Thursday, June 14, 2007
Numb and Number
Mathematics don’t take us where we want to go – to reality, the ultimate reality actually.
Math isn’t even a means to that end, although theoretical physicists would like to think it is.
The surreal abstractions that math addresses – and this has nothing to do with the practical applications of arithmetic – mimic Plato’s “real reality” but that reality is not accessible to mankind as it (mankind) is now configured.
There is a mundane reality, the one which we all experience daily. And there is a profound or transcendental reality, which has eluded humankind since the inception of consciousness or thought.
What is the best way to get at that transcendental reality?
Early philosophers – the Greeks mostly – thought mathematical constructs were the doorway to the reality that underlies life.
Religious thinkers thought prayer and rites would take them to that underlying (or overhead) reality.
The Orientals suggested meditation and fasting to arrive at Tao or Nibbana.
Philosophers such as the scholastics (Anselm, Aquinas, et al.) down through those of the Enlightenment right on up to the modern era believed that cogitation would provide the answer(s) to what reality is.
Today, physicists and an array of peripheral scientists seek The Theory of Everything (aka reality) by mathematical theory and experimentation.
From the burial evidence of primitive man, through the Mesopotamian cultures, the
Chinese and Indian tracts, the Greek and Roman ruminations, the Christian dialogues, and so on, man has tried to fathom what the Ultimate Reality was and is.
Today, science eschews the methodologies of the past, and rightfully so. None have worked.
But are mathematical theorems, and the hypotheses or theories derived from them, any more effective. That is, are we closer to determining what reality, the Real Reality, is?
No. We’re actually further away since today’s science has created more questions than answers. The more science pursues reality the more complex it appears to be.
String theory won’t simplify the meaning of the world, just as quantum significantly confuses the issue.
What is to be done? Should we throw up our hands, in a kind of metaphysical despair, as Aquinas did when he had his vision or as Te Shan did when he had his?
The likes of physicists, such as Penrose, Susskind, Greene, Gribbin, Davies, et alia,
attempt to help us out, to help themselves out, but to no avail. They all are whistling in the dark matter.
Of course one can’t fault them for trying to decipher the mystery of the origin of the Universe or Life. That’s that Socrates encouraged us all to do.
But is math or theoretical physics the way to go about the discernment of what this life really means? Such posturings haven’t worked so far and, as noted, more questions have been raised than answered.
Nope. Math and science as we know it are just as arcane and useless as the dialectics of Aristotle or the collations of Meister Eckhart.
It’s time for a new science, one that emerges from but goes beyond Vico, and one that is able to synthesize the truths from the past with the discoveries of the present.
Otherwise we’re right back where we started, and that doesn’t help anyone….