Erik Larson

Feb 2, 2014

Limits - Thoughts

Copernicus as a model for exalted view of personhood along with an expanded metaphysics including mind as well as divinity.

Enlightenment saw a contraction of metaphysics but continued an exalted view of personhood, exemplified in the Renaissance man or a humanism that placed man at the center of the cosmos and man’s innovativeness and mental powers as paramount.

Slowly, the consequences of the Cartesian Minimalist Materialism eroded the Enlightenment Humanism, just as the break from Catholicism in the Scientific Revolution eroded the Judeo-Christian worldview. (or: Theistic).

By the 20th century, scientific investigation had uncovered a world full of limits, boundaries, and outright mysteries. On the one hand, the major framework for modern physics was in place.Yet, on the other, it was clear that limiting results formed a huge part of the overall picture of science. In some cases, these results simply circumscribed the limits of human knowledge and capabilities. Yet in others, they seemed to suggest that the very naturalistic framework that western science had embraced—the Cartesian Minimalist Materialism—was perhaps inadequate to fully explain the mysteries of the natural world, mysteries that scientific investigation itself had exposed.

The human mind seemed to be uncovering evidence in the natural world of its own limitations. Add to this, a major naturalistic theory of intelligence or consciousness remained elusive by the end of the twentieth century.

Yet limitations discovered in the minimalist materialist framework continually erode the notion of the uniqueness of humans. Rather than suggest that boundaries and limitations to naturalistic explanations suggest an expanded scientific framework—incorporating humanist elements like human intelligence and consciousness (mind), a return to the exalted view of humanity in the world, such boundaries and limitations seem to frustrate the scientific enterprise and encourage more and more desperate attempts to maintain a strict adherence to naturalism in spire of mounting evidence.

As this tension hit a boiling point, a most unlikely successor to science has come into play. That is, digital technology and its success in ideas such as Moore’s Law has spawned a new, expanded metaphysics. Unfortunately, computationalism continues the deflationary trend against humanism, replacing the innovativeness of persons with either crowds or machines. Nothing is less valued in the modern Computationalist paradigm than the human person, viewed as an individual. Classic philosophic conundrums like consciousness are now “solved” by emerging out of computation (big data, networks, faster and faster computers), as well as intelligence (now a “super intelligence” rivaling human intelligence). There is even traditional religious notions smuggled back into the metaphysical discussion.

Hence, we’ve come full circle, since Copernicus. Only, now, a universe with greater meaning is emerging from our own creation—our technology—which will one day be greater and more valuable than ourselves.