Nietzsche vs. Darwin: Becoming vs. Being
Since the era of Heraclitus and Parmenides (ca. 500 BCE) there has been contention over whether to seek to understand the world starting from the ‘One’ of ‘flow’ or from the ‘many’ of ‘material forms’ and ‘their’ behaviours, visualizing ‘them’ as ‘local entities in themselves’ that move, interact and change ‘their’ form in an absolute fixed and empty operating theatre (Euclidian space).
In the case of ‘flow’ where the universe is seen as a dynamic One-ness that is continually unfolding and infolding from and into itself, ‘local entities’ are inevitably ‘conjugate extrinsic-intrinsic dynamic relations undergoing a continual ‘becoming’ as in the relation between a whorl or convection cell in the flow (e.g. the hurricane in the flow of the atmosphere). The notion of ‘local being’ in this case is what Nietzsche would call a ‘useful fiction’, but the natural ‘physics’ of the situation is that these visible ‘flow-features’ are taking on form from their simultaneous mutual influence. This situation, which arises in celestial dynamics (gravitation), is mathematically insoluble in such a manner as would resolve the overall observed behaviour into individual local behaviours belonging to each of the participants.
The word ‘behaviour’ here comes up for closer examination since the common understanding of ‘behaviour’ is that it belongs to a person, substance, machine, organism, or to ‘oneself’, rather than belonging to the universe, as in the case where we understand the world/universe to be ‘flow’ in which case ‘behaviour’ can belong only to the universe (the spatial-relational unfolding/infolding that characterizes flow). Meanwhile, our ‘eye’ wanders here and there and focuses on this and that aided sometimes by the telescope and/or microscope, all of which is part of the ‘universe behaviour’ (in the flow view, the observer is included in the observed) but which gives the psychological impression that nature is splitting itself into many different local behaviours rather than the observer doing it.
The one-ness of nature as suggested by relativity (conjugate habitat-inhabitant-relation) and quantum theory (thingless-connectedness) thus comes into contention with our visual bias which argues that the forms in the flow are local beings with their own locally originating behaviours. When we look at the visible whorls of hurricanes through the ‘eye’ of the orbiting satellite, our tendency to understand them to have ‘local being’ is a ‘a useful fiction’ that can be easily ‘confused for reality’. In such visualization, we ‘overlook’ the greater reality that the flow is the parenting medium (the flowing energy-field) in which the whorls (concentrations of energy) are continually gathering and regathering, always in pursuit of local ‘being’ (permanence) but never graduating to that ideal state that lies beyond continual ‘becoming’. Our overall sensorial experience, as Ernst Mach (1838 – 1916) notes, is continuous and without the idealized lumps of permanence seized upon by our vision and concretized by language-based definitions and labels.
“The useful habit of designating such relatively permanent compounds [‘local objects’] by single names, and of apprehending them by single thoughts, without going to the trouble each time of an analysis of their component parts, is apt to come into strange conflict with the tendency to isolate the component parts. The vague image which we have of a given permanent complex, being an image which does not perceptibly change when one or another of the component parts is taken away, seems to be something which exists in itself. Inasmuch as it is possible to take away singly every constituent part without destroying the capacity of the image to stand for the totality and to be recognised again, it is imagined that it is possible to subtract all the parts and to have something still remaining. Thus naturally arises the philosophical notion, at first impressive, but subsequently recognised as monstrous, of a ” thing-in-itself,” different from its “appearance,” and unknowable.
Man is pre-eminently endowed with the power of voluntarily and consciously determining his own point of view. He can at one time disregard the most salient features of an object, and immediately thereafter give attention to its smallest details; now consider a stationary current, without a thought of its contents (whether heat, electricity or fluidity), and then measure the width of a Fraunhofer line in the spectrum; he can rise at will to the most general abstractions or bury himself in the minutest particulars. Animals possess this capacity in a far less degree. They do not assume a point of view, but are usually forced to it by their sense-impressions. The baby that does not know its father with his hat on, the dog that is perplexed at the new coat of its master, have both succumbed in this conflict of points of view. Who has not been worsted in similar plights ? Even the man of philosophy at times succumbs, as the grotesque problem, above referred to [unknowable Ding-an-sich], shows.” – Ernst Mach, ‘The Analysis of Sensations’ (1886 revised 1905)
While the sensorial elements allow us to understand the world as a flow-continuum, the stoccato localizing (de-situationalizing) powers of our visual point-of-view can quickly invert the primacy of ‘behaviour’ from the ONE of flow, shifting it over to the ‘many’ quasi-permanent concentrations of energy within the flow.
There is no doubt that the views of Friedrich Nietzsche, and William Rolph favoured the ‘flow’ entrée for their inquiry into the dynamics of world and self; i.e. they saw evolution as “a process of diffusion, in which endosmosis predominates over exosmosis” , a view in which ‘local being’ is subsumed by a conjugate relation between inner order and outer disorder, consistent with the whorl in the flow of relativity where matter is a relative concentration of energy that gives the appearance (‘schaumkommen’ – Schroedinger) of ‘local being’, an appearance that is an artefact of the ‘tool of inquiry’ rather than the result of inquiry. As Wittgenstein says, the crystal purity of logic [e.g. of ‘being’ versus ‘non-being’] is not the result of our investigation but a requirement that we impose.
So, this two-and-a-half millennia long contention over ‘where to start our inquiry’ into the behaviour of world/self continues in the contention between Nietzsche’s views on evolution versus Darwin’s. The battle lines are drawn in Nietzsche’s ‘anti-Darwinism’ writings (e.g. in The Will to Power). Nietzsche’s view was that Darwin was merely capturing ‘English culture’ as it was in that era, and dressing it up as something much more, as a natural process that could explain the origin of the species. What he meant by that was that it is our ‘ego’ that has us see ourselves as the local source of ‘intention’ and thus as the ‘local driver of behaviour’, so that to attribute this human self-conscious intellection to biological organisms in general makes the biological sciences and Darwinism ‘anthropomorphism’.
Meanwhile, Nietzsche’s view seems to be ‘lost in translation’ or at least to be ‘obscured’ by the many popular materialist interpretations given to Nietzsche’s ‘Will to Power’ which are contradicted by Nietzsche’s own clear and often ‘impatient’ (why can’t people see their stupidity in not seeing this?) propositions.
Essentially, Nietzsche’s view is one in which the degeneration (unbecoming) of the parts (organs/organisms) in the present is continually inducing the emergence (becoming) of new parts, for example, in the manner where, when the parents of the family undergo degeneration or die, the sons and daughters must ‘step up to the plate’ and ‘fill the shoes’ of the outgoing generation, moving more fully into the ‘parenting phase’ of the cycle.
The Darwinist view of this ‘replacement’ invites us to focus on the ‘local material being’ and its ‘replacement’, and to ignore the role of the spatial-relational situation that the new forms are moving into. Here, once again, is the disagreement of Plato (427 – 367 BCE) and Aristotle (384 – 322 BCE) as to whether cause is extrinsic (Plato) or intrinsic (Aristotle) or both at the same time (Heraclitus). Darwinism goes with Aristotle’s ‘intrinsic final cause’ as in the notional ‘acorn-to-oak-tree’ purposeful system dynamic. The huge gap between; ‘the arrival of new forms’, and this intrinsic ‘acorn-to-oak-tree purposeful system driven reproduction’, is synthetically ‘bridged’ in Darwinism by an arbitrary invoking of the mathematical device of ‘random chance’.
In the Nietzschean view, the evolutionary drive constituted in Darwinism by the ‘intention of the local being’ has to go because this is nothing other than the ‘ego’ speaking and being given a foundational role in the ‘science of evolution’. As Stephen Jay Gould pointed out in ‘Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin’ (1996) using the metaphor of baseball, the ego of the batter would have him attribute his improvements in batting average to himself, to his internal processes that drive his behaviour (as his ego sees it). He will also blame himself, his internal processes, for ‘batting slumps’. But the reality is that ‘hitting’ and ‘fielding’ are conjugate aspects of a single dynamic and it is impossible, because of their conjugate relation, to resolve them into two measurable dynamics. The Darwinist, meanwhile, like the egotist, does the impossible and splits out the fitness of the hitter from its conjugate hitting-fielding relation, and portrays it as the full and sole determinant of batting performance, apart from random ‘bad luck’ and ‘good luck’ (‘probability’ now ‘covers’ for the variances in batting performance that are difficult to attribute to the hitter’s internal process drivers).
With the help of the ‘ego’, it now appears as if evolution is in the hands of the ‘hitters’, ignoring the dominant parenting role of the spatial ‘fielding’ that the ‘hitting is included in’ and putting in its place something that can be ‘owned’ by the ‘hitter’; i.e. ‘good luck’ and ‘bad luck’ (random chance). Instead of the Nietzschean view wherein; ‘endosmosis predominates over exosmosis’, we have only exosmosis in an evolutionary dynamic wherein univocal exosmotic forms ‘compete’ amongst themselves in an absolute fixed and empty operating theatre (Euclidian space).
But as the young son or daughter ‘step up to the plate’ in real life, they are conscious of becoming intermediaries between their newborn children and the unpredictably unfolding living space dynamic that they are uniquely and particularly situationally included in. So as they develop from infants to adults, they move from the core of the ‘nest’ in which order is secure to the ‘front lines’ where they shall live in the gap between order and chaos; i.e. in a condition of continual ‘becoming’ in the gap between the opening of spatial possibility and the blossoming of creative/productive potentialities.
This ‘relative existence’ in the Nietzschean view, removes the Darwinist dependency on ‘intention’, the notional local internal driver that notionally ‘inhabits’ the ‘local being’. It also removes the Darwinist dependency on absolute fixed and empty (Euclidian) space which is a necessary ‘prop’ without which ‘local being’ and ‘locally originating behaviour’ could note exist. While mainstream science continues on with its dependency on absolute space and the ‘ego-based’ notion of the ‘local system with its own locally originating, internal process-driven behaviour’, the door has been opened wide (the blocking wall never existed except through our self-imposed ‘economy-of-thought’ conventions), to going beyond the constrained ‘local being’ concepts as are born, bred and supported by the absolute-space framework that we habitually impose in ‘bringing our experience to mind’; i.e;
‘Space is not Euclidian’ … “Space is a participant in physical phenomena” … “Space not only conditions the behaviour of inert masses, but is also conditioned in its state by them.”, … “the recognition of the fact that ‘empty space’ in its physical relation is neither homogeneous nor isotropic, compelling us to describe its state by ten functions (the gravitation potentials g(μ,ν), has, I think finally disposed of the view that space is physically empty.”…”Relativity forces us to analyze the role played by geometry in the description of the physical world.” . . . “A thrown stone is, from this point of view, a changing field, where the states of greatest field intensity travel through space with the velocity of the stone” —Einstein.
“Space is another framework we impose upon the world” . . . ” . . . here the mind may affirm because it lays down its own laws; but let us clearly understand that while these laws are imposed on our science, which otherwise could not exist, they are not imposed on Nature.” . . . “Euclidian geometry is . . . the simplest, . . . just as the polynomial of the first degree is simpler than a polynomial of the second degree.” . . . “the space revealed to us by our senses is absolutely different from the space of geometry.” . . . Henri Poincaré, ’Science and Hypothesis’.”
In going from infant to adult, as we move from the safe centre of the ordered nest towards the edge where the order of the family meets the chaos of the unfolding spatial situation we are uniquely and particularly included in, … we may experience this feeling of wanting to swallow the world, to inhale it and to make it part of us, to open ourselves to the experiencing of it so that it continues to live within us. The insatiable desire to open ourselves to the experiencing of the world can take us to the limit at which our expenditure of ourselves is so profligate as to leave only just enough to be just barely capable of holding ourselves together at the brink of squandering ourselves. The ‘evolutionary force’ that this ‘insatiable need’ presents to us is Nietzsche’s ‘will to power’.
In appreciating that we ‘are’ of the fielding (the parenting medium or ‘participating space’) into which we are hitting, we avoid reducing ourselves to the ‘ego-view’ in which our power and direction derives, on a first-cause creation basis, from ‘the interior of our own being’. In the Nietzschean view of evolution, we retain the understanding of ourselves as sailors in a turbulent sea whose power and steerage derive from his situational inclusion in the ceaselessly innovative spatial-relational unfolding that is nature’s dynamic (where sustaining balance and harmony in our continuing voyage is the thing). We resist the subject-predicate, hitter-fielding split that reduces the sailor to the powerboater whose ego has convinced him that his power and steerage are inboard and his behaviour is driven by his local internal intellect and purpose (where the destination-oriented achieving of his mission, vision, strategies, goals and objectives is the thing).
The Darwinian organism is the ‘powerboater’ that understands evolution as being something that is internally driven and assisted or impeded by ‘good luck’ or ‘bad luck’ (random chance/probability) while the Nietzschean organism is the ‘sailboater’ that understands evolution as being ‘balance and harmony-sustaining’ in the gap between the outside-inward ceaselessly innovative (chaotic) unfolding of the living space dynamic and the inside-outward blossoming of creative/motive/productive (ordered) potentialities.
In Nietzsche’s following (translated) words, a similar imagery is presented to us as in Stephen Jay Gould’s baseball metaphor for evolution; i.e. we cannot speak of the fitness of the hitter because ‘hitting’ and ‘fielding’ are one inseparable dynamic, not two. In a fluid-dynamic, these two can be understood as one dynamic, the thrusting of the wave-crest and the accommodating of the wave-trough visually appearing as angry conflict but constituting the essence of transformation; i.e. the degeneration (herunterschraubung) of the great towering crest is ever-conjugate with the genesis of the great towering crest. The hitting owes its very meaning to the fielding and could not live without its conjugate partner;
“— The utility of an organ does not explain its origin; on the contrary! For most of the time during which a property is forming it does not preserve the individual and is of no use to him, least of all in the struggle with external circumstances and enemies. What, after all, is “useful”? One must ask “useful in relation to what?” E.g., that which is useful for the long life of the individual might be unfavorable to its strength and splendor; that which preserves the individual might at the same time arrest and halt its evolution. On the other hand, a deficiency, a degeneration, can be of the highest utility in so far as it acts as a stimulant to other organs. In the same way, a state of need can be a condition of existence, in so far as it reduces an individual to that measure of expenditure which holds it together but prevents it from squandering itself.— The individual itself as a struggle between parts (for food, space, etc.): its evolution tied to the victory or predominance of individual parts, to an atrophy, a “becoming an organ” of other parts.
The influence of “external circumstances” is overestimated by Darwin to a ridiculous extent: the essential thing in the life process is precisely the tremendous shaping, form-creating force working from within which utilizes and exploits “external circumstances”— The new forms molded from within are not formed with an end in view; but in the struggle of the parts a new form is not left long to its use, develops itself more and more completely.”
The key disagreement that Nietzsche has with Darwin here is that the ‘new forms’ are not determined by local internal processes/behavioural-drivers (e.g. intellectual ‘intention’, ‘purpose’, ‘instinct’), as in the simple Aristotelian ‘acorn-to-oak-tree’ purposeful-system view (Aristotle’s stress on ‘intrinsic cause’ was in spite of Plato’s belief in the precedence of extrinsic cause); i.e. in Nietzsche’s view there is outside-inward shaping influence going on at the same time as (in conjugate relation with) the inside-outward shaping influence. Nietzsche rejects the Darwinist inside-outward self-preservation drive for evolution and validates the ‘flow-oriented’ contemporary views of Lamarck and Rolph.
“Physiologists should think again before postulating the drive to self-preservation as the cardinal drive in an organic being. A living thing desires above all to vent its strength – life as such is will to power -: self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent consequences of it. – In short, here as everywhere, beware of superfluous teleological principles!” – Nietzsche, ‘Beyond Good and Evil’
In the following excerpt from Gregory Moore’s ‘Nietzsche, Biology and Metaphor, Moore tells how Nietzsche was tapping into the ideas of the anti-Darwinists of his era (who were not anti-evolution but who supported ‘mechanisms’ other than ‘the preservation of life’), there is a further ‘fleshing out’ of this conjugate extrinsic-intrinsic form-shaping dynamic in the ideas of William Rolph (Biologische Probleme )’
“For Rolph denies the existence of an instinct for self-preservation – or at the very least rejects the notion that such a drive represents the principal motivation of animal behavior. Rather, life seeks primarily to expand itself. This elementary proposition is expressed as a law of assimilation, a law operative in both the organic and inorganic world. Growth, Rolph argues, is determined by a process of diffusion, in which endosmosis predominates over exosmosis. – Gregory Moore, ‘Nietzsche, Biology and Metaphor’
The ‘will-to-power’, as Nietzsche intended it then, was not simply to do with some desire or ‘purpose’ in the head of man, but was the essence of ‘life’ itself, was inherent in all of nature, from the inorganic to the single-celled organism to man.”
“Nietzsche’s next published work [after reading Rolph in mid-1884] is Beyond Good and Evil (1886), where the influence of Rolph seems apparent. Nietzsche writes, “Even the body within which individuals treat each other as equals … will have to be an incarnate will to power, it will strive to grow, spread, seize, become predominant — not from any morality or immorality but because it is living and because life simply is will to power.” The influence of Rolph and its connection to “will to power,” also continues in book 5 of Gay Science (1887) where Nietzsche describes will to power as the instinct for “expansion of power,” fundamental to all life.” – Wikipedia
Thus far, the discussion on Nietzsche’s views relative to Darwin’s has been to bring out the general geometry of view vis a vis the geometry of ‘flow’ versus the geometry of ‘material dynamics’. Nietzsche’s intention that the will-to-power is a conjugate relation between ‘outside disorder’ [chaos] and ‘inside organization’ [order] does not make the hard split between the inorganic realm and the organic realm that Darwinism makes since the same evolutionary force is seen as applying to both. As in Lamarck’s view of evolution where ‘les fluides incontenables’ [‘energy-field flow’, the fluids that can contain but which cannot themselves be contained], … so, also, in Nietzsche’s evolutionary force (the will to power), there is no fundamental distinction to be made, as far as the evolutionary dynamic goes, between the organic and inorganic realms. In Nietzsche’s view, consciousness permeates the entire world while ‘self-consciousness’ distinguishes the organic realm.
This difference in the deepest foundations of how we understand the world (flow vs material dynamics) is implicit in Nietzsche’s critique of Darwinism which is at the same time a critique of the English culture (or his view of it), and this inter-regional ‘cultural’ difference has cropped up, in the same era, in science.
This essay will shift its attention to this difference in science (philosophy of science) that appears to shed light on the Nietzsche – Darwin difference on evolution.
The ‘purposeful system’ model of the organism, which Darwin employs, is essentially the imposing of the machine model (material being) on nature’s organisms; i.e. it portrays organisms as ‘local systems with their own locally-originating, internal process driven behaviours that interact in an absolute fixed and empty (Euclidian) space’. In the case of man, ‘intellect and purpose’ are seen as the ‘internal driving processes’ while biochemistry is seen as the raw energizing fuel.
To Nietzsche, this ‘material being’ (local systems) view of the organism, rather than the the conjugate extrinsic-intrinsic relation view, is what makes mainstream science ‘anthropomorphism’ since this machine model of man is the essence of ‘man’s ego’. But the new science of relativity was ‘on its way’ in Nietzsche’s era and Gregory Moore in ‘Nietzsche and Science’ reviews the rapport between Ernst Mach and Nietzsche, suggesting a meeting of the minds on a number of basics such as the non-primary nature of ‘the self’;
“The primary fact is not the I, the Ego, but the elements (sensations). The elements constitute the I. … when I die… only an ideal mental-economical unity, not a real unity, has ceased to exist” – Ernst Mach
Mach was a mentor of both Einstein and Poincaré on ‘relativity’ and of science being ‘an economy of thought’, and Mach’s principle of the relativity of space and matter is a near layover to Nietzsche’s (Rolph’s) conjugate endosmotic-exosmotic relational dynamic; i.e. Mach’s principle can be expressed “The dynamics of the habitat (space) are conditioning the dynamics of the inhabitants (matter) at the same time as the dynamics of the inhabitants are conditioning the dynamics of the habitat.”
This view of dynamical behaviour, is NOT in terms of ‘the behaviour of things-that-be’ but in terms of a ‘fluid dynamic forms’ that are ‘continually becoming’ (energy-field-flow in which matter is secondary, as in relativity theory where matter is a local concentration of energy in the energy-field flow). One’s continual becoming is thus given a static form in the manner of the pitch of the cataract
Emerson’s ‘Method of Nature’ (1841) captures the same concept of evolution as Lamarck and Nietzsche;
“The method of nature: who could ever analyze it? That rushing stream will not stop to be observed. We can never surprise nature in a corner; never find the end of a thread; never tell where to set the first stone. The bird hastens to lay her egg: the egg hastens to be a bird. The wholeness we admire in the order of the world, is the result of infinite distribution. Its smoothness is the smoothness of the pitch of the cataract. Its permanence is a perpetual inchoation. Every natural fact is an emanation, and that from which it emanates is an emanation also, and from every emanation is a new emanation. If anything could stand still, it would be crushed and dissipated by the torrent it resisted, and if it were a mind, would be crazed; as insane persons are those who hold fast to one thought, and do not flow with the course of nature. Not the cause, but an ever novel effect, nature descends always from above. It is unbroken obedience. The beauty of these fair objects is imported into them from a metaphysical and eternal spring. In all animal and vegetable forms, the physiologist concedes that no chemistry, no mechanics, can account for the facts, but a mysterious principle of life must be assumed, which not only inhabits the organ, but makes the organ.”
It begs to be proposed, that Nietzsche’s view of ‘evolution’ is a ‘relativistic’ one and invites us to dig deeper into the philosophy of science along that margin where material bodies and their behaviours give up their fixed identity to become ‘flow-features’ of the ilk of the storm-cell in the flow of the atmosphere.
“So [since the problem of certainty in identity such as A=A is handled, in Euclidian geometry, by invoking the notion of invariable solids] “objects” are implicitly assumed to be invariable bodies. Therefore the axioms of geometry already contain an irreducible assumption which does not follow from the axioms themselves. Axiomatic systems provide us with “faulty definitions” of objects, definitions that are grounded not in formal logic but in a hypothesis — a “prejudice” as Hans-Georg Gadamer might say — that is prior to logic. As a corollary, our logic of identity cannot be said to be necessary and universally valid. “Such axioms,” says Poincaré, “would be utterly meaningless to a being living in a world in which there are only fluids.” — Vladimir Tasic, ‘Poststructuralism and Deconstruction: A Mathematical History’ (2001)
This doesn’t mean all is lost when the local ‘fixed form’ identity is lost as our observation ‘let’s go’ of the static form of the pitch of the cataract and sees the ‘apparently local’ flow-form as the shape that belongs to the nonlocal flow it is included in. The hurricane is a non-local flow-feature that we ‘could say’… senses the flow of the atmosphere it is included in. It is, in fact, that Machian package of sensations that continuously changes in form without losing the ‘coherency’ associated with its ‘continual becoming’. But in the view of Mach and Nietzsche, this ‘continual becoming’ is not ‘locally originating, internal process-driven behaviour’, but is instead a conjugate extrinsic-intrinsic dynamic relation.
Furthermore, in Nietzsche’s view, it is the continual degeneration/atrophy of the ‘old order’ being transcended by the new order, in the manner that the children step up to the plate to deal with the continually changing fielding, as their parents ‘herunterschrauben’ (unwind like retiring Gyres).
Now, why would we not accept this ‘flow’ view (energy-field-flow) view of evolution and stick with Darwin’s split view where the behaviour of ‘hitters’ and the behaviour of ‘fielders’ are seen as ‘two separate behaviours’? And furthermore, why assess the variances in ‘hitting’ performance as being due SOLELY to the capabilities of the hitter, as if the ‘fielding’ was merely a passive space inhabited by features that could be exploited if they gave more runs (amplified the hitter’s productivity), or avoided as obstacles if they dissipated the hitter’s energy?
An answer to this question is provided by Henri Poincaré (1854 – 1912) in terms of ‘conveniences’ and ‘conventions’ built into our science as part of the ‘economy of thought’. In the following excerpt from ‘Science and Hypothesis’ (1902), Poincaré explains how we avoid the major hassle of “taking into account the progressive development of a phenomenon as a whole’, by assuming that ‘the present depends only on the immediate past’. This latter ‘economy of thought’ convention gives us the model of the organism as a ‘local system with its own locally originating, internal-process-driven behaviour’ which is foundational in our mainstream biological science and in Darwinism;
“Origin of Mathematical Physics. Let us go further and study more closely the conditions which have assisted the development of mathematical physics. We recognise at the outset that the efforts of scientists have always tended to resolve the complex phenomenon given directly by our experience into a large number of elementary phenomena. And to do this in three different ways : first, with respect to time. Instead of taking into account the progressive development of a phenomenon as a whole, we simply seek to connect each moment with the one immediately preceding. We assert that the present state of the world depends only on the immediate past, without being directly influenced, so to speak, by the memory of a more distant past. Thanks to this postulate, instead of studying directly the whole succession of phenomena, we may confine ourselves to writing down “its differential equation” ; for the laws of Kepler, we substitute the laws of Newton.” — Henri Poincaré, ‘Science and Hypothesis’, Ch. ‘Hypotheses in Physics’, subsection “Origin of Mathematical Physics”
Now, if there is split here in the philosophy of science, between Germany, France and England, to get at what Nietzsche was troubled by with his critique of both Darwin and the English culture, it could relate to the habit of confusing the simple causal model for ‘reality’ (all of nature’s dynamics) instead of as Nietzsche thought of science, as ‘a necessary/useful fiction’.
As we know, there are major splits in worldview as to whether the behaviour of a human being originates within the individual human being. If the human being commits a criminal act, does this imply that this comes from ‘criminal purpose’ since science sees him as a ‘local system with its own locally originating, intellect-and-purpose-driven behaviour’? Is the case closed once we establish that Jean Valjean actually stole the loaf of bread? This would be to go with the science wherein ‘the present depends only on the immediate past’ (the ‘causal model’). To do a more thorough job, we would have to ‘take into account the progressive development of the phenomenon as a whole’ which would mean listening to Jean Valjean’s testimony that ‘he could no longer bear to hear the children crying as they were put to bed hungry’, and the worsening conditions over the past year wherein, although France was one of the richest and most powerful countries in Europe, there was a huge gap between the rich and the poor and the poor were weighed down with the imposing of increasingly burdensome taxes.
The causal model is an ‘economy of thought’ built into the foundations of practical mainstream science that has also been used in the foundations of the justice system (One could trace this economy back to Descartes (1596 – 1650) as well, and his ‘Discours’ (1637). It saves a lot of inquiry into the source of unfolding events. The causal model is a ‘useful fiction’ that should not be confused for ‘reality’.
The warnings about this economy were given by Newton (1643 – 1727) in both the Author’s Preface and again in the Scholium in Principia (1687) , to wit that the laws of motion formulated in terms of ‘what material objects do’, are inherently inadequate for bringing an understanding of how dynamics ‘evolve’; i.e. how systems are gathered into new systems;
“… and the planets and comets will constantly pursue their revolutions in orbits given in kind and position, according to the laws above explained ; but though these bodies may, indeed, persevere in their orbits by the mere laws of gravity, yet they could by no means have at first derived the regular position of the orbits themselves from those laws. . . . This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” — Newton, Scholium in the ‘Principia’
“I wish we could derive the rest of the phaenomena of nature by the same kind of reasoning from physical principles; for I am induced by many reasons to suspect that they all may depend upon certain forces by which the particles of bodies, by some causes hitherto unknown, are either mutually impelled towards each other, and cohere in regular figures, or are repelled and recede from each other; which forces being unknown, philosophers have hitherto attempted the search of nature in vain; but I hope the principles laid down will afford some light either to this or some truer method of philosophy.” Newton, Author’s Preface in the ‘Principia’.
Whether Nietzsche is justified in pointing the finger at ‘Damnable Anglomania’ or not, the confusing of the ‘idealization’ in the causal model, for ‘reality’ does seem to have crept into the English sciences more quickly than into the sciences in France and Germany, or so it seems. For example, Poincaré pointed out, in summarizing the ‘economy of thought’ conventions that we have built into classical physics;
“It is therefore, thanks to the approximate homogeneity of the matter studied by physicists, that mathematical physics came into existence. In the natural sciences the following conditions are no longer to be found: homogeneity, relative independence of remote parts, simplicity of the elementary fact; and that is why the naturalist is compelled to have recourse to other modes of generalisation.” – Henri Poincaré, Science and Hypothesis
Poincaré also publicly argued with Bertrand Russell over how we are to understand ‘perception’. Poincaré never used the word ‘perception’ since either observing visually and experiencing sensually could be intended and these are not the same sort of thing, in Poincaré’s view (likewise for Mach and Nietzsche),
In spite of Poincaré’s warning, ‘naturalists’ around the globe have applied the very same simple causal model with its economy-of-thought based shortfalls (as noted by Newton) to biology and evolution that physics was applying to steam engines and bridge construction.
Nietzsche, in effect, did not constrain his thinking on evolution to ‘the causal model’ wherein both the young upcoming organism and the older outgoing organism are views as ‘local systems with their own locally originating, internal process-driven behaviours’ (i.e. ‘machines’ with self-reproducing capabilities). His ‘organisms’ were conjugate endosmotic-exosmotic dynamic relations, giving the same scenario as Mach wherein “the dynamics of the habitat are conditioning the dynamics of the inhabitants at the same time as the dynamics of the inhabitants are conditioning the dynamics of the habitat.” The job of the outgoing father was not measurable in terms of the fitness of the father, his ‘batting average’ (using Stephen Jay Gould’s critique of Darwinism’s ‘survival of the fittest’) but his ability to sustain order in the family living space in the face of ceaselessly unfolding innovation in the overall living space dynamics they were included in. In other words, the dynamics of fielding and the batting dynamic simultaneously mutually condition one another; … ‘the opening of spatial possibility (resistant here, receptive there) and the blossoming of creative/productive potentialities’ are a ‘conjugate pair’.
The ‘local system’ model wherein the present depends only on the immediate past does not hold since ‘space’ is a participant in the physical phenomenon; i.e. it is necessary to ‘take into account the progressive development of a phenomenon as a whole’. There is no doubt that employing the ‘local system model’ of the organism assumes absolute space reference framing. That’s the only way that the ‘flow-forms’ can be broken out and presented as local systems. The hurricane does not ACTUALLY move relative to a fixed frame (lat’s long’s etc.) it moves relative to the flow of the atmosphere and the multiple storm-cells in the atmosphere change form and move UNDER ONE ANOTHER’S SIMULTANEOUS MUTUAL INFLUENCE. This means that they do not ‘really’ have their own local behaviour (that is a fiction that comes from absolute space reference framing). Newton ran into this ‘three-body problem’ when he hit principles 65 and 66 in Principia and was forced to stop at two-body formulations of gravitational motion. This was where the ‘harmonies’ in the celestial dynamic (the ‘thingless connectedness’ that shows up in relativity and quantum physics) had to be left out of the economy-of-thought based scientific law formulations. In other words, this is where the ‘flow’ based modeling had to give way to the ‘material dynamics’ based modeling which went into Darwinism.
The shortfalls in Darwinian model of evolution, or in models of change based on the notional ‘local system’ wherein the present depends only on the immediate past are not only cropping up in biology (e.g. ‘epigenetics’ that over-rides ‘genetics’ and is seen by many as a rehabilitation of Lamarck’s theory wherein the flow was the more basic driver of evolution than the apparently absolute ‘beings’ that gathered in the flow.
In the modern climate change debate, there are those who model the earth as a local system and look for changes in climate using the convention that the present depends only on the immediate past. They thus search for correlations that suggest this type of cause effect relation between immediate past and present. The CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and global average surface temperature curve such a correlation, although some say the CO2 causes the temperature to rise and others say that rising temperatures cause CO2 to be released from the oceans. Both of these groups employ the causal model.
There is another group, including geologists that study the earth’s cryosphere who believe that climate change must be understood by ‘taking into account the progressive development of the phenomenon as a whole’, that change in the present does not depend only on the immediate past. They point out that melting ice changes the temperature and the different pulses of ice-making that result from variances in the celestial dynamic (orbital wobbles, solar irradiance variances, solar flare particle storms that induce high level cloud formation etc.) set up a variety of long period temperature-modifying time-bombs and it is the sum of the moderations of these melting ice accumulations that give the earth’s temperature curve its ups and down, not the other way round; i.e. the spatial distribution of melting ice gives the temperature curve its shape. The spatial distribution of ice sheets, glaciers, and permafrost is a ‘real’ phenomena while ‘temperature’ is a reduction of the thermal energy field to ‘local point status’; i.e. temperature is defined as as the average kinetic energy of the atoms. This reduces the shape of the thermal field, which is the source of ocean currents, winds etc. to an abstract one-dimensional point that notionally points to the condition of the ‘earth’ seen as a ‘local system’ with a ‘present’ that depends only on its ‘immediate past’. As with Nietzsche’s open expression of distaste for Darwinism, ‘climate change’ scientists can be equally univocal, although the politicization of climate science ‘in the west’ has nearly silenced the dissidents, though not so in, for example, Russia;
“There is no global warming caused by human activity, first because greenhouse gases do not affect climate. They do not affect climate. That is a physical theory, it is an invented horror – it does not exist.” … “While politicians and public … compare “today” with “yesterday”, geologists (science community which I belong to) always think in terms of geological time, events lasting thousands and millions of years. Such a viewpoint takes a lot of imagination in addition to knowledge. Not that effective as something Global and Hazardous, we call it in Russian “Strashilka” (a scarecrow).” (2010)
The debate over whether to launch one’s inquiry into the dynamics of world and self from the launch-pad of ‘becoming’ (‘flow’ or ‘flow-forms’) or from the launch-pad of ‘being’ (material body behaviour) has been longstanding.
There is, of course, no reason not to do both however the view of Nietzsche has been that starting from ‘being’ gives ‘useful fiction’ that should not be confused for ‘reality.’ Nietzsche critiqued the culture of Darwin that was, in his view, doing precisely that, confusing ‘useful fiction’ for ‘reality’.
The ‘useful fiction’ in the case of evolution, referred to imputing an ‘organism’ to be a ‘local system with its own locally originating, internal-process-driven behaviour’ that interacted with other such local systems in an absolute fixed and empty Euclidian space. In Nietzsche’s view, this amounted to the infusing of the ‘ego’ into the organism-as-local system, and thus making science (the causal model variety of science) anthropomorphism.
Mach’s notion was that the principle of the ‘economy of thought’ was the engine of science, the pursuit of formulations that were increasingly more general, that could address more phenomena with fewer, simpler formulations. Formulations which assumed that ‘the present depends only on the immediate past’ (the causal model built into classical mathematical physics since Newton) deliver great ‘economy of thought’ and whether this trend started in English culture, as Nietzsche charged, or not, it has since become a pillar of the dominant world culture (Anglo-American). Or, rather, scientific thinking in this simplified ‘economy-of-thought’ delivering manner, has taken over the global social dynamic, and Darwinism has been able to ‘surf’ on its ‘roll out’.
The Nietzschean version of evolution, which launches from ‘becoming’ rather than ‘being’, has the requirement that we must ‘take into account the progressive development of a phenomenon as a whole’. According to Nietzsche, in order to understand the ‘evolutionary force’ (‘will-to-power’) we must understand how degeneration, as the old forms (order, organization) are being overcome by the ceaseless unfolding of spatial innovation in our living space dynamic, inspire the ceaseless transcendent becoming of the new forms. The human being is, in this view, the purely spatial-relational membrane of the dynamic where order meets chaos, … the son whose natural will is to become the intermediation between the unpredictably unfolding living space dynamic and the family organization that is situationally included in it. To bring it in and domesticate it as one might imagine was the evolution of the eukaryote form from prokaryote forms.
The notion of self-preservation by way of establishing a dynastic lineage of the same sort of dynamic forms, coming up with variances in their ‘batting ability’ by random chance, out of the context of the unpredictably unfolding ‘fielding’ they are included in, doesn’t make a lot of sense except as a kind of ‘secondary fiction’ of some (ego-satisfying) utility. Man’s ego will tend to credit his improving ‘batting average’ with his own prowess rather than concede that he has encountered a receptivity that amplifies his scoring without being able to attribute it to ‘his performance’ in the ‘local system’ (internal process-driven behaviour sense). If he starves as a farmer in Europe and thrives as a farmer in America, the ‘useful fiction’ is that ‘it reflects on ‘his performance’’.
In other words, the ‘local systems’ model is ‘ego’ based. The ‘local system’ is an emulation of the human ego. Thus the simple science that permeates modern global scientific thinking, is anchored by ‘ego’.
Because the ‘local systems’ model are in terms of material dynamics relative to an absolute fixed and empty space, the ‘hitting’ of the ‘organism-as-local system’ is out of the context of ‘fielding’ and thus changes in the overall phenomenon can only come from changes in the performance of the ‘organisms-as-local systems’. Changes not easily explained can be ‘arm-waved’ away by the invoking of mathematical probability, avoiding the overheads-to-thought (retaining the economy-of-thought of the simple causal model) that accompanies the move to a conjugate hitting-fielding dynamic relation model. Erwin Schroedinger complained about the use of probability in preserving the foundational status for the material body in the concensus (without him) agreement on a common way of presenting an interpretation of quantum physics;
“What we observe as material bodies and forces are nothing but shapes and variations in the structure of space. Particles are just schaumkommen (appearances). … Let me say at the outset, that … I am opposing not a few special statements of quantum physics held today (1950s), I am opposing as it were the whole of it, I am opposing its basic views that have been shaped 25 years ago, when Max Born put forward his probability interpretation, which was accepted by almost everybody.” – Erwin Schroedinger
Once we assume ‘cause and effect’ we break apart ‘hitting’ and ‘fielding’; i.e. we break apart the ‘crest’ and the ‘trough’, the fluidity that is inherent in the world dynamic. Overcoming the over-simplistic causal model and the Aristotelian, local, purposeful system view of self, … bringing space (fielding) back in as a full participant (with hitting) in physical phenomena, as the ‘flow’ view demands and as Nietzsche and Schroedinger and others have argued for, thus has both ‘ego’ and ‘economy of thought’ standing squarely in its path.
“That which gives the extraordinary firmness to our belief in causality is not the great habit of seeing one occurrence following another but our inability to interpret events otherwise than as events caused by intentions. It is belief in the living and thinking as the only effective force–in will, in intention–it is belief that every event is a deed, that every deed presupposes a doer, it is belief in the “subject.” Is this belief in the concept of subject and predicate not a great stupidity?” … “Cause and effect–a dangerous concept so long as one thinks of something that causes and something upon which an effect is produced” —Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘The Will to Power’
Understanding the unfolding world dynamic in terms of it being the product of intention-driven ‘doers of deeds’ is an ‘incoherence’, a recipe for self-inflicted dysfunction. Yet we continue to cultivate this ego-inflating, ‘achievement’-oriented understanding in our children through our educational systems and in our leaders through our political systems.
The paradox is that, without suspending this ‘incoherence’ in our understanding of self and world, we shall continue to architect our efforts to recover from our rising dysfunction, using the intention-driven doer-and-deed design paradigm, putting ourselves in an ego-powered spiralling descent into deepening dysfunction.
Breaking the circle of this dysfunction requires us to suspend giving ‘first priority’ to ‘calls to action’ associated with intention-driven, goal-oriented initiatives, and to let the unfolding-in-the-now living space dynamic, as we are each situationally included in it, orchestrate our individual and collective behaviours on a first priority basis.
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This entry was posted by ted lumley on November 11, 2010 at 1:05 am, and is filed under APN. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.
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