THE POINT OF THE EXERCISE
Most people think that writing a philosophy is about as useful as giving a bicycle to a fish. What’s the point? Philosophy deals with problems that have been examined for thousands of years and few, if any new solutions have been found.
My philosophy was written to shed some new light on five contemporary problems in philosophy: Homochauvanism, essentialism, linear thinking, minimalism, and secular creationism. The techniques employed are not completely new to philosophy but they are employed in novel ways and combinations.
Homochauvanism is the attitude that humans are something separate and apart from the rest of the natural world. Humans are seen as something special or exceptional. One can see vestiges of this attitude in expressions like: “Man versus Nature” or “Man is the steward of Nature.” I explicitly take the position that although humans may have unique knowledge, skills and abilities, some of which are explored in my books, we are an evolved ape subject to the same laws and principles as any other species. We are a part of our environment and not apart from it.
For thousands of years, humans have treated the world as static. Of course, some things were seen as changing; living things were born, lived and then died. Trees change colors in the Fall and lose their leaves in the Winter only to have them reappear again in the Spring. Arguments about the nature of these types of changes go as far back as the early Greek philosophers. The arguments presented attempted to explain change in a fundamentally static world. Trees didn’t become something else; fish didn’t suddenly develop legs and lungs and walk on land. Everything had a unique identity, an essence. This is the second problem I address, essentialism. Contemporary science has given us a radically different view of how the world works. The world is not static but rather dynamic and interactive. Things evolve. Essentialism is incompatible with this view of the world. My philosophy demonstrates new techniques to analyze and understand a dynamic and interactive world.
A dynamic and interactive world also needs new tools for analysis. Traditional thinking has been linear in nature. That is, state A always produces state B which will produce a state C and so on. The process is closed. In an interactive world, things are not always that straightforward; something may interact with state A before state B is produced. The same is true for computations. In linear thinking if certain specified rules are followed, an A will always give you B. While this has been a very successful methodology, it lacks the strength to analyze complex, interactive and dynamic systems. My philosophy demonstrates new techniques for analyzing interactive systems.
In a linear analysis certain step by step rules and procedures (algorithms) must be followed to produce a particular outcome. The algorithm is closed to input until it is finished. Think of a system of logic or a math problem. You go from step 1 to step 2 in accordance with specific rules. The process continues until the solution is produced. This is what I call a “minimalist” process; everything is prohibited unless it is allowed. In a dynamic, interactive process inputs can influence the algorithm at any time. The outcome or “solution” isn’t known until the process is finished. This is what I call a “maximalist” process; everything is allowed unless it is prohibited.
As a rough analogy, think of two types of job interview. The first type of interview is structured. It is minimalist. Every candidate is asked a series of questions and the answers are duly recorded. There is no allowance for asking for clarification or follow-up questions. Everything is prohibited unless it is specifically allowed; only the sequential questions are allowed. A second type of interview is unstructured and maximalist. An opening question is asked and the interview proceeds interactively; additional questions are formulated based on the candidate’s replies. Open discussion and requests for clarification are permitted. Everything is allowed unless it is specifically prohibited, e.g., asking questions about religion etc. that violate Federal Law. The maximalist interview can yield much more information about a complex question, should the employer hire this person? My Philosophy outlines some techniques that can be used to analyze complex, dynamic, interactive systems.
The final problem of contemporary philosophy, secular creationism, is a consequence of the other four problems. The creationist ideology posits the existence of a supreme being or beings that have complete knowledge and power over their domain; what happens is by their design. A secular creationist does not posit a creator but rather adopts a homochauvanistic attitude that humans can exercise conscious control over certain aspects of the world. This is especially prevalent in the areas of politics and social systems. It is assumed that some “experts,” “professionals” or other cognoscenti have the knowledge and should be given the power to regulate and control certain aspects of the world. They erroneously believe that they can design a better, more perfect world. My philosophy argues that with dynamic, complex and interactive systems complete knowledge is not always possible. Complex systems evolve from the bottom up not the top down. Humans don’t always have access to the complete information about a system, especially where interactivity is dominant. It is the secular creationist’s attitude that creates situations that we call “unintended consequences,” “blowback,” and “the fog of war.” Complex, dynamic and interactive systems can be analyzed and understood but a new toolkit is necessary. My philosophy explores these new options.