Science & Subjective Idealism

Seeing as how this blog is named Ego Science something must be said about how science fits into it all. From the outset I want to make clear that I am not anti-science. I very much like science and believe in the usefulness of it. I do, however, reject objective materialism and deny its justification as an accurate picture of reality. Objective materialism is not a necessary condition to conduct science. However, subjective idealism is sufficient as a foundation to conduct all activities required by science. In the following I will review the actual state of existence in relation to nature, examine the structure of science, and illuminate science in the proper context of subjective idealism.

Existence in its Actual State…

As I argued in What is Reality and Who Are You?, the primal thing we can know is the existence of the quality or attribute existence. Anything that can be stated or thought assumes the attribute existence. We know that the attribute existence is the primal thing that can be known because of our logic or Logos. This means that in stating or thinking anything we simultaneously know the attribute existence and Logos coequally. They are coequal because on the one hand Logos, which is the attribute of attributes or the essence of essence, is the source of the attribute existence while on the other hand it simultaneously possesses the attribute existence. So the attribute existence comes from Logos but also applies to Logos.

This apparent paradox is complicated all the more by the inescapable conclusion that Logos and the attribute existence come from Mind which is the attributeless source of Logos and the attribute existence. This makes Mind the existence behind the attribute existence. Mind is boundless primarily because boundaries are attributes that find their source in Logos. However, being attributeless it also lacks the attribute existence. This seemingly creates another paradox in that the existence which is the source of the attribute existence lacks the attribute existence. Does this mean that Mind is nonexistent? The paradox is resolved by realizing that these Three are One.

This trinity is the only thing that can be justifiably known. This is the only thing that reality has actuality in. Reality is Three and all is One. Everything else outside of this has no actuality as itself in reality but exists only as perception. Perception itself is an illusion because it is dependent on time and memory of the passage of time. As noted by Kant, time is a construction of the mind framing objects in our perception. Time is thus a phenomenon and is unjustifiable as an actuality in itself outside of perception and independent of Mind.

This has an implication for the nature of time and perception. J. M. E. McTaggart classified three possible states of time he labeled A-series, B-series, and C-series. For the sake of brevity I will attempt an inadequate interpretation of the series. A-series time focuses on the actuality of the present flowing in the direction of an unrealized future and thus creating the past in so doing. B-series time focuses on the actuality of the future flowing into the present and then into the past. C-series time denies the actuality of a flow of time or change but segments time so that the present is at each point and is characterized by the distinction of the future on one side and the past on the other.

Time has no actuality in itself but is actualized by the attribute existence and the Logos which are both actualized in boundless Mind. Because of this C-series time is the only state of time that can be justified. With no actual flow of time the present is found at each point in time so that all you are left with is an eternal present which never actually passes. There is neither actuality of the past as past nor of the future as future. All is present and is in the trinity and all is One. This means there is no actuality of the action of becoming there is only the actuality of being.

Without the actuality of time as a flow there is no actuality of change. Without the actuality of change there is no actuality of motion. Without the actuality of motion there is no actuality of energy because the attributes of energy define it as the motion (relating to time) or extension (relating to space) of matter. Matter is simply energy in another form and so without the actuality of energy there is no actuality of matter. Finally, without the actuality of matter there is no actuality of space because space is dependent on matter for meaning.

So we affirm that reality is One and this One is a trinity. All else is perception. All perception certainly has the attribute existence but not the actuality of existence in itself. This implies that time, matter and space have the attribute existence but not the actuality of existence in themselves. Perception or awareness or consciousness has no actuality of existence in themselves but are illusion. And yet they have the attribute existence. So while perception has no actuality of existence in itself it does have its existence within Mind and is a written “program” of Logos. So it is with all nature within the cosmos.

The Subjective Idea of Science

In The Grammar of Science Karl Pearson acknowledges that “science is in reality a classification and analysis of the contents of the mind.” Although nature, which is the subject of science, does not exist in actuality in itself that does not mean that we cannot study it as it appears in our perception. What it does mean, however, is that there can be no objective study of science as objects do not exist in themselves outside of Mind. It also means that there can be no absolute or singular description of nature because it doesn’t actually exist in itself but must be interpreted through our plurality of perspectives. Although the plurality of minds is in actuality One in Mind, there can be no unity in perspective because there is no actuality of perspective in itself. This will be clearly seen as we examine the classification of science and illuminate it in the light of subjective idealism.

Let’s start with a definition of science. Del Ratzsch in Science and its Limits eloquently defined it this way:

A natural science is a theoretical explanatory discipline that addresses natural phenomena within the general constraints that (1) its theories must be rationally connectible to generally specifiable empirical phenomena and that (2) it normally does not leave the natural realm for the concepts employed in its explanations.

This is a perfectly acceptable definition of science and it can be used perfectly under subjective idealism. Subjective idealism does not deny phenomena as attributes but only the actuality of a phenomenon as existing in itself. Phenomena as attributes come from Mind and not outside it. Perception of phenomena, then, could only be from a subjective perspective examining the contents of Mind rather than from an objective perspective examining an object existing in itself independent of Mind. The natural realm, so long as it is a realm composed of various attributes proceeding from Mind, does not need to exist in itself independent of Mind in order to practice the action of science.

The Classification of Science

According to Donald Gillies in Philosophy of Science in the Twentieth Century, science is composed of four levels. These are levels 0, 1, 2, and 3. Level 0 in science is the level of immediate observation. At this level, an observation statement or hypothesis can be either confirmed or falsified immediately upon observation. Level 1 in science is the level of a simple theory. A theory is a more abstract generalization of how nature works. It must be confirmed by a multitude of observations over time and cannot be falsified by a single observation, although it is possible to falsify it through numerous observations of exceptions in nature. Level 2 is a grouping of theories into a discipline like chemistry that Imre Lakatos termed a research program. Although it is theoretically possible to falsify level 2 science it would not be done without overwhelmingly good reasons. Level 3 is the highest level of science. Thomas Kuhn identified this level as the paradigm. He also noted that this level of science is not justified rationally, neither is it open to direct falsification because it forms the structure within which evidence is interpreted and shapes evidence to suit itself. The question remains, are these levels of science objective or subjective? A closer examination is in order.

Popper argued that one cannot simply observe without a theoretical background and concludes that observation is “theory-laden” or influenced by a pre-held theoretical framework. In Conjectures and Refutations he writes:

The belief that science proceeds from observation to theory is still so widely and firmly held that my denial of it is often met with incredulity. I have even been suspected of being insincere – of denying what nobody in his senses can doubt.

But in fact the belief that we can start with pure observation alone, without anything in the nature of a theory, is absurd; as may be illustrated by the story of the man who dedicated his life to natural science, wrote down everything he could observe, and bequeathed his priceless collection of observations to the Royal Society to be used as inductive evidence. This story should show us that though beetles may profitably be collected, observations may not.

Twenty-five years ago I tried to bring home the same point to a group of physics students in Vienna by beginning a lecture with the following instructions: “Take pencil and paper; carefully observe, and write down what you have observed!” They asked, of course, what I wanted them to observe. Clearly the instruction, “Observe!” is absurd…. Observation is always selective. It needs a chosen object, a definite task, an interest, a point of view, a problem. And its description presupposes a descriptive language, with property words; it presupposes similarity and classification, which in its turn presupposes interests, points of view, and problems.

So, theories come before observations because without a theory there is no guidance on what to observe or where to observe it. The next question is where do theories come from? The truth is, radically different theories may be equally compatible with the evidence. Evidence alone is not enough to decide between theories. The way theories are chosen is by the degree to which it “fits” the existing paradigm of the science community.

A scientific paradigm is dependent on the culture and historical circumstances of groups of scientists rather than on their adherence to a specific, definable method. It is the set of assumptions, experiences, concepts, practices, beliefs and values that affect the way the community perceives reality and responds to that perception. The paradigm largely dictates interpretation as observations are not free from the influence of the paradigm. Interpretation of observable “facts” is the product of a thinking mind encountering phenomena, and so they contain both the observation and the mental framework, or paradigm, which selected the object and gave meaning to it. Different scientific paradigms can offer equally valid but different ways of viewing the same phenomenon. We cannot make observations that are genuinely independent of the paradigm within which we operate simply because those observations are shaped by the paradigm.

An objective materialist perspective of science would argue that, in order to show that something is correct, I must be able to show ways in which that statement corresponds to external reality. Paul Feyerabend in Against Method and Science in a Free Society argued that this is, in principle, impossible, since the evidence I produce is again part of my interpretation of the world. I cannot get outside that interpretation. One cannot “fit” one’s statements and interpretations to the world itself. One cannot say that they are either true or false in an objective way, so there is no “truth” in science. Different people have different ways of interpreting experience based on their paradigm. The problem is that there is no way of judging between different paradigms, there is no way of getting beyond them and comparing them with some objective (uninterpreted) reality.

Science is, therefore, best practiced under the correct perspective of subjective idealism. This is especially true if we use science to increase technological benefit to society. We may never achieve a “final” or absolute picture of nature but that’s because nature doesn’t actually exist in itself. This is why there have been multiple ways to view nature in the past and there will continue to be new ways to view it in the future. There will never be one right way to view nature unless one stops seeing the actuality of nature as if it existed in itself and learns to see the plurality of nature as One in boundless Mind.

Charley Sanders