31 March 2010

Zizek, parapsychology, quantumbabble

From 5(2) Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy (2009) -
'Žižek and the Ontological Emergence of Technology' [PDF] by Daniel Peter Hourigan

This discussion utilises the thought of Slavoj Žižek as a departure point to consider the ontological emergence of technology as techne in the conceptual encounter of the Abyss in Being. Following Heidegger, Žižek's critique examines the ontical and ontological implications of modern science. His championing of the political Cause makes the social realm essential for Žižek's turn against the possible domination of a deterministic, technical, and scientific rationality. The problem of modern science dominating subjectivity with objectivity, i.e. the reduction of humanity to a biogenetic structure, calls for an opening of the deadlock of rationalist determinism with the facilitation of envaluing Being, lest we be cut off from intersubjectivity by a psychotic breakdown. It is precisely in the lack of control we have of other people, the reliance on others, that we come to revivify our mastery of who we are and our actions. In the Žižekian mode the ethical 'ought' is not an obstacle in the path of modern science but a guide, an epochal constellation of value and understanding occurring in the socio-political realm that emancipates itself from the naïve resignation inculcated by the deterministic causality of rationalisation. The aim of this paper is to explore how Žižek understands this envaluing as the 'mythologisation of technology'.
and from 66(1) World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution (2010) 1-25
'On the Philosophy and Legal Theory of Human Rights in Light of Quantum Holism' by Amar Dhall

... Scientific method correlates with empiricism (Kornblith 2006), and provides an appropriate methodology. Leiter (2006) calls the use of empirical evidence in the furtherance of the law "naturalized jurisprudence" and posits that it increases certainty, and hence affirms Rule of Law. It is the central postulate of this article that new arguments for holism derived from quantum mechanics and other scientific disciplines offer insights of relevance to this question.

Quantum mechanics is the study of the sub-atomic level of physical reality. The scientists within this discipline are conducting experiments that are producing results inexplicable within the other scientific paradigms. While a few scientists and mathematicians express reservations with quantum mechanics, the field endures and continues to be extremely accurate at predicting the behavior of sub-atomic quanta. Indeed, the attention of the world is focused on synthesizing the results of pending experiments to be conducted in the new Large Hadron Collider (LHC) recently opened on the French/Swiss border. Quantum mechanics appears to be propelling humankind down the path of scientific revolution in the Kuhnian sense (Galison 1981). While quantum mechanics has been lauded as a breakthrough akin in magnitude to Copernicus positing that the Earth was not the center of the universe and that the planet is round (Taylor 2008), it should be noted that in keeping with scientific method as an iterative practice, in the future, it may be significantly modified or even replaced. However, for the time being quantum mechanics is the best mode of explaining space and time at the Planck scale, the weight of evidence presently available endorses this field of human endeavor.
After that it's onwards, via sufism, parapsychology and other treats, to -
The sum total of this position demonstrates that a strong legal basis to human rights can be articulated through an exploration of holism. It is possible to conduct a methodologically rigorous study of nature and find that the results endorse the recognition of universal and inalienable human rights that are vested in equality. This is argued through a State-based recognition that every human being is subject to supervening holism. This marks a paradigm shift in our conception of the basis for holism, as for the first time in human history the epistemological justification for the ontology swings toward an external methodology rather than from a predominantly internal process of reasoning.
We might of course wait for quite some time before any and all states recognise that "every human being is subject to supervening holism", given that they haven't managed to agree about deities and  about the validity of the any "external methodology".

Dhall goes on to state that
The traditional foundational claims employed when justifying the human rights doctrine lack the merit of epistemologically external evidence. The imperative for human rights has already been internationally recognized, as witnessed by the consensual basis of the existing doctrines; however, the change in the methodological basis for justification could advance the current discourse. While it has become clear that modern arguments asserting holism affirm the ethos of human rights, the question of how such a human rights construct will advance the current discourse is a question requiring specific consideration in the future. However, it is clear that accepting holism creates a knowledge-based deontological justification to structure one's interactions in a manner consistent with holist duality. ...
Convinced? Perhaps not.
Employing the Heisenberg Indeterminacy Principle as a heuristic tool for legal analysis exposes two important points; first, it shows the impact that a hard basis to human rights will have is best understood by an application of this quantum mechanical effect. Second, it demonstrates a prior application of the ontology of quantum mechanics in legal scholarship. Heisenberg's Indeterminacy Principle was employed to illustrate how the act of judgment affects both the system being judged and the broader society in which judgment occurs, in this discussion constitutional law cases were employed. The development of native title in Australia was also used as a case study of this phenomenon. Thus, the fact that the development of the law can affect broader society is of paramount importance because if a hard basis to human rights is accepted and adopted, the social and cultural landscape would change on a global scale. This would occur in much the same way that the development of native title in Australia has changed the cultural perception toward the rights of indigenous people.

The central postulate of this article is that supervening holism endorsed by quantum mechanics is illuminating our understanding of human beings sufficiently to warrant recasting the legal basis of human rights in reasoning that builds on an epistemologically sound foundation that is not ethnoculturally specific. Such a foundation creates a deontological imperative to act because it affirms the central tenets of the human rights doctrine, those of equality, universality, and inalienability.

The universal applicability of a rights regime grounded in a study of holism can be strongly argued. Holism is an ontological aspect of nature. Equality is affirmed by the equivalent status of every human being's relationship with a supervening level of holism. Equality is further affirmed as at the level of holism (that of subatomic quanta) there are no individuals upon whom any inequality can attach. With this understanding, humans may be conceptualized as equivalent, localized nodes emerging from non-local quantum singularity. This finding is equally applicable to all people everywhere, East and West. Inalienability is affirmed by the ontological structure of holism itself. It is an aspect of physical reality, is epistemologically valid, and continues to be affirmed in numerous independent studies in discrete spheres of human endeavor.
Oh dear. Presumably the same quantum holism - epistemologically valid, supervening, ontological or otherwise - provides a basis for assigning consciousness and human rights to carrots, coffee cups, cucumbers, rocks and grains of sand.

I jest, of course, with the gibe about coffee cups but do wonder about the apparent need to found human rights claims on a science - or 'science' - of subatomic quanta and an 'Akashic Field' that encompasses parapsychology and at times reads like an unintentional parody of Casaubon's grand 'The Key to All Mythologies'. Clever: yes. For me, convincing: no. Necessary: no.

I confess to wariness about an "epistemologically sound foundation" that draws heavily on claims regarding reincarnation, remote healing, communication with the dead (via valve radios, for crying out loud), precognition, telekinesis and remote sensing among other mystical treats. Faith yes, hard science no. Affirmation is not truth, not proof.

I confess to disquiet regarding the "numerous independent studies in discrete spheres of human endeavor", when many of the studies cited in Dhall's article espouse what a sceptic would question as utter nonsense - reincarnation, precognition, telekinesis and so forth. The fans of Uri Geller are prolific; their enthusiasm - legitimised with terms such as 'quantum', 'singularity' and 'mesodomain' or otherwise - does not mean that his claims are true. An ungenerous reader might raise an eyebrow at Dhall's citation of Targ, Radin and Puthoff as authorities, given their embrace of Geller and 'proof' of "transpersonal connection".

A more generous reader might ask why Dhall doesn't grapple with alternative explanations of supposed phenomena or formally recognise that his authorities are strongly contested, if not indeed regarded as kooks.

My enthusiasm was not whetted on discovering that World Futures is edited by and apparently largely written by fans of Ervin Lazlo, exponent of the "Akashic Field", described in his Science and the Akashic Field: An Integral Theory of Everything (2004) which explains that the "quantum vacuum" is the 'fundamental energy and information-carrying field that informs not just the current universe, but all universes past and present' (aka the "Metaverse") so that "evolution is an informed, not random, process". It is 'intelligent design' sans God, with - according to Laszlo - the brains of the elite becoming 'quantum wave transceivers' and a range of ills being curable through "psionic medicine" (magic touch, diagnosis by dowsing, treatment by prayer and so forth).

Presumably those transceivers will allow telepathic communication to the undead present in past, present and future universes ... so much more convenient than relying on a valve radio!

There is NO substantive evidence that anyone's brain is becoming a 'quantum wave transceiver' or that you can do two-way shortwave with the dead. Some readers of this blog have been using conventional communication - rather than telepathy, flying carpets or spirit messengers - in kindly supplying me with treats such as Laszlo's reference to "entities that are no longer living in the familiar form in this world but are alive nonetheless". (Those entities send messages from another dimension via radios and tape recorders ... not exactly a delivery mechanism that is going to be recognised by the High Court of Australia but presumably one that gets a tick from fans of Edgar Cayce, Madame Blavatsky and other exponents of hocus pocus.)

A distressing feature of writing by Laszlo's fans is its fervency. Zareen Khan in New Age Journal (May 2009) for example praised that Science and the Akashic Field as -
truly ground breaking in its attempt to give a measure of organization to the known and some sense of identity to the unknown. The human language, as it presently exists, simply does not have the eloquence to deal with the 'thought downloads' that we are dealing with in this sphere of experience.
Quite so. Readers who are not a fans of new age quantumbabble and are wary about "thought downloads" in "this sphere of experience" might wonder about invocation of Laszlo and his associates - evident in most issues of World Futures - or more broadly about the authority of his journal.

If you are underwhelmed by notions of the "ontological emergence of technology as techne in the conceptual encounter of the Abyss in Being" and "psychotic breakdown" in the "biogenetic structure" you might however enjoy 'Did Somebody Evade Totalitarianism? On the Intellectual Escapism of Slavoj Zizek' by David Pickus in XXI(1) Humanitas 146-167.

In my opinion fans of obscurantism can always turn to Blavatsky, L Ron Hubbard, Steiner or Keyserling & Son, exponents of a holistic philosophy that featured statements such as -
The symphony of the spirit upon earth should, in accordance with reasonable prevision, resound with ever-increasing beauty. The individual voices should make themselves heard ever more purely, harmonize better with each other, and be attuned to ever-fuller basic tones. The original chaotic and occasionally baroque, and then again essentially differentiated creation, should find its final expression in perfect classicism, in that monumental simplicity which contains all wealth within it. Change is a way of life, it has appeared different and new again and again. If its development were guided henceforth by an ever more profoundly self-conscious mind, then temporary forms must give way to ultimate ones, and differentiation must slowly turn into integration.
For myself, I'll skip the subatomic particles and reread John Rawls or Dyson Heydon, arguably more useful in effecting law reform on a day by day basis.

Meanwhile the head of the Reserve Bank has reportedly affirmed his religious belief, commenting that -
I think if you are a Christian, God has given you certain capabilities to do a job, to earn a living and the bible teaches that you should do that as if you were doing it for him, because you are and that is my attitude. ...I would say that, despite claims to the contrary, there is a God. This is worth checking out and the critical issue people have to deal with is, was Jesus Christ who he claimed to be? If he wasn't then you can forget about it, and if he wasn't then I am living in a fool's world.
People who question Christ's divinity, or even historicity, might wonder about Mr Stevens going emo. Others might suggest that their capabilities come from a quite different deity, or from no deity at all. It is just a bit reminiscent of Montagu Norman's claims, while he was Governor of the Bank of England, that he could literally walk through walls. (The bricks & mortar - and financial markets, alas - disagreed.)

We cannot determine whether JC was who He claimed to be - or who his reporters claim that He claimed to be - except through looking into our hears. Regrettably that same process is likely to reveal that Vishnu or Kali or the Great Turtle or some other deity or well-connected associate is 'The One'. Mr Stevens may well be living in a fool's world but his statement certainly makes him look foolish and poses questions about the inclusion of religious faith in public discourse by supposedly apolitical mandarins. We'd be just a tad disconcerted if Stevens announced that he consulted the ouija board before making decisions about the economy. His characterisation of "the critical issue" should raise some eyebrows.