Popper's 'Scientific' Irrationalism

Reilly Jones (Reilly@compuserve.com)
Wed, 19 Mar 1997 03:09:30 -0500

Mark Crosby wrote 3/17/97: <certainty is a subjective feeling, not an
objective truth. I'm also certain that we can never be completely certain
about most *things*, as opposed to *feelings*.... I agree that the most
important thing is, as you [Jeff Dee] say, to be always questioning, trying
to reduce uncertainty.>

I wrote in "Extropy" #15: "We achieve internal certainty through awareness
that our subjective thoughts are objective truth to others. We embody
truth, we alone can be certain of our purposes because we can decide them
instant by instant.... Coherency of purposes and values coupled with
certainty is the desired condition prior to action. This is the biggest
enhancement of consciousness we can achieve immediately." What you, Mark,
are thinking (not "feeling" because we don't want to sound like flaky
emotivists) right now, the certainty you have in deciding your purposes
instant by instant, is objective truth to me.

I cannot quite get inside your head and access your exact thoughts (the
qualia problem), but I can approach it using various methods of reducing
uncertainty. I wrote in the history paper: "It's the reduction of
uncertainty in the incoming stream of continuous reality that tells us
somewhat of the precursors to this stream. The evolution of consciousness
is accelerated as we get better at this. We increase our ability to choose
more adaptive paths of action as we anticipate future dangers that would
threaten our purposes." So I am in agreement with you and Jeff here
regarding the importance of reducing uncertainty, this is science's primary
role. I am uncertain that "we can never be completely certain about most
things," if you qualify the statement to read "most *important* things."
Our ability to be certain about things and thoughts is tied very intimately
to their importance to us. Importance fluctuates over time and within
contexts, our certainty therefore blips in and out.

Certainty is a liquid realm concept, it is the conjunction of consciousness
(chaotic realm) and being (ordered realm). Another way to look at the
central position certainty has in our lives, is to picture consciousness as
a coherent dynamic energy pattern operating in the past formulating
purposes - Cramer's backwards-in-time microcausality Omega was posting
about (transactional interpretation of QM); aimed at and stabilizing in the
now - being or the particulate substance of the universe; then springing
forth from this ordered foundation into the chosen future, existence itself
- Cramer's forwards-in-time microcausality. We may choose entropic
purposes that lead to loss of pattern coherency, we may miss our footing
springing from being, our chosen future may go awry in conflict with other
entities or brute necessity, but certainty lifts us above inanimate matter
and low-level life forms.

The compost-modern worship of the will-to-power that replaced waning
interest in truth, had nowhere to go except, as Deleuze & Guattari said,
"turning to destruction, abolition pure and simple, the passion of
abolition." The strenuous efforts by the cultural elites (both humanists &
technicists share the same culture regarding this) to abolish certainty in
favor of radical skepticism (nihilism) have one objective: the denial of a
future for humanity. The passion of abolition that sets in, once the truth
has been jettisoned, doesn't abate until we sink back to the animal's level
or lower. A culture with an impoverished epistemology of
'criticism-unto-destruction' will result in destruction all right, the
destruction of the critic. This is what the Unamuno quote was getting at.

Mark: <Am I to conclude from [the Unamuno quote] that reason is inimicable
to life? I think not - that would be a dualistic copout. Rather, BOTH will
AND reason, empirical induction and conceptual deduction, will compete to
make the extropic transformation. Which we *emphasize* does not depend on
truth, but on perspective or, dare I say it, utility.>

Indeed it would be a cop-out, Unamuno achieved penetrating philosophical
insights by his conceptualizing of life and reason competing, very
fruitful. I largely agree with what you say, I would not give a privileged
position to either truth or utility, but perspective is closely related to
meaning, and I would give that which increases meaning in our lives, a
privileged position when it comes to which we emphasize.

Mark: <Don't misinterpret me: Baudrillard seeks dissolution because he
this is an awful world, while I, as an Extropian, would seek coherence
- drawing out the truth and beauty from amidst the overwhelming noise
and decay. But, is this not also a seduction of reality?>

Are all seductions bad?

Mark: <I see these "creative interpretations" as deductions - I want it to
so, even though it is not yet so (or my interpretation is incomplete),
so I will do my best to make it so!>

I agree with you here. The only danger is that pure deduction can lead
completely away from truth, or objective reality; and land you in a
solipsistic backwater of subjective reality leaving you vulnerable to
unpleasant surprises in real life. Pure deduction loses all meaning unless
it is correlated to ontological particulars. I guess the method of
correlating would be the extropic transformation referred to above.

Mark: <Now, I have not read Popper. About all I knew about Popper prior to

this was his notions of Worlds 1-3. Until now I had associated these
with Reilly's more elegant notions of ordered, chaotic and liquid

Popper's worlds were essentially epistemological divisions, similar to
Edmund Husserl's earlier divisions. My epistemological divisions, or
boundaries in aspectual reality space, I posted some time ago on the
E-list: subjective reality ("I"), consensual reality ("We"), and objective
reality ("They/It") - a three-in-one unity, three unbridgeable
epistemological aspects of one underlying reality. The notions of chaotic,
liquid and ordered realms are ontological, not epistemological.

Mark: <I too prefer truth / verity rather doubt, problems and refutations;
but, as Reilly has said in his "Extropic Thought" essay, "dualism is
philosophy's perennial cop-out". And, a few paragraphs later in that
same essay Reilly says: "Concepts are pruned to our desire for truth
through methods of falsifiability or verifiability." I notice he says
"or", not "and".>

The portion of the history paper you are quoting from was a discussion of
why some concepts last and others don't. In describing different
scientific methods, I used 'or' rather than 'and' because most scientists
today do not attempt to simultaneously satisfy both principles,
philosophical "dualism" doesn't come into play. I don't concentrate on the
pros and cons of the methods, although I do emphasize the peripheral nature
of falsifiability vs. the centrality of verifiability regarding the
longevity of concepts.

"Following (to some degree) W.V. Quine's formulation of how scientific
choices are made as to which concepts to keep and which to discard, there
exists a coherent web of peripheral concepts surrounding a central core of
interdefined concepts. When observations are at variance with what we
predicted, we generally rearrange the exterior web of concepts far more
readily than we discard the central core of concepts. Thus, falsifiability
tends to function peripherally, and is identified with coherency theories
of truth, with closed-system definitions, axioms and logical deductions.
The central core of concepts generally have been verified through the
physical mediation of technology between value-laden concepts and objective
physical reality. That is to say, these central concepts either work or
they don't work; as technology develops, the central concepts develop.
Thus, verifiability tends to function centrally, and is identified with
correspondence theories of truth, within open systems."

George Gilder talked about the centrality of verifiability in "Forbes ASAP"
(Dec. 2,1996): "The cumulative facts of science manifest themselves in
technology, powerful and practical machines that cumulatively and
empirically validate the new paradigms and generate new science in the

Mark: <Reilly contends that the farther we go, the *more* we know. While
this is true, it is also true that the more we know, the more we realize
how much more there is still to be learned. Acknowledging this does not
mean one has sunk into irrationalism!>

Nor was this either Stove's, Kimball's or my suggestion.

RJ: <We acquire knowledge by directing our internal searchlight at the
metaphysical unknown in search of something we can call a problem to
work on. As our searchlight sweeps the metaphysical night sky, we map
what reveals itself in the beam and interpret the map according to our
utility of the moment.>

Mark: <Is this not similar to the functionalism (or was it utilitarianism)
that you were criticizing Gregory Houston for a month ago? Is this
"inventing purposes" or "pursuing truth", and how can you so certainly
draw this fine line for someone other than yourself?>

It is pursuing truth. I am not describing looking for lies, I am
describing looking at objective reality on the other side of the
epistemological boundary between it and our subjective reality ("I"). The
boundary itself is where metaphysics opens up. When Gregory Houston wrote
"I have no desire to attain truth," he announced he was looking elsewhere
than at objective reality, that he wasn't going to bother with the maps.
This is not a fine line, but a rather wide flourescent yellow line.
Utilitarianism is all purpose, no truth; all meaning rapidly bleeds away.

Guru George wrote 3/17/97: <...unless you believe in some queer magical
connection between what we say and the way the world is such that there is
some logically necessary link between them (which denies the very principle
of objectivity, which says that there is *no* such logically necessary
connection, that the world exists the way it does independently of our
whims, our thoughts and theories) you*must* (logically!) be a Popperian.>

Logically, you can't find anywhere where "you" end, and some "world," not
containing "you," begins to independently exist. Logically, no notion of
"indepedence" can possibly have any meaning unless it is ultimately in
relation to transcendence. Independent from what? You can't draw any
lines, separate out any entities or objects, anywhere in a continuous
space. The category boundaries are arbitrary, based on our whims. This is
the unity of the underlying ontology.

Certainly, there are epistemological boundaries to be drawn, between you
and the world, between you and others, between others and the world.
Criticism-unto-destruction may be one methodology (or at least an
interesting spectator sport from a safe distance) between others and the
world, but it is not necessarily a very healthy attitude between you and
others (certainly it is very destructive regarding intimacy and trust), and
it is utterly inapplicable between you and the world (you're on your own

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