Wednesday, June 21, 2023

The Fiction of "Outer Space"

It is the convention of map reading to place North at the top of the page. But everyone knows that this has no bearing on anything beyond convention.  For example, if we ascend in a hot air balloon and look down at the fields and roads bellow, then "up" is not where north is: "Up" means ascending higher into the sky. 

Keeping this in mind, lets take a look at this photo. 

In it we can make out the continent of Africa. We can also notice that the photo has been orientated for us with "north" at the top of the frame and south at the bottom, just like any map. Are we still aware that this is purely a convention, and that the only legitimate "up" is the same as with the hot air balloon - higher altitude? For it seems to me that we can too easily forget that we are looking down at the ground bellow the astronaut, and instead jump to the idea that we are looking out at a massive ball floating in space.

To "float" means to be hovering at a particular level or altitude. But the only altitude that has any meaning in this photo is that of the astronaut's altitude above the earth when he took the photo. How is it then that we see the earth in this photo as "floating"? It must be that we are bringing this concept of a floating sphere to the photo, and imposing it on the actual reality.  

Objection: the photo shows conclusively that the earth is not flat, and that it is surrounded on all sides by space. 

No doubt. But the issue is the idea that the earth is floating, or suspended. What, apart from the earth itself, is it suspended in or above? 

Our thinking - and in particular, our thinking about space, is derived from our earthly experiences, our concept of space is quite literally the fruit of the earth. It will not do to then borrow this concept and place the earth as an object within it. For in truth, and everyone can confirm this for themselves, when we imagine space we always orientate this space as having an "up" and a "down". It cannot be done any other way. And when we orientate our spacial "up" against a ground that is not the earth, we are extrapolating a real and legitimate ground (the earth) and projecting it into a region of existence where there cannot be any ground; namely, "outer-space” and then we commit the further  error of placing the earth as an object within this earth-derived space. 

You might say, so what? If we can navigate to the moon, then who cares what concept of space we imagine?

That would be fine, if we were consistent. But we are not. The images taken by Apollo astronauts have had the effect of giving us what seems like a universal perspective on the reality of our world. We assume we have discovered some ultimate truth in the idea that earth is just a ball, or speck of dust floating in space. But all we have done is transposed our earthly experiences of specks of dust and floating objects and scaled these up to the size of the cosmos. We aught to remain more humble - more... how shall we say, down to earth. For a universal perspective is a contradiction in terms. Sure, from one perspective the earth is a ball, hovering in space - but I would argued that it is a particularly fantastical and misguided perspective. Contrary to this perspective is the rather convincing intuition that the earth is the actual ground of the world - on which we and all life exist. In fact, this intuition is not just one perspective among many that science has proven antiquated and naive - it is the literal truth. For the earth is literally the ground out of which humanity is born and awakens into living consciousness and with this, the ability to have perspectives in the first place. 

Monday, May 8, 2023

Why I am a Christian

 I am not a Christian because I identify with Christ, nor because I identify with anyone else who is Christian. In fact the idea of Christianity as identity is precisely the sort of spurious muddle-headedness causing so much confusion and conflict in our culture at the moment. Identity is placed in the foreground to the expense of any sense of the hard struggle of practice. It should be obvious that I am not a man simply by virtue of my biology or what pronoun I am addressed by; I am a man for reasons that can be recognised universally by any culture that has ever existed, namely, to the extent that I can overcome childish self-interests and aim for something like maturity. In the same way, to be a Christian is not a subjective fancy to identify with someone called Jesus like one does some fashion icon - but rather to try to imagine Christ as THE central revelation concerning the ultimate structure of the world and of human existence as a whole. That is the claim of Christianity, and it is a claim that can be recognised universally as an outlandish and profound claim, regardless whether you even believe in it or not. In fact, really believing in the Christian claim doesn't just happen over-night, like changing your hair-style or gender pronoun. It takes practice! 

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Why I have reverted to using feet and inches instead of the metric system

This might be a rather odd subject to wright about, and on first reflection, trivial. At least that is how I thought about the matter for most of my life. 

 I have worked as a carpenter for 17 or so years, and have, like every other tradesman in the UK, used predominantly metres and millimetres for my measurements. But thanks to our tape measures still having the imperial as well as the metric on them, I was always intrigued by feet and inches, and about a year ago I decided to start using them for my measurements instead. I was surprised by what I discovered.

Once I had put in the effort of learning the fractions, I found the metric tape measure much easier on the eye - while mental calculations became far less effort compared to the metric measurements. For one thing, the numbers one is dealing with rarely go above one hundred - whereas with the metric you’re dealing in hundreds and soon thousands of millimetres before you’ve even reached the hight of the average person. 

Of curse, the average person who uses metric uses centimetres, not millimetres. And here lies one of the issues with it. In the trade, it's millimetres only so as to avoid the complication around decimal points. So if someone talks in centimetres on the job site not only do they increase the scope for confusion and costly error, but they sound like a DIYer. This means that tradesmen speak a different measurement language to their clients most of the time, even though we are all using metric. Not so with feet and inches. 

Some people assume that imperial isn’t as accurate as the metric system. But they are mistaken. The beauty of the inch is that you can be as accurate as you need to be, whereas the metric almost encourages a pedantic focus on minute measurements even when it is not necessary. 

But I don’t imagine I can win anyone over with rational arguments to which one can always make perfectly justifiable counter arguments. Both forms of measurement work at getting the job done. I’m appealing to something else besides the pure functionality -  an intuition you get when you use feet and inches. It's almost as though the difference between metric and imperial is something like the difference between a technician and a craftsman. What that difference is is somewhat ineffable. No doubt the metric system makes calculations easier when engineering something like a rocket. But as a craftsman, working in peoples homes on a human scale, there is an ease in which feet and inches map onto the real world that is simply lacking with the metric measurements. I get the feeling my clients are also relieved when I talk in feet and inches rather than throwing hundreds and thousands of millimetres at them. I have found a deep respect for feet and inches, and it comes as no surprise to learn that they have arisen out of hundreds of years of practical usage - whereas the metric measurement was devised in the minds of French intellectuals who I doubt ever did much in the way of practical work themselves. 

Far from being a trivial subject, I sense the metric system has aided the steady transition from craftsmanship towards a digitised automation, where the role of the human being is more and more compartmentalised, so that you have “expert technicians” over-seeing the monotonous construction of mass-produced, pre-fabricated homes and furniture, designed on CAD and cut by CNC machines that require digital inputs (fractions are not suitable for this). We lose in the process hand-made products constructed by fully embodied craftsmen with a living sense for proportion and aesthetic, where pride is taken in making objects of real beauty. It is a world dominated by technicality and automation that finds the imperial so archaic and backwards. But as a craftsman, I cannot deny the practicality and wisdom of it.  

No doubt there will be many a craftsmen who disagrees with me. Let me know in the comments! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

The Archetype of all Ideas

 Our capacity to think about nature objectively is at the same time natures capacity to express itself as IDEA.

Our capacity to then think about thinking itself is to transcend all of natures ideas and arive at the idea behind all ideas - "thinking".
It follows from this that thinking is essentially a free activity, unicombered by any "law" (idea) of nature.
See Steiner's Philosophy of Freedom for more details.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The biggest Delusion of Modern Humanity


The biggest delusion of all is that sterile matter could ever have changed itself into something living through natural selection. For the definition of "sterile" is precisely that it is the antithesis to any form of life. If the universe really did begin in a blazing mass of burning hot matter, then it would make no difference what material processes have occurred since that origin, for these processes would still be sterile today regardless of how many billions of years they had had to change into different processes. A machine is dead, no matter how complex it might become and the idea that we are machines is really the idea that all life is actually not alive at all, but only seems alive. The adherent to this kind of materialism has to ultimately deny their own personal vitality - they must conclude that they themselves are... sterile.

Thursday, August 5, 2021

Does our mind generate reality?

 It seems obvious that thought cannot conjure up appearances out of thin air. Yet many people assume that the mind generates the appearances of the world we are conscious of. Examples of optical illusions and dreams are given to back this assumption up. I dream I am flying, but in reality, I am lying in my bed. I think I am seeing movement, but in reality it is a succession of still images rapidly flashing before my eye on the TV screen. So from such examples it is concluded that the human mind generates reality for itself without the corresponding sense inputs necessarily conveying any reality at all.

In response to such ideas about perception and the mind, one has to be very clear to avoid getting tangled in a web of abstraction. For example, whether an appearance, that is, whether a particular "percept" is the content of a dream or whether it is something revealed in waking consciousness cannot be established based only on whether it originates from sense-inputs, for these are not sufficient for producing any percepts (if they were there would be no hard problem of consciousness). In reality, only a thinking contemplation will reveal what a particular percept is and what its origin is. Only thinking can render the true reality of a percept. But my own act of thinking cannot generate a percept, far less can it declare that all percepts are the product of my subjective mind. Whether a percept corresponds to the objective world, or whether it is the product of mere fancy can only be established by a thoughtful contemplation of that particular percept. 

Thought is thus inescapable at all levels of reality, and it transcends the subject/object duality. It follows that thinking can no longer be imagined as just being in our own heads - for when we look at the very fabric of the world, in any field of study, there we find thinking too.

 This is a brief outline of one of the central observations Rudolf Steiner makes on the subject of thinking in his book The Philosophy of Freedom 

The Fiction of "Outer Space"

It is the convention of map reading to place North at the top of the page. But everyone knows that this has no bearing on anything beyond co...