying physical mechanisms and little “free will.” Such
views may be described as reductionist.
Gregor Mendel publishes his theory of genetics. Nobel invents dynamite. President
Johnson and Queen Victoria communicate via the Trans-Atlantic Cable.
Hermann von Helmholz publishes a Handbook of Physiological Optics affirming the
empiricist position that all knowledge is founded on experience, hereditarily
transmitted or acquired. Earlier in his career, Helmholtz had measured the speed of a
nerve impulse, in a frog. He states the law of conservation of energy, and, based on
entropy, he deduces that the entire Universe is “running down toward a state of
thermodynamic equilibrium.”
57 Philosophic Wonders
Dialectical materialism
Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution supports directly the dialectical materialism of
Marx, the first and only applied scientific theory of political economics. Darwin’s
theory also motivates the heroic ego in defiance of the diminished status of
humankind suggested by reductivist scientific humanism as a core perspective on
what is real. In 1867, Karl Marx publishes Das Kapital, “the Bible of the working
classes,” and considers dedicating the second volume to Darwin. In Das Kapital,
Marx adapts the Hegelian dialectic to form his theory of historical materialism and
dialectical materialism. Marx denies any possibility of any non-empirical knowledge
and intends his work to be historical, sociological, and positivist, combining
materialism, empiricism, and realist epistemology. Everything is material. Humans
create society. Responding to economic needs, means of production, and the
distribution of surplus, "the history of class struggle" occurs between exploiting
minorities and exploited masses. Projective belief in God and an afterlife express the
unfulfilled needs and hopes of the oppressed.
The University of California is founded in Berkeley, named after Bishop Berkeley,
philosopher and author of the verse: “Westward the course of empire takes its way.”
Mendelev develops the periodic table.
Charles F. Dowd, a school principal in Saratoga Springs, New York, proposes dividing
the planet and the day into 24, 15-degree time zones of one hour each (24 hrs/day X
15° = 360°).
The Suez Canal opens.
Vatican I council defines infallibility in heightening papal authority.
Only four million of of an estimated sixty million native herd of American bison
Passenger pigeons nest over 750 square miles in Wisconsin.
Article in Microscopic Journal states “The ontogeny of every organism repeats in
brief...its phylogeny, i.e., the individual development of every organism... repeats
approximately the development of its race.”
Eadweard Mybridge photographs the successive movements of a trotting horse
leading to devices such as the Emile Reynaud’s Praxinoscope consisting of mirrors
and hand-drawn or photographed images arranged for motion entertainment.
58 Philosophic Wonders
Sri Aurobindo is born in Calcutta. He will be the student of Swami Vivekananda and
a teacher of Ghandi.
A hostile critic coins the term impressionism in reviewing Monet’s Impression:
Existentialism: Nietzsche
In 1872, Nietzsche publishes The Birth of Tragedy. As a moralist, Nietzsche rejects
Western, Christian, bourgeois life as decadent, and he looks to a new heroic morality
to affirm life and values beyond conventional standards of good and evil. Life neither
possesses nor lacks intrinsic value and yet is always being evaluated.
The fundamental Western values express the ascetic ideal of the ultimate significance
of suffering. Judeo-Christianity tolerates suffering by interpreting it as God's
intention and the occasion for atonement. Nietzsche's critique centers on
master/slave morality and the good/evil contrast that arose when slaves avenged
themselves and converted the attributes of mastery into vices. If the favored “good”
were powerful, it was said that the meek would inherit the earth. Pride became sin.
Charity, humility, and obedience replaced competition, pride, and autonomy. Crucial
to the triumph of slave morality was its claim to being the only true morality. This
insistence on absoluteness is essential to religious and philosophical ethics.
Christianity owes its success to doctrines of the cosmic significance and immortality
of the individual. Traditional philosophy affirms the ascetic ideal by privileging soul
over body, mind over senses, duty over desire, reality over appearance, the timeless
over the temporal. Christianity promises salvation for the sinner who repents;
philosophy holds out hope for salvation for its sages. Both Christianity and
traditional philosophy assume that existence requires explanation, justification, or
expiation, and denigrate experience in favor of another, “true” world. Both may be
read as symptoms of declining life or life in distress.
Nietzsche describes the devaluation of the highest values posited by the ascetic ideal
as nihilism. He considers the age in which he lives as one of passive nihilism, that is,
as an age not yet aware that religious and philosophical absolutes dissolved with the
emergence of 19th-century Positivism. After the collapse of metaphysical and
theological foundations and sanctions for traditional morality, only a pervasive sense
of purposelessness and meaninglessness remain. The triumph of meaninglessness is
the triumph of nihilism. In 1883, Nietzsche publishes Also Sprach Zarathrustra in
which he declares Gott ist tot: “We have killed him—you and I! We are all his
murderers...Whither are we moving now?... Do we not now wander through an
endless nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become
colder? Does night not come on continually, darker and darker?” Few can accept the
eclipse of the ascetic ideal and the intrinsic meaninglessness of existence. Most will
seek absolutes to supplant this loss and invest life with meaning. Emerging
nationalism represents one surrogate god in which the nation-state is invested with
transcendent value and purpose. As absoluteness of doctrine had found expression
in philosophy and religion, absoluteness will become attached to the nation-state.
59 Philosophic Wonders
The slaughter of rivals and conquest of the earth will proceed with zeal under
banners of universal brotherhood, democracy, and socialism.
Nietzsche identifies life with Wille zur Macht, “will to power,” and contends “that all
the supreme values of mankind lack this will—that values which are symptomatic of
decline, nihilistic values, are lording it under the holiest names.” Philosophy, religion,
and morality are masks of the deficiencies of will to power. This is the root of the
sublimated products of decadence in the ascetic ideal. Facts are linguistic
interpretations rooted in will to power. Language itself falsifies reality. Knowledge is
always perspectival—perspectivism. Knowledge with no point of view is incoherent.
Seeing an object from every possible perspective simultaneously is incoherent. An allinclusive perspective that could contain all others and make reality in-itself available
is impossible.
O mein Wille, meine Notwendigkeit, du bist mein Gesetz.
O my will, my Necessity, you are my Law.
//F.W. Nietzsche
The true individual controls personal destiny within historically conditioned and
relativized circumstances. Individuals should aspire to an superior evolutionary level
beyond a childish god-concept dependency. The new morality affirms powerful,
creative, joyous and free lifestyles. Since there is no otherworldly morality, the new
human being will be intellectually and morally an individualist—hard, strong,
courageous. With the doctrine of eternal recurrence, Nietzsche asks “How well
disposed would a person have to become to himself and to life to crave nothing more
fervently than the infinite repetition, without alteration, of each and every moment?”
One who could accept recurrence without self-deception or evasion would be a
superhuman being, or Übermensch.
After Nietzsche, the psychological questioning of the ground of the mind and all
knowlege in society and in history, and the entanglement of philosophy in the
enigmas of language, lead to a profound epistemological crisis by the mid-20th
James Clerk Maxwell publishes Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism integrating
electricity, magnetism, and optics into the physics of electromagnetism. Electrically
charged bodies and magnets affect one another by way of the electromagnetic field, a
state of tension propagating at the speed of light in empty space, (c). Light itself is a
species of electromagnetic radiation. Characterizing a common opinion (with which
he disagrees), Maxwell speaks “In a few years, all the great physical constants will
have been approximately estimated, and the only occupation which will then be left
to the men of science will be to carry these measurements to another place of
Bell patents the telephone.
60 Philosophic Wonders
J. Willard Gibbs publishes “On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances.” To
analyze the equilibrium of the governor regulating Watt's steam engine, Gibbs earlier
develops a method to calculate the equilibria of chemical processes. Applying this to
thermodynamic theory through vector analysis and statistical mechanics, Gibbs
converts much of physical chemistry from empirical into deductive science based on
probabilities, and his thinking is later applied in quantum mechanics.
Edison patents the phonograph. Louis-Paul Cailletet produces small quantities of
liquid air.
The first long-distance (115 miles) telephone call is placed by Mr. Adams from
Colman’s Mustard Factory, Norwich, to Colman offices in London. Improvements by
Nikolaus Otto bring about the commercial success of the gas engine.
In 1878, in Popular Science Monthly, Charles Sanders Peirce introduces his doctrine
of pragmatism. “Consider what effects, which might conceivably have practical
bearings, we conceive the object of our conceptions to have. Then our conception of
these effects is the whole of our conception of the object.” Pierce argues that the
logical status of theory is subject to historical change as conceptual organization
develops, as is consistent with the pragmatic view that the truth of a proposition is
measured by experimental results and practical outcomes, the consequences to
which the idea would lead—what works. Semiotics derives from Peirce. Peirce is also
recognized as the originator of the modern form of semiotics and the first American
experimental psychologist. The term pragmatism is adopted by his friend William
James, who states “Ideas become true just so far as they help us to get into
satisfactory relations with other parts of our experience.” John Dewey develops
pragmatism as a theory of ethics and education emphasizing the power of modern
cultures to modify nature.
Edison perfects the carbon-thread incandescent lightbulb. In Leipzig, Wilhelm Wundt
establishes the first laboratory of experimental psychology.
Swan perfects the carbon-filament lamp. The seismograph is invented.
Time zones are adopted by U.S. and Canadian railways. Neurologist Richard von
Krafft-Ebing coins the word masochismus, from the name of Leopold von SacherMasoch, Austrian novelist.
61 Philosophic Wonders
At an international conference in Washington, the meridian of the transit instrument
at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, is adopted as the prime, or zero, meridian—
leading to the adoption of 24 standard time zones.
Sir Charles Parsons passes steam through the blades of a series of rotors of gradually
increasing size to allow for the expansion of steam, establishing the very rapid motion
of the turbine.
Montgomery Ward publishes a catalog listing ten thousand items.
Quaker Oats markets the first packaged food product.
At the Health Exhibition in London, the pedestal toilet with oval-frame seat is
Gottlieb Daimler and Carl Benx equip the first motorcycle and first motorcar with gas
engines. Pasteur develops a rabies vaccine.
Seurat paints Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
Heinrich Hertz produces electromagnetic waves, and measures their length and
velocity. Hertz shows that the reflection and refraction of electromagnetic wave
vibrations are the same as with light and heat waves, thus confirming Maxwell’s
hypothesis that light is electromagnetic radiation.
Albert Abraham Michelson and Edward Williams Morley demonstrate that the speed
of light relative to the laboratory is the same in all directions, regardless of the time of
the day, the time of the year, and the elevation of the laboratory above sea level—
preparing the way for Einstein.
Victoria, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of
India, celebrates the Fiftieth Jubilee of her reign.
Congress passes the Dawes General Allotment Act that hacks the land of Native
Americans into farms, promises them citizenship after a twenty-five year period of
farming, and confiscates 138 million acres eventually sold as surplus.
Logical positivism and symbolic logic
In 1887, Ernst Mach establishes the principles of supersonics and the ratio of the
velocity of an object to the velocity of sound, the Mach number. In his radical
empiricism, Mach rejects concepts such as absolute time and space, and concludes
that atoms are intellectual fictions deriving their meaning from the macroscopic
sense experiences the fictions are used to explain. Since all knowledge is derived from
sensation, Mach calls for a radical reliance on sense-data; thus, phenomena under
62 Philosophic Wonders
scientific investigation can be understood only in terms of sensations present in an
observation. Formal structures of laws, principles, and hypotheses can be
established only by use of rigorous formal definitions that allow for validity,
probability, degree of confirmation, and other evidence. Scientific statements must be
empirically justifiable. Discovery differs qualitatively from justification. Only
justification brings about knowledge of authentic facts that are superior to theories.
With origins in the reductionism of Mach and the Vienna Circle, the symbolic logic of
Bertrand Russell and the work of G. E. Moore and Karl Popper, hold that theory is
equivalent to a structure of mathematical propositions. In the hypothetico-deductive
method (see 1687), mathematical propositions provide increasingly adequate and
effective systems for the inference of empirical propositions for discovery and
Unified science would provide a comprehensive, quasi-Euclidean system based on a
single axiomatic pattern applicable to all natural phenomena. The outlook of critical
reductionism is that all fields of knowledge can be reduced to the terms of another
science or methodology which encompasses principles applicable to all phenomena,
and a complex whole is nothing-but the functioning sum of its parts.
In Chesire, England, working-class houses are built with bathrooms for the first time.
Nietzsche collapses and becomes incurably insane.
Christian Ehrenfels introduces psychological use of the term Gestalt (German, figure).
William James publishes Principles of Psychology. Three-hundred-fifty Sioux men,
women, and children are massacred by 500 troopers of the U. S. Seventh Cavalry at
Wounded Knee in the new state of South Dakota.
Sir James Dewar, inventor of the vacuum flask, builds a machine for producing
liquid oxygen. Wilhelm von Waldeyer-Hartz coins the term neuron. Emily Dickinson’s
poems are published, five years after her death.
The first automobile appears in America. Rudolf Diesel takes out his first patents.
Telephone service is established between New York and Chicago. “Elizabeth von R” is
the first person to be psychoanalyzed, by Freud. The word sadistic, from the name of
the Marquis de Sade, appears in Chadduck's translation of Krafft-Ebing's
Psychopathica Sexualis. John Muir founds the Sierra Club.
Swami Vivekananda brings Vedanta to the First Parliament of World Religions at the
Columbian Exposition in Chicago, where Turner presents “The Significance of the
63 Philosophic Wonders
Frontier in American History,” and Ferris spins his first wheel. Edvard Munch paints
The Scream. American bison number just over one thousand.
Louis and Auguste Lumiere project the first 16-frame-per-second motion picture for
the Societe d’Encouragement pour L’Industrie Nationale in Paris. Later, at the Revue
Generale des Sciences, they screen the first complete program of films. Then they
patent the Cinematographe, a machine to shoot, print, and project films. Theirs are
the first commercial films. Roentgen discovers X-rays.
Becquerel discovers radioactivity.
Havelock Ellis publishes Studies in the Psychology of Sex. Charles Sherrington
introduces the term synapse. Aspirin is marketed.
After Darwin, behaviorism attempts a scientific explanation of all human knowing,
behavior—social and individual—on a reductivist-materialist basis. In 1897, Ivan
Pavlov’s concept of the conditioned reflex culminates in Lectures on the Work of the
Digestive Glands. Training a dog to salivate at the sound of a bell associated with the
sight of food, Pavlov uses salivary secretion as a quantitative measure of psychical or
subjective activity. He emphasizes objective, physiological measures of mental
phenomena and higher nervous activity. Pavlov wins the Nobel Prize in 1904 and
later studies human psychoses, assuming that the excessive inhibition of a psychotic
is a defense mechanism to shut out the external world and exclude injurious stimuli.
He describes language as based on chains of conditioned reflexes.
John B. Watson publishes “Psychology as a Behaviorist Views It” in 1913, describing
instincts as a series of reflexes activated by heredity. Human behavior, like animal
behavior, should be studied under exacting laboratory conditions. Watson staunchly
advocates the use of conditioning in research. He also argues for use of animal
subjects. A sensationalized divorce triggers a career change, and in 1921 Watson
enters the advertising business. Behaviorism is dominant in the US of the 20s and
30s. Maslow refers to behaviorism as the "First Force" in psychology.
The first press report by radio is a description of the Kingston Regatta to the Dublin
Daily Express.
In The Theory of the Leisure Class, Veblen writes of "conspicuous consumption" and
"conspicuous waste."
64 Philosophic Wonders
Nietzsche dies; Freud later writes “In my youth he signified a nobility which I could
not attain.” Max Planck explains blackbody radiation in the context of quantized
energy emission, and quantum theory is born.
We have no right to assume that any physical laws exist, or if they have existed up to
now, that they will continue to exist in a similar manner in the future.
//Max Planck
Eastman Kodak markets the Brownie camera. Fisher introduces the electric washer.
Norwegian Johan Vaaler devises the first paperclip. World population is 1.65 billion;
US population is 76 million. Life expectancy in the US is 47.3 years; all females 48.3;
all males 46.3; white females 48.7, white males 46.6; black females 33.5; black males
32.5 (see 1997).
Depth psychology
Examining society and the individual, depth psychology begins with identifying and
attempting to explain the nature and origin of irrational (abnormal) behaviors. In
1900, Sigmund Freud publishes The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud’s psychoanalytic
theory threatens existing concepts of human nature and culture. He observes that
human behavior is motivated by irrational drives unconscious to the individual and
unrecognized in society. These hidden drives are the basis of depth psychology,
described by Maslow as the “Second Force” in psychology. Freud attempts to map the
microcosmic, psychological implications of Darwin’s macrocosmic, evolutionary
theory and thus to show the continuity between “lower” and “higher” forms of animal
The drives arise in the undifferentiated, instinctual demands of the it, or id. The id
compels immediate gratification and pleasure. The sexual and psychic energy of the
Id is libido, Eros. From birth, libido is in conflict with the controls imposed by parents
and culture. The compulsions of the Id and the moral controls of the above-I or
superego must be contained through repression and defense mechanisms, and
transformed with the emergence of the conscious, reality-oriented personality,
through the I or ego. Thus, with balance, the “lower,” primary processes of the Id and
pleasure principle are transformed by the ego and sublimated into “higher” activities
appropriate to superego demands and the reality principle. Defense mechanisms
include reaction formation, isolation, undoing, denial, displacement, and
rationalization. Eros, the life instinct, and Thanatos, the death-instinct, are
paradoxically linked. Sublimation, the appreciation or creation of ideal beauty, is the
transformation of id energies into culturally elevated work. Paul Ricouer refers to this
interpretation of culture as the “hermeneutics of suspicion.”
With the birth trauma and all subsequent experiences of pain and repression,
fantasy may be as significant as actual events. Emotional disorders, neuroses, are
expressions of childhood fears and anxiety that conditions all of life. Childhood
attachments to persons or things real or imaginary persist in fixations. Fixations
focus on the oral, anal and genital phases of personality development. The genital
65 Philosophic Wonders
phase is characterized by the castration complex in males and penis envy in females.
Regression is reversion to an earlier developmental stage.
Psychoanalysis reveals that the infant experiences unconscious desires for union
with the parent of opposite gender, and the myth of Oedipus/ Electra complex is
phylogenetic in the human species and ontogenetic in each individual. The primordial
rebellion of sons against fathers for control over women led to parricide. Remorse for
this violence led to atonement through incest taboos against father-substitutes,
totemic objects or animals. The fraternal clan replaces the patriarchal horde, and
society emerges. Renunciation of aspirations to replace the father brings about
consensual cooperation. The totemic ancestor provides the typology of a transcendent
God image. Unresolved, this hidden story forms the core of social violence and
personal neurosis and guilt.
Guglielmo Marconi transmits the first trans-Atlantic radio message on December 12.
In England, Huber Booth patents the first vacuum cleaning system. William James
publishes Varieties of Religious Experience.
The only form of thing we directly encounter, the only experience that we concretely
have is our own personal life. The only completed category of our thinking is the
category of personality, every other category being one of the abstract elements of
that. And this systematic denial on science’s part of personality as a condition of
events, this rigorous belief that in its own essential and innermost nature our world
is a strictly impersonal world, may conceivably, as the whirligig of time goes round,
prove to be the very defect that our descendants will be most surprised at in our
boasted science, the omission that to their eyes will most tend to make it look
perspectiveless and short.
//William James
Georges Melies, a French showman, introduces tinting, stop-motion animation, and
other special effects to motion pictures.
The Pacific Cable links San Francisco with Honolulu, and a message from Teddy
Roosevelt is relayed around the globe in twelve minutes. Marconi transmits a wireless
greeting from TR to Edward VII. The Great Train Robbery is the first movie to tell a
complete story. The first Harley-Davidson motorcycle is produced. On December 17,
in their Flyer I at the Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright
Brothers achieve the first sustained, controlled, powered flight. After eight years of
development, King Camp Gillette markets the safety razor. The electrocardiograph is
Cushing accomplishes early brain surgery. Rutherford and Soddy publish the
General Theory of Radioactivity. The photoelectric cell is invented. Sir John Ambrose
Fleming invents the diode.
66 Philosophic Wonders
Freud publishes Three Treatises on the Theory of Sex. Jean Gebser is born.
Theory of relativity and gravitation and the decline of the mechanical world-view
With the theory of relativity and gravitation, Einstein declares the obsolescence of the
mechanical worldview, rejecting uniformly continuous space and matter as it has
been in the perspectivity of mental consciousness for the 2,500 years of western
philosophy, science, and technology. Einstein strongly affirms, however, physical
realism, that is, the existence of physical reality separate from the mind of the
subjective perceiver.
Special theory of relativity
In 1905, explaining the photoelectric effect, Albert Einstein proposes that light, which
had been considered a form of electromagnetic waves, must also be thought of as
particle-like, or localized in packets of discrete quanta (later called photons).
Publishing the special theory of relativity in “Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper,”
“On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies,” he demonstrates the relativity of
If Observer 1 on Earth observes two events such as two supernovae in different parts
of the sky, it is not possible to say that these two supernovae occurred
simultaneously without knowing their respective distances from the Earth, which
may differ by several hundreds or thousands of light-years. For Observer 2
somewhere else in the Universe, these events could appear to have taken place at
different times. Associated with two inertial frames of inference in relative motion to
each other, Observers 1 and 2 will observe time intervals and distances between
events that differ systematically. If they compare clocks, each will be found faster
than the other; if they compare their measuring rods (in the direction of mutual
motion), each will find the other's rod foreshortened. Thus, an intertial frame of
reference is valid only in a given co-ordinate system (CS) and all “bodies moving
relative to that system.” However, the speed of light will have the same value (c)
relative to all inertial frames of reference and in all directions.
Also in this publication, Einstein presents the equation E = mc2 stating the
fundamental equivalence of energy, mass and motion [e-energy = m-mass X c-speed
of light] as a single dynamical process.
General theory of relativity
With the general theory of relativity in 1916, Einstein demonstrates how Newton’s
mechanical model is inadequate to describe the large-scale structure of the Universe.
“Gravitation is not a force but a curved field in the space-time continuum, created by
the presence of mass.” Space-time and matter are not containers of motion. Change
occurs in a Heracleitian sense, without a vehicle or container. The close association
67 Philosophic Wonders
of mass and energy prevents regarding the mass total of an aggregate as a mere sum
of its constituent parts.
Physics really began with the invention of mass, force, and an inertial system. These
concepts are all free inventions. They led to the formulation of the mechanical point
of view. For the physicist of the early nineteenth century, the reality of our outer
world consisted of particles with simple forces acting between them and depending
only on the distance. He tried to retain as long as possible his belief that he would
succeed in explaining all events in nature by these fundamental concepts of reality.
The important invention of the electromagnetic field appears. A courageous scientific
imagination was needed to realize fully that not the behavior of bodies, but the
behavior of something between them, that is, the field, may be essential for ordering
and understanding events. Absolute time and the inertial co-ordinate system were
abandoned by the relativity theory. The background for all events was no longer the
one-dimensional time and the three-dimensional space continuum, but the fourdimensional time-space continuum, another free invention, with new transformation
properties. The inertial co-ordinate system was no longer needed. Every co-ordinate
system is equally suited for the description of events in nature. The quantum theory
again created new and essential features of our reality. Discontinuity replaced
continuity. Instead of laws governing individuals, probability laws appeared.
Vitamins are discovered. Santiago Ramón y Cajal presents compelling evidence that
the nervous system is composed of discrete cells. Alois Alzheimer describes the
pathology of the disease that comes to bear his name. Freud meets Jung. Lee De
Forest invents the triode; voice and music are first broadcast.
The electric washing machine is invented.
Henri Bergson publishes Creative Evolution, developing the concept of élan vital, the
immaterial force of "creative impulse" or "living energy." Challenging the mechanical
worldview, Bergson attempts to integrate biological science with a theory of
consciousness. Intellect has developed in the course of evolution as an instrument of
survival. It comes to think inevitably in geometrical or 'spatializing' terms, but we do
not perceive life as a progressive, linear succession of conscious states. We perceive a
continuous process that is apprehensible to intuition—which is deeper than
intellectual analysis. The creative urge, not natural selection, is at the heart of
The Geiger counter is invented. Ford markets the Model T.
DNA is discovered. Nicolle creates a vaccine against typhus.
Fewer than a half-million automobiles are registered in the U.S.
68 Philosophic Wonders
Rutherford establishes the atomic nucleus in his new model. In the 1920s,
Rutherford shoots charged nuclear particles into atoms and, by measuring the
deflections that result from electrical repulsion, maps their interior structure. This
technique continues into the present.
The first test of dropping a bomb from an aircraft is conducted.
Alfred Adler is the first of Freud’s disciples to found his own movement. Disagreeing
with Freud’s psychosexual emphasis, Adler stresses the drive for power and the need
to compensate for deficiencies in the personality. The inferiority complex is an
unconscious condition that leads to distorted behaviors, the most striking of which is
The term expressionism is first used.
The first descent from an aircraft by parachute is accomplished. Stainless steel is
formulated. With The Symbols of Transformation, Jung splits from Freud.
The first stainless steel is made by alloying steel with chromium. Reversing the disassembly lines of Chicago and Cincinnati meatpackers, Henry Ford introduces the
assembly line to automotive manufacturing. Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase
scandalizes the Armory Show. Fistfights break out at the premiere of Stravinsky’s The
Rite of Spring. Universal’s Traffic in Souls is the first feature film on a sexual theme.
The zipper is invented, and the first bra is marketed. The public-address system is
Henry Dale describes the physiological action of neurotransmitters. Margaret Sanger
introduces the term birth control and exiles herself to England to escape federal
prosecution. Publishing the magazine The Woman Rebel, Sanger writes: “I believe
woman is enslaved by sex conventions, by motherhood and its present necessary
child rearing, by wage-slavery, by middle-class morality.” In August, Austria declares
war on Serbia, Germany declares war on Russia and France, Germany invades
Belgium, Britain and Serbia declare war on Germany, Austria declares war on
Russia, Britain and France declare war on Austria. In September, the last passenger
pigeon dies in the Cincinnati Zoo (see 1871).
Lenin leads the Marxist revolution in Russia. Jung publishes On the Psychology of the
Unconscious. US population passes one hundred million.
The Great War—the War to End All Wars—ends with fifteen million deaths. Spengler
publishes The Decline of the West. Frigidaire markets a refrigerator.
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Twenty-two million die in an outbreak of influenza, worst pandemic since the Black
Death. Race riots flame in twenty-six US cities. Alcock and Brown fly the Atlantic.
Goddard builds a two-stage rocket and predicts travel to the moon.
Johnson & Johnson markets Band-Aids.
T. S. Eliot publishes The Waste Land. Insulin is discovered.
Arthur Compton observes that x-rays behave like miniature billiard balls in their
interactions with electrons, giving further evidence for the particle nature of light.
Luis de Broglie generalizes wave-particle duality by suggesting that particles of
matter are also wavelike. Irving Langmuir introduces the term plasma while
investigating electric discharges. The first trans-USA flight is accomplished, from
Long Island to San Diego. The first trans-Atlantic radio broadcast is of dance music
from the Savoy Hotel in London, on WJZ, New York.
Satyendra nath Bose and Albert Einstein find a new way to count quantum particles,
later called Bose-Einstein statistics, and predict that extremely cold atoms should
condense into a single quantum state, later known as a Bose-Einstein condensate.
Louis de Broglie proposes that electrons and other discrete bits of matter have wave
properties such as wavelength and frequency.
Study of information theory begins when Harry Nyquist, a researcher at Bell
Laboratories, publishes “Certain Factors Affecting Telegraphic Speed.” Nyquist
realizes that communication channels have maximum data transmission rates and
derives a formula for calculating these rates in finite bandwidth noiseless channels.
Two Douglas World Cruisers built in southern California circumnavigate the Earth
from Seattle to Seattle, with 57 stops.
Hitler publishes Mein Kampf. Hitler is an avid viewer of films, and watching American
football, he forms his concept of festival music and draws the sieg-heil salute from
the movements of cheerleaders. A watercolorist, he personally designs Nazi uniforms
and other ritual accoutrements.
The ionosphere is discovered.
Edwin Hubble, astronomer at the Mount Wilson observatory in Pasadena, confirms
the existence of separate galaxies beyond the Milky Way.
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Werner Heisenberg, Max Born, and Pascual Jordan develop matrix mechanics, the
first version of quantum mechanics, and make an initial step toward quantum field
The exclusion principle
In 1925, Wolfgang Pauli enunciates the exclusion principle. In a closed system such
as an atom for electrons or a nucleus for protons and neutrons, fermions are
distributed so that a given state is occupied by only one at a time. Particles obeying
the exclusion principle have a characteristic value of intrinsic angular momentum or
spin. Their spin is always an odd whole-number multiple of one-half. The space
surrounding the dense nucleus may be thought of as consisting of regions or orbitals,
each of which comprises only two distinct states. If one of these states is occupied by
an electron of spin one-half, the other may be occupied only by an electron of
opposite spin, or spin negative one-half. An orbital occupied by a pair of electrons of
opposite spin is filled: no more electrons may enter it until one of the pair vacates the
The principle of exclusion says quite simply that no two electrons in the Universe can
have identical quantum numbers. Another way to state this is, no electron may enter
into a state already occupied by another electron. No two of them ever enter the same
state of energy and maintain the same spin-direction. No two can be in the same
orbit or have the same angular momentum or exist in the same quantum state
described by the same quantum wave function. The constant percolation, the virtual
interaction of electrons with their antimatter reflections, is the ultimate source of
everything that is. Creation, interaction, and annihilation are the origins of our life
and our death.
//Fred Alan Wolf
Enrico Fermi and Paul A.M. Dirac invent Fermi-Dirac statistics opening the way to
solid-state physics. The Copenhagen Interpretation is advanced. Scheduled airline
service begins.
Quantum physics and the decline of the mechanical world-view
Quantum physics further identifies theoretically and confirms experimentally the
deficiencies of the mechanical worldview. Quantum physics also advances questions
about the basic opposites of mind and matter, observer and observed, that have
characterized western philosophy, science, and technology. The division of the
ground of being into idealism-materialism is discarded, and the possibility of knowing
any ultimate ground of being is uncertain and indeterminant. No boundaries can be
proven between mind and matter.
Relativity and quantum physics provide the basis of scientific cosmology which
within a half century completes a model of the universe radically different than any
that has been conceived since the emergence of mental consciousness.
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Signatures of quantum states
The three signatures of quantum states are wave interference (more than one
possibility), non-locality (signal-less communication), and discontinuity.
A quantum state of reality is when
—there is more than one possibility of what is real;
—relationships are not limited to signals traveling in space-time (light speed is
—there is interconnectedness that is not continuous in space-time.
Quantum wave functions
In 1926, Erwin Schrödinger develops wave mechanics, a second description of
quantum physics, with what later becomes known as the Schrödinger equation. Wave
functions are unitary, smooth, continuously evolving combinations of ideal states of
infinite proportions, or possibility waves. Coherent superpositions of a narrow range
of frequencies produces standing wave functions in the discrete frequencies, or
quanta, of electrons. Electrons and particles exist only as clouds of probabilities, and
the location of an electron or particle is a probability of its wave function there—of
what can exist here, there and, with a very small probability, anywhere. With the psi
function of Schrödinger’s equation, the probability function for any electron or
particle in the Universe can be mapped, and a theoretical basis for the structure of
the periodic table of the elements is established.
The Uncertainty Principle
In 1927, bringing classical determinism to an end and raising serious doubts in
philosophy and science, Werner Heisenberg establishes the Uncertainty Principle, or
Indeterminancy Principle. Laws of physical determinism and causality are statements
about relative, not absolute, certainties. It is impossible to determine the exact
location of an electron and the vector direction of its momentum at the same time.
The Copenhagen interpretation
In the orthodox Copenhagen interpretation, observation triggers an abrupt change in
the function, a decoherence, called the collapse. Observation interweaves subject and
environment forcing decoherence, and also, the environment itself seems to act as an
observer, collapsing wave functions. Decoherence caused by the environment
interacting with the object or the subject ensures that we never perceive quantum
superpositions of mental states. Any unobserved, organized field will naturally evolve
from one state to another. Observation keeps a system in an unevolved state. Things
persist as they appear because they evoke a repetitive pattern of self-observation.
Heisenberg argues that the limitation of the Uncertainty Principle is epistemic; Bohr
argues that the limitation is ontic.
An independent reality in the ordinary sense can be ascribed neither to the
phenomena nor to the agencies of observation.
//Niels Bohr
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Many-world interpretation
The Copenhagen interpretation fails to answer the question of exactly how the act of
observation collapses the wave function. In 1957, Hugh Everett introduces the
relative state or many-world interpretation, the notion of an infinite number of
equally real Universes hidden from perception. Everett suggests that a particle really
is here, there, and everywhere at the same time, but it is in each of those in different
Universes. Ultimately, all possible Universes implicit in all quantum equations
describing every single particle in the Universe we know actually do come into
existence, and each then splits in a similar way. This notion eliminates the role of the
observer, and with it the question of wave function collapse.
The implicate order
Quantum physicist David Bohm calls the everyday world of space-time and causality
the explicate order. Underlying it is an interconnected one which he calls the
implicate order. The implicate order is non-local. Bohm earlier introduced the notion
of non-locality that was confirmed experimentally by John Bell and Alain Aspect.
parts make up the whole
spatial separation
things exist
whole makes up the parts
thing and no-thing interfere
Classical physics provided a mirror that reflected only the objective structure of the
human being who was the observer. There is no room in this scheme for the mental
process which is thus regarded as separate or as a mere 'epiphenomenon' of the
objective processes. Through the mirror of quantum physics the observer sees
'oneself' both physically and mentally in the larger setting of the Universe as a whole.
More broadly one could say that through the human being, the Universe is making a
mirror to observe itself.
//David Bohm and Basil Hiley
In considering the relationship between the finite and the infinite, we are led to
observe that the whole field of the finite is inherently limited, in that it has no
independent existence. It has the appearance of independent existence, but that
appearance is merely the result of an abstraction of our thought. We can see this
dependent nature of the finite from the fact that every finite thing is transient. Our
ordinary view holds that the field of the finite is all that there is. But if the finite has
no independent existence, it cannot be all that is. We are in this way led to propose
that the true ground of all being is the infinite, the unlimited; and that the infinite
includes and contains the finite. In this view, the finite, with its transient nature, can
only be understood as held suspended, as it were, beyond time and space, within the
infinite. The field of the finite is all that we can see, hear, touch, remember, and
describe. This field is basically that which is manifest, or tangible. The essential
quality of the infinite, by contrast, is its subtlety, its intangibility. This quality is
conveyed in the word spirit, whose root meaning is “wind, or breath.” This suggests
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an invisible but pervasive energy, to which the manifest world of the finite responds.
This energy, or spirit, infuses all living beings, and without it any organism must fall
apart into its constituent elements. That which is truly alive in the living being is this
energy of spirit, and this is never born and never dies.
//David Bohm
written to be read at the memorial service for Malcolm Sagenkahn, Bohm’s classmate at Penn State;
later read at the memorial service for Bohm
Looking beyond all objects, both inner and outer, and into their source, beyond trees
and mountains, beyond thoughts and feelings, or, rather, looking at inner or outer
objects with such acute attention that the subject/object mode melts away, another
reality opens up. Just as the physical world around us has been revealed to be of
unimaginable dimensions, we enter now into the inner world, which is of
unimaginable depth. The individual soul, the World Soul, the Nous, the One—these
are but names; the range and depth of the potential experiences they indicate,
however, leads beyond the individual subject, into the cosmological dimension, and
beyond it too.
Ineffable and numinous, this reality is the source of meaning and experience in
the so-called ordinary reality. In its light, the postmodernist claims of relativism as a
fundamental truth (a stark contradiction, this!) are dispelled, without argument, as
darkness is dispelled by light.
The Experience feels dichotomous. The other reality is really other than the
familiar one. But this feeling of dichotomy comes from this side; it arises when the
Experience is over, and the ordinary mind evaluates it. From its own side, the reality
that opens up is beyond dichotomies; it feels like home—and yet we cannot stay
The fact that we cannot stay there is indicative of the real challenge—the bringing
together of the two, the infusion of the phenomenal with the noumenal, and the
expression of the noumenal in the phenomenal. This means, on the one hand, seeing
the inner dimension through the phenomena that present themselves, seeing the
ineffable through the words, through the formulae, through the symbols, and on the
other hand, creating phenomena through which the noumenal can shine, expressing
the ineffable in words and symbols. The intensity of such an engagement makes
existential doubts irrelevant; and then there come a time when one knows, without a
doubt, that this place, between the phenomenal and the noumenal, is one’s place in
the universe.
//Shimon Malin
George Lemaitre hypothesizes that existence began with detonation of a “primordial
atom” of infinite density, and predicted recession of galaxies. The wave nature of
electrons is experimentally established. Television is demonstrated in the US for the
first time. The BBC is founded. Martin Heidegger publishes Sein und Zeit, Being and
Niels Bohr announces the principle of complementarity establishing that phenomena
such as light and electrons have both wavelike and particle-like characteristics—
74 Philosophic Wonders
wave-particle duality. It is not possible to observe wave and particle aspects
simultaneously. Together, however, they present a fuller description than either of
the two taken alone, and complete knowledge requires a description of both
properties. Dirac presents a relativistic theory of the electron that includes the
prediction of antimatter.
Color television is demonstrated.
R.V.L. Hartley publishes “Transmission of Information” establishing mathematical
foundations for information theory.
Edgar Adrian describes a method for recording from single sensory and motor axons.
Fleming discovers penicillin.
Margaret Mead publishes Coming of Age in Somoa.
Mickey Mouse appears in Steamboat Willie, the first animated cartoon with a
In the Soviet Union, collectivization of agriculture brings about the deaths of millions
of peasants by murder and starvation. Sir Frank Whittle takes out a patent on the
turbine jet engine. In lesion experiments in rats, Karl Lashley attempts to localize
memory in the brain. Hans Berger uses scalp electrodes to demonstrate
electroencephalography. Alfred North Whitehead publishes Process and Reality.
Edwin Hubble observes the universal recession of galaxies leading to the development
of the Big Bang Theory.
A singularity producing the Universe we know occurred about fourteen billion years
ago. At 10-43 second following that singularity, all forces—gravity, strong nuclear,
weak nuclear, and electromagnetism—were unified with a radius of less than 10-50
light second. According to the inflationary theory, the Universe doubled in size every
tenth of a quadrillionth of a quintillionth (10-34) of a second.
Much of the mass of the Universe consists of dark matter clumped around the outer
parts of galaxies. Dark matter and all chemical elements combined make up less
than half the mass of the Universe. The greatest content is dark energy.
Complementary with ordinary gravity, the gravity of dark energy does not attract, but
rather it repels. Dark energy is associated with vacuum energy, nothingness, and
negative pressure. As gravity pulls chemical elements and dark matter into galaxies,
it pushes dark energy into a background haze, or cosmological constant.
Observations in 2001 confirm the manifestation of the cosmological constant, and
75 Philosophic Wonders
that negative gravity has overtaken the force of gravity in the last few billion years
and is now pushing galaxies and clusters of galaxies apart from one another in the
accelerating expansion of the Universe.
The Greek term quintessence has recently been applied to the dynamical quantum
field of dark energy. Quintessence may arise from other dimensions, as stated by
string theory, which predicts six dimensions in addition to the known four. As the
Universe cooled and particles slowed after the Big Bang, the energy balance shifted in
favor of matter. Material started to clump together to form larger structures. About
50,000 years after the Big Bang, quintessence settled down to a fixed value and
began exerting a negative pressure throughout the cosmos. In the early epoch,
gravity slowed the expansion of the Universe, but as the volume of the Universe
continued to expand, matter density decreased. The energy density associated with
quintessence remained constant and came to overpower gravity. The shift in the
mass-energy balance that gave rise to stars and galaxies has transformed into a
cosmic accelerator. The repulsive force may also come from unseen dimensions or
other Universes. M-theory adds an eleventh dimension with ordinary matter confined
to two three-dimensional surfaces separated by branes, or membranes.
In classical physics, particles have definite locations and follow exact trajectories. In
quantum mechanics, reality is wavepackets propagating through space-time. In
string theory, particles are understood as tiny loops having a string tension. In the
concept of tracker fields, the patterning of the Universe is that fractal attractors. A
quantum gravity description would fuse relativity and quantum theories using both
string tension and quantum effects. The length scale on which the quantisized nature
of gravity should become evident is 1.6 X 10-35 meters, the Planck length.
According to the anthropic principle, only in a Universe with matter and dark energy
tuned as with the one we know could intelligent life emerge.
If everything that ever interacted in the Big Bang maintains its connection with
everything it interacted with, then every particle in every star and galaxy that we can
see “knows” about the existence of every other particle.
//John Gribbin
Process philosophy
For Alfred North Whitehead expresses, reality is comprised of vibratory events of selfrealization as processes grow out of processes infinitely. Each nexus of the World of
Facts and the World of Values is an event of novel individuality and value. Every
pulsation of experience creates a finished unity and brings into being a pattern of
integrated feeling unifying metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics. The process of reality
includes notions of contrast, rhythm, harmony, intensity, and adventure.
The Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness is exemplified in rationalism and the
mechanical world-view of materialism. According to the Fallacy of Simple Location,
space-time is not simple location but a continuum of possibilities.
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Actual entities arise from the primordial nature of God, coming into being as
primordial needs in all things and “persuaded” toward a definite outcome in accord
with the Principle of Concretion, then perishing into the consequent nature of God
which ensures permanent value as the “World passes into everlasting unity.”
We are surrounded by possibilities that are infinite, and the purpose of human life is
to grasp as much as we can out of that infinitude.
Human population nears two billion. The first human egg cell is observed. Freud
publishes Civilization and Its Discontents. The turbojet engine is patented. The planet
Pluto is discovered.
At 102 stories and 1,250 feet, the Empire Sate Building achieves a height not
exceeded for forty years. Tampax markets tampons.
The incompleteness theorem
In 1931, Kurt Gödel addresses all formal systems of knowledge with the
Incompleteness Theorem. There are intrinsic limits to knowledge using the axioms
and rules of any consistent system of sufficient complexity. A perfectly complete, allinclusive map or theory of reality can never be achieved. There will always be true
statements which can neither be shown to be true nor proved to be false. New ideas
and new structures will always be possible.
Working at the Lowell Observatory in Arizona, astronomer Andrew Ellicott Douglass
establishes the principles of dendrochronology. The atom is split in a cyclotron by
Cockcroft and Walton. Carl David Anderson discovers antimatter, an antielectron
called the positron. Aldous Huxley publishes Brave New World depicting a world in
the “Year of Our Ford” with “feelies” where men are attended by “pneumatic” (a word
borrowed from Eliot’s “Whispers of Immortality”) girls, and reproduction is controlled
by the state. The first autobahn, Cologne-Bonn, opens.
Behaviorist B. F. Skinner designs the baby box, a chamber in which his daughter
spends part of her first two years. In 1971, Skinner will publish Beyond Freedom
and Dignity, calling for restrictions of freedom toward development of the ideal
society. Alfred Habdank Skarbek Korzybski publishes Science and Sanity: An
Introduction to Non-Aristotlian Systems and General Semantics states “The map is not
the territory.”
Phenomenology and phenomenological method
Silenced in Germany, Edmund Husserl, founder of phenomenology, delivers an
address to the Cultural Society in Vienna titled, “Die Philosophie in der Krisis der
europäischen Menscheit,” “Philosophy and the Crisis of European Sciences.” As
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established by Husserl, phenomenology aims to free thinking from a priori
presuppositions in order to explore how examples of phenomena are experienced
structurally and relationally with emphasis on the purposefulness of inner life.
Examples of phenomena in intuited essences of experienced objects, not factual
statements based on empirical evidence. Experience includes whatever can be an
object of a mental act, and consciousness is consciousness-of something. All
experiences are of and about objects, although the ontology of objects remains
uncertain, and no clear distinction can be proven between what is perceived and the
perception of it. The qualities of the mirror of consciousness are inseparable from
that mirror’s reflection of what appears to exist. In this sense, phenomenology leads
to recognition and respect for all that appears to exist. Phenomenology recognizes
and respects all beliefs as beliefs. The method of phenomenology aims simply to
describe examples of whatever may be experienced as existing.
Intersubjectivity refers to the existence of distinct selves of equal status and the lack
of clear distinctions between the fields of consciousness of different individuals. We
are subjectively interdependent. The world exists for a community, and
phenomenology reflects upon our common genetic ancestry and the communal
experience of the Lebenswelt, the world of lived experience and linguistic
environments from which the world of science derives.
Intentionality is the ability to direct or refer deliberately and purposefully to an object
in a transcendental movement from mental act to object. Intentional acts suggest the
possibility of continuity and coherency and the enduring identity of the
transcendental ego.
By bracketing [
] existence, beliefs, unexamined assumptions, and presuppositions
regarding any perceived object are suspended in the effort to describe the intrinsic
traits of the object and with unprejudiced view arrive at an example of the intentional
The epoché is an eidetic reduction, a skeptical suspension of judgement in order to
describe an example of a phenomenon.
Then, by adding and deleting predicates by random variation and selective attention,
one asks whether an example, the essence, or eidos of the intentional object is being
described as a basis of cognition of the object.
Through the intuition of essences, one may discern necessary and invariant features
of an intentional object and all comparable intentional objects, and discern those
features of the object without which it could not be said to be experienced as the
thing that it is.
Phenomenology: Heidegger
For Martin Heidegger, das Sein der Menschen or Dasein, the human being, is
inseparable from the lebenswelt, life-world, of everyday cares, moods, and prescientific experience. The phantasmagoria of names and words, experiences of others,
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dichotomies of knowledge and concepts as with science, threaten the integrity of
Dasein. Such dichotomies must be transcended to experience Dasein in authenticity
and wholeness.
Acceptance of finitude and death is the criterion of authenticity and wholeness.
Dasein dies alone, and no one else can die in its place. The gravity of Being and time
is revealed in angst, dread, regarding the ultimate groundlessness of self, world, and
human projects, and in the awareness of death. Human beings attempt to escape
this destiny by disguise or self-distraction. When I recognize that I—not simply
“one”—will die, I am aware that I have reason to act now without delay. Your time is
running out and my time is running out. History is to be understood as the
historicality of Dasein. The future is the primary aspect of time, shaped by
constraints inherited from the past. The present, the third ecstasis of time, is the
moment of decision to do something.
Dasein has no fixed nature in Existenz which underlies regional ontologies and
history. In the West, Sein has been split from change by being seen as the eternal
presence of the Eidos. In Plato's myth of the cave, truth ceased to be “unhiddenness”
and became “correctness,” and thinking was established as the metaphysical center
of reality. Sein has been hidden “under the yoke of the idea.” With Kant’s Critical
Idealism the “scandal of philosophy” is that no proof has been given of the “existence
of things outside of us.” With Heidegger the scandal is “not that this proof has yet to
be given, but that such proofs are expected and attempted again and again.” The
history of idealism is a history of decline. The philosophical tradition and language is
infected with misinterpretation and requires rethinking by de(con)structing. Thinking
is not language. Language is an instrument of assertion and manipulation, logic,
science, metaphysics, philosophy itself, and especially technology. The domination of
the world by technology, “the completion of metaphysics,” has culminated in
After “thinking is shattered,” deepest knowing at the center of Being, “Dasein’s
disclosedness” or aletheia, is a matter of phainesthai, just “there” in the light. “Being
is the transcendens pure and simple.” Transcendence gives the power to transform
the world. Without commitment to reason or purposive action, human beings wait in
silence for the “shepherd of Being,” who is not at the disposal of humans but rather
disposes of humans. Whether or not humankind can return to authentic thinking of
being will determine the future of the Earth. The primal question is: “Why is there
any Being at all—why not far rather Nothing?”
Art, poetry above all, discloses the world and creates language for its expression.
Poetry is close to the sacred. “The thinker says being. The poet names the holy.”
Commissioned by Hitler, Leni Riefenstahl directs Triumph des Willens, Triumph of the
Will, filmed at the Nazi Party Convention at Nuremberg, introducing Nazi leaders to
Germany and to the world. In Bright Eyes, Shirley Temple sings “The Good Ship
Lollypop.” Hideki Yukawa proposes that nuclear forces are mediated by massive
79 Philosophic Wonders
particles called mesons, which are analogous to photons in mediating
electromagnetic forces.
Schrödinger introduces his cat to quantum physics and implores scientists not to
“objectify” nature as if it were dead. The first paperback books—brand name
Penguin—are introduced. Zippers are used in trousers for the first time.
Built for American Airlines, the DC-3 flies coast-to-coast in record time—17hours
and 30 minutes; air travel increases 500% between 1936 and the start of World War
II. Charles Chaplin creates Modern Times.
Alan Turing, Alonso Church, and Emil Post work out underpinnings of useful
computers. The Turing-Church theorem states that any computation executed by one
finite-state machine, writing on an infinite tape (Turing machine), can be done by any
other finite-state machine on an infinite tape, no matter what their configurations—
universal computation.
Sociologist Talcott Parsons publishes The Structure of Social Action, theorizing not
about the internal field of personality but rather the external field of institutions, a
structural-functional analysis of social order, integration, and equilibrium.
In China, Mao Zedong and the Red Army complete the 6,000-mile Long March. Nylon
is invented.
The Holocaust begins as 20 to 30 thousand Jews are carried off to concentration
camps at Kristalnacht. Within seven years, six million Jews and eight million other
“racial inferiors” including Poles, Slavs and gypsies are put to death. Flourescent
lighting and xerography are invented. D-lysergic acid diethylamide-25 is synthesized
in Switzerland.
FDR is the first president to deliver a televised speech, opening the New York World’s
Fair. John Atanasoff and Clifford Berry build a prototype of a digital computer able to
store data and do addition and subtraction using binary code. A character in the
novel After Many a Summer, by Aldous Huxley observes: “Put the abolition of
tsardom and capitalism in one scale; and in the other put Stalin, put the secret
police, put the famines, put twenty years of hardship for a hundred and fifty million
people, put the liquidation of intellectuals and kulags and old Bolsheviks, put the
hordes of slaves in prison camps.” HCE, Here Comes Everybody, is the hero of James
Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake.
Alan Hodgkin, Andrew Huxley, and Bernard Katz explain the electrical activity of
neurons as concentration gradients and movements of ions through pores.
80 Philosophic Wonders
Use of penicillin begins.
With the development and testing of gas chambers complete and major extermination
camps under construction, a meeting of fifteen high-ranking Nazi officials is called by
Reinhard Tristan Eugen Heydrich, head of the Sicherheitsdienst, and organized by
Adolph Eichmann. The meeting is portrayed as a "discussion to be followed by a
buffet lunch" at Wannsee House, an elegant private home then being used as an SS
guest house in a lakeside district of Berlin. The meeting confirms the Wannsee
Protocol. On July 31, Eichmann writes a letter at the bequest of Heydrich. In it,
Reichsmarshall Hermann Göring is represented as authorizing Heydrich "to carry out
preparations as regards organizational, financial, and material matters for a total
solution (GesamtlöSung) of the Jewish question in all the territories of Europe under
German occupation. I charge you further to submit to me as soon as possible a
general plan of the administrative material and financial measures necessary for
carrying out the desired final solution (EndlöSung) of the Jewish question."
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
Shortly before World War II, Benjamin Lee Whorf presents his thesis that language
determines the structure of perception and thought, linguistic relativity. Shaped with
his teacher Edward Sapir, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis states that the structure and
content of a language directly relates to those of a culture. If language is vague and
inaccurate, as the Positivists suggest, or is burdened with prejudices and
superstitions of an ignorant past, then it is bound to render the user's thinking—and
mental life itself—confused, prejudiced, and superstitious. Other structuralist
anthropologists regard all cultural practices and institutions within a given
community are interconnect; to explain a practice is to explain its interconnectedness
with all other aspects of the community.
U.S. industrial capacity and military forces overcome the Japanese in the Battle of
Midway in June. The U.S. becomes the industrial arsenal for the world and American
power ascends. The Space Age is launched with a V-2 at Peenemünde where in
underground caverns, Jewish slave laborers work on assembly lines. Of sixty
thousand workers, more than one-third do not survive.
Fermi directs a controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction in Chicago. In
Germany, Heisenberg seems discourage development of an atomic bomb.
U.S. industry produces a ship a day, an airplane every five minutes. Alan Turing
builds Colossus, among the first programmable electronic computers, used to
decipher German communications.
Phenomenology: Sartre
81 Philosophic Wonders
Jean-Paul Sartre publishes L’Être et le néant, Being and Nothingness, in 1943.
Freedom is the basic characteristic of a human, a being of possibilities that finds or
loses itself in the choice that it makes in regard to itself. Referring to Dasein, Sartre
emphasizes the power of the subjective, self-conscious individual placing
consciousness, or no-thingness, in opposition to being, or thingness. Being-in-itself
(en-soi) is the opaque, matter-like substance that remains the same, and being-foritself (pour-soi) is consciousness permeated by nothingness. Consciousness is notmatter and free of all determinism; yet human projects remain ultimately useless.
The dialectic of human being-with-one-another, seeing and being-seen, correspond to
dominating and being-dominated. Being-for-itself is the human condition of bad faith
(mauvaise foi), which cannot be overcome because facticity (being-already) and
transcendence (being-able-to-be) cannot be combined.
The atomic bomb is tested on July 18, Day of Trinity, in New Mexico. “Little Boy”
destroys Hiroshima on August 6, and “Big Boy” destroys Nagasaki on August 9.
World War II ends on V-J day in September, with 54.8 million dead—26 million in the
Soviet Union—predominantly civilians. One third of the Jews have died in Nazi death
camps, including an estimated four million killed with Zyklon B cyanide gas at
Auschwitz in southern Poland. U.S. gross national product increased since 1939 from
88.6 billion dollars to 135 billion dollars. Arthur C. Clarke describes a global system
of communications satellites.
Phenomenology: Merleau-Ponty
Maurice Merleau-Ponty publishes Phénoménologie de la perception in 1945. He
locates the phenomena of perception in the phenomenology of the lived body as it is
experienced and experiences, in which the perceiving subject is incarnate as the
mediating link to the phenomenal world. To discover the possible consequences of
any set of stimuli, it is necessary to consider the human being as a whole. MerleauPonty uses gestalt psychology to express that the wholeness of human being is more
than the sum of its parts. Gestalt psychology joins consciousness of body and world
in a unified field of perception. Gestalten are dynamically self-regulating systems that
tend to interact to restore systems to a state of equilibrium. Wholeness within the
perceptual field comes about with proximity, physical closeness; similarity, physical
resemblance; common destiny, things that move or change together conjoin because
of that; good Gestalt, forms perceived as more regular than they are; closure, forms
are perceived as more complete than they are.
The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, ENIAC, among the first electronic
computers, is delivered to the U.S. Army. Kenneth Cole develops a technique to
measure current flow across cell membranes.
At Edwards Air Force Base, Charles Yeager breaks the sound barrier in a Bell XS-1.
At Bell Telephone Labs, John Bardeen, Walter H. Brattain, and William B. Shockley
invent the transistor. The microwave oven is invented.
82 Philosophic Wonders
The UN adopts the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and proclaims the State of
Israel. The phrase Cold War is coined by Bernard Baruch. Richard Feynman, Julian
Schwinger, and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga develop the first complete theory of the
interaction of photons and electrons, quantum electrodynamics. George Gamow
introduces the term “big bang,” and astronomer Fred Hoyle writes, “Once a
photograph of the Earth, taken from the outside is available, a new idea as powerful
as any in history will be let loose.”
Information theory
Information theory is established by Claude Shannon in “The Mathematical Theory of
Communication” in the Bell System Technical Journal in 1948. Shannon produces a
formula showing how the bandwidth of a channel (theoretical signal capacity) and its
signal-to-noise ratio (interference) affects its capacity to carry signals. His work opens
the way for all high-technology communication systems. The Shannon-Weaver [S-R]
communication model is comprised of these elements: A source creates the message.
An encoder connects the message to signals. The channel or medium carries the
signals. Noise interferes with the transmission. A decoder converts the signals into a
form of message comprehensible to the receiver. Shannon primarily addresses the
encoder, channel, noise, and decoder, avoiding questions of meaning as much as
possible. He introduces the word bit to describe binary information.
Norbert Wiener publishes Cybernetics: or, Control and Communication in the Animal
and the Machine, in 1948. Weiner had earlier coined the term cybernetics (Greek
kybernētēs > kyber > helmsman >> to steer; root of the word governor) Based on
common relationships between humans and machines, cybernetics is concerned with
how systems regulate themselves, and will be used in negative-feedback control
theory, automation theory, and computer programming.
In giving the definition of Cybernetics, I classed communication and control together.
Why did I do this? When I communicate with another person, I impart a message to
him, and when he communicates back with me he returns a related message which
contains information primarily accessible to him and not to me. When I control
actions of another person, I communicate a message to him, and although this
message is in the imperative mood, the technique of communication does not differ
from that of a message of fact. Furthermore, if my control is to be effective I must
take cognizance of any messages from him which may indicate that the order is
understood and has been obeyed.
It is the thesis of this book that society can only be understood through a study of
the messages and the communication facilities which belong to it; and that in the
future development of these messages and communication facilities, messages
between man and machines, between machines and man, and between machine and
machine, are destined to play an ever increasing part.
83 Philosophic Wonders
When I give an order to a machine, the situation is not essentially different from
that which arises when I give an order to a person. In other words, as far as my
consciousness goes I am aware of the order that has gone out and of the signal of
compliance that has come back. To me, personally, the fact that the signal in its
intermediate stages has gone through a machine rather than through a person is
irrelevant and does not in any case greatly change in my relation to the signal. Thus
the theory of control in engineering, whether human or animal or mechanical, is a
chapter in the theory of messages.
Where a man’s word goes, and where his power of perception goes, to that point his
control and in a sense his physical existence is extended. To see and to give
commands to the whole world is almost the same as being everywhere.
//Norbert Weiner
Ascending to 50 miles above White Sands, New Mexico, Viking achieves the first highaltitude, liquid-fueled rocket flight. The Lego is introduced.
British analytic philosopher Gilbert Ryle publishes The Concept of Mind. He describes
the fallacy of the “ghost in the machine.” Mind—the ghost—is simply the intelligennt
behavior of the body. Metaphysics are nonsense. The mind is the brain.
Joseph Campbell publishes The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Ordinary language
In the 1940s, the philosophy of ordinary language holds that meaning derives from
interconnecting complexes of verbal and nonverbal practices that constitute society,
and it is impossible to escape the colloquialism and closed communities of actual
speech to achieve universals or transcendence. Natural language provides the basic
and unavoidable matrix of all thought, including philosophy. “Ideal" language can
never replace natural language.
Ludwig Wittgenstein regards his own thinking as being alien to the scientific and
mathematical thinking of his time. Observing that there is no private language, his
philosophy is a critique of the mechanisms of the “language game” which has
entangled human beings in "a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by
means of language." A philosophical problem is a confusion in need of das erlösende
Wort, the word that unties one's knotted understanding. “Why is philosophy so
complicated? It ought to be entirely simple.” The result of successful philosophical
thinking is not a truth discovered but a confusion dissolved.
U.S. population has doubled in fifty years.
The first kidney transplant is successfully accomplished.
84 Philosophic Wonders
President Truman gives the go ahead with the hydrogen bomb. Stereophonic sound is
Norbert Weiner publishes The Human Use of Human Beings.
Erik Erikson publishes Childhood and Society describing eight psychosocial stages of
development, each conceived as an either/or configuration based on the strength to
accept the hazards of the next stage. Stages 1-4 are Freudian stages up to
adolescence: 1, trust / mistrust; 2, autonomy / shame-doubt; 3, initiative / guilt; 4,
industry / inferiority. Stage 5 is late adolescence and early adulthood: identity / role
diffusion. Stage 6 is the prime of life: intimacy / isolation. Stage 7 is middle age:
generativity / stagnation. Stage 8 is old age: ego integrity / despair.
In Switzerland, Jean Gebser completes Ursprung und Gegenwart, The Ever-Present
Origin, published in English in 1985.
With the dogma of Assumptio Mariae, Pius XII declares “Immaculate Mother of God,
the ever-virgin Mary, was at the end of her days on Earth, taken up, body and soul to
heavenly glory.”
Sri Aurobindo dies; the Mother will carry on his work until 1973.
The first transcontinental television program is broadcast.
The U.S. explodes the first hydrogen bomb on Eniwetok Atoll; hydrogen bombs will be
built by the USSR in 1953, UK 1957, China 1967, and France 1968.
David Bohm and David Pines state the first generally applicable concept of plasma:
When energy is continuously applied to a solid, it melts, then vaporizes, and finally
electrons are removed from some of the gas atoms and molecules to yield an ionized
mixture with that little resemble solids, liquids, or gases. Most terrestrial matter
exists as solids, liquids, or gases, but this fourth state of matter, plasma, is found in
lightning bolts, auroras, in neon lights, and in the crystal structure of metallic solids.
More than 99 percent of the matter in the Universe is plasma including stars,
interstellar and interplanetary media, and the outer atmospheres of the planets. All
sources of energy on Earth can be traced to fusion reactions inside the Sun or extinct
stars. The practical goal of plasma physics will be to produce confined nuclear fusion.
In four days, a London smog kills 4,700 persons.
IBM markets a computer. Watson and Crick describe the double-helix.
In a rocket-propelled Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket, Scott Crossfield flies at Mach 2.
85 Philosophic Wonders
Speaking of the “military-industrial complex,” President Eisenhower states “Every
gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in a final
sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not
clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of
its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”
Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climb Mount Everest.
The Nautilus, first nuclear submarine, is launched.
Fortran is introduced.
Roger Bannister is the first to run a four-minute mile.
Salk achieves a polio vaccine.
Jean Piaget publishes The Origin of Intelligence in Children. Piaget observes four
stages of development: the sensorimotor stage from birth to 2 years; the
preoperational stage from 2 to 7 years; the concrete-operational stage from 7 to 12
years; and the stage of formal operations that characterizes the adolescent and the
Jacques Ellul publishes La Technique: ou, L'enjeu du siècle, The Technological Society.
The Supreme Court outlaws racial segregation in public schools.
With Vice-president Richard Nixon among the dignitaries, Walt Disney opens
Disneyland in a former orange grove in Anaheim with Adventureland, Frontierland,
Fantasyland and Tomorrowland.
Noosphere and the Omega Point
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin's Le Phénomène humain, The Phenomenon of Man, is
published after his death in 1955. Written in the 20s and 30s, publication was
prohibited by the Jesuit order during his lifetime. Le Milieu divin, The Divine Milieu,
follows in 1957, and concepts of changing global consciousness are available in
English by 1959. In 1962, the Holy Office issues a warning against uncritical
acceptance of his thinking.
Teilhard regards cosmological forces as emerging through progressive
complexification of atoms, molecules, cells, and organisms, until the human body
evolved a nervous system capable of self-awareness, and moral responsibility.
Animals know, but human beings know that we know, thus adding a dimension to
the world—“knowledge to the square.” Evolution is now proceeding through
technology, urbanization, and geometrically expanding communications links. He
86 Philosophic Wonders
defines the noosphere as “The idea is that of the Earth becoming enclosed in a single
thinking envelope so as to form a single vast grain of thought on the sidereal scale.”
The work of Christ is leading the material world to cosmic redemption. Evil consists
of growing pains, and the human epic resembles “nothing so much as a way of the
Cross.” In the final state of evolution, when all potential for further development is
complete, the convergence of humanity, nature, and the supernatural will be brought
forth in the Parousia, or Second Coming of Christ, converging in a final unity—the
Omega Point.
After three years of performing, Elvis Presley records “Heartbreak Hotel.” Cecil B.
DeMille’s The Ten Commandments becomes the second most successful film ever
released, after Gone With the Wind. Martin Luther King, Jr, organizes a boycott of
public transit in Montgomery.
Geoffrey and Margaret Burbidge, William Fowler, and Fred Hoyle publish a paper
stating how all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium are synthesized within
supernovae, then dispersed to be incorporated in subsequent generations of stars,
disclosing that all of life is thus made of stardust.
John Bardeen, Leon Cooper, and J. Robert Schrieffer show that electrons can form
pairs whose quantum properties allow them to travel without resistance, providing an
explanation for the zero electrical resistance of superconductors.
Noam Chomsky sets out his theory of transformational grammar in Syntactic
Structures. Chomsky argues that the structure of language is innate, deep, generative
grammars from which surface structures are formed. The deep or transformational
rules correspond to genetically transmitted mental structures and thus are basically
the same in all languages.
Sputnik is launched.
The Boeing 707 begins regular air service.
Edmund Schulman discovers the bristlecone pine “Methuselah,” aged 4,723 years,
the world’s oldest known living tree, in California.
Hitchcock releases Vertigo. To screenwriter Ernest Lehman, Hitchcock states ”Ernie,
do you realize what we’re doing in this picture (North by Northwest)? The audience is
like a giant organ… At one moment we play this note on them and get this reaction,
and then we play that chord and they react that way. And someday we won’t even
have to make a movie—there’ll be electrodes implanted in their brains, and we’ll just
press different buttons and they’ll go ‘ooooh’ and ‘aaaah’ and we’ll frighten them, and
make them laugh. Won’t that be wonderful?”
87 Philosophic Wonders
Responding to Sputnik, President Eisenhower creates the Advanced Research
Projects Agency (ARPA) to oversee development of space and military programs,
computers, and communications systems—preparing the way for the Internet.
The silicon chip is invented.
Yakir Aharonov and David Bohm predict that a magnetic field affects the quantum
properties of an electron in a way that is forbidden by classical physics. The
Aharonov-Bohm effect is observed in 1960.
Lunik I is the first artificial body to escape the gravitational field of Earth, fly past the
Moon and enter orbit around the Sun. Lunik II crashes on the Moon. Lunik III sends
the first photos of the far side of the Moon.
In the Olduvai Gorge, Louis Leakey finds skull fragments dating Australopithecene
human beings 1.78 million years ago.
Norman O. Brown publishes Life Against Death.
Semiotics, structuralism, and deconstructionism
Hume established that any knowing is limiting. Ferdinand de Saussure and Jacques
Derrida are skeptical of any established meaning. Semiotics or semiology (deriving
from the pragmatism of C. S. Peirce and Saussure) is the study of any cultural
product (e.g., a text) as a formal system of signs. Saussure’s key notion of the
arbitrary nature of the sign means that the relation of words to things is not natural
but conventional; thus a language is essentially a self-contained system of signs,
wherein each element is meaningless by itself and meaningful only by its
differentiation from the other elements. This linguistic model has influenced recent
literary criticism, leading away from the study of an author’s biography or a work’s
social setting and toward the internal structure of the text itself—structuralism.
Semiotics is not limited to linguistics, however, since virtually anything (e.g., gesture,
clothing, toys) can function as a sign. Often considered the founder of structuralism,
Saussure contends that language must be considered as a structured, social
phenomenon that can be viewed synchronically as it exists at any particular time and
diachronically as it changes in the course of time. Parole is the speech of the
individual person, and langue is a systematic, structured language existing at a given
time within a given society. Psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan emphasizes the primacy of
language as the mirror of the unconscious mind and reinterprets Freud's work in
structuralist terms.
Deconstruction in linguistics, philosophy, and literary theory, the exposure and
undermining of the metaphysical assumptions involved in systematic attempts to
ground knowledge, especially in academic disciplines such as structuralism and
semiotics. The term “deconstruction” was coined by French philosopher Jacques
Derrida in the 1960s. In general, deconstruction is a philosophy of meaning, which
deals with the ways that meaning is constructed by writers, texts, and readers.
88 Philosophic Wonders
Extending the philosophical excursions of Nietzsche and Heidegger, Derrida criticized
the entire tradition of Western philosophy’s search to discover the essential structure
of knowledge and reality, ultimately confronting the limits of human thought. As an
extension of his theory of logocentrism, Derrida posited that all texts are based on
hierarchical dualisms (e.g., being/nonbeing, reality/appearance, male/female), where
the first element is regarded as stronger and thus essentially true and that all
systems of thought have an assumed center, or Archimedean point, upon which they
are based. In a deconstructionist reading, this unconscious and unarticulated point
is revealed, and in this revelation the binary structure upon which the text rests is
imploded. Thus what appears stable and logical is revealed to be illogical and
paradoxical, and interpretation is by its very nature misinterpretation. To a
deconstructionist, meaning includes what is left out of the text or ignored or silenced
by it. Because deconstruction is an attack on the very existence of theories and
conceptual systems, its exposition by Derrida and others purposely resists logical
definitions and explanations, opting instead for alinear presentations based on
extensive wordplay and puns. Deconstructionists tend to concentrate on close
readings of particular texts, focusing on how these texts refer to other texts.
For Derrida, any proposition closes doors to alternatives—the “tyranny” of
logocentricism. In the kenotic theory of language, writing, rewriting, and unwriting
lead to an emptiness that is the absence of presence and a free play of imagination.
Thinking must be “desubstantialized” as groundless and arbitrary. All worldviews
and standpoints conceal ulterior motivations. Belief systems are illusory power
complexes, “socially produced” controlling forces. Reality equals textuality. Différance
is delaying, substituting-for, and deferring the possibility of the signified to open the
re-thinking of philosophy. Apória indicates places where texts create impasses,
revealing the unreliabilty of language and opening up to différance. Differential play
in deconstruction is kaleidoscopically approached through traces of the groundless
ground of knowing. Writing under erasure alludes to the transience and arbitrariness
of assertions and signs. Supplementarity describes the multiplicity of significations
that counter the logocentric drive to make precise equations between signs and
referents. The concept of the self disappears in a free-floating matrix of signs. The
individual and a specified meaning-text is devalorized in favor of a diffuse, cultural
context. No individual subject speaks, but rather it is the materialistic languagematrix that operates in communication events. Deconstructionism emphasizes
demystification, difference, multiplicity, discontinuity, dispersion, disappearance,
dissemination, and centerlessness. Aspirations to notions such as unity,
reconciliation, harmony, connectedness, embodiment, totality, and the whole, are
Michel Foucault explores the frontiers of possible experience in forming an “ontology
of ourselves,” moving from “an interrogation of the limit and of transgression” toward
“an interrogation of the return of the self.” Philosophy “gets a grip on itself again only
on its borders and limits” where the “at the center of this disappearance of the
philosophizing subject, philosophical language proceeds, as if through a labyrinth.”
To learn the development and uses of power with regard to mental illness,
punishment, and sexuality, one does well to examine institutions shaped by
“principles of exclusion” such as asylums, hospitals, and prisons.
89 Philosophic Wonders
Knowledge is an "invention" behind which lies something completely different from
itself: a play of instincts, impulses, desires, fear, a will to appropriate. It is produced
not as a result of the harmony or happy equilibrium of these elements, but rather as
a result of their antagonism. It is always enslaved, dependent, and enthralled. And if
it presents itself as knowledge of the truth, it is because it produces the truth,
through the play of a primary and always reconstituted falsification, which
establishes the distinction between the true and the false.
I think that the central issue of philosophy and critical thought since the eighteenth
century, has been, still is, and will, I hope, remain the question, What is this Reason
that we use? What are its historical effects? What are its limits, and what are its
dangers. How can we exist as rational beings, fortunately committed to practicing a
rationality that is unfortunately crisscrossed by intrinsic dangers?
//Michel Foucault
The first quasar is discovered, a hundred times brighter than our galaxy yet only a
little larger than our solar system. Quasars seem to occur at the center of galaxies
colliding with other galaxies.
The first weather satellite, Tiros I, is placed in orbit.
Computerized meteorological studies by Edward Lorenz produce the Lorenz Attractor.
Theodore Maiman builds the first practical laser.
Searle introduces birth control pills. Tripling in less than a hundred years, world
population passes three billion.
Jung dies at age 86.
Yuri Gagarin is the first cosmonaut to orbit the Earth. Alan Shepard achieves the
first American suborbital space flight.
At the height of the Cold War and to achieve a nuclear-war-resistant network, Paul
Baran introduces a communications method called packet switching, eventually
becoming the Arpanet, precursor to the Internet. Rather than channeled through
fixed circuits, information is circulated in active packages, each taking a different
path through multiple communication links to its final destination.
FCC Chairman Newton Minow describes television as a “vast wasteland.”
Procter and Gamble markets Pampers, the first disposable diaper.
90 Philosophic Wonders
Kennedy and Khrushchev face off in the Cuban missile crisis. Telstar relays the first
live video images between the US and Europe. Thomas S. Kuhn publishes The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The Esalen Instititute is founded. Rachel Carson
warns of planetary environmental collapse in The Silent Spring.
And what is the meaning of so tiny a being as the transparent wisp of protoplasm
that is sea lace, existing for some reason inscrutable to us—a reason that demands
its presence by the trillion amid the rocks and weeds of the shore? The meaning
haunts and ever eludes us, and in its very pursuit we approach the ultimate mystery
of life itself.
//Rachel Carson
Epistemological crisis
Since Hume, an undercurrent in all philosophical and scientific streams has brought
forth the epistemological crisis of Western thought. Epistemology is concerned with
knowing what is truthful—reliable, consistent, and useful. What do we think we
know, and how do we know what we think we know? Ontology concerns what truly
exists apart from apparent knowledge we think we have.
Realism preserves the mind/matter dualism of Descartes and Kant and holds that
matter has an objective existence independent of mind. Scientific text is produced by
the mind which exactly mirrors reality, gathering reliable, objective knowledge, and
reporting universal, empirical facts with logical contingency By the correspondence
theory, what we think depends upon the way the world is. By the identity theory,
what there is determines whether or not a proposition is true. Scientific inquiry is
self-correcting and provides increasingly accurate descriptions of what is, as
indicated the success of scientific realism in the applied sciences and technology.
Ontologically, the entities described by science exist in nature independently of the
Originating with Hume, constructivism holds that features of sense impressions,
combined with innate propensities of mind, cause us to construct material objects
out of the contents of our minds. A scientist’s own views build a logical necessity into
conceptual structures, and all but the most pure observations reflect these patterns.
Thus one’s view of nature mirrors one’s own mind. Constructivism holds that science
provides coherent, consistent organizations across scales of magnitude that are
authentic only when they exemplify interpretations in a whole complex of theory that
is meaningful. The whole is more important than the parts.
Conventionalism affirms constructivism and discerns that most theory reflects
mental patterns built on the basis of received, consensual knowledge. Thomas S.
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Kuhn argues that science develops knowledge in accordance with paradigms in terms
of which models are based and facts are established by the “consent of the relevant
Scientific knowledge consists of practical measurements, computations, and problem
solving. Propositions have meaning only in specific operations and under controlled
circumstances, and nothing needs to be read into science beyond operational
meanings. Operationalism reflects the commitment of pragmatism to common sense
and useful knowledge even if scientific texts are more useful fictions than realist or
idealist truths.
A theory is a good theory if it satisfies two requirements: It must accurately describe
a large class of observations on the basis of a model that contains only a few
arbitrary elements, and it must make definite predictions about the results of future
//Stephen Hawking
Instrumentalism holds that scientific texts, even if imaginatively invented, serve
practical functions, and the problems of the nature of things-in-themselves is
suspended as uselessly metaphysical, supersititous, or irrelevant
Phenomenalism finds theories in-themselves to be artifacts of abstraction, and
scientific texts form phenomena for study.
Anti-positivist and anti-rationalist arguments, such as those of Michael Polanyi and
Arthur Koestler emphasize the discovery functions of intuition and chance, and find
science to be a creative act of imagination.
Integral philosophies
Integral epistemologies find that science grows through subjective and interactive
processes that recognize that human life has much more than an incidental and
peripheral role in the Universe. The tendency is toward unity rather than separation,
and appreciation of the irreducible components of wholeness and the contributions of
consciousness. Humans seem to be interactive participants in a living Universe.
Biologist Gregory Bateson argues that scientists need to pursue not causes and
things but pattern and relations. In D.T. Campbell’s evolutionary epistemology, the
progression of scientific theory provides each generation a model of the Universe
more independent of any fixed perspective. In theories of mind, the problem of access
to “other minds” requires that all knowing be viewed dialogically. Errors of divergent
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or of successive viewpoints seem to consist less of what knowledge is affirmed than of
what knowledge is excluded, or how and when the limits and boundaries of
understanding are defined.
Feminist epistemology
Feminist epistemologists can discern patterns that make it appropriate to ask of any
ideal objectivity, Out of whose subjectivity has this ideal grown? Whose standpoint,
whose values does it represent? The point of the questions is to discover how
subjective and objective conditions together produce knowledge, values, and
epistemolog. An epistemologist has to devise ways of positioning and repositioning
herself within the structures she analyzes, to untangle the values at work within
them and to assess their implications. The next steps cannot merely be the addition
of some notes about women’s subjugated knowledge to the existing corpus of received
knowledge, or the integration of women on equal terms into received epistemological
theories. They must transform the terms of the discourse, challenge the structures of
the epistemological project. Such transformations will reveal that the discourses
feminists are developing are themselves empowering, informing innovative practices,
and producing a resistance against domination that signals profound inner
//Lorraine Code
The observer and the observed are in the same causal scientific plane. All scientific
knowledge is always, in every respect, socially situated. What kind of theoretical
framework will enable us to understand sciences-in-society and the consequent
society-in-sciences? How can the natural and social sciences be lead to take
responsibility for their social locations and thus for their origins, values and
consequences? To ask this is to ask a social science question. Adequate social
studies of the science turn out to be the necessary foundations upon which more
comprehensive and less distorted descriptions and explanations of nature can be
built. This conclusion is demanded by recognition that the culture “knows” a great
deal that we individuals do not.
//Sandra Harding
There seems at present to be only partial agreement between men and women about
the adulthood they commonly share.
Among the most pressing items on the agenda for research on adult development
is the need to delineate in women’s own terms the experience of their adult life. My
own work in that direction indicates that the inclusion of women’s experience brings
to developmental understanding a new perspective on relationships that changes the
basic constructs of interpretation.
My research suggests that men and women may speak different languages that
they assume are the same, using similar words to encode disparate experiences of
self and social relationships.
As we have listened for centuries to the voices of men and the theories of
development that their experience informs, so we have come more recently to notice
not only the silence of women but the difficulty in hearing what they say when they
speak. Yet in the different voice of women lies the truth of an ethic of care, the tie
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between relationship and responsibility, and the origins of aggression in the failure of
connection. The failure to see the different reality of women’s lives and to hear the
differences in their voices stems in part from the assumption that there is a single
mode of social experience and interpretation. By positing instead two different modes,
we arrive at a more complex rendition of human experience which sees the truth of
separation and attachment in the lives of women and men and recognizes how these
truths are carried by difference modes of language and thought.
To understand how the tension between responsibilities and rights sustains the
dialectic of human development is to see the integrity of two disparate modes of
experience that are in the end connected.
Though this expansion in perspective, we can begin to envision how a marriage
between adult development as it is currently portrayed and women’s development as
it begins to be seen could lead to a changed understanding of human development
and a more generative view of human life.
//Carol Gilligan
Hans-Georg Gadamer contrasts explanation with understanding. Understanding
involves an interplay of past and present, a “fusion of horizons.” Interpretation can be
“authentic,” making the best reflective use of the pre-understanding or “pre-judice”
which are inevitable. It is important to explore pre-understandings and all the
relations to the world and to history that they involve. Understanding of the past not
only depends on, but also promotes, “self-understanding.” Texts in dialogue should
be considered for the background questions to which they respond, and for their
effects on the specific audiences to which they are addressed.
Martin Luther King Jr. preaches “I have a dream,” on the steps of the Lincoln
Memorial. A hotline links the White House and the Kremlin. Pope John XXIII dies.
Kennedy is assassinated. Shortly before her suicide, Sylvia Plath publishes The Bell
Jar. AT&T introduces TouchTone telephones. The Beatles sing “I Want to Hold Your
Delayed by the assassination of President Kennedy, Stanley Kubrick releases Dr.
Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Norbert Weiner
publishes God and Golem, Inc.: A Comment on Certain Points Where Cybernetics
Impinges on Religion. Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson discover a universal cosmic
microwave 3K radiation background. John S. Bell publishes his theorem, "Bell's
inequalities," suggesting quantum non-locality as a fact of nature, and proposing an
experimental test of whether quantum mechanics provides the most complete
possible description of a system.
Malcolm X is assassinated in New York. Ted Nelson coins the term hypertext.
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Xerox introduces the fax machine. Lunik IX accomplishes the first soft landing on the
Moon, sending the first photographs from the surface, and Venus III is the first
spacecraft to land on another planet.
Marshall McLuhan publishes The Medium is the Massage. R. D. Laing publishes The
Politics of Experience. Monterey Pop—first rock festival—is staged at the fairgrounds
in Monterey. Christian Barnard of South Africa accomplishes a successful heart
2001: A Space Odyssey is released.
Having observed the full Earth from space, Apollo 8 astronauts orbiting the Moon on
Christmas Day broadcast a reading from The Book of Genesis.
Aleksandr R. Luria publishes The Mind of Mnemonist; he finds that the mind is part of
a larger biological system (the rest of the body) and also a component of wider
environmental systems. What we refer to as "the self" is the core biological self and
the extended, narrative self in interaction with other brains.
Carlos Casteneda publishes The Teachings of Don Juan.
The Whole Earth Catalog appears.
Plate tectonic theory is introduced.
At 10:56 PM/EDT, on July 20, Neil Armstrong steps onto the Moon. Concorde first
flies. Roger Penrose and Stephen Hawking establish that all matter within a black
hole collapses to a geometric point in space where mass is compressed to infinite
density and zero volume, a singularity. Clauser, Horne, Shimony, and Holt publish
the first experiment, using photon pairs, to prove Bell’s Theorem. Unix is invented
and will become the bedrock of the Internet. Woodstock attracts two hundred
thousand youths. Mothers’ milk is found to contain four times the amount of DDT
permitted in dairy products. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross publishes On Death and Dying.
Earth Day is first observed.
In the next twenty years, 200 million hectares of tree cover will be lost (roughly equal
to the U.S. east of the Mississippi); 480 billion tons of topsoil will be lost (equal to
India’s cropland); deserts will expand by 120 million hectares (more than China’s
total cropland); thousands of species will become extinct; population will increase by
1.6 billion persons (more than world population in 1900).
Arthur Janov publishes The Primal Scream.
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In the 1970s, foundations are laid for the standard model of particle physics, with
matter described as quarks and leptons interacting via the four physical forces:
strong-nuclear, electromagnetic, gravity, and weak-force.
[Postmodernism is indicated by] 1)The end or drastic change of many familiar ways of
living: both the civility and the dangers of big city urban life; the assembly-line-driven
heavy-industry workplaces; the large-scale bureaucratic workplaces...;and the
powerful nation-states... 2) The end or complete reworking of a world of ideas and
interpretations:...scientism, positivism, philosophical materialism, romanticism, and
secular humanism... 3) The end or drastic bringing to responsibility of whole systems
of political and economic exchange: socialism, communism and capitalism. 4) The
end or stylistic transformation of many forms of visual art, music, literature and
//Paul H. Ray
Salyut, the first space station, is orbited. Intel creates its first microprocessor.
Apollo 17 is the last of the Moon missions. Lacking public interest and support, three
of four remaining missions are cancelled. The VCR is marketed. Ray Tomlinson writes
the first e-mail program, establishing the use of the @. Gregory Bateson publishes
Steps to an Ecology of Mind.
Gaia hypothesis, morphic resonance, and autopoeisis
In 1972, James Lovelock introduces the Gaia hypothesis as "a new insight into the
interactions between the living and the inorganic parts of the planet. From this has
arisen the hypothesis, the model, in which the Earth's living matter, air, oceans, and
land surface form a complex system which can be seen as a single organism and
which has the capacity to keep our planet a fit place for life." Earth is a coherent,
living entity. Earth's physical, chemical, and biological components interact and
mutually alter their collective destiny. Planetary metabolism lends organic coherence
to the self-organizing ecosystems within it. In the early 80s,Rupert Sheldrake
proposes the theory of morphogenetic fields, a hypothesis of formative causation in
which the natural biosphere evolves with its own inherent memory. A morphic field
is a field within and around a self-organizing system, containing an inherent memory
transmitted from previous similar systems by morphic resonance and tneding to
become increasingly habitual. Morphic fields include morphogenetic, behavioral,
social, cultural, and mental fieldss. The greater the degree of similarity, the greater
the influence of morphic resonance. In general, systems most closely resember
themselves in the past and are subject to self-resonance—morphic resonance—from
their own past states. Morphic resonance involves transmission of formative
influences through or across time and space without a decrease due to distance or
lapse of time. Also in the early 80s, Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana
introduce the notion of autopoiesis [see Complexity Theory below].
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Autopoiesis refers to the dynamic, self-producing, and self-maintaining activities of
all living beings. The simplest, smallest known autopoietic entity is a single bacterial
cell. The largest is probably Gaia. Cells and Gaia display general properties of
autopoietic entities; as their surroundings change unpredictably, they maintain their
structural integrity and internal organization, at the expense of solar energy, by
remaking and interchanging their parts. Metabolism is the name given to this
incessant activity.
//Lynn Margulis
If one stretches out the DNA contained in the nucleus of a human cell, one obtains a
two-yard-long thread that is only ten atoms wide….
A thread of DNA is much smaller that the visible light humans perceive. Even the
most powerful optical microscopes cannot reveal it, because DNA is approximately
120 times narrower than the smeallest wavelength of light.
The nucleus of a cell is equivalent in volume to 2-millionths of a pinhead. The
two-yeard thread of DNA packs in to this minute volume by coiling up endlessly on
itself, thereby reconciling extreme length and infinitesimal smallness, like mythical
The average human being is made of 100 thousand billion cells, according to
some estimates. This means that there are approximately 125 billion miles of DNA in
a human body—corresponding to 70 round-trips between Saturn and the Sun….
Your personal DNA is long enough to wrap around the Earth 5 million times.
(Francis Crick), co-discoverer of the structure of DNA) calculates the probability of
the chance emerge of one single protein (which could then go on to build the first
DNA molecule). In all living species, proteins are made up of exactly the same 20
amino acids, which are small molecules. The average protein is a long chain made up
of approximately 200 amino acids, chosen from those 20, and strung together in the
right order. According to the laws of combinatorials, there is 1 chance in 20
multiplied by itself 200 times for a single specific protein to emerge fortuitously. This
figure, which can be written 20200, and which is roughly equivalent to 10260 power), is
enormously greater that the number of atoms in the observable universe (estimated
at 1080)….
//Jeremy Narby
Genes are spliced for first time. The Skylab mission begins. Lunar astronaut Edgar
Mitchell founds the Institute of Noetic Sciences. The first national conference of the
Association for Transpersonal Psychology occurs. Jean Gebser dies.
Integrative psychologies
Humanistic psychology
Abraham Maslow describes behaviorism as the “First Force” in psychology, viewing
consciousness as private, subjective, and inaccessible to scientific study. Depth
psychology, the “Second Force,” emphasizes unconscious drives. Humanistic
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psychology is the “Third Force” and studies qualities that unique to human life such
as love, self-consciousness, self-determination, personal freedom, greed, lust for
power, cruelty, morality, art, philosophy, religion, literature, and science. Humanistic
psychology emphasizes the dignity and worth of human beings and the capacity to
develop personal competence and self-respect.
Hierarchy of needs
growth motivation
deficiency motivation
peak experiences
creativity / transcendence
metaneeds / metavalues:
(beauty / unity / truth/ justice)
Love / Belongingness
Physiological / Stimulation
//Abraham Maslow
Other approaches include: unconditional love and accurate, empathetic
understanding (Rogers), bioenergetics (Reich), sensory awareness through movement
(Feldenkreis), encounter (Rogers), reality therapy (Glasser), psychosynthesis
(Assagioli), existential analysis (May), logotherapy (Frankl), neuro-linguistic
programming, and ecopsychology.
Analytical psychology
In the work of Carl Jung, the soul or psyche is real and exists with body and spirit in
the wholeness of self and culture. The instinctual, archetypally patterned, psychic
substrate, collective and personal, is unconscious. Culture and the individual
personality emerge from the unconscious in a complementary field-relationship.
Chaos prevails when the self-regulating and compensatory processes of the emerging
self cannot resolve opposing psychic factors.
Opposing psychic factors include consciousness itself in opposition to the
unconscious, the psychological functions of feeling-thinking, sensing-intuiting, the
attitudes introversion-extraversion, the masculine and the feminine; the dynamics of
inflation-deflation, youth and age, individual and society, and so forth. Among these
reiterative splittings form complexes that are feeling-toned, and charged with energy.
Complexes are evidenced in chronic symptoms and in psychological crisis when the
ego—itself a complex of consciousness opposed to the unconscious—is most
Associated with complexes are projections, the perceiving and reacting to an
unconscious element of one's own personality in that of an another person or in an
other object. Psychological development is the life-long process of integrating
oppositions and projections, toward the fulfillment of the most profound values of
culture, psyche, and self in the greater Self.
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The developmental process can be understood as an archetypal journey through the
structures of consciousness. Mythic consciousness brings forth symbols, images,
imagination, personification, and drama as vessels of knowledge and meaning that
form the basis of coherency in individual development and continuity in community.
The gods and goddesses of the great myths are metaphors and enactments of
archetypal behaviors centering in childhood, adolescence, birthing and parenting,
and death, each with elaborate rites of passage.
Archetypal terms of particular significance through the stages of life are: the psyche
itself, anima and animus, the visible self, persona, in passage through transitional
stages, liminalities, from childhood, puella and puer, to adolescence koré and kouros,
through midlife, Great Mother and Father, to the climacteric, crone and senex.
Factors of the unconscious, negative and positive, which the ego rejects or ignores
are patterned as shadow.
The process of individuation—the unity/uniqueness of each person—is rooted-in and
guided-by the archetypal patterning of the greater Self encompassing and surpassing
all other archetypes. In this process, the transcendent function is the most
significant factor mediating the opposites by way of the symbol which bridges
opposites and allows transformation from one attitude to another. The tendency of
opposites in extreme tension to contravert one into the other, as in love turning to
hate, mania into depression, is enantiadromia. Experience of some aspect of a
transcendental god-image, whether personal or collective, is indicated by symbols of
the numinosum.
Synchronicity is the notion of acausality, or acausal connecting principles.
Relational psychology
Stephen A. Mitchell summarizes relational psychology as having four modes:
Mode 1 concerns what people actually do with each other—nonreflective, presymbolic
behavior, the ways in which relational fields are organized around reciprocal
influence and mutual regulation. Mode 2 is shared experience of intense affect across
permeable boundaries. Mode 3 is experience organized into self-other configurations.
Mode 4 is intersubjectivity, the mutual recognition of self-reflective, agentic persons.
In the beginning, we might say, is the relational, social, linguistic matrix in which we
discover ourselves, or, as Heidegger put it, into which we are "thrown." Within that
matrix are formed, precipitated out, individual psyches with subjectively experienced
interior spaces. Those subjective spaces begin as microcosms of the relational field,
in which macrocosmic interpersonal relationships are internalized and transformed
into a distinctly personal experience; and those personal experiences are, in turn,
regulated and transformed, generating newly emergent properties, which in turn
create new interpersonal forms that alter macrocosmic patterns of interaction.
Interpersonal relationship processes generate intrapsychic relational processes which
reshape interpersonal processes reshaping intrapsychic processes, on and on in an
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endless Mobius strip in which internal and external are perpetually regenerating and
transforming themselves and each other.
//Stephen A. Mitchell
Transpersonal psychology
Transpersonal psychology intends to move beyond ethnocentric biases and to
research non-ordinary states of consciousness and the persistence of life after death,
thanatology. An original stimulus for the establishment of transpersonal psychology
was Maslow's research on self-actualizing persons. Mysticism, spiritual emergency,
pathology and psychosis, addiction, and global crisis are essential dimensions of
Stanislav Grof describes peri-natal matrixes (BPMs): I. Blissful or less than blissful
womb experience before birth process begins; II. Labor contractions bringing feelings
of despair and of death; III. Dilation of cervix and descent into birth canal brining
sense of suffocation and intensification of physical and emotional suffering; IV.
Emergence into the world bringing feelings of anhilation and reburth.
By identifying with intense experiences of the fetus, the individual connects by
resonance to the larger field of species consciousness that can be described in terms
of Sheldrake's morpho-genetic fields, of Jung's collective unconscious, or of the
Oversoul. This involves experiences of wars, revolutions, and atrocities, as well as
triumphs of humanity associated with emotions of unimaginable intensity. It is thus
conceivable—and subjects frequently report this as their insights—that by
experiencing the agonies and ecstasies on a collective scale that represent an integral
part of the perinatal process, the individual heals not just himself or herself, but
contributes to the healing of humankind itself in the sense of the Buddhist archetype
of the Bodhisattva or the Christian archetype of Christ.
//Stan Grof
Chaos psychology
From a traditional point of view, equilibrium and stability mean mental health:
disequilibrium and disorder define pathology. However, the new way of meaning
suggests the disconcerting possibility that mental health and pathology may be just
the reverse of our assumptions all along. That is, psychological pain results when the
self system becomes encapsulated (a futile attempt at equilibrium), in order to
maintain an old way of knowing and to resist the inevitable emergent novelty woven
into the process of living. To the extent that psychologists accept stability and order
as the hallmarks of psychological well being we are accomplices in the individual’s
own assumption that disequilibrium, complexity, and chaos are signs of sickness and
are thus to be avoided. We would do well to consider that the symptoms cast as
pathology in mechanistic, linear models may well reflect an individual precariously
ready to move to a more complex reorganization of his or her own making. Chaos is
not so much pathological as it is a state of maximum readiness for an emerging
reorganized self-system. Individuals with schemas or working models bordering on
chaos are likely to be those most capable of accommodating the inevitable change
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associated with living. Complexity theory may offer a revised scientific basis for
describing and promoting optimal human development and mental health; that is,
individuals most capable of adaptation and growth are those poised at the edge of
//Frank Masterpasqua
Telnet, the first commercial packet-switched networking service is launched.
Chloroflourocarbons are said to endanger the ozone layer. Tibetan Buddhist
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche founds the Naropa Institute in Boulder.
Lévinas—ethical metaphysics
Emmanuel Lévinas publishes Otherwise than Being or Beyond Essence. He dedicates
the book: “To the memory of those who were closest among the six million
assassinated by the National Socialists, and of the millions on millions of all
confessions and all nations, victims of the same hatred of the other man, the same
Responsibility is a fact. It is a fact prior to the facts assembled by coherent, that is,
responsible, discourse…. Responsibility is a bond. It is a bond with an imperative
order, a command. All subjective movements are under an order; subjectivity is this
//Alphonso Lingis
For Lévinas, the psyche is the inordinate responsibility of being-for-the-other before
being-for-oneself…. …Otherwise than Being reveals a self successively characterized
as for-the-other, proximity, diachrony, responsibility, substitution, animation,
incarnation, signifyingness, nonindifference, fraternity, passivity, nakedness,
exposure, prayer, insomnia, irreplaceability, inspiration, election, elevation, disorder,
anarchy, suffering, vulnerability, catastrophying, fissure, denucleation, expiation,
prophecy, revelation, and finally humanity. The structure of the self takes on all
these meanings because it is not an object or a thing or essence or substance, not a
state of being, but a life lived with others….
It has never been more difficult to think—but not just because the quantity of
accumulated and available information has increased geometrically and
geographically, as it has; nor only because, having tried and exhausted more than
two millennia of self-interpretations, and having recently tried several brilliant and
varied renewals, thought no longer knows what to think of itself, no longer has works
for itself, can push its hyper-self-reflection no further; but profoundly, because
thought can no longer think in good conscience. Good conscience is not good enough.
To live the end of metaphysics, its fulfillment and termination, requires, Lévinas
insists, that we take bad conscience seriously, that we recognize the full extent and
weight of our debts and obligations to the Other and to Others, that we value
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goodness and justice above being and order.
//Richard A. Cohen
World population exceeds four billion.
The first test-tube baby conceived outside the mother's body is born.
The first MRI scans are achieved.
The Soviet Tu-144 is the first supersonic cargo plane.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft.
Benoît Mandelbrot, an IBM scientist, coins the term fractal to describe visual
patterns of chaotic equations produced by supercomputers.
The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology is founded.
Andy Warhol states: “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.’ I’m
bored with that line. I never use it anymore. My new line is, ‘In fifteen minutes
everybody will be famous.’”
James Hillman publishes Revisioning Psychology.
Viking lands on Mars. In China, an earthquake kills 242,000 persons in the city of
Tangshan and 100,000 others elsewhere.
The first academic conference on chaos theory occurs. Star Wars is released.
Chaos theory and complexity theory
Chaos theory describes the nature of analinear dynamical systems, or positivefeedback systems. Chaotic patterns are those understood to be recognizable and
describable but never fully predictable.
Systems theory analyzes structures by tracing nodes and nuances of feedback loops
in order to recognize and describe variables, bifurcation points, and sensitivities.
Habituated thinking patterns form limit cycles of what is known and thus
organizationally closed. Systems limited fixed points-of-view and incapable of chaotic
phases lose flexibility. The ‘de-constructing’ of systems allows what needs to die to
die so that new life can emerge. The uncertainty of the Universe is necessary for
Healthy systems don't want homeostasis. They want chaos.
//R. Pool
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To study an analinear dynamical system such as the weather, the calculation of a
given observation is fed back into an operation to form the basis of the next
calculation, thus creating an infinite positive-feedback loop open both to external
influences and to internal variations. Such a system never precisely repeats its initial
state as it bifurcates in self-replicating, self-similar patterns. These patterns are
recognizable and describable but never fully predictable. The interconnectedness of
dynamical systems is open because of the missing information of unknowable, future
iterations. The system is holistic because the missing information of one system
cannot be separated from the missing information of any other system, including
subtle influences of any observer observing any system.
Complexity Theory describes the Universe as a complex of whole systems
spontaneously generating out of a void and self-organizing at thresholds between
chaos and stability. Complexity Theory describes growth processes in terms of
progressive magnitudes of diversity, interconnectedness, and vitality. Each emerging
level of complexity produces novelty [something not present in the organizational
elements of a preceding level]. Autopoeisis refers to a system with a unique history, a
self-renewing structure, and open boundaries connecting with the environment in
extreme complexity.
In my epistemology, the virtual self is evident because it provides a surface for
interaction, but it's not evident if you try to locate it. It's completely delocalized.
Organisms have to be understood as a mesh of virtual selves. I don't have one
identity, I have a bricolage of various identities. I have a cellular identity, I have an
immune identity, I have a cognitive identity, I have various identities that manifest in
different modes of interaction. These are my various selves. I'm interested in gaining
further insight into how to clarify this notion of transition from the local to the global,
and how these various selves come together and apart in the evolutionary dance. In
this sense, what I've studied, say, in color vision for the nervous system or in
immune self-regulation are what Dan Dennett would call "intuition pumps," to
explore the general pattern of the transition from local rules to emergent properties in
life. We have at our disposal beautiful examples to play around with, both in terms of
empirical results and in terms of mathematics and computer simulations. The
immune system is one beautiful, very specific case. But it's not the entire picture. My
autopoiesis work was my first step into these domains: defining what is the minimal
living organization, and conceiving of cellular-automata models for it. I did this in the
early 1970s, way before the artificial-life wave hit the beach. This work was picked up
by Lynn Margulis, in her research and writings on the origins of life, the evolution of
cellular life, and, with James Lovelock, the Gaia hypothesis. Humberto Maturana and
I invented the idea of autopoiesis in 1970. We worked together in Santiago, during
the Socialist years. The idea was the result of suspecting that biological cognition in
general was not to be understood as a representation of the world out there but
rather as an ongoing bringing-forth of a world, through the very process of living
itself. Autopoiesis attempts to define the uniqueness of the emergence that produces
life in its fundamental cellular form. It's specific to the cellular level. There's a
circular or network process that engenders a paradox: a self-organizing network of
biochemical reactions produces molecules, which do something specific and unique:
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they create a boundary, a membrane, which constrains the network that has
produced the constituents of the membrane. This is a logical bootstrap, a loop: a
network produces entities that create a boundary, which constrains the network that
produced the boundary. This bootstrap is precisely what's unique about cells. A selfdistinguishing entity exists when the bootstrap is completed. This entity has
produced its own boundary. It doesn't require an external agent to notice it, or to say,
"I'm here." It is, by itself, a self-distinction. It bootstraps itself out of a soup of
chemistry and physics. The idea arose, also at that time, that the local rules of
autopoiesis might be simulated with cellular automata. At that time, few people had
ever heard of cellular automata, an esoteric idea I picked up from John von Neumann
— one that would be made popular by the artificial-life people. Cellular automata are
simple units that receive inputs from immediate neighbors and communicate their
internal state to the same immediate neighbors. In order to deal with the circular
nature of the autopoiesis idea, I developed some bits of mathematics of self-reference,
in an attempt to make sense out of the bootstrap — the entity that produces its own
boundary. The mathematics of self-reference involves creating formalisms to reflect
the strange situation in which something produces A, which produces B, which
produces A. That was 1974. Today, many colleagues call such ideas part of
complexity theory.
//Francesco Varela
The first birth by in vitro fertilization occurs.
American pragmatist Richard Rorty publishes Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature. He
argues that Cartesian rationalist-idealist philosophy is a substitution for religion and
should be set aside. Naturally occuring smallpox is eradicated.
The first multi-user dungeon software for role-playing games is created.
Erich Jantsch publishes The Self-Organizing Universe. Ilya Prigogine publishes From
Being to Becoming, advancing the theory of "dissipative structures" by applying
thermodynamics to biology.
China exceeds a billion in population. Columbia, the first space shuttle, is launched.
IBM launches the PC. MTV begins broadcasting. The first official report on AIDS is
issued by the Center for Disease Control describing a disease first identified in Los
Angeles among homosexual men. Willis Harman publishes Global Mind Change.
The Ecozoic Age
In 1981, Thomas Berry publishes The Dream of the Earth, stating that human
cultures may best be understood as Earth’s dreaming function. Berry speaks of a
new age of organic interdependence as the Ecozoic Age. Only with a synthesis of the
physical and spiritual complexity and beauty of the Universe, Earth, life, and
104 Philosophic Wonders
consciousness, can a “new story” emerge meaningfully enough to energize a
reinvention of cultures with the goal of creating and maintaining a sustainable world
The main task of the immediate future is to assist in activating the intercommunion
of all the living and non-living components of the Earth community in what can be
considered the emerging ecological period of earth development. Functionally, the
great art of achieving this historical goal is the art of intimacy and distance, the
capacity of beings to be totally present to each other while further affirming and
enhancing the differences and identities of each.
//Thomas Berry
The Internet Age begins with EUNet, the European Unix Network. Widespread
development of PC-based local area networks, LANs, begins. CDs are introduced. At
the University of Paris-South, Alain Aspect carries out an experimental test that
proves Bell’s theorem and the quantum signature of non-locality.
Nature has shown us that our concept of reality, consisting of units that can be
considered as separate from each other, is fundamentally wrong. For this reason,
Bell’s theorem may be the most profound discovery of science.
//Menas Kafatos and Thalia Kafatou
The term cyberspace is introduced by William Gibson in the novel Neuromancer. The
Apple Macintosh is marketed. The year of George Orwell’s futuristic novel passes.
America Online is established. Scientists discover a hole as large as the US in the
ozone layer over Antarctica. The first U.S. woman astronaut flies in space. David
Deutsch, a physicist at Oxford, imagines a quantum computer that executes huge
numbers of calculations in parallel and would be able to visit and report on multiple
The Chernobyl meltdown occurs.
Energy traveling from a celestial event reaches Earth after traveling 173,000 years;
astronomers name the event Supernova 1987A.
An Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty between the US and Soviet Union
leads—for the first time in the arms race—to the destruction of a class of weapons.
Stephen Hawking publishes A Brief History of Time. Climatologists in San Francisco
state that it is too late to avoid global warming and predict that within sixty years or
less all life on Earth will be dramatically touched. The first self-replicating worm is
introduced on the Internet. Eli Lilly markets Prozac.
105 Philosophic Wonders
Passing Neptune, Voyager leaves the solar system. At Mt. Palomar, astronomers
discover a quasar about 14 billion light years, or 82 trillion billion miles, from
Earth—the oldest, most distant object yet found formed a little over one billion years
after the beginning of the Universe. Stanford scientists using a revolutionary particle
accelerator report that three families of quarks, two in each family, with companion
particles leptons and neutrinos, are probably all that exist.
Mikhail Gorbachev announces the Cold War is over; East and West German reunite.
Each hour, 365 children under age five die of diarrhea caused by contaminated
water. Safe drinking water is not available for 1.2 billion persons. Two infant girls are
first humans to receive gene therapy. Segi Ogawa and colleagues develop functional
magnetic resonance imaging. In a dispute over Kashmir, India and Pakistan move
toward “the most dangerous nuclear confrontation of the postwar era.” The Hubble
Space Telescope is placed in orbit.
According to the World Bank, more than one billion people survive on less than a
dollar a day. One third of the world’s children are malnourished.
World military expenditures 1960 to 1990 add up to 21 trillion dollars, equivalent in
size to the value of all goods and services produced by and for the 5.3 billion people
on Earth in 1991. Global military stockpiles include 51,000 nuclear weapons.
The Communist Party is disbanded as the Soviet Union disintegrates.
Targeting laser beams at carbon, Sumio Iijima discovers nanotubes, a hundred times
stronger than steel, withstanding temperatures of up to 6,500ºF. With walls one atom
thick, these cylinders of carbon atoms arranged in hexagons have a diameter of one
nanometer, a billionth of a meter, and can be made thousands of times as long as
they are thick.
The World Wide Web is created, and Internet browser and search engines are
NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) shows that the primordial Universe was
not perfectly smooth. Temperature differences of .00003 of a degree from 2.735
degrees above absolute zero indicate clumping just 300,000 years after the Big Bang.
Humans seem to be damaging subtle mechanisms with which the atmosphere
cleanses itself of pollutants, according to NASA scientists.
Changes in gas concentrations indicate unpredictable feedbacks in the atmosphere.
Hydroxyl, sometimes called nature’s vacuum cleaner, seems to have declined by a
third since the beginning of the Industrial Age.
106 Philosophic Wonders
An expanding Arctic hole in the ozone layer will expose populated areas in the
Northern Hemisphere to levels of ultraviolet light increasing skin cancer and
cataracts, lowering immunities, and damaging all living things.
World Health Organization estimates AIDS pandemic may bring infection to 30 to 40
million persons.
Boris Yeltsin, president of Russia, calls for nuclear powers to put nuclear weapons on
zero alert: “The Cold War confrontation has become a thing of the past, but we have
inherited from it mountains of weapons, huge armies and entire defense-oriented
industries employing millions of people.”
A papal commission, convened by John Paul II in 1979, issues a formal apology for
the trial and conviction of Galileo in 1633.
The U.S. Census reports 31.8 million US residents—more than half of whom live
reside in California, New York, and Florida—speak at least one of 329 foreign
languages at home. California’s population of 29.9 million in 1990 is estimated to
grow to 63.4 million by the year 2040 with the population of Los Angeles County
projected to double from 8.9 million to 16.2 million. In California, of 100 school
children, 17 live below poverty level, 21 don’t speak English fluently, and 7 live in
families suspected of child abuse. Homicide is the leading cause of death among
those aged 20-24 and second-leading cause of death for those aged 13-19.
Fifty to a hundred species become extinct each day, the greatest rate since the
demise of dinosaurs. Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson writes in the New York
Times: “Is humanity suicidal? Is the drive to environmental conquest and selfpropagation embedded so deeply in our genes as to be unstoppable?”
Scientists show that gene therapy can correct the underlying defect that causes
cystic fibrosis. The approach uses genetically engineered cold viruses to ferry healthy
genes into the body. Two cases of “complete spontaneous corrections ”—reverse
mutations—are reported.
Researchers at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose capture images of "waveparticle duality" by placing 48 iron atoms into a "quantum corral" of "delocalized
electronic function."
NASA radar tracks the asteroid Toutatis, a two-chunk object with a combined width
of about 4.1 miles within 2.2 million miles of Earth. There is a 1:10,000 chance
‘during our lifetime’ that an asteroid measuring at least a third of a mile will hit
Earth, destroy food crops and ‘possibly end civilization as we know it.’ With a wider
asteroid, ‘even the survival of the human species would be at risk.’
Representatives at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago warn that the
world is in the throes of pervasive economic, environmental and political crises.
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In the premiere issue of WIRED, editor Louis Rossetto writes, about: “the meaning or
context of social changes so profound their only parallel is probably the discovery of
fire. In the age of information overload, the ultimate luxury is meaning and context.”
The top quark is discovered. Eric Cornell, Carl Wieman, and Wolfgang Ketterle trap
clouds of metallic atoms cooled to less than a millionth of a degree above absolute
zero, producing Bose-Einstein condensates. This accomplishment leads to the
creation of the atom lazer and superfluid gases.
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms global warming.
UNICEF’s, The Progress of Nations 1995, reports: “A world where the vast majority of
children are free from malnutrition, illiteracy, and some of the most prevalent
diseases could be achieved in a decade, if given priority.”
The U. N. Fourth World Conference on Women in China is the largest gathering of
women in history. Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi urges world governments to
spend “less on the war toys of grown men and much more on the urgent needs of
humanity as a whole. The education and empowerment of women throughout the
world cannot fail to result in a more caring, tolerant, just and peaceful life for all.”
The Internet gains thirty to forty million users worldwide.
Consciousness studies
I came back from space with a puzzlement: In one moment I realized that this
Universe is intelligent. It is proceeding in a direction and we have something to do
with that direction. And that creative spirit, the creative intent that has been the
history of this planet, comes from within us, and it is out there— it is all the same.
Now we don’t really understand this very well at all. If we change our heads about
who we are—and can see ourselves as creative, eternal beings creating physical
experience, joined at that level of existence we call consciousness—then we start to
see and create this world that we live in quite differently.
//Edgar Mitchell, lunar astronaut and founder, Instititute of Noetic Sciences
We claim to be seeking an epistemology for the study of consciousness. Since all of
our experience is in consciousness, that leaves nothing out. Present science
constitutes a base camp, so to speak. It competently deals with a certain kind of
knowledge that which aims at prediction and control. However, modern society’s
mistake was to believe that, with that base camp, the summit was in sight... Scouting
parties have gone ahead, and we know something of what will be encountered. What
will save us from deception is continual reminding that (a) any science we can share
through words, formulas, and images is at best models and metaphors representing
certain aspects of experienced reality, and (b) that the best we can do now will
undoubtedly seem inadequate as our organs of perception are enhanced through
personal transformation.
//Willis Hartman
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McLuhan on technology and the future of human nature
In the early 1990s, two books by Marshall McLuhan were posthumously published:
The Global Village: Transformations in World Life and Media in the 21st Century, coauthored with Bruce Powers, and Laws of Media: The New Science, co-authored with
McLuhan’s son Eric.
Marshall McLuhan observes that all cultural situations are composed of an area of
attention (figure) and a very much larger area of inattention (ground). The two are in
a continual state of interplay, with a resonating interval between them that
simultaneously defines both.
Instincts and intentions shape behaviors. Behaviors shape perceptions and condition
consciousness. Consciousness forms reality. Technologies shape perceptions. All
information technologies form language, originating with the ability to extend our
capacities into the environment. What we make we then perceive as reality. However,
perceiving is always human because it is always a nexus of facts and values.
Technological devices are merely tools. Technology creates media environments. A
medium is an environment, ground not figure. Content of any medium (field) is the
inventory of the effects of technological tools on users (figure). Any intention is a
mental tool, an artifact, “a word, a metaphor that translates experience from one
form into another.” Field-figure shifts occur with resonating intervals that define both
In the tetradic model, “all media forms
(a) intensify something in a culture, while, at the same time [figure]
(b) obsolescing something else [ground]
(c) retrieve a phase or factor long ago pushed aside [figure]
(d) undergo a reversal or modification when extended beyond the limits of their
potential [ground]”
Extending the functions of the body, media are environments of changing ratiosfo
seeing, hearing, touching, tasting-smelling (the sensorium). Extension of one function
is amputation of another. The anesthetic to such amputations is ‘narcissistic
By bringing about rapid shifts of microcosmic/macrocosmic perspectives, information
technologies have radical psychic consequences. At light-speed, information
technologies reaches total acceleration of information flow; linear-rational one-at-atimedness is replaced with simultaneity—ubiquity. Information overload may bring
expanded pattern recognition, interconnectedness, and even spiritual integration.
However, information technologies carry the propensity of human beings to worship
extensions of ourselves as numinous—“the extensions of human consciousness
projecting themselves into the total world environment via electronics, forcing
humankind into a robotic future.” A closed, unconscious roboticism could bring
apocalyptic changes as the First World moves toward electronic tribalism and the
Third World rapidly moves from pre-literate tribalism to post-literate information
109 Philosophic Wonders
overload and narcissistic numbness, selective inattention, meaninglessness, and
discarnate angelism.
In Old Testament terms all extensions and amplifications of man dehumanized him,
from Cain onward.
At electric speed, all forms are pushed to the limits of their potential.
The medium, or process, of our time—electric technology—is reshaping and
restructuring patterns of social interdependence and every aspect of our personal life.
It is forcing us to reconsider and re-evaluate practically every thought, every action,
and every institution formerly taken for granted. Everything is changing—you, your
family, your neighborhood, your education, your job, your government, your relation
to "the others." And they're changing dramatically.
The new electronic interdependence recreates the world in the image of a global
We have become irrevocably involved with and responsible for each other.
The three-year-old standing up in his playpen in front of the TV sees as much of the
adult world as anybody.
The new media and technologies by which we amplify and extend ourselves
constitute huge collective surgery carried out on the social body. It is not the incised
area that is most affected. The area of impact and incision is numb. It is the entire
system that is changed. No society has ever known enough about its actions to have
developed immunity to its new extensions or technologies.
Feudalism was an emotional system of corporate loyalties tied to a shared image, like
a primitive totem symbol. Feudalism melted before the impact of gunpowder and
printing. Such is the modern corporation. The fragmented echelons of the
organization chart have fused into a common image of group involvement, the new
post-literate conglomerate. Like the individualist "nation," the old forms of private
business and wealth have merged into a vast tribalism under the impact of electric
Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private
manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and
ears and nerves, we don't really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and
nerves to commercial interests is like handing over the common speech to a private
corporation, or like giving the earth's atmosphere to a company as a monopoly.
Computerized data transmission will enhance the instantaneous sending of large
amounts of data, yet at the same time, it will obsolesce meaning (the human ability to
decode). It will retrieve pattern recognition but flip into a loss of meaning, which is a
loss of identity. Again, the transmission of data at the speed of light creates nonpersons.
110 Philosophic Wonders
When the technology of a time is powerfully thrusting in one direction, wisdom may
well call for a countervailing thrust. The implosion of electric energy in our century
cannot be met by explosion or expansion, but it can be
met by decentralism and the flexibility of multiple small centers.
//Marshall McLuhan
Heidegger on the Danger
That for the sake of which thought gets under way is he Lichtung or clearing in which
beings come to presence. Thought must pursue the mystery of this clearing: the need
of unconcealment for self-concealing; the need of self-showing or upsurgence for
reticence or hiding; the need of gathering for sheltering. Most mysterious is the
reciprocal play of Lēthē and Alētheia in the clearing. Whatever the origins of that
insatiable need for self-concealment, it is essential that at the end of philosophy—no
matter hows that “end” may be understood, whether as the achievement of absolute
knowing or science (Hegel), the consummation of nihilism (Nietzsche), the closure of
the metaphysics of presence and/or the foundering of every apocalyptic invocation of
“ends” (Derrida)—our thinking remember the task Heraclitus and Parmenides
assigned it: to protect the interplay of unconcealment and concealment in the
Lichtung des Seins. Such protect Socrates called “wonder,” whose daughter is
iridescent speech.
//David Farrell Krell, introducing “The End of Philosophy and the Task of Thinking”
Philosophy is ending in the present age. It has found its place in the sciencitific
attitude of socially active humanity. But the fundamental characteristic of this
scientific attitude is its cybernetic, that is, technological character. The need to ask
about modern technology is presumably dying out to the same extent that modern
technology more decisively characterizes and directs the appearance of the totality of
the world and the position of man in it. The sciences will interpret everything in their
structure that is still reminiscent of their provenance from philosophy in accordance
with the rules of science, that is, technologically. Every science understands the
categories upon which it remains dependent for the articulation and delineation of its
area of investigation as working hypotheses. Not only is their truth measured in
terms of the effect that their application brings about within the progress of research,
scientific truth is also equated with the efficiency of these effects. The sciences are
now taking over as their own task what philosophy in the course of its history tried to
present in certain place, and even there only inadequately, that is, the ontologies of
the various regions of beings (nature, history, law, art). The interest of the sciences is
directed toward the theory of the necessary structural concepts of the coordinate
areas of investigation. “Theory” means now supposition of the categories, which are
allowed only a cybernetic function, but denied any ontological meaning. The
operational and model-based character of representational-calculative thinking
becomes dominant.
The end of philosophy proves to be the triumph of the manipulable arrangement of a
scientific-technological world and of the social order proper to this world. The end of
111 Philosophic Wonders
philosophy means the beginning of the world civilization that is based upon Western
European thinking.
It is just as uncertain whether world civilization will soon be abruptly destroyed or
whether it will be stabilized for a long time. Such stabilization, however, will not rest
in something enduring, but establish itself in a sequence of changes, each presenting
the latest novelty. Perhaps there is a thinking that is more sober-minded than the
incessant frenzy of rationalization and the intoxicating quality of cybernetics. One
might say that it is precisely this intoxication that is extremely irrational.
Perhaps there is a thinking outside he distinction of rational and irrational, more
sober-minded still than scientific technology, more sober-minded and hence removed,
without effect, yet having its own necessity. The task of thinking would then be the
surrender of previous thinking to the determination of the matter for thinking.
Everywhere we remain unfree and chained to technology, whether we passionately
affirm or deny it. Technology is a mode of revealing. Man does not have control over
unconcealment itself, in which at any given time the actual shows itself or withdraws.
The unconcealment of the unconcealed has already propriated whenever it calls man
forth into the modes of revealing allotted to him. The essence of freedom is originally
not connected with the will or even with the causality of human willing. Freedom
governs the free space in the sense of the cleared, that is to say, the revealed.
The essence of technology lies in enframing. Its holding sway belongs within
destining. Since destining at any given time starts man on a way of revealing, man,
thus under way, is continually approaching the brink of the possibility of pursuing
and promulgating nothing but what is revealed in ordering, and of deriving all his
standards on this basis. Through this the other possibility is blocked—that man
might rather be admitted sooner and ever more primally to the essence of what is
unconcealed and to its unconcealment, in order that he might experience as his
essence the requisite belonging to revealing.
Placed between these possibilities, man is endangered by destining. The destining of
revealing is as such, in every one of its modes, and therefore necessarily, danger. In
whatever way the destining of revealing may hold sway, the unconcealment in which
everything that is shows itself at any given time harbors the danger that man may
misconstrue the unconcealed and
misinterpret it.
Man stands so decisively in subservience to on the challenging-forth of enframing
that he does not grasp enframing as a claim, that he fails to see himself as the one
spoken to, and hence also fails in every way to hear in what respect he ek-sists, in
terms of his essence, in a realm where he is addressed, so that he can never
encounter only himself. Thus where enframing reigns, there is danger in the highest
sense. The essence of technology is in a lofty sense ambiguous. Such ambiguity
points to the mystery of all revealing, i.e., of truth. When we look into the ambiguous
essence of technology, we behold the constellation, the stellar course of the mystery.
We look into the danger and see the growth of the saving power.
112 Philosophic Wonders
The essential unfolding of technology threatens revealing, threatens it with the
possibility that all revealing will be consumed in ordering and that everything will
present itself only in the unconcealment of standing-reserve. Human activity can
never directly counter this danger. Human achievement alone can never banish it.
But human reflection can ponder the fact that all saving power must be of a higher
essence than what is endangered, though at the same time kindred to it.
Because the essence of technology is nothing technological, essential reflection upon
technology and decisive confrontation with it must happen in a realm that is, on the
one hand, akin to the essence of technology and, on the other, fundamentally
different from it. Such a realm is art. But certainly only if reflection upon art, for its
part, does not shut its eyes to the constellation of truth, concerning which we are
Thus questioning, we bear witness to the crisis that in our sheer preoccupation with
technology we do not yet experience the essential unfolding of technology, that in our
sheer aesthetic-mindedness we no longer guard and preserve the essential unfolding
of art. Yet the more questioningly we ponder the essence of technology, the more
mysterious the essence of art becomes.
//Martin Heidegger
Adorno on postmodern aesthetics
For Adorno, conceptual forms must be dissolved before they harden into lenses which
distort vision and impair involvements with reality. To ignore socio-political relations
is to justify them by suggesting that the individual is more autonomous than one is.
Aesthetic illusion sustains the hope for an ideology-free utopia that neither theory
nor political activity can secure. “In illusion there is a promise of freedom from
illusion.” When concepts fail, art comes forth as a “concentrated social substance.”
Art is relatively free of repressive social structures and thus represents a demand for
freedom and a critique of society. Even music commercially mass-produced by the
“culture industry” has a social meaning: the repressive irrationality of capitalism.
If thought is not measured by the extremity that eludes the concept, it is from the
outset of the nature of the musical accompaniment with which the SS liked to drown
the screams of its victims.
The only philosophy which can be responsibly practiced in the face of despair is the
attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the
standpoint of redemption. Perspectives must be fashioned that displace and estrange
the world, reveal it to be, with its rifts and crevices, as it will appear one day in the
messianic light. To gain such perspectives without velleity or violence, entirely from
felt contact with its objects—this alone is the task of thought.
//Theodor Adorno
Wurzer on timecapital and filming
113 Philosophic Wonders
Timecapital signifies the twilight of being, a fading into capital. This is the question
that needs to be raised today. Not the question of being itself but rather the question
of its complex itinerary in our time. It is not sufficient to regard this itinerary from
the standpoint of the history of technology. It is more fruitful to see the
disappearance of being in capital from the standpoint of futural comings, from the
global electronic twilight of idols.
This new temporalizing needs a distinct language of reading, interpreting, and
rewriting capital. The possibilities related to this rereading/rewriting, together with
the ready-to-hand global integration of marketing, financing, digitization, and
research, measure today’s great upheaval. Beyond a new source of wealth, beyond
the instantaneous information standard, beyond the end of sovereignties, Zeitcapital
is inextricably linked to “where we stand,” and “how we are” in our time and beyond
A new arrival (re-turn/Zu-kunft) of spectropoetics signifies multiple rewritings of
Being, which show that capital is neither simply out there in “reality,” nor is it
confined to philosophical textuality. Perhaps, one may read it as “spontaneous
sociability,” an unwritten bond between fellow citizens, a spontaneous, posthistorical
trust in the intriguing contemporary play of hypertextual signifiers. Beyond Heidegger
and Merleau-Ponty, we are now exposed to a communal future which transmits new
textualities by means of a revolution of (dis)continuous relations, setting in motion a
collision of diverse electronic conversations indicating the twilight of old
communities. Suddenly, philosophy is placed before its strangest, most disconcerting
truth; the possibility that no aspect of human life is philosophically intelligible.
Inevitably, then, the question arises: whether this new community has anything to do
with what we now think we were yesterday.
//Wilhelm S. Wurzer
Filming glossary
discernment, beurteilung—exceeds representational operations in judging the
beautiful and the sublime
bring to light, Eräugnis—bring to one’s eyes; seeing the essence of technology
spirit, Geist—site of thinking where judgment withdraws from the dialectic principle
of imitation and identity
letting go/composure, gelassenheit—letting go, reaching beyond representational
thinking; freeing of thinking; radical opening; composure, putting together,
constellating what is severed or fractured in the realm of judgment
enframing, ge-stell—essence or ‘skeleton’ of technology as mode of revealing
sliding, glissement—sliding into post-aesthetic filming
turning, kehre—turning from imagination’s free-play to the open terrain of the
sublime gap in judging (Ur-teil)
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clearing, lichtung—primordial shining of being; ontological opening; filming’s postmetaphysical beginning
primal severing, Ur-teil—severing of imagination from the power of rationality
rupture, zerissenheit—breaking the alliance of being and ground, time (Zeit) and
spirit (Geist)
// Wurzer with references to Heidegger
Integral post-aesthetics
aperspectivity—integrative consciousness not spatialized and without ego as center
point of a world-concept
arationality—integrative consciousness that is not defined by dualistic, ratio-linear
perspectivities or images
awaring/waring/verition—perception in-truth or aletheia, seeing things as they
actually are; seeing-through
diaphainon/diaphaneity—“shining through; concretion of the spiritual, or epiphany
ego-freedom—integrates all other forms of self-world relationship
synairesis—actualization of novelty in veritional patterns and relationships
time-freedom—integrative consciousness of self and world in transparency; nonspatialized, amensional time
transparency—concretion of the originary spirit, self, and world
//from Jean Gebser
The UN reports that non-communicable diseases and accidents are replacing
infectious diseases and malnutrition as leading causes of premature death and
disability, due to aging populations, accidents, and use of tobacco (especially in
poorer nations).
The Brookings Institution reports the total spent by the US on nuclear weapons and
weapons-related programs since 1940 is $5.5 trillion. The US spent more on its
nuclear arsenal during the period from 1940-96 than on any other budget category
expect nonnuclear defense ($13.2 trillion) and Social Security ($7.9 trillion). These
states lead in numbers of nuclear weapons—New Mexico 2,450, Georgia 2,000,
Washington 1,685, Nevada 1,350, and North Dakota 1,140.
115 Philosophic Wonders
Scottish scientist Ian Wilmut introduces Dolly, the first cloned animal. The Kyoto
treaty addressing global warming is signed by 150 nations. Life expectancy in the US
is 76.5 years (males 73.6, females 79.2).
The Forbes 400 richest Americans list is headed for the fifth consecutive year by Bill
Gates ($58.4 billion) of Microsoft—co-founder Paul Allen ($22 billion) in third place.
John Glenn, 77, orbits Earth again.
Y2K fears spread globally. The Matrix appears in theaters. Raymond Kurzweil
publishes The Age of Spiritual Machines.
Pope John Paul II issues an official apology and asks for forgiveness in order to bring
a purified Roman Catholic Church into the new millennium. The human genome is
mapped. The world’s most populous nations, in order, are China, India, US,
Indonesia, Brazil, Russia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan, and Nigeria.
For the first time in the modern era, non-Hispanic whites are officially a minority in
California, amounting to a little less than half the population of the most populous
state, home to nearly one in 8 Americans. Hispanic residents make up nearly onethird of the population. Asian population has increased by 43%.
With the mapping of the human genome now complete, proteomics, the study of
proteins, rises as a major industry. “This is the obvious step after the genome,” says
Marvin Cassman, director of the National Institute of General Medical Science, a
division of the National Institutes of Health.
After studying the most distant star ever observed, one that exploded about 11 billion
years ago (photographed by chance by the Hubble Space Telescope in 1997),
astrophysicists confirm the existence of dark energy. The study reveals that the
expansion of the Universe was slowing when the star exploded because the star was
closer to earth when it exploded than it would have been if dark energy had
dominated gravity then. Astrophysicist Adam G. Riess says about the new
measurement "nails the existence of the dark energy." Astrophysicist Michael S.
Turner calls the discovery of dark energy "one of the most important discoveries in all
of science. If Einstein were around today, he would get another Nobel Prize for his
prediction of repulsive gravity.”
Sampled at Singularity Countdown / Accelerating-Intelligence News
LET’S TALK New Scientist 2/28/2001
An AI program called Hal is the first to "understand" everyday language, according to
Jason Hutchens, chief scientist of Artificial Intelligence Enterprises of Tel Aviv. The
116 Philosophic Wonders
program has fooled experts into believing they were reading conversations between
an adult and a real 15-month-old child, thus passing the Turing test. "Unlike the
more traditional database approaches to natural language processing, which use
statistical techniques to link vast lists of words to a pre-programmed approximation
to grammatical rules, Hal attempts to learn language just like we do. Armed with a
collection of learning algorithms, Hal is taught language by a single 'carer' who types
in children's stories and responds to its utterances like a parent."
Risks of creating defective human clones are growing. Most cloned animals still die in
the womb, say scientists. The ones that survive face fatal defects of the heart, lungs,
kidneys, brain or immune system. The clone's surrogate mother is also at risk of
death. Despite the risks, American and Italian fertility researchers will meet in Rome
this week to plan the birth of the first human clone next year. "They will produce
clones, and most of those will die in utero," predicted MIT's Jaenisch. "Those are the
lucky ones. Many of those that survive will have these abnormalities."
British scientists have discovered a way to make microchips smaller and faster by
creating light-emitting regions in the silicon. "The power of chips doubles every few
years but that will stop happening soon, because as you make them smaller the
complexity of the contacts and wire that connects them doesn't scale—it stays the
same," said Kevin Homewood, professor of optoelectronics at the University of Surrey.
The achievement, reported in the science journal Nature, uses loop-shaped flaws in
silicon called dislocations to generate light within the silicon efficiently at room
Researchers at Lucent Technologies' Bell Labs have created a plastic that functions
as a superconductor (can conduct electricity without resistance). "Plastics are easier
and cheaper to make and sculpt than other materials, so the achievement may
eventually lead to ... components for future computers that use quantum mechanical
TRAPPED OVER A CHIP Scientific American 3/2001
Scientists are creating microchips that can trap and control tiny clouds of chilled
atoms. These could be routed on "conveyer belts" from one logic gate to another,
creating a quantum computer. "The advantages of chip-based systems include tighter
trapping, the precision of the designs that can be made and the ease with which
complicated systems can be built."
3/9/2001 Researchers have created a new class of nanometer-scale structures that
could lead to inexpensive ultra-small sensors, flat-panel display components and
other electronic nanodevices with low power consumption and high sensitivity. Made
of semiconducting metal oxides, these extremely thin and flat structures—dubbed
"nanobelts"— offer significant advantages over nanowires and carbon nanotubes, said
Zhong Lin Wang, professor of Materials Science and Engineering and director of the
117 Philosophic Wonders
Center for Nanoscience and Nanotechnology at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Nanobelts are chemically pure, structurally uniform and largely defect-free, with
clean surfaces not requiring protection against oxidation. Each is made up of a single
crystal with specific surface planes and shape. Described for the first time in the
March 9 issue of the journal Science, nanobelts could provide the kind of uniform
structure needed to make practical the mass-production of nanoscale electronic and
optoelectronic devices.
A day after researchers meeting in Rome vowed to clone babies, an Italian lawmaker
condemned them as "Frankenstein doctors" and urged parliament to ratify an
international pact banning human cloning. Italian fertility doctor Severino Antinori
has said that a human would be cloned within a year. Italian news agency ANSA
quoted Antinori as saying it would "very probably" be Israel. Researchers trying to
clone animals have reported that many of their attempts have ended with monsterlike creations and premature deaths.
By 2009, we'll have routine, full-immersion, visual-auditory, virtual-reality shared
environments with images written directly to our retinas from our eyeglasses and
contact lenses. By 2029, "experience beamers" will beam their entire flow of sensory
experiences and feelings onto the Web the way people now beam their images from
their web cams. These are among the forecasts that author-futurist-inventor
Raymond Kurzweil will present at the ACM1: Beyond Cyperspace conference. During
his talk, Kurzweil will "converse" with Ramona, an interactive avatar hostess on
KurzweilAI.net. Ramona features lifelike real-time facial animation, conversational
engine, knowledge base, speech synthesis, and a dynamic visual interface called
TheBrain. "You can be anyone you want to be in virtual reality," says Kurzweil.
Sony Computer Entertainment, Toshiba and IBM announced today they are teaming
up on a $400 million project to develop a "supercomputer-on-a-chip." Code-named
"Cell," the new microchips will employ the world's most advanced chip-making
techniques, including copper wires, silicon-on-insulator transistors and low-K
dielectric insulation, with features smaller than 0.10 microns. The result will be
consumer devices that are more powerful than IBM's Deep Blue supercomputer,
operate at low power, access the broadband Internet at ultra high speeds, and deliver
"teraflops" of processing power.
Science has become the ultimate source of the most influential ideas transforming
the world.
//John Rennie—editor-in-chief, Scientific American April 2001
Science is the only news. When you scan through a newspaper or magazine, all the
human interest stuff is the same old he-said-she-said, the politics and economics the
same sorry cyclic dramas, the fashions a pathetic illusion of newness, and even the
technology is predictable if you know the science. Human nature doesn't change
much; science does, and the change accrues, altering the world irreversibly.
118 Philosophic Wonders
//Stewart Brand
We now live in a world in which the rate of change is the biggest change. Science has
thus become a big story. Scientific topics receiving prominent play in newspapers and
magazines over the past several years include molecular biology, artificial
intelligence, artificial life, Chaos theory, massive parallelism, neural nets, the
inflationary Universe, fractals, complex adaptive systems, superstrings, biodiversity,
nanotechnology, the human genome, expert systems, punctuated equilibrium,
cellular automata, fuzzy logic, space biospheres, the Gaia hypothesis, virtual reality,
cyberspace, and teraflop machines. Among others.
//John Brockman
Already, 30 genetically modified children have been born, products of an infertility
treatment that adds cytoplasm from a donor’s eggs to the mother’s egg. In the
process, it also transfers the donor’s mitochondria. The effect of this is not known,
but it is known that the mitochondria genetic materials are passed on to future
//NYTimes 5/5/01
Biotechnology will be able to accomplish what the radical ideologies of the past, with
their unbelievably crude techniques, were unable to accomplish: to bring about a new
type of human being. Within the next couple of generations, we will have abolished
human beings as such. And then a new post-human history will begin.
//Francis Fukuyama
Recall that our contemporary global corporations are direct descendants of the
British East India Company and the Hudson Bay Company. The institutional form of
the publicly traded, limited liability corporation was created to make possible the
nearly unlimited aggregation of economic power under a centralized command
authority for the purpose of colonizing and extracting the wealth of others without
regard to human or natural consequences. Today, corporations, which command
more economic resources than most states, are using their power to claim ownership
rights to yet more of the productive assets of society and planet, including water,
soils, air, knowledge, genetic material, communications.
The system is brilliantly designed to strip away any human sensibility form
decisions that have profound human consequences. Even if the top manager of a
corporation has a deep social and environmental commitment, he (it’s usually a “he”)
is legally bound to act on this commitment only to the etent that it is consistence
with maximizing returns to shareholders.
//David C. Korten
Ideas are ten a penny. Put a handful of bright engineers in a brainstorming session
and they will come up with literally scores of clever ideas for new products or
processes. Invention is the easy bit. Innovation, by contrast, is the genuinely difficult
part. And what makes a successful innovation usually has little to do with the
originality of the idea behind it. What it does depend on—and crucially so—is the
single-mindedness with which the business plan is executed, as countless obstacles
on the road to commercialisation are surmounted, by-passed or hammered flat. Life
119 Philosophic Wonders
in the fast lane really is 1% inspiration and 99% pure sweat. Implicit in all this is
timing. The window of opportunity has to be ajar—or, at least, show signs of opening.
It matters little whether some exciting new technology has suddenly become
available. If the market timing is wrong, the innovation will most assuredly flounder.
//The Economist, Technology Quarterly, June 2001
On February 12, 2001, you and I could see the entire human genome on our
computers. We still don't know what it means. It looks really complicated. But I can
tell you that our grandchildren are going to remember that date. There is going to be
the pregenomic era and the postgenomic era. And the first companies to get it, the
first people to get it, those are going to be the dominant societies on this planet in the
next century.
//Juan Enriquez
Wednesday September 12 2001 04:34 PM EDT
Studios React to Attack on America
Hollywood is struggling to make decisions on several high-profile movie projects in
the wake of Tuesday's horrific hijack attacks on New York and Washington D.C., in
which tens of thousands are feared dead.
Arnold Schwarzenegger’s upcoming revenge thriller, Collateral Damage, in which
he stars as a firefighter whose family is killed when a downtown skyscraper is
destroyed in a massive terroist bomb blast, is among those films whose release is up
in the air.
The film has the tagline: "What do you do if you lost everything?" Warner Bros.
executives have indicated they will most likely delay the flick's October 5 release date
out of sensitivity to victims, their families and all American citizens. "Our hearts and
prayers are with the victims of this terrible tragedy and their families," reads a
statement on Warner Bros. Website.
Also being postponed is director Barry Sonnenfeld's ensemble comedy Big
Trouble, starring Tim Allen and Rene Russo. The film, based on a Dave Barry novel,
is a farcical caper that climaxes with a suitcase containing a nuclear bomb being
smuggled onto an airplane. Disney, which had closed its Disney World and
Disneyland theme parks on Tuesday (the parks have since reopened), pulled the plug
on this weekend's Big Trouble press junkets and pushed the film's release from
September 21 until next year.
All critics' screenings this week for Ed Burns' latest romantic comedy, Sidewalks
of New York, have been postponed until November. The film itself, which was
supposed to be out September 21, is being delayed for at least two months.
And Sony yanked a trailer for next summer's blockbuster, Spider-Man, in which
bad guys get trapped in a spider web strung between the two towers of the World
Trade Center. A Sony spokeswoman says the sequence was used in the trailer, but
not the film.
"Due to the devastating events that took place yesterday and out of respect for those
involved, Sony Pictures Entertainment is requesting that all Spider-Man teaser
posters and trailers be taken down and returned to the studio," Sony says in a
120 Philosophic Wonders
Meanwhile, ABC has pulled Saturday's broadcast of The Peacemaker, starring
George Clooney and Nicole Kidman as a U.S. Army colonel and a civilian woman
trying to stop terrorists from getting their hands on stolen Russian nuclear weapons.
Fox has nixed an airing of Independence Day on Sunday.
Wednesday September 12 11:06 PM ET
Hollywood Films on Terrorism Held Up After Attacks
By Bob Tourtellotte and Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Reality hit home in Hollywood on Wednesday as studios
delayed release of two major films featuring bombs or terrorists—including Arnold
Schwarzenegger’s “Collateral Damage”—and yanked ads for ''Spider-Man'' a day after
the deadliest attacks in U.S. history.
Executives at the nation's major television networks, too, reconsidered their fall TV
schedules with one, NBC, deciding to postpone fall premieres altogether by at least a
week to make way for ongoing news coverage of the attacks on the World Trade
Center and the Pentagon, which may have left thousands dead.
Walt Disney Co.'s Touchstone Pictures postponed the September 21 premiere of
comedy film “Big Trouble,” starring Tim Allen and AOL Time Warner Inc.'s Warner
Bros. delayed its October 5 release of ``Collateral Damage,'' in which Schwarzenegger
goes after terrorists. Neither studio set new debut dates for the movies.
Based on a novel by Miami-based humorist Dave Barry, ``Big Trouble'' follows a
group of people who find a mysterious suitcase leading to a terrorist plot revolving
around a black-market nuclear bomb, shady businessmen, FBI agents and hit men.
A two-sentence statement from Touchstone cited the ''national tragedy that occurred''
as the reason for the delay.
In ``Collateral Damage,'' Schwarzenegger portrays a fireman who sees his wife and
son die in the terrorist bombing of a building. But when he travels to South America
to avenge the deaths, he finds himself caught up in political intrigue.
Similarly, Warner Bros. issued a statement citing ''yesterday's tragic events'' as a
reason for its action.
Sony Pictures Entertainment, a division of Japan's Sony Corp pulled from theaters
trailers for next May's ''Spider-Man'' in which bank robbers are caught in a web spun
between the World Trade Center towers. Sony also recalled posters in which the
towers are shown in a reflection of the comic book hero's eyes.
On U.S. airwaves, Disney's ABC television network canceled a planned broadcast on
Saturday of the 1997 thriller ``The Peacemaker,'' which involves nuclear terrorism.
121 Philosophic Wonders
``It just didn't seem appropriate at this time,'' network spokeswoman Annie Fort said.
ABC instead will air the romantic comedy ``Hope Floats”,'' starring Sandra Bullock
and Harry Connick, and an episode of ``America's Funniest Home Videos.''
Likewise, Fox is bumping a Sunday broadcast of the 1996 hit film ``Independence
Day,'' in which aliens destroy the White House and New York's Empire State
Building, and instead will air a repeat of ``That '70s Show'' and the film comedy
``Mrs. Doubtfire,'' a network spokesman said.
And on Friday, Fox will replace the feature-length ''X-Files'' movie, which includes a
scene of an office building blowing up, with the romantic comedy `Nine Months ''
starring Hugh Grant and Juliann Moore. But the biggest development in television
came with NBC's announcement to push back its heavily promoted premiere week of
new shows to September 24 from the planned September 17.
``In light of the recent tragic events in our country, NBC has decided to postpone the
premieres of the network's fall prime-time programs ... Further developments could
alter this plan,'' the network said in a brief statement.
ABC and CBS executives also were contemplating postponing the premieres of
returning series and new shows next week due to the heavy demand for news,
network officials said.
The smaller Fox network is less affected because its fall lineup follows a more
staggered schedule with many new shows not slated to debut for several weeks.
All major networks said they were taking a hard look at their fall shows to safeguard
against content that might seem insensitive in light of Tuesday's tragedy.
A number of upcoming shows feature stories that may strike too close to recent
events, including several CIA-themed dramas—ABC's ``Alias,'' CBS' ``The Agency''
and Fox's ``24.''
NBC's fall lineup also includes the espionage-themed new drama ``UC Undercover.''
Another NBC show likely to draw network scrutiny is a five-hour miniseries slated to
run across the three editions of NBC's ``Law & Order'' that centers on an act of
terrorism against the United States.
CBS is a unit of Viacom Inc., and Fox is a division of Fox Entertainment Group Inc.,
which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Ltd.
Now Rolling…
Ours is a country that has not been damaged, in our lifetime, by war or natural
catastrophe. But we've all seen Independence Day.
By Bernie Heidkamp
This is a test of America's ability to feel.
122 Philosophic Wonders
Of all the ways to describe the events of today, the comment I heard most frequently
was: "This is unreal." On the most obvious level, it is an understandable reaction to a
profound confusion before true grief can set in. It is our only way of describing, by
way of a non-description, the pictures of ash and dust and bodies transmitted via
television into our homes and businesses, and shown on jumbo monitors downtown.
On another level, one yet unexplored, it is an admission that our images of
Manhattan and Washington are almost completely mediated through a series of
popular cultural representations, especially for people who do not live in or have not
visited those cities. Those representations – particularly those involving terrorist
threats and attacks – have simultaneously prepared us for this type of tragedy and
distanced us from feeling and understanding its impact.
One eyewitness account, which was passed along on an e-mail list, described the
panicked crowds as "a horror film running in overdrive, jumping frames and cutting
in and out." The comparison was echoed by many of the media.
As she was driving through "ground zero" in Manhattan late Tuesday evening,
Ashleigh Banfield of MSNBC commented: "I don't know how to describe this to you ...
it was like driving through a movie set." Dan Cohen, a Fox News Channel producer
who is trained as an emergency technician, was stationed at a makeshift hospital at
Chelsea Piers, which is where NBC's Law & Order is produced. Cohen told the
Associated Press Tom Shales, television writer for the Washington Post, and his
counterpart at the L.A. Times, Howard Rosenberg, both referenced two films created
more than 20 years apart. "It looked like scenes from such movies as The Towering
Inferno and Independence Day. But this wasn't special effects. It was actually
happening, and viewers sat powerless and traumatized as they saw it happen,"
Shales wrote, adding, "For those of certain generations, it was the most harrowing
day of television since the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963."
Rosenberg wrote: "Pictures of suffering were almost surreal, at some points capturing
bodies being blown from exploding towers along with debris, and tiny specks of
humanity tragically leaping to their deaths just ahead of the flames. It was a case of
life seeming to imitate the special effects of bad movies, whether grisly deaths of
Towering Inferno or the aliens of Independence Day hovering above the U.S. with
plans to attack the president."
Attempting to grip onto some reference point to contextualize this very real tragedy,
all we could do was look to fiction. I heard someone I work with say very soon after
the initial attacks, "This is like a Tom Clancy novel." Sure enough, later in the day,
Clancy himself was being interviewed on CNN.
The pop cultural references, of course, are much more direct. Films like Diehard 3
and The Siege and presented nightmarish scenarios of a Manhattan overridden by
terrorist attacks. Those type of movies were foremost in my mind as I watched the
unbelievable images of the World Trade Center collapsing. In pop culture, collapsing
buildings also have an element of comic spectacle. Sure enough, in those initial
123 Philosophic Wonders
moments, it all seemed like a special effect, one that we've watched Bugs Bunny or
other cartoon characters cause a million times by pressing on a TNT detonator.
Is this method of pop cultural compensation a bad thing? Is there any other way for
us to begin to grasp – or describe – the enormity of the attacks?
Ours is, after all, a country that has not been damaged, in our lifetime, by war or
natural catastrophe on the level we are now witnessing. For most of us, our only "real
life" experience with massive death tolls has been through television coverage of
earthquakes in places like Turkey, or the 1999 floods in Central America. In reaching
for some historical point of comparison in the United States, the only event that even
begins to reach these as-yet-unknown proportions would be Pearl Harbor. Ironically,
Pearl Harbor has not only been re-presented to America this past summer with the
blockbuster film, but it was also the starting point for this weekend's opening
episodes of HBO's Band of Brothers. That mini-series began with comments from
actual World War II veterans. One of those comments stuck with me even before the
events of today: The veteran said there was no doubt about his duty to his country
and the justice of his cause. I wonder whether the mediation of this present moment
will lead to a greater passivity. In this case, we will be watching it as a story unfolding
instead of finding our place to make an impact. Then again, it is, in part, the pop
cultural representations that have made buildings such as the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon iconic symbols of America. From King Kong to The West, we have
often fetishized buildings in New York and D.C. Many more people have associations
with the images today than they had with a naval station in the middle of the Pacific.
By erasing some of these buildings from the American landscape, a visual scar is left
across our minds.
Tech’s Double-Edged Sword
The same modern tools that enrich our lives can be used against us.
How bad will it get?
By Steven Levy
Sept. 24 issue — From American Flight 77, en route to death and the Pentagon,
lawyer Barbara Olson cell-phoned her husband, the U.S.solicitor general, and told
him of the hijacking. On United Flight 93, both Jeremy Glick and Thomas Burnett Jr.
called their wives and confided their (apparently successful) intentions to
counterattack the hijackers. Others on the stolen planes, as well as dozens trapped
in the World Trade Center towers, pulled out their cells to speak one more time to a
wife or parent and say “I love you.” THE RECIPIENTS of those calls, while justifiably
inconsolable, are undoubtedly grateful for the final opportunity to hear those voices.
But before we celebrate another irreplaceable use of wireless communications,
consider this: according to government officials, within hours of the explosions,
mobile phones of suspected terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden were buzzing with
congratulations for the murderous acts. They use them, too. The contrast dramatizes
a long-recognized truism: modern technologies that add efficiency, power and wonder
to our lives inevitably deliver the same benefits to evildoers. The Internet is no
exception. On Sept. 11 the Net seemed like a godsend. E-mail worked when phones
124 Philosophic Wonders
didn’t, allowing countless New Yorkers to assure worried friends and families around
the world that they were still alive. Web sites were quickly home-brewed to carry lists
of companies affected and family members missing. But there is also every likelihood
that the terrorists had exploited the Internet as well, using easily available and
virtually untraceable accounts on Yahoo or Hotmail, andmeeting in ad hoc chat
Perhaps the terrorists cloaked their planning with cryptography, once an exotic
technology, now a commonplace computer utility. Communications could also be
shrouded with steganography (hiding messages between pixels of a graphic—a
reputed bin Laden technique) or anonymizers (which make e-mail untraceable). Such
tools are lionized by freedom-loving “cypherpunks,” who have shrugged off potential
dark-side usage as a reasonable trade-off for the protection that crypto can provide
just plain citizens; as with cars and telephones, the benefits way overwhelm the
So goes the attitude that has taken us to where we are today, in the best sense and
now the worst sense. Technology drives civilization; it augments and amplifies
human effort. Our own age is marked by computers and software, which have
democratized formerly specialized pursuits. With the right software and the Web,
anyone can be a publisher, a music distributor, a photo refinisher... the list is
endless. But the sophistication of our technology also leverages the efforts of those
who would destroy. And the very structure of our society—a dense thicket of
connections, where skyscrapers hold thousands of workers, “just in time” factories
rely on next-day deliveries and air-traffic controllers manage hundreds of planes at
once—allows a single act of terror to generate torrents of disruption and pain.
Thus a barely armed band of 19 can slam our nation with the force of many armies.
The implements they used were strictly off the shelf. We don’t know if they practiced
their aeronautical skills by flying into virtual Twin Towers on Microsoft Flight
Simulator (which was quickly taken off the shelves). But they did apparently train by
renting time on computer-powered flight simulators that democratize the experience
of flying a 767. Then, by way of the dime-store technology of small sharpened blades,
they were able to take charge of sophisticated commercial airlines. Suddenly those
benign carriers were powerful, targetable bombs. It was a nightmarish fulfillment of
science-fiction writer William Gibson’s proclamation that the street finds its own uses
for technology. The more powerful our tools are, the more dangerous they are when
turned against us. For centuries we’ve accepted that. It’s simply the downside of tech.
Sun Microsystems chief scientist Bill Joy has been pondering this downside while
writing a book tentatively called “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us.” Coincidentally,
Joy was in lower Manhattan in the early part of last week. As bad as it was, Joy
believes, the tragedy was nothing like what might be possible with biological
weaponry. The coming age of biotech will undoubtedly make programmable bacteria
and viruses more accessible—to doctors, business and bio-terrorists. “The things I’m
worried about haven’t happened yet,” says Joy.
125 Philosophic Wonders
Virtually no one dares ask whether the balance of technology might tilt too far toward
empowering the evil. Who would have a clue of how to address that situation?
Human beings have a track record of pursuing what they see as progress and asking
questions later. While refusing to think the Unthinkable, we create the circumstances
that allow it to occur. Should we be giving the Unthinkable more consideration as we
drive technology ever further? The answer seems obvious. Yet it almost goes without
saying that any safeguards we institute won’t be perfect. What assurance do we have
that future terrorists will not feast on the contents of Pandora’s box? “Knowledge
itself is dangerous,” says Joy. “Scientific information we pursue in an unfettered way
is a weapon. And we’re not ready to deal with that.” Maybe after last week, we are
Reporter after reporter told us that the Oklahoma City bombing by Timothy McVeigh
was the worst terrorist attack ever perpetuated on U.S. soil. Either they have very
racist definitions of what constitutes terrorism or they are very poorly educated in
How many remember the massacres at Wounded Knee, at Sand Creek, at the
Washita, all carried out by U.S. Army units or by Colorado State militia against First
Americans? It is very likely that each of these terrorist attacks resulted in greater
numbers of deaths than McVeigh's bombing, but the exact totals will perhaps never
be known because many died of exposure afterwards, as at Wounded Knee. And then
we also have the "ethnic cleansing" carried out in southwest Oregon and northern
California, where entire tribes were liquidated or left with only handfuls of survivors.
And, of course, we can go back further to the massacres of the Pequots in
Connecticut, the killing of Christian Delawares at Gnadenhutten, and George
Washington's scorched earth campaign against the Iroquois in the War for U.S.
Independence. And, as a Powhatan, I cannot forget the terrorist attacks of Bacon's
rabble in Virginia in 1676 which wiped out or decimated entire villages from the
Occaneechee in the south, to the Nansiaticos, Monacans, Doegs, and others farther
north. Survivors were often sold as slaves; and this in spite of being largely at peace!
As much as we condemn the McVeigh massacre as a horrible crime, we should not
forget that violence is very much a part of the tradition of Yanks and that most of the
massacres of which I write involved the wholesale killing of women, children, and
elders, often with the most unbelievable brutality and sheer sadism. What troubles
me also, is how the people of the USA have usually overlooked the blatant atrocities
carried out by OUR government since World War II. Here I am speaking of the efforts
of the CIA and the Defense Department (meaning, of course, OUR presidents) to wipe
out or cripple almost every democracy which might lean in a socialist or workerpeasant direction, including overthrows of reform governments in Guatemala and
Iran in the 1950's and the repeated interventions in the Dominican Republic, Haiti,
Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Angola, Congo-Zaire,
Guyana and elsewhere. Large numbers of Native Americans were slaughtered (as in
Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua) and also in Colombia where right-wing
paramilitary forces are currently killing indigenous leaders and entire communities.
126 Philosophic Wonders
The figures are staggering! Hundreds of thousands of people killed in Central
America, almost all of them American Indians by race. Millions killed in Vietnam and,
more recently, in Iraq. Many thousands also killed by US weapons in Lebanon and
Palestine, supplied to Israel and often used in a terrorist manner against civilians.
Am I wrong to say that the people of the USA, in general, seem unmoved by the totals
of the killed, even when these totals include children and completely innocent
victims? And, of course, our Congress continues to support the School of Assassins
in Georgia (the so-called School of the Americas) which has trained so many of the
brutal military killers in Latin America, as well as the Agency of Assassinations (the
CIA) and the Defense Department.
The relative indifference of North Americans to the murders of other Americans,
Asians, Africans, Timorese, et cetera, leads me to wonder what our core values are,
as a nation (state). Is it that people are simply uninformed? Is it that only the deaths
of white people motivate? Or is it that people simply want to enjoy beer and baseball,
the circuses provided by the omnipresent world of entertainment, consumerism, and
But I have a deeper fear, and that is that many people know all too well what our
government does throughout much of the world, and that they understand that the
purpose of US policy is to guarantee the high-standard-of-living that many here enjoy
and, more especially, the wealth and power of US-based corporations and their
European counterparts.
Lets face it: the reason why we enjoy the luxury of having cheap bananas, plenty of
oil, and all kinds of fundamental resources and products at affordable (for some of
us) or even dirt cheap prices, is because : (1) labor union organizers in most of the
countries our government dominates are systematically murdered, or are controlled
by corrupt unions run by the elites in their country; (2) workers are unable to
organize or strike to obtain a fair share of the value of the products they produce; (3)
peasants (farmers) are systematically being driven off of the land, or have never been
able to obtain land of their own, and peasant organizers, as in Brazil, are often
systematically murdered and protests are suppressed brutally by corrupt police and
army troops.
In other words, the economic prosperity of the United States (and of much of the
northern hemisphere) is, in part, due to the application of the same brutal techniques
which were used right here in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to
suppress strikes, destroy unions, steal from Indians, oppress Black labor, and so on.
The viciousness of some US corporations and their allies has simply been transferred
beyond US borders where it is less visible.
This is what worries me, fellow citizens. What are we really like as a country today?
Did Tim McVeigh simply act out the violence and indifference to human lives so
typical of the powerful?
127 Philosophic Wonders
//Jack D. Forbes, Powhatan-Delaware,
professor emeritus, Native American Studies, UC Davis.
In The Singularity is Near, Raymond Kurzweil argues that technology’s increasingly
rapid pace of change is unstoppable and that the capacity of human consciousness is
expanding exponentially.
Britain's scientists win a green light to pioneer the cloning of human embryos for
research and set up the world's first embryo cell bank. A House of Lords committee
rules that embryo cloning should be allowed to proceed under strict conditions.
Without Security Council consensus, the U.S. and Britain with “an alliance of the
willing” pre-emptively attack Iraq and defeat the regime of Saddam Hussein as a
component of a “war on terrorism.” A key White House policy statement details an
era of American supremacy in international relations as a “New American Century.”
Some 3.2 billion people may be added to the 1993 population of Earth, a 60%
increase. 95% will be in the underdeveloped world.
2040 TO 2050
Kurzweil predicts “I see an explosion later on in mid-century. Things are going to
move at a pace beyond what we can now comprehend. People may not even notice it,
because in its wake it will leave a very good facsimile of the real world. But this
affects everything. It affects the very nature of human intelligence. We’ll see
intelligence that’s derivative of human intelligence, but superior to it. Human
civilization will explode into something of consequence beyond the earth, something
that will transform a lot of the concepts we take for granted. Human intelligence will
spread throughout the Universe at the speed of light. Maybe faster. The really
surprising thing to me is how many Nobel Prize winners haven’t internalized the
implications of the exponential rate of increase in the rate of knowledge itself. It’s
easy to explain these things in the language of mathematics. But to really understand
them, you almost need to resort to religious terms.”
Global temperatures may reach 2.7 to 8.1 degrees above 1990 levels causing extreme
droughts, floods and storms. World population will be 5.4 billion if 1990 rates
stabilize, possibly 12.5 billion otherwise.
128 Philosophic Wonders
The effects of the Sun’s increasing size and luminosity affect Earth with temperatures
endangering all life.
The red giant Sun will start expanding rapidly until, at twice its current diameter, the
Sun boils away the Earth’s oceans.
Fifteen times brighter, the Sun heats Earth’s surface to 600ºK and the crust melts.
Two thousand times brighter, the Sun fills half the distance to Earth.
The Sun’s diameter expands to encompass the orbit of Earth, eventually igniting in a
helium flash visible several billion years until it evolves into a white dwarf.
5 TO 10
Presently 2.5 million light-years away and approaching at 120 km/second, coming
ten million kilometers closer each day, the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies at last
collide, creating a quasar.
Planets detach from stars; stars and planets evaporate from galaxies. Most of the
ordinary matter in the Universe is locked up in degenerate stellar remnants—dead
stars withered into white dwarfs or blown up and collapsed into neutron stars and
black holes. Eventually, protons decay.
After the epoch of proton decay, black holes are the only remaining large objects,
which eventually evaporate into photons and other types of radiation.
Only waste remains of photons, neutrinos, electrons, and positrons. Some electrons
and positrons meet and form “atoms” larger than the visible Universe today. The
Universe is infinitely cold and dark.
Integral consciousness
If there is any higher light of illumined intuition or self-revealing truth which is now
in human beings either obstructed and inoperative or works with intermittent
glancings as if from behind a veil or with occasional displays as of the northern lights
in our materials skies, then there also we need not fear to aspire. For it is likely that
such is the next higher state of consciousness of which Mind is only a form and veil,
and through the splendours of that light may lie the path of our progressive selfenlargement into whatever highest state is humanity’s ultimate resting-place. There
129 Philosophic Wonders
is therefore no reason to put a limit to evolutionary possibility by taking our present
organisation or status of existence as final.
The Unknowable knowing itself as Sachchidananda is the one supreme affirmation of
Vedanta; it contains all the others or on it they depend. This is the one veritable
experience that remains when all appearances have been accounted for negatively by
the elimination of their shapes and coverings or positively by the reduction of their
names and forms to the constant truth they contain.
The Universe and the individual are the two essential appearances into which the
Unknowable descends and through which it has to be approached; for other
intermediate collectivities are born only of their interaction. This descent of the
supreme Reality is in its nature a self-concealing; and in the descent there are
successive levels, in the concealing successive veils.
//Sri Aurobindo
Aurobindo gave the Divine Mother four main personalities: Maheshwari, Mahakali,
Mahalakshmi, and Mahasaraswati. Maheshwari is her personality of calm widenss,
surpassing majesty, and all-ruling greatness. Mahakali embodies her power of
splendid strength and passion. Mahalakshmi is vivid and sweet , and wonderful with
her deep secret of beauty. Mahasaraswati is equipped with a close and profound
capacity of intimate knowledge and careful, flawless work. But to this awareness of
the many-sided glory of the Mother, Aurobindo added one essential and revolutionary
ingredient: a vision of the Mother, the Shakti, as the force that powers the evolution
of the universe and as the force that sustains and encourages and creates the next
stage in the evolutionary development of humankind. He realized the Mother as the
architect of evolution, the summoner of humanity to a supreme and endless
adventure of self-transformation.
//Andrew Harvey
Every leaf, every little insect, will unveil to us innumerable mysteries when not our
eyes only, but through the eyes the spirit is directed upon them. Every sparkle, every
shade of color, every cadence, will remain vividly perceptible to the senses; nothing
will be lost; an infinitude of new life is gained in addition. Everything depends upon
our attitude of mind. It must be enough for us at first to direct our minds to the
permanent. If we do this, the knowledge of the permanent will thereby awaken us. We
must wait until it is given. And it is given at the right time to each one who waits with
patience—and works. A person soon notices during such exercises what a mighty
transformation takes place in oneself. One’s valuation and estimate of the world are
different from those one has hitherto held. One’s feeling takes on a new relationship
towards the whole surrounding world. The transitory no longer attracts merely for its
own sake, as formerly; it becomes a member, an image of the Eternal. And this
eternal reality that lives in all things, one learns to love.
//Rudolf Steiner
130 Philosophic Wonders
What is decisive for us is to “know” in any given instance where and how to act
passively or actively, where and how to make things happen or let things happen to
us. Everything hinges on this knowledge of letting-happen and making-happen.
//Jean Gebser