Saturday, June 18, 2011

Philosophical Ramblings About Freedom, Chaos & Predetermination

For those who know me personally... it's no secret that I dwell in the mundane almost as much as I dwell in the realms of radical politics and other esoteric/technical ideas.  In large part, I find this to be a basic necessity if one wants to socialize at all in society. 

To the extent that people want to personally discuss more profound subjects, I find this to be difficult for (at least) a couple of different reasons.  First of all, a lot of us are often incapable of having a true conversation because we approach such encounters with an agenda -- even if just subconsciously.  We often tend to steer conversations back toward certain topics (and ways of viewing things) which we are comfortable with.  Along those lines... it's very hard to stay on the same page when facts and ideas are misheard, misunderstood, misinterpreted, imagined, or falsified.  For these reasons, I like to participate in written forums where ideas can be presented in their entirety and statements can be quoted directly and accurately -- while supporting sources of information can be provided as linked.  Secondly... I don't generally trust people all too much.  I won't get into all the reasons again, but suffice it to say that some people are overtly manipulative and often seek information they can use for their own potentially malicious interests.  Between these two realities, as I said, I find it difficult to discuss many ideas with people in casual conversations. 

That said... with intelligent companions, a bottle of rum, and a pack of smokes... some interesting ideas can be fleshed out and articulated.  I'm not too proud, or ashamed, to say that's what partially inspired this article.  And so... I will try now to lay out some ideas from last night's conversations.

Just as we become acclimated to constant subtle changes in the technological and political landscapes of our reality, we also may become acclimated to the subtle changes in the fundamental phenomena that underlies the existence of our world.

We do not live in a static universe.  Everything, everywhere, is constantly changing -- if only in proximity.  I believe this to be a readily accessible, a priori, fact.  This is hardly a groundbreaking revelation but, like so many other things in our lives, we do not often take the time to consider the implications of such realities. 

Brought on by an argument against predetermination (which itself is a relatively strong, simple and convenient idea), the thought occurred to me that we do not often truly appreciate the vastness and complexity of our universe.  All the information that the whole of humanity will ever have is infinitesimal.  The underlying factors of our existence are, in all probability, beyond our understanding.  We as individuals, and as a species or society, may pride ourselves on all we seem to know about the workings of the universe -- but it's no secret to many that we have yet to even scratch the surface of the surface about matters which are infinitely deep

I won't get into the mystical beliefs of countless religions but, in many ways, they are often as (in)valid as the other mythologies which we take as veritable gospel.  Take, for example, the big bang.  The name itself suggests a simplicity reserved for explaining how the stork brought your baby sister.  But more than that... the idea that there is an edge or boundary to the expanding universe is akin to thinking that you'll fall to oblivion if your ship sails too far out into the ocean.  Teaching such theory is little better than creationism insomuch as it leaves more questions than it attempts to answer and, at the same time, it is based on an incomprehensible phenomenon which, in so many words, led to a big explosion that created everything.  Yeah... thanks for clearing that up. 

Now, I'm not saying that things can't be observed and understood to some extent.  Reading this now, for instance, is proof that's possible.  But that hardly implies the potential for unlimited comprehension.  We can plot the trajectory of a ball thrown at us, and we can even safely assume some factors of Darwinian evolution.  Nevertheless, again, this knowledge is but the surface of the surface of what is to be known.  And there is little to suggest, beyond hubris, that we will ever even understand the topology of this surface -- much less what lies just beneath.  Upon examination of the physical minutiae of our world... we never cease to find more subtleties within subtleties -- minutiae within minutiae -- and this unlimited spring of reality is why we can't reasonably expect to extrapolate to the point of a predetermined world.   

Those who are conditioned to arguing that all knowledge can be extrapolated upon endlessly (based on what we think we already know)... are acting upon an article of hubris and faith.  The underlying phenomenal building blocks of our existence are likely working under the guidance of unlimited and incomprehensible physical chaos.  This isn't to say that any particular thing is likely to occur at any given time or place, but it's probably not too bold to suggest that anything is, truly, possible.  And while basic factors of our reality could suddenly be altered like the shifting wind... in most cases, it seems, we generally go with the flow of our ever-changing world.  This isn't to say that any particular change couldn't be jarring but, more often, changes might be imperceptibly subtle.  Any population that has witnessed and experienced a more dramatic change may simply have ceased being around to later mention it -- or they may have been too shocked to recall it.                 

Now... some might ridicule the practicality of believing that anything is truly possible -- as if one day we might wake up to cats flying and birds offering sage advice -- but sudden dramatic changes are not the primary expectation from these ideas.  Rather, more to the point, is the humble idea that we should expect to be surprised and, further, we should recognize the possibility of personal empowerment.  We may be unlikely to alter, unweave, or recompose the underlying fabric of existence, but we can play a part in altering the immediate conditions of the world around us.  Hope doth spring eternal for a very valid and comprehensible reason, because anything is actually possible. 

It should be reiterated that something being possible (during a particular timeframe) isn't the same as anything being likely at any particular moment.  The point of these ideas is not to justify any or all actions.  Rather, these ideas should encourage us, along practical lines, to act in accordance with the best of our knowledge.  As with a thrown ball, we can extrapolate (to some degree) the near-term trajectory of occurrences in our world.  This limited extrapolation, combined with underlying chaotic potential, empowers us to act as a force for considerable change in this world.  
I offer this article for your consideration not as something completely unrelated to the political subjects I often write about but, rather, as something of a philosophical underpinning to those ideas.  It is not impractical to expect radical changes to be brought about and manifested within the current social order because, in the grand scheme of things, that's something which we can reasonably have a direct impact upon.  And, in fact, it is more unrealistic to expect social conditions to be beyond our influence and to remain as they are.  Imagine how bizarre modern social customs will seem in a millennium! 

In any event... while radicals want to fundamentally change the status quo, it is the social and political conservatives who may be fighting a losing battle.  And it is the privileged liberal class which is acting slowly as a pressure release valve in order to keep things essentially as they are -- it is not their type of change that the masses of the world wants or needs

A new world is possible.  Not one technologically engineered from the mythological mysticism of science but, rather, one which is renewed by actions for social justice and environmental sustainability.  We are not at the mercy of predetermined mechanical forces which lead inevitably to a particular end.  We can be empowered and we can make choices that take us beyond the artificial constructs of the status quo. 

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